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How A Wedding (Can, Maybe) Shape A Marriage

I’ve been pondering the question that reader Julianna asked quite a while ago, on this Reclaiming Wife post:

How, if at all, did your wedding day shape what came after? How did your wedding feed your marriage?

I’m not sure I fully know the answer, but I have some hints and whispers floating around my mind that I thought I’d share. And then, really, I want to know what the answer is for everyone else – how did your weddings feed your marriage? Or did they?

Yesterday, those hints and whispers became a little louder, thanks to Amanda. She, um, made me blush a little, talking about her Words To Read When You Wed series. She said, “I had the great honor of hearing a smattering of these pieces read at Meg’s own wedding. Full and lovely wishes, words uttered beneath the sun. I may or may not have cried two times.” And that suddenly made things clear. Our wedding day, that one beautiful and full day in August, under the unseasonably warm summer sun, was a day for speaking dreams and hopes and commitment, and day for promises and present-ness. A crystal clear moment of honesty, which seems as good a foundation for a lifetime as there can be.

In our program, I wrote this about our huppah, and I think the same could be said about our wedding day:

The huppah is raised, for most of us, once in a lifetime. It is not permanent, but it is the promise of a home. Friends and family stand and the corners, helping to anchor the fragile structure down, the roof is a tallit so the couple is covered in holiness and the memory of commandments. The huppah does not promise that love or hope or pledges will keep out weather or catastrophe, but its few lines are a sketch for what might be. The flimsiness of the huppah reminds us that the only thing that is real about a home is the people in it who love and choose to be a family. The huppah is the house of promises. It is the home of hope.

Married life is wonderful, but complicated.

And in the midst of those twists and turns, I need that moment in the sun to look back on, to have those public sketches of hope, that moment of choosing. It’s critical to me to have that moment where we stood up and said, “this is who we are, and this is what we promise.” But more than that we had a moment where those around us could dream and hope and pray and wish for us.

When I get confused (and by confused I mean screaming my head off and then deciding I don’t even like my husband very much NO THANK YOU) I can look back to that moment and remember who we are. I remember the way we chose to change our relationship, and that we committed to that in front of a whole community of people who will hold us to it.

And, more simply, I know how happy we both were. I know how happy David was. It reminds me to be happy now, to be present now.

So, for those reasons, I’m glad we had the wedding we had. I’m glad that we walked through the fire, fought the hard fight, and let all the expectations burn off, leaving us with only who we really were. For me, it was worth it. It really was, cursing and screaming and crying included.

So now. What was it for you?

Side note: because I’m being a little la-la-la happy today, I’m going to FORCE you to go read P’s much more profane account of their wedding day on What Possessed Me. Because, f*ck yes, all that is equally as true as *this* lot of words that I’m spinning.

Huppah Description adapted from Celebrating Interfaith Marriages, a great Jewish/ Christian wedding book that was discussed earlier this week in the comments. It was the best liturgical wedding book I found, period.

Photo: One Love Photo of course.

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106 thoughts on “How A Wedding (Can, Maybe) Shape A Marriage

  1. I love what you wrote about the huppah – I even teared up a bit. We are not Jewish but now I want to include a huppah of some form in the wedding because of how beautiful and meaningful it is. Your description captured everything about what I want for my new baby family perfectly.

    1. I also love what you wrote about the huppah being an outline, with you two at the center and with your community anchoring you.

      I think that our wedding shaped our marriage by teaching us to celebrate, to mark down and to remember to be present for moments big and small to come. We are closing in on our 1 year anniversary and are trying to find a way that will mark that moment in time, to celebrate it as an accomplishment and to plan for next year.

    2. Goodness, you made me cry. I’ve been in love with the idea of the huppah ever since I read about it in “Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality & Spirituality” by Rob Bell. (which I highly recommend) My fiance and I read with an informal “book club” group at our high school English teacher’s house, as newly-minted high school graduates.

      And I have the satisfaction of knowing that the huppah is the origin of the wedding arch often found in Christian weddings. But I have the dissatisfaction of knowing that a Jewish tradition would never fly with my family at a “Christian” wedding. And it makes me a little sad. I’m also concerned that it would be seen as disrespectful to our Jewish friends. But I can still hope that one day, I will wake up one day and not care what they’ll say. We’ll see.

      1. You guys, as mentioned earlier this week, it’s borderline really offensive to Jews when non-Jews appropiate the huppah. I could write paragraphs on why, but I’m mostly just letting you know. If you love the symbolism, I’d suggest a wedding arch. Everyone should make their own choices, but it’s good to know what offends.

