Traditionally, June is the month of choice for getting married. It was for me. Twice. I said, I do, in June20 years apart, to the same woman. The second time was as traditional as the first, with a rabbi, a chuppah, a ring and a photographer. There was one major differencethe second wedding was a complete surprise to my wife.
Keri and I were 25 when we married the first time, in a simple yet elegant ceremony upstairs at the Bistro. I made only one faux pasI never properly asked her to marry me. I was young and frightened, and I recall asking if she wanted to look at diamonds, which she did. When we picked one out, Keri said, Does this mean you want to get married?
I guess it does, I said. Hardly the stuff of romance novels.
We had a loving and solid marriage blessed with three beautiful children. But in our 16th year, Keri and I grew apart. Her grief and pain over the loss of a child in pregnancy several years earlier only intensified before the birth of our son. Time, it seemed, did not heal all wounds. Her anguish added to a divide that I feared we could never bridge. For a while, it didnt look like we would make it to our 17th anniversary. But we had so much history togethernot to mention our childrenit was unthinkable to consider divorce without trying everything and anything. We sought counseling, and after months, things were better thanever. We began talking to each otherand we fell in love again.
As our 20th anniversary approached, I decided it was important not only to reaffirm our wedding vows publicly, but I owed Keri a real proposal. Oddly enough, despite my earlier transgression, I have always been a hopeless romantic. What an amazing opportunity to say, I still love you, 20 years later.
Along with our dear friend and expert party planner Mindy Weiss, our eldest daughter, Amanda, and I conspired to plan the surprise. We realized a venue was needed to provide cover for our ruse. To that end, Keris parents were ostensibly taking our family to the Belvedere in the Peninsula Hotel to mark this special anniversary. Of course, there was no reservation at the restaurantthe real celebration was to take place in a banquet room down the hall. Just outside was a patio where we would perform the ceremony.
At my first wedding, I did little more than choose the cake. This time, I became immersed in every detail. Mindy and I started with the invitation, since that would set the tone. I removed a favorite wedding photo from our homea picture of Keri as a young bride being swept into the arms of her new husband, a romantic moment that seemed ideal to announce our 20th anniversary. Below the photo I had printed, It was twenty years ago today... And that line from Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band was the inspiration for the evenings entertainment.
On the big day, I sent Keri and our two daughters to have their hair and nails done. I have a reputation as the quintessential metrosexual. Throughout our marriage, I had bought almost all of Keris jewelry and purseswithout the assistance of her mom or her friends. With my track record, buying Keri a dress for the occasiona simple black cocktail number I found on Montana in Santa Monicadidnt rouse even the slightest suspicion.
The evening went off without a hitch save for some last-minute drama. I had told Mindy I wanted a Beatles tribute band to perform, so she recommended Imagine. All I can say is, its a good thing I had total faith in Mindy, because on the afternoon of the event, when Amanda and I saw them arrive, neither of us could imagine them being any good. Ringos bald! I whispered between clenched teeth. John quickly noticed my shock. Dont worry, he said. We come out in full costume for each of our three sets: Early Beatles, Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper. You wont even recognize the real us.
And he was right. I had bought a classical guitar for the event. I wound up sitting in for And I Love Her with the group and singing it directly to Keri. I suspect at that moment, my male friends secretly hated me and my wifes friends were wondering why their husbands werent more romantic.
When we arrived at the restaurant, the maître d followed his script perfectly: Your table is not ready. Please accept a drink at the bar along with our apologies. Instead, I suggested we all take a walk down the hall and window shop until our table was prepared. I knew that just around the corner were our closest friends and family members, waiting to give Keri the surprise of her life.
But then I turned, and my stomach sank, as I saw Alan Zweibel with gift in hand. Now, Alan is known for two thingsa big heart and having the biggest head of any non-circus performer. Seeing him would have sabotaged weeks of planning. But at just the right moment, he turned toward the wall, and somehow, Keri missed the whole thing.
We made it the remaining 20 feet, and as we rounded the corner, Keri heard Surprise! from the gathered guests. I gently guided my now crying wife to the private courtyard. She finally realized the full intent of my plan when she saw our friends and rabbi standing beneath the beautiful chuppah.
Never one to miss an opportunity to be dramatic, I reached into my jacket pocket and took out a small black velvet box. I opened it to reveal a simple platinum band. It had no jewels or adornment, except for the inscription on the underside, which read, Jim loves Keri. I already knew it was the most precious piece of jewelry I had ever given her.
I got down on one knee and, in front of our guests, asked Keri the single question I should have asked her properly 20 years earlier: Will you marry me...again? Through tears, she was almost unable to speak, but I knew from her broad smile that the reply was yes.
Keri had waited a long time to be asked, and the answer was well worth the wait.
JIM MORET is chief correspondent for Inside Edition and author of the upcoming Last Day of My Life (Phoenix Books).