Saturday, December 20, 2014

Jeff and Celeste spent 20 minutes on a corner

I thought I'd seen it all in the world of wedding ceremonies.
Then, rather than just walk down the aisle, this couple decided to charge me.

I'm not going to tell you the most important part of this story. Jeff and Celeste shared it with me, and I'm going to leave it at that.

Besides, the rest of their tale is pretty good without it.

Jeff and Celeste vowed their lives to each other at the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oak Park (I'd worked there just a few weeks earlier and was happy to return), bringing to fruition more than five years of maneuvering by their mutual friend, Jaclyn. Getting them to fall in love took time, career changes, airplane trips and Uhaul rentals...but it paid off.

"When I was washing my dishes back in OKC, I was thinking through the events of the prior day and burst into tears," Celeste told me of the night after her and Jeff's first date. "'I think I met my husband,' I told my then-roommate LuAnne.

To begin the story, we go way back in the day in Chicago, where Jaclyn and Jeff became friends through church. Jaclyn is a reporter, and in 2009, a job opportunity took her down to Oklahoma City, where she befriended Celeste, a law professor.

Jaclyn had an immediate feeling about Jeff and Celeste.

"She had us in mind for each other from the start, but was clever and strategic enough to wait," Celeste told me.

Recognizing that both were intent on career goals (Jeff had launched a small business, and Celeste was working like 300 hours a week), Jaclyn waited more than a year to broach the romance subject. Once she got the vibe that the right time was nearing, Jaclyn told Celeste that she wanted to set her up with...some guy in Chicago. A mere 806 miles away.

But Celeste trusted Jaclyn's judgment, and kept it in mind. Eventually, a work-related conference popped up in Milwaukee; Celeste made the time to drive down to the Second City to meet this Jeff guy, and Jaclyn came along.

"The date was awesome, a perfect out-of-towner's day in Chicago," Celeste recalled.

And here comes the most important part.

Suspecting that her groom had a devious cake-smooshing plot in mind,
Celeste came prepared.

"What really stood out about Jeff that day was in a conversation we had on the walk to Navy Pier. It was kind of intense. We actually stopped on the corner and talked without moving for what seemed like 20 minutes."

The subject of that conversation is superfluous. It suffices to say that they started to fall in love on that corner.

After taking Celeste back to O'Hare, Jeff called Jaclyn and told her that he had a good feeling. That night, as Celeste washed her dishes, that good feeling overwhelmed her.

Doing the long-distance thing, they got to know each other better, and soon they were dating steadily. Madcap career shifts followed, and Celeste moved to Jacksonville, Fla. — an easy 1,075 miles away — while the state of Illinois hired Jeff away from his own business.

The couple straightened things out, and Celeste erased all but a quarter mile of the distance when she moved up to Evanston in the summer of 2014. And now, the distance is zero.

I'm leaving the "clincher" moment out, just read the best part of the story.