Nearly 13 years after Stevenson High School sociology teacher Chris Salituro paired students Matt Peota and Rikki Himmelfarb together for a project, the veteran teacher will officiate their wedding today.
"He's the foundation of (our) relationship," Himmelfarb told the Daily Herald.
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Salituro said he was honored to be asked to officiate the ceremony, set for the Hoosier Grove Barn Banquet Facility in Streamwood.
"As a teacher, you want to know that you are making a difference in students' lives, and I think this validates that," he said in an email.
It's the first time Salituro will perform a wedding; he got a license just for the occasion.
"I don't make this a habit," joked Salituro, who's taught at the Lincolnshire school for 14 years.
Members of the Class of 2001 who now live in Mundelein, Himmelfarb and Peota became romantically entwined after Salituro paired them up for a role-playing exercise.
In a bit of predestination, they had to pretend to be married.
"That was the first time we started hanging out together outside of class," Peota recalled.
Peota and Himmelfarb started dating a few months later, and they've been together ever since. And they stayed in contact with Salituro throughout the years.
"We kept in touch directly at times through email or when they would come home to visit," Salituro said.
Rikki's younger sister, Cobi, had Salituro as a teacher, too, and she kept him informed about the couple.
"She would say, 'Rikki and Matt are still dating. They say hi,'" Salituro said.
The couple asked Salituro to conduct the ceremony while celebrating their engagement together.
"We're unique individuals," Peota said. "We don't like to do things formally, and we both wanted it to be fun."
It was also a way to get around the fact that the couple were raised in different religious faiths, Peota said.
With Salituro critical to the beginning of their relationship, Himmelfarb feels it's important their former teacher is with them as they exchange vows.
"It's a story we can tell our kids and he can tell his future students," she said.