Moriah Benjoseph and Ben Nassau
June 3, 2018 in Seymour, Conn.
Ben and Moriah met in 2011, their first year at Muhlenberg College, where academic achievement and interest in global affairs landed them in the same 18-student scholar program. The group often studied or socialized together, but before long, Ben, who is from West Chester, saw Moriah as being different from his other new friends.
He would stop by her dorm room after class, just to spend more time with her.
"She was smart, beautiful, kind, all of those things," he said. "She laughs at my jokes. She has a strong sense of justice. She is absolutely the person who will always do the right thing, no matter how difficult."
Moriah admired Ben's nerdy focus on math and history, his love of a good story, and his joy in hearing her and talk about something she loves — even when the subject doesn't really interest him. She liked his smarts, his silliness, and his big heart, too. Yet when anyone mentioned that something was obviously happening between them, Moriah, who grew up in Rhode Island, Long Island, and New York City, said they were just good friends.
Ben did not deny his interest in her, however, and the group consensus was that he should do something about it. One night when the group was hanging out together, Ben typed into his phone: "Hey. I like you."
"My thumb hovered for five minutes solid before I hit send," he said. "And then I thought, 'whelp, now it's too late. It's done.'"
Ben's confession did not instantly redefine their relationship, but it did make Moriah consider the possibility. "We started hanging out even more, and then one night, we kissed," she said. Afterward, Ben said he felt like he should say a Shehecheyanu, a prayer said at the start of something momentous. That pushed Moriah's heart right over the edge.
By junior year, the couple had been through a lot together, some wonderful, some challenging. Moriah has postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome – a chronic condition that causes an irregular heartbeat, circulatory problems, and in some cases, including hers, chronic fatigue and pain. Her symptoms worsened during their second year. "You didn't sign up for this," she told Ben. "I understand if you want to leave."
Ben told her he wasn't going anywhere, then showed her he meant it. "I was three hours away from home and my mom, and overwhelmed by this new reality, and he was there," Moriah said. He went with her to doctor's appointments. He researched her condition. He listened.
With much effort and determination, Moriah found the right medicines and learned to alleviate her symptoms with diet and exercise.
Just before finals their junior year, the couple were talking about spending the future together. "Hey. Let's get married," Moriah said, surprising both Ben and herself.
"We will," he said.
"No, I mean, let's commit to it right now," Moriah said.
Ben stopped to think for a moment. "Yeah," he said. "I'm ready."
Moriah needed to be sure he was sure. "Ask me the question," she said gently.
"Will you marry me?" Ben asked.
"Yes!" Moriah said. She asked what proposing was like, and he suggested she find out for herself.
"Will you marry me?" Moriah asked
"Yes!" Ben said.
Over winter break, Ben bought Moriah a white-gold and diamond ring. For their fourth dating anniversary, she bought him a heavy band of titanium and steel.
After graduating, Ben moved to Newark, Del., to begin graduate studies in math at the University of Delaware, where he's now a full-time researcher and doctoral candidate and teaches undergraduate courses. Moriah moved to New York City, where she works for the Union for Reform Judaism, supporting congregational leaders across North America.
Living apart was difficult, but each fully supported the other's pursuit of a professional goal.
The couple, now both 25, were wed at the Inn at Villa Bianca in Seymour, Conn., by Moriah's colleague, Rabbi Esther Lederman. Ben and Moriah saw each other the first time that day at the bedeken. Traditionally, the groom lifts the bride's veil, but Moriah chose not to wear one. Esther helped them create an alternative ceremony: His parents, Elizabeth and Richard, and hers, Jill and Dan, wrapped each of them in their grandfathers' tallitot.
Their parents also escorted Ben and Moriah down the aisle to a chuppah painted by Moriah's best friend Colleen, an artist.
At the reception for 120, guests sat at tables named after some of the couple's favorite feminists, including singer/songwriter Debby Friedman, mathematician Emmy Noether, and scholar bell hooks.
In addition to wedding cake, the couple served Ralph's Famous Italian Ices – aka water ice.
"Everyone was in the ballroom eating bagels and lox when we came downstairs to sign the ketubah," Ben remembered. "Walking out and seeing everyone was the first real moment I realized that all of these people who love us came from everywhere to love and support us that day. It was a really big moment for me, looking out at all the love."
When you're engaged for 4½ years, you hear a lot of wedding advice, Moriah said, but the bit she heard most often was to take a moment to appreciate a day that would go by so fast. She took it to heart. "I stopped and looked around, and there was Ben, standing by our sweetheart table with a plate of cake and just shoveling it into his mouth," she said. Watching Ben wolf down dessert was nothing new, but this time, "I had this incredible realization that Ben is my husband, and he was eating our wedding cake, and that we did it," she said.
A bargain: Moriah bought her dress — an off-the-rack sample — at 40 percent off the original price.
The splurge: The couple spent more than triple their original wedding ring budget.
The groom's parents surprised Ben and Moriah with a mini-moon in Stockton, N.J. The couple, who now live in Plainsboro, N.J., will travel again this winter, destination to be determined.
Officiant: Rabbi Esther Lederman, director of congregational innovation at the Union for Reform Judaism
Venue: The Inn at Villa Bianca, Seymour, Conn.
Food: The Inn at Villa Bianca
Photography: Gary Rabenko, Rabenko Photography and Video Arts, Woodmere, N.Y.
Flowers: Flowers by Danielle, Trumbull, Conn.
Dress: Nicole Spose. purchased at Forever Amour Bridal, New York