The expectations were zero.
In 1996, two women were invited by a common friend to share a table at a charity dinner in Los Angeles: Lori Wolf, a gay real estate executive who brought her female date, and Carol Leifer, a high-strung stand-up comic and television writer who had been married and divorced.
The notion that they would marry 19 years later was not even an echo on a distant planet.
Ms. Leifer, who was 39 at the time, thought Ms. Wolf was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. “I had to ask myself,” she said, “Why am I thinking this if I’m supposed to be straight?”
Ms. Leifer, now 59 and a four-time Emmy nominee for her writing on “Seinfeld,” “The Larry Sanders Show” and the Academy Awards ceremonies, had always identified as heterosexual. In her 20s, she dated Paul Reiser and Jerry Seinfeld.
“I didn’t grow up feeling like I was gay and hiding it,” she said. “I was boy crazy. But Lori was so uninhibited about showing affection to her date, it was a turn-on to me.”
But the dinner, for Project Angel Food, did not rock Ms. Wolf’s world. “I remember Carol being smart, funny and Jewish,” said Ms. Wolf, also Jewish. “And that was that.”
Acting on the spark she felt, Ms. Leifer called the host of the table, David Schneiderman, and asked him to contact Ms. Wolf on her behalf. “The mandate was, I had a crush on her and I wanted him to suss out if she’d be interested in hanging out with me,” Ms. Leifer said.
Ms. Wolf, now 52, was not interested. “I didn’t want to be a straight woman’s science experiment,” she said.
And yet, after she ended a relationship a few weeks later, she called Ms. Leifer and arranged to meet her one afternoon at a pitch-and-putt golf course.
“I think she was looking for a pal to hit golf balls with,” Ms. Leifer said. “I felt badly that she wasn’t picking up on how much I liked her.”
But Ms. Wolf had a different impression. “I thought: Let’s see, we have a little flirtation here. So I lobbed her an invitation to a charity dinner I was going to.”
At that dinner, Ms. Leifer bid on an auction item — a vacation for two at a golf resort in Hawaii — suggesting that if she won (she didn’t), they might take the vacation together. “Making a gesture toward staying overnight in a hotel in Hawaii opened the window to a different view than a date at a charity dinner,” Ms. Wolf said. Later, the two went to Ms. Leifer’s apartment, where, Ms. Wolf said, they “turned up the flame.”
This was revelatory for Ms. Leifer: “When I kissed her, there was an ‘a-ha’ moment of it working and feeling right that I hadn’t felt with the opposite sex.”
They began a relationship. One Friday several weeks later, Ms. Leifer had a test on a breast lump. The lab results would not be available until Monday. She had no choice but to wait over the weekend. “I was shellshocked,” she said. “The doctor said he thought 80 to 20 that it was cancer.” She immediately called Ms. Wolf.
Ms. Wolf said, “True to my personality as a caretaker and nurturer, I left my office and came right over.” They spent the weekend together, watching the DVDs in a gift basket Ms. Wolf gave to Ms. Leifer (which she later confessed had been a gift from a vendor she worked with).
“I think of that time constantly,” Ms. Leifer said. “Another person could have said: ‘I just met you. I don’t want to get involved in your cancer scare.’ But that’s not Lori.” (The lump was not cancerous, but it did have to be removed.)
Still, falling in love with a woman left Ms. Leifer puzzled. “When this kind of thing happens at 40, it’s trippy,” she said. “There was a lot of: Is this really me? Am I really gay?”
Ms. Wolf was undeterred. “It became a challenge, not like a truth-or-dare challenge, being with someone who is experiencing a change in her identity,” she said. “But I was fascinated.”
After one year together, Ms. Leifer flew back home to East Williston, N.Y., to tell her parents she was a lesbian. Her father, Seymour Leifer (now deceased), was an optometrist; her mother, Anna Leifer (also now deceased), a psychologist.
“I thought I was going to be the rock, and they would be basket cases,” Ms. Leifer said. But she started to cry. And contrary to her expectations, her parents weren’t disappointed. For six years (1981 to 1987), she had been married to a non-Jewish comic, Ritch Shydner. “‘I’ll tell you when I was disappointed,” she recalled her father saying. “When you married a gentile.”
“Lori being Jewish trumped everything,” Ms. Leifer said.
After five years together, Ms. Wolf was ready to move into Ms. Leifer’s home in the Hollywood Hills. But Ms. Wolf had a dog and two cats, and Ms. Leifer wasn’t eager for them to move in, too.
When Ms. Wolf offered to give her pets away, Ms. Leifer relented. “What am I doing asking the person I love to give up her animals for me?” she asked.
