Lindsay Benner, a professional juggler, honed her talents at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco after graduating college. As the finale to her street performance there, Ms. Benner would select two men from the audience, climb up and stand on their folded arms, then juggle flaming torches above their heads. "The trick to juggling is being willing to let everything fall to the ground," said Ms. Benner, now 31, a native of Berkeley, Calif., and a graduate of the University of Connecticut with an M.F.A. in acting.NYT via The Atlantic Wire
Yet in matters of love, she abhorred juggling. By 2009, she had had a string of monogamous relationships, none lasting much more than a year. Performing often conflicted with her love life. She has traveled to Ireland, Japan and New Zealand, among other far-flung places, and no beau ever joined her worldwide tours. She moved to Los Angeles to act in films and commercials, and perform at the Comedy Store, the Magic Castle and on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She also began dating an "attractive, well-built, bubbly" man, the type she never would have dated in high school as a shy teenager. "He was the way I would have imagined my dream guy," she said. They had been happily dating for four months, and she "was all in — but he was into keeping his options open," she said.
Just before Christmas that year, Ms. Benner was at a party with her boyfriend, and in walked Dan Das Mann, now 43, a sculptor visiting from San Francisco. He and Ms. Benner locked eyes. Both felt an intense zing. Ms. Benner was baffled. Was this love at first sight? "I’d never felt electrified by the sight of a perfect stranger," she said. Mr. Das Mann — whose creations are monumental sculptures set ablaze, and capped by fireworks and explosions, including 900 gallons of jet fuel that blew up into a mushroom cloud — had a similar reaction. "It was almost déjà vu, like I already knew her intimate secrets," he said. He was a year out of a long-term relationship and looking for love, but he didn’t anticipate finding it on another man’s lap. Later at the party, she ran into him alone in an empty room. Spontaneously, they hugged and then began talking. She soon learned she had seen Mr. Das Mann at the Burning Man arts festival in 2005. She had been captivated by one of his artistic collaborations: a 40-foot steel sculpture of a mother passing fire to her child. After viewing it, she approached the longhaired, bearded "older hippie dude" to thank him for his work. She hadn’t recognized Mr. Das Mann, who now had short hair and was clean-shaven, with mischievous blue-green eyes. After two hours, Ms. Benner, whose onstage persona is described as half Lucille Ball and half Charlie Chaplin, told a joke. He didn’t laugh. Instead, he asked pointedly: "Have I really found you? Are you the one?" Before she could answer, Ms. Benner’s boyfriend entered the room, and she left with him.
Ms. Benner, who is known for her common sense, woke the next day feeling uncharacteristically confused. "I felt more connected to Dan than the person who I was meant to be in love with," she said. Mr. Das Mann was not her type: he was older than her dating range, four inches shorter than she was, and much more unconventional as an artist and developer of workspaces for artists. For Mr. Das Mann, who is known for his determination, the next day meant calling his mother, Barbara Lowry of Dallas, as he did daily. "I told her I’d found the one I am going to marry," he said. "Only she had a boyfriend." Ms. Lowry describes her son as "a force" and "able to accomplish absurd achievements against all odds." She had no doubt her son would prevail. "There’s no give-up in Danny, she said.
A week later, after exchanging a few texts, Mr. Das Mann and Ms. Benner agreed to meet when she was visiting family in the Bay Area for the holidays. They could be friends, she told him, refusing to call it a date. It was a marathon day; they shared a formal tea ceremony, went bowling and saw a movie. The "non date" was filled with witty conversation, laughter and a deep familiarity. A second outing was equally adventurous and similarly chaste. "I felt pretty sure that if I pushed, Lindsay would bolt," said Mr. Das Mann, who that week saw her perform her act at the waterfront. He was in awe: she charmed her audience with her flashing blue eyes, then persuaded them to pay for a show that minutes before they had no intention of seeing. "Lindsay is fearless," he said. Later that week, the third time they were together, he couldn’t help himself. He made his move: a single kiss. "In that kiss I saw a vision of my future: full of amazing people, adventures and creativity," she said. But she was torn; she told him she had to see the other relationship through or she would forever wonder what-if.
For six weeks, she juggled the weight of the two relationships — a precarious feat. She and Mr. Das Mann exchanged more than a thousand texts, and then, overwhelmed, she asked for a complete break. Mr. Das Mann, impressed by her kindness and integrity, respected her wish, but then he broke the silence with a single text of one comma. "The comma was to signify that in my opinion, we were just on pause," he said.
On Valentine’s Day weekend in 2010, the drama peaked. She was to perform at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles. He was in town for a party in which he would coach guests to weld an enormous sculpture. But Cupid had a sense of humor: Ms. Benner’s boyfriend, who was also a producer of artistic performances, was Mr. Das Mann’s supervisor at that event. Ms. Benner said her boyfriend was aware and apprehensive of the connection between her and Mr. Das Mann. That night, Mr. Das Mann slipped away to see her show (without the approval of his supervisor). Seeing Mr. Das Mann in the audience, Ms. Benner realized he had been devoted to her from the moment he met her. "He’d supported me artistically, and in my hard decision-making," she said. "My happiness mattered to him." With Mr. Das Mann waiting nearby, she made a teary breakup call that night, freeing herself to follow her heart. Then, she fell into Mr. Das Mann’s arms. "Can we go home now?" he recalled asking her.
That night, their first together, they each proposed marriage. On June 15, after three years of worldwide adventures and mutual support of their artistic pursuits, the couple married at the Ralston White Retreat in Mill Valley, Calif., with the Rev. Patricia de Jong, a Congregationalist minister, officiating. The 130 guests, including Ms. Benner’s parents, Patricia E. Benner, a retired professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and Richard V. Benner, an organizational sociologist and former assistant dean at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, watched as the ceremony began with a juggler, then the entrance of eight hirsute groomsmen in gold-and-purple faux fur coveralls cut like tuxedos. ("I hope the mother of the bride forgives me," said Mr. Das Mann, who had surprised his attendants with the outrageous outfits.)
Circled by redwoods towering into a clear blue sky, sparks flew as men wielding torches cut figures into a steel door through which the couple entered. The couple vowed to "be insane, just the way you like it" and to always juggle and dance. The bride, in a one-shouldered custom dress from Thailand, occasionally stole the show with her off-the-cuff humor and pantomime. "Many men have fallen in Lindsay’s shadow," said Solana Fuller, the maid of honor. "She’s met her counterpart." During his toast, the bride’s father choked with emotion. "Lindsay and Dan will encounter many things in their future," he said, "but never boredom."
Each guest received a river rock, laser-engraved with an address on the outside and sent through the United States Postal Service. The rock was sliced and bound with wire, and inside were the laser-engraved details of the wedding. The rocks were meant to signify the couple’s lasting commitment. (Only one recipient called the police, fearing it was a grenade.)