We had exactly the wedding we wanted. I don’t know if all that many couples can say that, so I’m pretty proud of us. When we first started the planning, Sandy was skeptical of how much traditional Jewish stuff I wanted to do, but I won him over to what I considered the essentials. We also ended up doing some traditional American wedding things. For those of you keeping score at home, as it were (follow the links to see pictures):
We did not do some of the Jewish pre-wedding stuff, including the ritual Mikvah bath, although we did get massages. Which totally doesn’t count.
We also didn’t do the Kabbalat Panim, which is when the female guests crowd around the bride and tell her how pretty she is, and the Tisch, where the male guests crowd around the groom and do shots of schnapps and talk about the torah. (I may be misrepresenting those somewhat, although not too much, I think.)
We didn’t do Bedecken, which is where the groom makes sure that you’re really the correct bride (see: Bible, story of Jacob & the Sneaky Dad of His Wives) and then you get your veil. I didn’t wear a veil, so it was pretty clear who I was. We did do what I’ll call Beschlumpen, which was when the bride was still wearing sweatpants when many of the guests began arriving.
We did sign a traditional marriage contract, called a Ketubah, although we skipped the traditional wording, including “I here present you with the marriage gift of virgins, two hundred silver zuzim.” We went instead with some lovey-dovey secular humanist crap.
My parents made the ketubah, which is going to hang in our house. My mom did the Hebrew and English calligraphy and my dad did the Matisse-inspired cut-out border.
We did walk down the aisle, which we had considered not doing. For a while we were going to just kind of appear and get married. Then my father put his foot down. “I’m walking her somewhere,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s an aisle, but I’m walking her down something.”
Sandy’s siblings and my brother and friend Catherine went in together, followed by Sandy and his parents and then my parents. The plan was for my parents to go halfway up and then wait for me, so I could make at least a little bit of an entrance.
As I watched them go up the aisle I thought, I think I’m supposed to have a bouquet…at least that’s what the bridal magazines said. The caterer went running for it, but my parents were already waiting for me, so I made a flower-free entrance. At some point in the ceremony my mom tossed me the bouquet. I have no memory of this, but suddenly I had it.
We did do most of the traditional elements of a Jewish wedding, except for the one where the bride circles the groom seven times. We also had the rabbi gloss over the Erusin (betrothal) blessing, as it is highly, creepily specific as to Sandy’s rights with regard to sex with engaged vs. married women.
We did the traditional Jewish exchange of rings, which is early in the ceremony, not the capstone like in a Christian wedding. There’s a whole thing about putting the ring first on your partner’s index finger and then they move it to the ring finger. We should have practiced, because that shit’s confusing. We did not do a good job.
A long time ago I told my mom that at my wedding I was not going to have the rabbi say just a few words and then have me repeat them (“Haray atah,” “Haray atah,”). I could memorize a whole sentence and say it myself thank you very much. I forgot to deliver this tirade to the rabbi, thank god, because seriously? Remembering a whole sentence? In Hebrew? Yeah right.
We were going to do vows, which is not part of a Jewish wedding, but we decided not to, because right after the ring exchange, the rabbi reads the ketubah out loud anyway, and that’s kind of our vow. It seemed a little too vow-tastic to do more.
We did the traditional seven blessings. The rabbi agreed to read the Hebrew, but not the translations, and we interspersed meaningful English readings in between the Hebrew blessings. This was another reason we skipped the vows. We just each did a reading. I liked that better anyway.
The seventh Hebrew blessing is traditionally sung, and the rabbi asked us if we had relatives who might want to lead this. If you’ve been to a lot of Jewish weddings, you kind of know the melody (“kol sasson v’kol simcha…”), but you need forceful song leaders. My Uncles Michael were awesome, with about a week’s notice. It was so beautiful.
The rabbi did this thing where the entire assembled crowd then pronounces you husband and wife. When he told us about it, I’ll admit, I was skeptical, because, apparently, I have no soul. I was wrong! It was beautiful. All of our family and friends, everyone we love, announcing that we were now married…it was amazing.
We did, of course, break the glass. Glasses. Lightbulbs, if you must know. We decided to each break one. And it took two tries for both of us. We had practiced at home, but, who knows. We were nervous.
We did one last important Jewish wedding tradition, Yichud, a few minutes of solitude right after the wedding. It was time to breathe, take in everything that had just happened, say “oh my god we’re married!” a dozen times, and gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes.
What else? We did the hora and everyone went up in the chairs. (The DJ’s hora-into-Hey Ya segue was particularly inspired). We made some toasts. We did not have a wedding cake, nor did we stuff anything in each others’ faces. We did a first dance (“Nothing Matters When We’re Dancing,” Magnetic Fields) and a first dance with our parents (“I Get a Kick Out of You,” Sinatra). We meant to, but did not, do a whole new thing with the bouquet where you give it to the couple who have been married the longest, but in keeping with the theme of the day, we forgot about the bouquet again. (Although at the very end of the day, some little girls demanded I toss it so they could catch it.)
We also did not have any rice thrown at us as we left, since, well, we had to stay late and clean up. Which, if I might be so bold, is not a tradition I would suggest to any brides who are looking for tips.