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Lace Curtain Liza

Diary of Adventures

A Jewish Orthodox wedding

12 June 2010

The Jewish wedding in Chicago that I attended was really great. This was an Orthodox Jewish wedding so it was full of tradition. Synagogue services went on for about three days prior with something different each day. I went to at least three services with one lasting about three hours. Men and women are separated inside by a curtain that directs all men to the left and the women to the right side of the temple. One funny part was when we all threw candy at the groom, I forget what good natured symbolism this referred to and just enjoyed the sight of him being pelted with candy.

Both bride and groom prepared themselves prior to the wedding ceremony by first having a private ritual bath called a mikveh. The bride wore [of course] a white dress, up to her neck and down to her elbows, then to the floor. Orthodox Jews cover everything, which was a welcomed reprieve from plunging necklines, jeweled belly buttons and tattoos. Actually tattoos are forbidden in this religion. Both the bride and groom fast for 24 hours before the wedding ceremony. They don’t see each other for a week before the ceremony.

The wedding day begins with a couple of pre-parties. Men and women are segregated. Light snacks are served. The men are in one room singing songs while the women are in another. The bride was sitting in a mama son chair, much like a queen, and surrounded by everyone in her wedding party. Guests came up to her one by one giving her well-wishes. Meanwhile the men cajoled with the groom in another room, all the while throwing back Scotch. At the groom’s table, the Chatan’s Tisch, the betrothal agreement called the Tennamin, was signed indicating good will between the bride and groom’s families. Both fathers surrounded the groom during the signing, indicating their approval of their union. This is called the Kabbalat Oanim. After a while, the groom is escorted with much merriment and song to his bride. He places a veil over her face in order to affirm her as his bride. This part is called the Badeken.

The guests are then directed outside for the ceremony under the wedding canopy, called the Chuppah. The wedding canopy is symbolic of the Jewish home the couple will create together. All four sides are open to emulate the home of Abraham and Sarah, which welcomed all guests. Soon the procession commences, both bride and groom are escorted by their families. The groom wears a suit, but dons a white robe under the white canopy signifying the sanctity of the event. The bride is last to arrive, with the veil still over her face. Once under the Badeken [canopy], both of their mothers circle the bride seven times symbolizing the mothers guidance of the bride as she accepts her new role as wife.

And then the ceremony begins with two blessings recited by the officiating rabbi. With wine in hand, the first blessing marks the joyous occasion. Next, the rabbi blesses the couple with emphasis on the importance of a committed relationship in marriage. At this point, the groom places a plain gold band on the bride’s index finger in front of two witnesses. He recites in Hebrew:”By this ring you are consecrated to me in accordance with the traditions of Moses and Israel.” The symbolism refers to the ongoing commitment of the husband to provide for his wife, financially and otherwise. The marriage contract is then read aloud, then the groom gives it to his wife for safe keeping. This is followed with seven wedding blessings recited by close family and friends. At this conclusion the couple shares another glass of wine. Lines from Psalms 137 are sung and the groom breaks the glass, which is inside a cloth cover for the safety of everyone.

At the end of this celebration, the bride and groom are escorted away from the wedding canopy with spirited song and dance to a private room where they will share their first moments together alone as husband and wife. This seclusion is called the Yichud. Two witnesses guard their room to ensure the couple’s privacy as they enjoy the breaking of their fast together with food and drink. This is their first private intimate moments together and lasts as long as they wish.

In the meantime, the guests are directed to the banquet room to wait for the bride and groom’s return. Friends of the bride make a tunnel using arches made with flowers and ribbons. An announcement is made to the guests where upon the bride and groom run through the tunnel as they enter the banquet room. The bride runs into one side of the dance floor while the groom runs to the other side. As always, the dance floor is separated between the sexes using a short curtain. The excitement overflows while both women and men celebrate amongst themselves with singing and dancing until dinner begins. One of their male guests was particularly amusing as he danced around on stilts.

The bride and groom sit at their own table, elevated above the guests’ tables, elegantly set for two. After the meal, the Birkat Hamazon [Grace after Meals] is recited and seven wedding blessings are repeated. Following that there is more dancing and singing with the sexes separated. Gradually the wedding guests leave the party, the young people are the last to leave as they keep singing and dancing.

I thought this was without doubt the best wedding I have ever been to in my life. There was so much genuine comraderie amongst everyone wishiing the couple good things. It was so much fun joining and watching all of the non-stop jumping and high kicking dancing. Even the bride’s mother, who I understand has multiple schlerosis was dancing with the girls. This couple will always have a meaningful memory of their wedding day!

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