There is just something in the air once Summer arrives and you know that wedding season is just around the corner. Every wedding you go to is full of glowing brides, ecstatic grooms and frazzled co-ordinators. There are flowers and food and drinks and dancing. There is some sort of ceremony, and generally a pretty awesome party. If you did not know better, you would assume that every wedding was exactly like every other one!
But look just beneath the surface and a whole world of personalization opens. Whether special touches are drawn from cultural or family tradition, the couples likes and hobbies, or even the weather and time of year, it is the variations that make every wedding a unique and memorable event.
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Regardless of your cultural attachment to Judaism, there are some lovely customs and traditional aspects that can be added to any wedding. These special moments can be found from the moment you walk in the door until you leave at the end of the night. A lovely tradition involves the bride and groom greeting their guests in separate receptions as a monarch receives his or her well wishers. Just as a king or queen can grant blessing and kindness on his or her subjects, so to it is believed that on this auspicious day a bride or groom receives God-given assistance to pray for blessings for those who ask.
Many biblical stories are hinted at during the traditional ceremony- most obviously the story of Jacob mistaking Leah for Rachel before his wedding. To this end, the last thing a groom will do before the marriage ceremony itself is "double check" to make sure he is getting the right wife- before lowering the veil over her face. It is a touching and private moment amidst the chaos going on around them.
Canopy Ketubah by mishmishmarket
The ceremony itself is actually made up of 2 parts- "erusin" the formal engagement, followed by "kiddushin", the groom consecrating the bride to himself according to the laws of Moses and Israel, and 7 blessings relating to the bride and groom and all of Judaism, and in fact praying for peace and serenity and joy for all of mankind. Tying the end of the ceremony back into the cultural history of the Jewish people, the final moments of the ceremony remind us that even amidst the joy we are feeling, how much more joyous would it be were the temple in Jerusalem still standing. The groom smashes a glass underfoot symbolizing what is missing from today's Jewish mindset.
Even the least religious of Jewish weddings often start with a iconic "Hora" and the bride and groom being thrust high into the air on chairs while holding a napkin between them. There is a strong custom to "entertain" the bride and groom at the reception. This "Shtick" can take the form of dancing, magic shows, jugglers- anything that might get a bride or groom to laugh. I have seen things from belly dancers to giant inflatable rabbits brought in to entertain the happy couples. My husband never heads out to a wedding without flower sticks or magic tricks!
Blessing for the Home
So if you are planning your special day, think about adding something fun and different- something to really make the day your own. Be it drawn from your cultural heritage, or themed on your favorite book, or even just built around a color you love, making your wedding unique will keep people talking about it for a very long time!
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