Kate Inie-Richards and Jordan Shaner
September 3, 2017, in Philadelphia
The spring 2011 party was boring until a stranger asked Kate to dance.
Kate, from Kimberton, was in the last week of her undergraduate studies in viola at the University of Memphis. The no-longer-a-stranger was Jordan, a Denver native in the last week of his master's program in opera at the same university. They were the only two who dared to dance, and it was the goofiest of dances. They laughed the whole time, then shared a little small talk before parting.
"I got home, and Kate had sent me a Facebook message already," Jordan said. "I asked her if she wanted to go out that weekend."
"We went dancing, and the last week of school, we spent every day together," Kate said.
Jordan was smitten by her smile and adored her ability to be silly. "There were very few people who I was around at that time who made me laugh the way Kate does," he said. "I had this feeling I had known her my whole life." Kate felt the same way. Jordan treated her like no guy ever had, insisting on picking her up for their dates, holding doors, paying for dinner. Beyond that, he wanted to learn about her, her friends, and her family.
They had deep conversations, asking and answering so many questions. Jordan said his Jewish faith is a guiding force in his life. Kate said she was raised as a not-very-observant Christian but for that last year had felt strongly drawn to Judaism. An older relative revealed a family secret: Kate's maternal grandfather was a Sephardic Jew from a long family line of Sephardic Jews. His family lived in England in the 1940s and hid their faith for fear of persecution. Kate wanted to learn about her heritage.
Their week of togetherness ended with Kate moving back to Pennsylvania, then shortly after to Michigan, where she spent the summer as a viola teaching fellow at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. Jordan went from Memphis to Arkansas for eight weeks of performance at Opera in the Ozarks. The couple sent long, handwritten letters to each other. When the opera festival ended, Jordan had five days to return to Memphis, pack up his apartment, and move to New York City to perform, give singing lessons, and tutor. But he drove straight from Arkansas to Michigan — an 18-hour drive — and spent three of those five days with Kate.
"That is the most impulsive thing I've ever done," he said. "I saw it as this big, romantic gesture," Kate said. Both had to admit they were in love.
At summer's end, Kate moved to Ithaca to earn her music master's degree in Suzuki pedagogy and viola performance at Ithaca College. She and Jordan saw each other about twice a month until Jordan began his cantor studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, a course that begins with a mandatory year in Israel. That same year, Kate began a two-year process of converting to Judaism.
They were together just once in 2013, when Kate, now 29, visited Israel for 10 days in April. Otherwise, they spoke twice daily via Skype. By the time Jordan, now 31, was back in New York, Kate was in Wilmington, teaching at the Music School of Delaware, where, after a year, she became the Milford branch director.
In November 2015, the couple joined Jordan's parents in Cancun for Thanksgiving weekend. On their last day, Jordan asked Kate to walk on the beach before they met up with his family for dinner. Hand-in-hand they went, past the little cabana huts. Jordan led her to one of them. She sat. He knelt. "I started crying profusely," Kate said.
Jordan spoke of the night they met, when he asked her to dance and she accepted. He asked her to be his dancing partner until their very last dance.
She jumped up, and jumped for joy. "Yes, yes, yes!" she said.
Then they sat on the beach and talked of their bashert (or predestined) meeting, and their good fortune — that despite living in different states and even different countries, their love had grown.
In May 2017, Jordan became a cantor at Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, N.Y. He is also enrolled in rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College. A month before the wedding, Kate joined Jordan in Greenwich, Conn., where she now teaches Suzuki violin and viola at Greenwich Suzuki Academy.
Kate and Jordan married and celebrated at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.
Reminders of loved ones who have passed on were everywhere. The chuppah — a canopy that symbolizes the home — was covered with a blanket embroidered by Jordan's maternal great-grandmother. Kate's paternal grandmother's tablecloth adorned a table beneath it. Jordan wore his maternal grandfather's watch. A locket from Jordan's great-grandmother was attached to the bouquet, as was Kate's maternal great-grandfather's ring, with the original Jewish spelling of his last name — the only artifact her family has that's affiliated with its Jewish heritage.
Kate's two closest friends, both violinists, performed during the ceremony. Other friends and family read poems and took part in the seven blessings.
Instead of favors, the couple made donations to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and Recycled Tails in Pottstown, where they adopted their dogs, Bosco and Jose.
"Because Jordan is the dancing king, we wanted a good party," Kate said.
They entered the reception to the Rocky theme played by a live klezmer band. That morphed into Frank Sinatra's version of "Fly Me to the Moon" and their first dance, and that morphed into a 20-minute hora. "It was this amazing huge burst of energy that got everybody on the dance floor," Jordan said. "They put both us and our parents up on the chairs, and it just kept going."
After signing their ketubah — the Jewish marriage contract — Kate placed the white and black tallit, a special gift from her family, on Jordan's shoulders. "I looked right into his eyes, and Jordan took my hand, and said a prayer for us."
Jordan spoke of the people they were — the very best of themselves — on their wedding day. "I prayed that whenever things got rough, I would look out for those people, and remember this moment," he said.
A bargain: Choosing the museum meant the couple found their own vendors for everything, and that gave them the ability to bargain-hunt for things like alcohol. The best of all bargains, however, was the klezmer band recommended by the museum, Klezmer with Class. "They were worth way more than what we paid," Jordan said.
The splurge: The couple first saw the work of photographer Rebecca Barger when considering their venue. The ideas she presented and organizational skills she displayed when they met her sealed their decision to splurge on her work. "We knew what we were going to have after the party was over is our memories and our photos," Kate said.
A summer trip to Israel is planned.
Officiants: Rabbi Richard Rheins and Rabbi Susan Miller-Rheins, Temple Sinai, Denver.
Venue: National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia.
Food: Exquisite Caterers, Marlboro, N.J.
Music: Klezmer with Class, Philadelphia.
Photography: Rebecca Barger Photography, Jenkintown.
Flowers: Sommerfield Designs, Malvern.
Dress: Jasmine Collection, purchased at the Dress Matters, Media.