Happily Ever After

By staff February 1, 2003

"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage," Martin Luther wrote in 1569, and that enduring ideal made this special issue about Sarasota weddings a delight to work on, as couples shared tender stories of how they met, wedding pros inspired us with their ideas and photographers brought in portfolios filled with beautiful images. Thanks to Sarasota's romantic setting and blissful weather, couples now come from all over the world to marry here, with friends and families flying in for the happy event-and a vacation.

Pomp and circumstance may be out of fashion, but not for weddings -witness the ceremony at the Ringling Museum for which an entire field of flowers in South America was specially grown. But as etiquette expert Letitia Baldrige notes in this issue, a lavish wedding is no predictor of a successful marriage. Her comment made us realize that this issue, full of information about how and where to get married in Sarasota, needed one final element: advice on making the marriage last. For that, we turned to the real pros, some happily married Sarasota couples.

We caught Glenda Miller just as her husband, retiring Rep. Dan Miller, and his staff were unloading what seemed like the entire contents of his Washington office into their Bradenton home. "I may need that advice yet!' she quipped. But when things quieted down, she gave us her short list: a sense of humor, communication and commitment. "All marriages have ups and downs, but you get through them because you are committed. It's like an unspoken feeling deep down that keeps you going."

Commitment is also the key for arts consultant Nancy Roucher and retired businessman and former Jazz Club president Jerry Roucher. During 42 years of marriage, they've seen many friends break up, says Nancy, and too often for "frivolous" reasons. "You've just got to care about each other and have the commitment," she says. "I know I can count on him and he knows the same about me." She also believes, "Everyone needs white space-room and encouragement to be your own person."

Gavin Meshad, a commercial real estate developer, and his wife, Lisa, mother of three young daughters and community volunteer, have always had a marriage filled with electricity and fun. But two years ago, "everything changed," says Lisa, when a ski accident sent her into emergency brain surgery that doctors didn't expect her to survive. "It may sound corny, but now we don't take one day for granted," she says. "We value the gift we have in each other, never go to bed angry and tell the other person we love them every day."

Debra Jacobs, president of the Selby Foundation, and retired businessman Bill Buttaggi will celebrate their 20th anniversary this May. What's kept them happy, she says, is "embracing our similarities and delighting in our differences." That means he indulges her passion for theater (the rule is "we will attend no more than two live performances per week") and she gamely agrees that "anything with an engine is worth traveling to see"-a la car races and classic cars and boat shows.

As a prominent divorce lawyer, Art Ginsburg has seen "more reasons than I can think of why marriages don't work." He names one simple-but challenging-way to ensure that yours will: "Your partner has to be the most important thing in the world to you." And his wife Laurie, a former TV talk show host, adds that it helps to remember that the traits that attract you to someone are often those that end up annoying you. When that happens, remember the virtue you first saw in those characteristics-think, for example, "maybe he's controlling, but it's nice to have someone who can take charge."

Comedy star Diane Ford, who moved to Sarasota from Las Vegas last August, has been married four times. But she says her new husband, real estate agent John Garner, "is more like me" than any previous mate and is "a terrific father who makes the right choices, not the easy choices." Besides, "it was lust at first sight." In addition to loving her for herself ("he had no clue who I was when we met"), she adds, "he's so funny I'm actually thinking of putting him in my act." She declares she's never lost faith in marriage. "It makes your life more fulfilling to have a best friend you can share things with-and since you've got someone right there, you can get lucky any time."

Sounds like the perfect punch line to me.

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