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Memphis-based rabbis Bess Wohlner and Jeremy Simons made AvGeek headlines this spring with their Delta-themed wedding — and on Saturday, May 19, the newlyweds are taking off for a month-long, around-the-world honeymoon. Before Bess and Jeremy go wheels up, TPG asked the Mr. and Mrs. to share their extraordinary love story.
TPG: Tell us about how you met. Was it love at first sight?
Bess: [Laughs.] No.
Jeremy: We met in San Diego in 2007 at the Conference of Jewish Youth Directors. Well, actually, we were at something else together in 2001, but we don’t remember each other at all, so that doesn’t really count.
Bess: We were both working at synagogues back then. I was in Washington, DC and Jeremy was in Boston. At this San Diego conference, my friends and I were charming and hilarious, while Jeremy and his friends were too cool for school. So yeah, we didn’t fall in love.
TPG: And yet here you are.
Bess: Yet here we are.
Jeremy: We both ended up applying to rabbinical school the same year, Bess a few months after I did. One day, I was on Facebook and noticed a familiar name under the list of other new students for Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. So I sent her a friend request.
Bess: Rabbinical school is a small place, and you’re around the same people for five years. You even spend your first year together in Jerusalem, which is where we really became friends. We were best-best friends, even though we were dating other people. We would make sure to introduce each other to [our] significant others. That kind of thing. And even though our school has three different campuses, we ended up at the same one in Los Angeles.
Jeremy: And we kept running into each other in the same places — kept having experiences that only the other person could appreciate.
Bess: Like, Jeremy organized a latke-eating contest around Hanukkah, and I was the right person to help fundraise for it.
TPG: And the rest is history, sort of?
Bess: OK, Jeremy is worried about what I’m going to say now. [Pauses.] We kinda started this cycle where he would, every couple of years, end up telling me that he was in love with me, that kinda thing. And. — I just knew everything about every girl he had liked, so I just didn’t think he was into me. I was wrong. Clearly! He always had feelings for me. But you know how they say the best way to set a friendship on fire is to not reciprocate. I was wrong. I know that now. [Laughs.]
Jeremy: I think that’s pretty much how it went. I agree with what she said there. Every time after I’d tell her I loved her, I would tell my friend, ‘I guess she’s not into this,’ and give up on it. We kept finding each other at the wrong times.
Bess: Well, actually, I had a crush on Jeremy when we first started rabbinical school and were living in Jerusalem. But he dated my friend early in the program, so I figured that was it.
Jeremy: About three or four years into our five-year program, I decided I wanted to go on my first mileage run. Up until this point, I thought they were for crazy people, but then I found a really good deal between LAX-MSP-MIA-ATL and LAX for just $254 round-trip.
The thing was, I didn’t want to do it alone, and the only person I could think of willing to do this with me was Bess, even though we hadn’t talked in several months because things were complicated. So I texted her, and she texted back and said ‘sure.’ We pulled up the booking website to look at potential dates. And as a joke, I said, ‘Hey, we could book this fare for tomorrow, too, and do a double-lap,’ never thinking that Bess would go for it.
Bess: But I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ And that’s how we ended up spending 47 hours together on a mileage run in January 2013.
TPG: And how did you handle those 47 hours together?
Bess: We did a lot of fun little things, like [taking] a photo of ourselves together in front of a store or a gate at each airport. Then, on our second lap of the mileage run, we’d take a picture of ourselves with our previous picture of ourselves.
Jeremy: I think we had a messenger bag between the two of us. No showering. We agreed that we wouldn’t leave the secured area, so we only went through TSA to enter and exit once in that entire timeframe. But one time on lap two, we were starting to get a bit crazy, so we started to walk through the checkpoint before we stopped ourselves and asked, ‘What are we doing?’ But that mileage run was when I knew that Bess was it for me.
Bess: Unfortunately, I still wasn’t there yet. So it wasn’t until another few years later, when we somehow found ourselves on the same flight from New York City to Tel Aviv, that sparks really started to fly.
Jeremy: I upgraded one of her flights.
Bess: And on one of the flights where I didn’t get upgraded, he brought me his first-class meal, all the way to the back of the plane.
TPG: How did you decide on the Delta wedding theme?
Bess: Well, Jeremy is really into airplanes, and I’m really into Delta. I’ve always felt like you have to pretty much marry an airline if you want status, and I chose Delta. And yes, it’s true that I told Jeremy I’d rather have Delta Diamond Medallion status than an actual diamond ring. But he got me a regular diamond instead.
