Find the light together after a “very dark place”
In December 2015, Amanda Winer took a 10-day Birthright Israel trip as a participating researcher. Her focus, as preliminary research for her dissertation, was the social relationships and habits of Jewish millennials. Finding a mate was last on her list, especially since she had been dating someone for the past six months. Yet when she met Nathan Friedman, who was traveling to make new friends, there was a mutual attraction.
“Nate was cute, kind and charming,” said Ms. Winer, 31, a social psychology researcher studying education and Jewish studies for a doctorate at NYU. “Everyone around us was connecting. Nate was a total gentleman and never budged.
On January 6, 2016, the group, which had returned home before the New Year, gathered for a reunion. Ms. Winer had ended her relationship after the trip and was now single; she shared this information loud enough that Mr. Friedman, who was standing behind her at the bar, could hear her. Mr. Friedman wasted no time and asked her if she could accompany him to the subway, then he asked her to get out.
“It was a mixture of heartbeats and butterflies asking him to come out,” said Friedman, 31, an equity researcher at Wedbush Securities, a Los Angeles-based investment firm. “Knowing that I could stand a chance in a relationship now that she was single gave me courage.”
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Their first date took place two days later. But somewhere between dinner at Saigon Market and Chloe’s sherbet, both in the Union Square neighborhood, Mr. Friedman, who suffers from a plethora of food allergies, began to feel sick. On his way to Mrs. Winer’s house, it was clear he needed help.
“I have Benadryl and an EpiPen pen in my apartment,” said Ms. Winer, who has no allergies but likes to be prepared. “He took the Benadryl and lay down on my bed. Then I heard him fall violently ill. It didn’t deter me. I felt a deep connection. The evening was the confirmation that it was special.
Mr. Friedman, who was sent home later that evening in an Uber, was mortified. “I hoped she was enjoying the fact that we had a great time before I got sick,” he said. “I apologized profusely the next day in a text message. I had no idea if she was going to answer me or ghost me.
Ms. Winer responded a few minutes later. Other texts followed, as well as a relation.
The next two years were spent attending Broadway shows and soccer games, exploring New York City, meeting everyone’s family and friends, and enjoying plenty of allergy-free meals.
On January 15, 2018, the couple, ready to merge their lives and responsibilities, moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Union Square.
The couple got engaged on March 23, 2019 while visiting Mr Friedman’s cousin in Granada. They were hiking Levera Hill in Saint Patrick Parish, and after reaching what is known as the welcome stone at the top, Mr. Friedman knelt down and proposed.
“She makes me smile and brings out the best in me,” he said. “She’s the most beautiful person. I wanted to spend my life with her.
“We were literally on top of the world,” said Ms. Winer, who immediately said yes. “One of the major accomplishments of your life is finding someone you want to share it with. I felt one of the dreams I had was ticked off.
Their festive enthusiasm was short-lived. When he got home, x-rays taken at his orthodontist’s office, where he had hoped to have his teeth straightened, showed some abnormalities. A maxillofacial surgeon was recommended.
The next three months were a succession of doctor’s appointments. Mr. Friedman was told he suffered from a skeletal malocclusion which severely restricted his airways. Several surgeries, which included breaking and moving her upper and lower jaw and realigning her chin, were required. His jaw would be wired for the next three months. If it was not fixed, doctors said he would probably not reach the age of 45.
“My world was on fire,” Friedman said. “I knew I had to go through this to save my life, and I knew Amanda wasn’t going to leave me. It reaffirmed that I had a real partner.
Ms. Winer found the situation frightening. “I was planning the rest of my life with someone who might not be around for the rest of my life,” she said. “I wanted him to know that we were doing it together. That I was his teammate.
The next two years were spent researching, preparing, worrying, connecting and negotiating with insurance companies for Mr. Friedman’s surgeries, which took place in January 2021.
They were also living with the faint whisper of anxiety and wedding planning. Thanks to Half-way, a niche site that connects people halfway between two or more places – Ms. Winer is from Westborough, Mass .; Mr. Friedman is originally from Livingston, New Jersey. They found Lighthouse Point Park, an event space, in New Haven, Connecticut. The outdoor area, which overlooked the beach, features a working antique carousel and offers room for a sit-down dinner indoors.
As Mr. Friedman recovered positively from the surgery, constant excitement and optimism returned.
“The goal of our life together has been to accomplish and lead the battle for Nate’s health,” Ms. Winer said. “I felt like nothing could happen until we fixed this problem. Now we are moving towards equality. Every day he comes back. I have the impression that we have won. We get to have a life without fear of an expiration date.
On May 30, 2021, the couple married cantor Lucy B. Fishbein of the B’nai Jeshurun congregation in Short Hills, NJ, in front of 65 guests and 150 people watching virtually.
“It was like planning two weddings,” said Ms. Winer, who sent 100 gift boxes with homemade Rice Krispie heart-shaped treats; cotton candy balls; handmade paper centerpieces; personalized handwritten notes; and a Spotify playlist. The couple also hired a production company to cover the wedding, using cameras to capture different angles of the event. Pre-recorded toasts of childhood friends were played as the in-person guests moved from the ceremony on the beach to the main venue or took a ride on the carousel.
“We lived in a 500 square foot apartment, we went through Covid and surgery at the same time, and we stayed together,” the groom said. “If we can go through these things and still have so much love and compassion for one another, we can go through anything. I am so excited for our future. I didn’t think I had one. I got my life back and I can spend it with the person who matters to me.
Ms. Winer spoke the same way. “I learned what love is through this and how to be a partner,” she said. “We have just returned from a very dark place. This marriage is our light.
On this day
When May 30, 2021
Or Lighthouse Point Park, New Haven, Connecticut.
The sweet life The couple had a cotton candy machine, crushed ice truck and carousel on time. “We wanted a whimsical and festive family union vibe,” said the bride.
Child cake Abby Sauberman, a 15-year-old bakery prodigy, created a vanilla cake with chamomile honey and mixed berries. It was also nut free so Mr. Friedman could eat it without worry. “We love baking contests, especially the ones with kids,” Ms. Winer said. “I volunteer at Eisner Camp, a Jewish summer camp I attended as a child. They held a silent auction last year. I outbid Abby’s cake. So I contacted her separately to make ours.