        1. i think this is where it becomes powerful that we have options in making the wedding our own. yes, borrowing from religions to which we do not subscribe can be offensive. but being inspired by the idealogy is not. you can easily take the ideas behind a huppah and translate them into something less jewish-specific and inclined to offend. ie, the weddingarchthing.

          just as we’re free to throw out old, irrelevant traditions, we’re free to create our own. which is awesome.

          1. I totally agree, Liz. When thinking about this today (lots) I came to the conclusion that I think the line is being inspired by vs. taking. I love the idea of inventing traditions that work for us. Someone suggested earlier in the week that if you like the symbolism of jumping the broom, maybe you jump… a ribbon, or something meaningful to you. If you like the symbolism of a huppah, build and arch with your family. But part of what makes these traditions so special is their religious and cultural importance for a certain group, and their *particularity.* I love-love-love the Greek Orthodox joined crowns, and I hope one day to be invited to a Greek Orthodox wedding to see it myself. But if suddenly EVERYONE did it, because they like the aesthetics and symbolism, it would really take something away – both from that culture and the traditions very particular beauty.

            So be inspired by other cultures… but make things totally your own. That’s my advice, at least.

        2. I was very nervous about using a huppah or huppah-like element at our wedding because I was afraid it would be offensive. I sought opinions all over the internet and from people I know, people who teach at the local universities, friends of friends who are Jewish, any source I could find. I was told multiple times over that it wasn’t offensive IF we explained the meaning, where it came from, the importance of, etc. That it was not offensive–some people even suggested it was a good thing to borrow–as long as we treated it with a great deal of respect and talked about it instead of just planting it in the middle of our ceremony without a word. So I’m a little surprised to be told it’s “borderline really offensive.” Maybe you should write paragraphs on why, because when I searched and searched to make sure I wouldn’t be offensive, I never heard “No no bad Christian, no huppah for you.” And frankly, I think there’s a huge difference between a huppah and an arch.

          To be constructive rather than only airing my hurt feelings, I’ll add that maybe you should write/ask someone to write post/s about how to be inspired by traditions from other cultures (huppahs, jumping the broom, tea ceremonies, tree planting, wearing crowns of orange blossoms, etc.) without being offensive. As someone who is several generations removed from being anything more than “American Mutt Mix,” I had no guidelines as to what country or culture it’s “okay” to pull things from. I found elements from several cultures that illustrated things I wanted us to say on our wedding day, and I set out to use them with all respect intended. I never set out to offend anyone and learning after the fact that I may have is devastating.

          1. I’m not sure that this is the place to write lots and lots of paragraphs about why oppressed cultures find the appropriation of their religious traditions offensive, but I’ll give a sum up from my perspective. Obviously, there are people you won’t offend, and there are lots you will. It’s also something that’s talked about as being offensive, but not often talked loudly about in non-Jewish circles. My husband talks about it whenever he sees it, but he doesn’t wander around yelling at people about it (thank god). And I’ve always avoided discussing it in posts – I just couldn’t NOT say something when it came up in the comments. I think being Jewish in the US is already a tough road to hoe – no one understands your holidays, or your dietary requirements, or how your week/ year schedules work. So, it becomes just one more thing to bring up with people the fact that, well, appropriating traditions is not ok. Usually, by the time you find out about it, it’s already done, so then, what is really the point? To make people feel bad? No, that’s silly. This was, after all, offered as a warning against people who were thinking of doing it in the future, not people that had done it in the past.
             
            But in sum: the huppah is the single strongest signifier of the Jewish wedding. It’s the thing that makes the Jewish wedding stand apart in a culture of assimilation, and the thing that ties the Jewish wedding to all weddings that have gone before it. Though it’s often (and rightly) used by secular Jews in a more secular way, the symbol is fundamentally a religious one. It’s traditionally made with a prayer shawl – a prayer shawl that can only be worn by and official adult in the Jewish community. It represents the Jewish people’s covenant with God, and the way that their marriage is tied to that covenant. It also, more deeply and more recently, has been made more poignant by the mass genocide of the Holocaust. The huppah, like so many other things, was taken away from Jews, so it’s even more powerful and emotional for people now, particularly for older generations.
             
            So, in sum, it’s really really important, it’s a religious symbol, and it’s not to be taken lightly. The analogy I always give is that it’s a lot like communion. If non-Christian weddings started adding communion because they liked the symbolism, but did it in a secular way… that would be really offensive to a lot of people. So, it’s like that.
             
