Three decades, a couple of marriages and an out-of-state job couldn’t stop this pair from finally falling in love.
When Renea Shulman met Michael Pearl during college in the mid-1980s, he was dating her then-best friend. They became friends and the group would get together sometimes. But after college, they lost track of each other.
The second time they met, Michael was married. The time after that, Renea had gotten married.
Finally, they became friends. Both had had children and gotten divorced.
“We’d see each other at the gym; we’d go for coffee,” Renea says.
At first, they didn’t want a romantic relationship. “I didn’t want to ruin our friendship,” Renea says. “He had become a very good friend.”
But then they started dating. Not only did Renea fall in love, but her children did, too. “Even before we were dating, when Michael came over, Max [now 11] and Ari [almost 10] would beg for him to sleep over,” Renea says. “We always said, ‘Nope. Not going to happen.’ But they adored him from the start.”
Michael accepted a position as team security with the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, which required him to move to Cleveland and travel with the team throughout the season. “The move actually made us get more serious,” Renea says.
Three years later, the position in Cleveland ended and Michael returned to work in Detroit — and moved in with Renea and the boys.
After 30 years of friendship, the couple wed on Sept. 1 in a small ceremony at Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield, officiated by Rabbis Michael Moskowitz and Daniel Schwartz and Cantor Penny Steyer.
“Every person who was there were people who are very important to us,” Michael says. “Every single guest was seated on the bimah — we didn’t utilize the pews at all. One friend did the cake; another friend took the photos.”
Adds Renea, “When we started talking about the people who meant the most to us, it was really hard to cut down the guest list, but we wanted it to be intimate.”
Most importantly, the wedding was a marriage of families — and the couple wanted each family member to know that. “Even the ring I selected is silver braided with gold,” Michael says. “We are intertwining two families together and I wanted that symbolized in my ring.
“My daughter, Abigail, and her son, Caiden, walked down the aisle with me,” he says. “Renea’s boys walked her down the aisle. Caiden carried the temple’s Kolin Ring — a ring from the former Czechoslovakia that survived the Holocaust — which he handed to Max, who handed it to Ari, and so on. We had all under the bimah with us, with each of our mother’s seated there as well. It was about being inclusive.” The ceremony was followed by a small reception in the synagogue foyer.
When it came to Renea’s name, the couple discussed it with the boys. “They wanted me to have Michael’s last name, Pearl, and they were OK with having a different last name than me, their given last name,” Renea says. “Michael even spoke to the boys before he proposed, asking for their permission and blessing.” Which they gave wholeheartedly.
“It was not just our wedding,” Michael says. “It was a blending of the whole family.”