Ms. Wolf and her pets moved in. And Ms. Leifer’s antipathy morphed into activism on behalf of animal rights. (When she appeared on “Celebrity Apprentice,” the charity she named as beneficiary was the North Shore Animal League.)
Ms. Wolf initially thought it was intriguing to be involved with a woman who had never been in a same-sex relationship, but when Ms. Leifer had questions about her new identity, Ms. Wolf worried about her own future.
She recalled: “Carol would say: ‘I’m not gay. I love you.’ And I’d say: ‘Well, I’m gay. So how does that work?’ If there was a time where I felt guarded or protected, that would have been one of them. But you just keep going. And you wonder: Just because she loves me, is that enough? Will that pull of society, where she can’t acknowledge she’s gay, throw it all off track?”
Ms. Leifer maintained that any second thoughts she had were overridden by the power of the relationship. She had been through her share of romances in which both participants worked in show business, and nixed them as “too volatile.” She found Ms. Wolf, a self-described “mama bear” who worked in property management, a necessary and grounding presence.
“In every relationship, there’s a flower and there’s a gardener,” said Mr. Schneiderman, the man who introduced the couple 19 years ago. “Carol’s the flower, and Lori’s the gardener. She smoothes things over and provides the stability. Carol shakes things up and adds the sparkle.”
Jay Leno, who has known Ms. Leifer since 1979, offered another view. “Most comedians don’t strive to be happy or content,” he said. “They think if they’re happy, they lose their funny. But if you meet someone who smiles at you when you’re not funny, you find out that it’s not true.”
In what he called an educated guess, he said: ”I think that happened to Carol when she met Lori. I’ve seen a contentment in her I hadn’t seen before.”
While Ms. Leifer was busy being sparkling in her career, she put having a family on the back burner. But Ms. Wolf, who had a full-time career in property management, did not.
In 2007, two years after they had moved in together, they adopted a nine-month-old boy from Guatemala, Bruno Leifer-Wolf. While they adjusted to a new domestic life — and over time moved into three more houses that, under Ms. Wolf’s eye, they bought and flipped for a profit — they talked about getting married, all the more so after the Supreme Court made gay marriage legal nationwide in June.
Ms. Leifer proposed over dinner at the Palm Restaurant in Beverly Hills. “She said, ‘I don’t want to call you my partner anymore,’” Ms. Wolf said. “‘I want to call you my wife.’”
Ms. Wolf was thrilled. But she had never liked hyphenated names. She agreed to marry on one condition: “I want our family to have one name, the Wolf family.” The deal was sealed, and the hyphen removed from their son’s name (Leifer is now Bruno’s middle name.)
On Dec. 5, standing under a wedding canopy and often joined by their 9-year-old son, who was resplendent in a plaid suit and red-striped socks, the couple were married by Rabbi Ron Stern at the Brentwood Country Club in Los Angeles.
The ceremony had the markings of a stand-up routine. Before she said her vows, Ms. Leifer, wearing an off-white lace dress and looking as slim as a cigarette, tapped the mike, peered out at the audience — rather, the 150 guests — and asked, “Is this on?”
And Ms. Wolf, dressed in a dark pinstripe suit, got the loudest laugh after she started her vows praising Ms. Leifer to the heavens. “The world comes alive with your very presence,” she began. Then she crumpled her notes and said, “O.K., enough of your draft. I’ll take it from here.”
At the reception, guests prominent in the comedy world, including Jane Lynch, Larry David, Bill Maher, Garry Shandling, Henry Winkler, Larry Miller, Mr. Leno and Mr. Reiser partook of quirky appetizers, like tomato soup in a shot glass served with a cheese sandwich the size of a lipstick tube.
Speaking of the relationship’s duration, Mr. Maher, who has known Ms. Leifer since 1979, said: “You can tell they are into each other and not bored. They make eye contact and touch each other. That’s a great thing to have after almost 20 years.”
Ms. Wolf, greeting friends and family, including her mother, Elaine Wolf, and father, Donald Wolf, the principal of a business management firm in Los Angeles, reflected on the ceremony.
“Just before, I started tearing up,” she said. “How am I going to do this in front of all these people? But when I got to the front, Carol’s knees were shaking and I just held on to her and didn’t feel nervous at all. She’s the one who carried the bouquet down the aisle, but I guess we’re the bride and the bride.”
An earlier version of this article misidentified one of the guests at Ms. Leifer and Ms. Wolf’s wedding reception. He is Garry Shandling — not Larry Sanders, a character played by Mr. Shandling.