            That said, your wedding happened, and I’m sure it was wonderful. You did your research, you approached it respectfully, and you did your best. You did what you thought was best for you both at the time, and no one is taking that away from you. If no one in your life was offended by it, then really, there is no problem. In that case, all of this is some theoretical academic argument that you don’t have to pay attention to or engage in.
             
            So, am I giving everyone a free pass? No. Am I giving you a free pass? TOTALLY.
             
            So, no, I’m not going to write a post about appropriating traditions, because it’s something I personally am uncomfortable with. There are clearly good ways to do it (which to me mean adapting symbolism to suit your needs, but not using the actual tradition) but it’s not something I want to get into here. I think it would probably be better explored by a blogger who is, personally, more secular.
             
            Hope that helps,
            Meg

          2. I can’t say it any better than Meg did, but I just wanted to express my own thoughts re: cultural appropriation. Now, I’m not saying this to you personally, because it sounds like you gave a lot of thought to being respectful, and I think that’s great. But you did ask for people to weigh in on tradition and borrowing and cultural appropriation, so here I am, weighing in. For what it’s worth, both my partner and I are persons of colour (Filipino and Indian).

            I commented on a previous post that I am incredibly bothered and offended when people talk about how it’s “okay” and “no big deal” and “encouraged” to “cherry-pick” traditions/symbols/rituals from other (in this case, other to the couple) cultures. My culture (my partner’s culture, my parents’ culture, my friend’s culture) is not a buffet. Some people treat it like building a happy meal, or a Lego statue, with Japanese bricks and Native American bricks and Hindu bricks. Some people will take deities and symbols that are sacred to other cultures, and say “this [your god, your heritage, your icon] is my fun logo graphic and I can do whatever I want with it”. In my opinion, this is not okay.

            I’ve heard so many defences: that there is no intent to offend, that globalisation has collapsed boundaries and we can borrow whatever we want (and that to assume otherwise is insular and close-minded). In the semi-specific example above, the response to getting called out was simultaneously (a) we are misunderstood, because we so totally respect and identify with this culture/religion and (b) this fits our irreverent sense of humour and we don’t think it’s a big deal.

            “It’s not a big deal” is, in my personal experience, an incredibly prevalent attitude with regards to wedding-related cultural appropriation. The defence is always: it is my wedding, I am harming no-one. Maybe that’s true – more often than not, you aren’t directly hurting any individual person. But the cavalier co-optation of a subject culture’s stories, history, rituals, of the times and events and symbols that collectively signify who they are – this might not be a big deal to you; it is most definitely a big deal to them [to us].

            To revisit an earlier point (and one made downthread), I agree that the lines have become a lot blurrier due to globalisation and the internet and immigration and melting pots and mosaics and what-have-you. In some ways it’s great: we are exposed to more schools of thought and given the opportunity to discover meaningful things that we may not have otherwise known about. In some ways I think it makes the conversation about cultural appropriation a lot harder: it is harder for people to see the boundaries, or to speak up about them, in the face of the desire to believe that hey, we are all one big happy human family and it’s great! And while those lines have become blurry, I believe that they have not disappeared and that we still have to draw them somewhere; I think it is important for people to be able to say: no, I/we/you are not automatically entitled to other people’s cultures, rituals, traditions, symbols.

            The key in that last statement, for me, is “not automatically entitled”. I do think it is possible to borrow many things, maybe even most things, although in my mind some things (i.e. communion, as per Meg’s example) should be off-limits.

            So when do I think it’s great/okay/awesome? I think that readings from any source are almost always okay, although I would raise my eyebrows in certain instances (e.g. Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health being read at the wedding of two people who are volubly against same-sex marriage). Someone lower down on the page talked about adopting the huppah and traditions like it and doing a quilt-wrapping. One blogger I follow spent some time in Japan as an exchange student and is choosing to acknowledge that country and her foster family by folding 1,000 cranes for her wedding. I think both of these examples are great.

            It comes down to three things for me: consider, reinvent, acknowledge. Consider: I think it’s important not to take other cultures lightly, to treat the rituals or traditions with respect. Reinvent: adapt the symbolism, don’t just co-opt it. Acknowledge: say something in your programs or in your ceremony, talk about where it came from and what it means to you.

