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Szymanski: Whirlwind courtship turned into 'I do' on a perfect day

The wedding party at the recent wedding of columnist Lois Szymanski's daughter, Ashley.
The wedding party at the recent wedding of columnist Lois Szymanski's daughter, Ashley. (Courtesy photo)

Sometimes everything falls into place so perfectly that it feels like an engineer laid the pieces in place. That’s when I know God had a hand in it. It’s how I felt when watching my youngest daughter, Ashley, fall for her husband-to-be, Jason. Last weekend, they were married in a beautiful ceremony at Walkersville United Methodist Church. Many of us reflected on their whirlwind courtship, but not a one of us questioned the marriage.

Early last fall, Ashley was coming out of a tough breakup. She’d lost her spark and I was worried. I prayed for the right guy to come along, because, even though she is an independent woman who would likely do well on her own, I knew she longed for a strong marriage and children in the future. Almost immediately after the breakup, her friend Jason began to text her. Ashley had been trying to fix Jason up on a date with her friend Laura Jean, but Laura Jean told her, “I can’t date that boy. He’s clearly in love with you.”

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Texts from Jason confirmed it. He said he’d loved her since the first time he saw her on stage at a show in Washington, DC, but Ashley told him she wasn’t ready to date. She needed time to heal from the break-up. So began weeks of texts and phone calls back and forth. By the time she agreed to go on a date — as friends, she said — the texts had become a manuscript, a fact fully demonstrated when Jason put the texts on a memory stick at Christmas, giving them to her. It was the story of their budding relationship.

They were engaged just before Christmas. Even though it had only been a few months, none of us were alarmed. We knew they were meant to be together.

“Have you ever met someone just like Ashley before?” Jason’s mom, Anita, asked me when we met. When I shook my head, no, she laughed. “We never thought we’d meet someone just like Jason, either” she said. “We thought he was one of a kind!” Family members on both sides sat back, shaking heads in wonder. They were each an exact version of the other, only the opposite sex. From the corny jokes, to the constant puns, their laughter, sense of humor, and need to entertain, they were the same.

“I prayed for her to come along,” Anita said, and I laughed, because I’d just said the same words to a friend. I prayed for him as well. Surely, God was listening, because somehow, he made it happen. We were not at all surprised when they said they wanted to marry in March. Three months to plan a wedding? Impossible! Yet they did, and it came off without a hitch.

At that same dinner, the quips went back and forth.

“I want us to write our own vows,” Ashley said. “OK, I’ll do the consonants,” Jason replied.

Wedding day, March 30, brought warmth and sunshine. It had been below freezing two days prior, and then poured rain the next day. God had carved out a perfect one-day session. Their vows not only brought tears to our eyes, they made us laugh. We felt the full weight of their love.

“I will cherish your kind heart, be grateful for your brilliant mind, and continue to honor the little moments that make us – us,” Ashley wrote. “You came in my life like a hurricane. You were never my boyfriend. You were my always my soulmate. I vow to keep God at the center of our relationship, because I have no doubt, He brought us together.”

“I didn’t think someone else like me existed,” Jason said. “Surely the world would implode from the sheer puns alone, but I sang you Garth, and you quoted Spielberg — and I realized that red carpets and mashed potatoes aren’t mutually exclusive. Turns out, it’s possible to chase your creative dreams yet stay true to your roots, because in the end, that’s what really matters.”

The cupcake shown made by the father of the bride for the wedding out of a 200-year-old Ash tree that once stood in the Lions Park in Union Mills.
The cupcake shown made by the father of the bride for the wedding out of a 200-year-old Ash tree that once stood in the Lions Park in Union Mills.

We all melted as he professed his love.

“Even though the rest of the world thinks six months might be fast, I say, ‘When you know, you know.’ Or to quote my favorite romantic comedy: ‘When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.’”

Then he held up his hand — the one that would soon wear a wedding band. “After today, we will both be in bands,” he said, and we all laughed.

The reception was at Springfield Manor in Thurmont. The tables had been beautifully set with tall flowers. My husband had built an amazing cupcake stand for the wedding from slices of the 200-year-old Ash tree that once stood in the Lions Park in Union Mills. Jon at Lamb Awards and Engraving in Westminster made a beautiful tag for the stand, sharing the historic significance of the tree that shared a name with my daughter.

The photographer set to work while guests enjoyed a glass of wine. Sunny blue mountains became the backdrop. Entering the dining room to cheers, the two held hands, reaching skyward together. Even the toasts were perfect. A group of friends read texts sent from the day Jason first saw Ashley with her band Vinyl Rhino, through their courtship. “I’m going to marry Vinyl Rhino,” he’d written. “He makes me laugh so hard,” Ashley had texted.

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Jason’s twin brother, Josh rose for a toast. “A lot of people gave me advice on what to do to feel relaxed when giving a toast to a crowd,” he said. “It’s nice to see you all here today … in your underwear.” He then spoke of Jason’s childhood mishaps, ending with the marriage — no mishap there. My daughter, Shannon, brought me to tears, speaking of their idyllic childhood and how Ashley’s smile had lost the wild abandon of childhood … until now. “With him, you are your authentic self,” she said.

Perhaps the most memorable moment happened when each of them took a mic and sang “In the Shallows” from the movie “A Star is Born,” leaning in to each other as they sang. We left the wedding immersed in happiness.

I read a recent study that said millennials are not embracing marriage. They’re choosing to cohabitate instead, and that makes me sad. There is sanctity in marriage, and in vowing to God that you will always make it work. After all, He worked hard to help you find each other.

I believe God has a hand in so many things, yet we don’t always recognize it. We’re not fully in tune with the universe. I know that faith can be hard to hold onto, but moments like this ground us. For that, I am grateful. So here’s to marriage, and the faith and work necessary to help it survive!

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