Jeremy: I’ve always loved flying. The best part of any vacation was always being on the plane. My mother was born and raised in Poland —
Bess: [Interrupts] — and everyone knows the Poles love airplanes!
Jeremy: My parents used to send me to Poland over summers to visit relatives, so I spent a lot of time on planes as a result. I began flying alone from Boston to Poland starting the summer after second grade. And once I began attending rabbinical school, I got to indulge my passion for flying because we travel to a lot of student pulpits across the nation. So I really got more into learning about the system and maximizing loyalty programs, took it to the next level. And that’s why I invited Bess on a mileage run with me.
Bess: And we’ve spent a lot of our time together doing ‘Delta’ things.
Jeremy: In May of 2016, we spent a day in Atlanta visiting all 10 of the SkyClubs open at the time. And when we first reached out to Delta, we sent them this Facebook album to show them how serious we were about them.
TPG: Tell us about the wedding details. How did you get all the Delta decor?
Jeremy: The real hero here is a guy named Jason, who works for Delta. Jason was a former student of another Jewish Hillel director, and he was our ‘in’ with the company. I cold e-mailed Jason about our wedding theme, and asked him for his help. After three e-mails, Jason got back to me. It was incredible. He did so, so much for us, pulling strings with various departments to help us knock out things on our wishlist. They sent us drink cups and napkins, and loaned us a branded mat for our walk down the aisle like it was Sky Priority.
Bess: I never was the little girl who dreamed about her wedding, so I didn’t have an idea from my childhood that I had to replicate. We told our florist that we wanted a Delta theme and that the colors were red and blue, and just let him take it from there. It was awesome, and I think he also appreciated the flexibility.
We designed Delta-themed place cards that doubled as luggage tags, and decorated individual tables using airport codes from cities that are special to us. We also created ‘boarding lanes’ around the dance floor, specifying ‘general boarding’ and ‘priority,’ and acquired some fun props for our photo booth station, which featured a green screen airplane interior, oxygen masks and business class plane seats Jeremy owns. Jeremy [even] had airplane cufflinks.
Jeremy: I also bought 20 Tumi first class amenity kits on eBay as gifts for the friends and family who were staying in our hotel blocks. I repackaged them with our own wedding favors. It sounds like 20 isn’t that many, but I never want to do that again.
TPG: Where did you get that drink cart, and the airplane seats?
Jeremy: I actually bought those myself, in 2016. Once a month, the Delta Flight Museum outside of Atlanta hosts a surplus sale with all sorts of fascinating Delta memorabilia, such as these decommissioned business elite Boeing 767 recliner seats that went out of service in the late 1990s. When I was living in Jackson, Mississippi, the museum was six hours away, and sales start at 7 am. If you want to score a set of business class seats, you have to get there by 6 am. So this acquisition project involved renting a pickup truck in Jackson, staying overnight somewhere along the way and then getting in line bright and early.
There were three sets of seats for sale the day I went, and I was third in line, so I got really lucky. Since I had the truck, I also got a drink cart or two and some overhead bins for $50. The overhead bin is definitely an odd shape, since it’s [supposed] to fit inside the plane fuselage. But I thought, ‘For that price, I’d be stupid to not get one.’
Bess: Our wedding planner had the brilliant idea to use the overhead bin as our gift table. He also came up with the plan to serve the wedding cake on top of the drink cart.
TPG: What are you doing for the honeymoon?
Bess: We’re going around the world, mostly using Jeremy’s SkyMiles. He’s never redeemed any of his 1.5 million SkyMiles, which led a recent interviewer to say that ‘he was saving all his miles for the right girl.’
Jeremy: I’ve created a way-too-detailed analysis of our honeymoon travel. I’m very proud of this. And I’m a huge fan, [so] I doubt I’d have been able to plan such a crazy honeymoon without TPG.
TPG: That’s incredible. Is there anything else you think we should know?
Jeremy: We’d really love to be featured in [Delta’s in-flight] Sky Magazine. We’d also settle for being extras in a safety video.
Bess: Jeremy forgot to say that our other dream in all of this is my achieving Diamond Status with Delta. But besides that, he’s on point.
All images courtesy of Bess Wohlner and Jeremy Simons. Wedding photography by Paige Miller Photography, and photo booth imagery by Hotshots Photobooth.
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