            I apologise if I have offended anyone or rubbed anyone the wrong way. At the end of the day, we all have to make our own choices, and no one can stop anyone from doing what they want to do. I just wanted to try and explain why I think “borrowing” can be offensive and why it matters, and maybe give people some food for thought.

            Meg, I’m sorry for writing a novel, and I just wanted to say that I don’t think you should feel like a horrible person at all for stating the hard stance. I, for one, am glad to have the issue out in the open. It seems like no one ever wants to acknowledge that borrowing wedding traditions and rituals can be problematic, and that silence can sometimes feel like just another form of erasure. It took me a couple hours to write this all out properly and I am still scared of putting myself out there with such a long comment, but I am grateful for a space in which to say it.

          3. I certainly didn’t meant to make a difficult/painful topic worse. As someone who really has no traditions religious or otherwise (despite being Christian, we don’t really even do communion, and certainly not like, say, Catholics do), I guess it’s hard for me to understand how deep feelings on religious symbols can go. But as hard as it can be to talk about, I think it’s important for people to air their feelings about things like “borrowing traditions” or “being inspired by traditions”– especially on wedding boards where we so often find people searching for traditions that say what they want to say but don’t know how. People need to share these opinions–not to cause hurt feelings (though it can and will) but because if no one ever says, “that’s actually sacred and your actions could offend a lot of people,” people (who are searching for traditions that reflect the foot they want to start their marriage on, traditions that tie us to those who walked this path before) may never know the gaffe they are about to make.

            Now, if I can ask a question purely for my own education, what if the item is used in a religious manner? I realize no one here speaks for a religion or culture as a whole, it just seemed to me that most comments have been about the use of a religious symbol in a secular way. Is it worse to see a religious element used in a religious or spiritual manner by a different religion? Does that seem like a disrespectful mutation vs. a secular use being just wrong? Just curious…

            (On a more personal/positive note, this did cause me to learn that several generations ago my DH’s biofamily was Jewish. Since–with the exception of a Friday/Saturday Sabbath and no pork–we’re further removed from that than from my relatives who gave up their culture to be “American” to avoid camps in WWII, I still feel like we made a mistake, but it was nice to learn something about his ancestors.)

          4. Minna-
            See that’s a really beautiful revelation! I think that makes this whole thing worth it.

            As for your question, “Is it worse to see a religious element used in a religious or spiritual manner by a different religion?” the answer, at least when it comes to Judaism is YES. It is much much much worse. Then it goes from making people uncomfortable to making people really angry and scared. Remember – Jews have a long and recent history of Christians trying to convert them, and Christians killing them because of their faith. I think when you’re not Jewish it seems long ago and vague – but we’re talking people’s grandparents remember Pogroms and fled the camps. This is living memory, this is volatile stuff. So when Jews see their religion being used by mainstream religions, people get extremely upset.

        3. I can see how Jewish folks would be mortified if a non-Jewish couple’s friends came marching down the aisle wish a prayer shawl attached to four poles and planted in the middle of the ceremony, whether they explained it’s significance or not. It’s a religious symbol, and a religious object that shouldn’t be “used” for aesthetics.
          But knowing that many Christian traditions have Jewish roots, I can see it in another light. I’ve honestly never met a Christian couple who attached any symbolism or religious significance to a wedding arch/canopy. It’s origins are largely lost or ignored. Today, a wedding arch is just something to decorate the ceremony space with. But I see nothing wrong with having a canopy’arch structure (with no tallit, or Hebrew verses, or other overtly Jewish characteristics). I also don’t see anything wring with reminding our non-Jewish audience why we have them, without claiming that this exact structure is a huppah. But that’s just my two cents.

          1. Chris is an atheist. I believe in God. I am Jewish by heritage, but was raised in a Christian household after my parents divorced. The Huppah is important to me for many (obvious) reasons. It’s important to an entire segment of my family. Yet, to my Husband, it wouldn’t have the same meaning.

            I believe it’s all summed up in intention. If your intention is pure and kind and based on the soul of the tradition, any tradition, use it. Or worlds are blended. If it’s purely for aesthetic, don’t do it.

            I’m always surprised that so many of us can embrace cultures, sexuality, entire worlds outside of our norm, because we see the love and unity behind them and relate. I simply can’t imagine a world where inspiration pulled from the most sacred and loving of traditions would ever offend anyone.

          2. But Rachel – it does. It offends people like me, and I’m a nice, good, kind, thoughtful person. Now, interfaith or Jewish/atheist, I mean, obviously, that’s something I TOTALLY support. Of course you should use your own traditions. Of course interfaith families need to find a way to blend what’s important to them.

            But here is the thing – I’m bi-cultural, religiously. I mean, I live one culture, but I’m fluent in both. And religious and cultural symbols? Important. I don’t want to see my parents religious traditions used in a non-religious way (communion, say) just like I don’t want to see my religious symbols used in a non-religious (or secularily contextual) way. Which, is sort of a mis-statement, becuase OBVIOUSLY I think Jewish traditions can be used by secular Jews in a secular way, and the same for Christianity. But. That’s as close as I can get.

            I understand wanting to say that we’re all inspired by each other and it’s just all love… and that’s usually what gets said online, because f*ck, these conversations are really hard to have. This conversation today has been super painful for me, and I think for others. But, it’s not like that for everyone. People really value their religions and their cultures, and that’s the way it is, for better or worse.

          3. @ rachel-

            “embracing cultures”- appreciating what makes them distinct and special and beautiful is awesome. taking pieces and saying, “i can do that,” is a whole nother story.

            when i teach my students about frederick douglass’ “a slave narrative,” i feel as though we’re on the same team. we all read his story, outraged by his treatment and the ridiculous justification of it. but when we get into discussions, though i feel as though we’re “on the same side,” it becomes very clear that my students see me as an outsider- from their perspectives, i don’t understand. it’s something i struggled with at first, but have learned to accept, and even understand. we can all be on the same team- all be appreciative of one another’s cultures, experiences, histories- but we’re not all the same.

            part of appreciating and embracing differences is allowing them to remain different. jewish weddings are not the same as christian weddings which are not the same as hindu weddings which are not the same as… and that’s what makes them all special, and reflective of their individual cultures and parties involved.

          4. @Liz

            But, where does that leave a girl like me? Who is, frankly, a bit of everything.
            I grew up in Ithaca, NY. It may be one of the most “we’re the same” cities I have ever witnessed. Years later, I immigrated to Canada. I was surprised to find that in Canadian schools students were taught that the US was “A melting pot” where is Canada is a “Mosaic”. I was deeply offended by this. Because all I could think of was where I grew up, my blended family, my blended religion. No one I knew was forced to conform. Yet, we (as American’s) were seen that way. It still upsets me. But, in reality, that is true, I am sure, in areas around the world.

            That was a little off topic, but my point was that sometimes, people are such a wonderful mix of things that there is no correct ceremony for them. They have to create their day just as their lives were created to be full of beautiful choice and tradition.

          5. @ rachel

            totally! which is why just above, you’ll see a few comments on creating traditions rather than borrowing them.

            (that’s funny- i always heard the “mosaic” thing about the states, that the “melting pot” is an inaccurate description)

          6. @ Liz,

            But, is it borrowing if I’m Jewish?
            My whole issue is that my Husby isn’t. I also am not a practicing Jew.

          7. of course not- i thought i had made it clear, but i was addressing your insinuation that “embracing” other cultures can mean adopting their traditions. this was your point that i was …not arguing… but, uh, yeah, arguing.

          8. OF COURSE it’s not borrowing if your Jewish. I’m all for embracing the Mosaic that we *are,* but we can’t embrace the Mosaic that we’re *not* quite the same way. Biologically, I’m a euro-mutt (well, really, I’m as ‘American’ as they come, since my family has been here for 400 years, but, still, that’s not super distinct anymore). So yeah, I can totally embrace my baptist roots and my episcopal roots, and on and on. But I can’t say, “Hey I’m gonna have a Hindu wedding,” without, well, appropriating.

          9. Just to clarify Meg’s point though, I don’t know about the Huppah but speaking as a Catholic, communion isn’t a symbol.

        4. I’m with Meg on this one. Appropriating others’ cultures is hardly ever a good idea, wedding or not. I mean, if you take something out of its context (religion, culture), it generally loses meaning, right? So why would you want to use it, if it has no context/meaning for you?

          I’ve been to weddings where the couple used objects or rituals from other cultures, and it just struck me as stilted or awkward. There was no heart in it. Like they just chose it because it was pretty or unusual (for them) or appeared to have meaning. Well, it does have meaning–to someone else, not the couple or their families/friends. It’s just…weird and inauthentic, if you ask me. You can’t just take things that don’t belong to you.

          1. This sort of resonates with a conflict I’m having at the moment about some friends of ours who are getting married in the Catholic church and have no intention of living out the Catholic view of marriage. To me this feels like they are “using” the Church and its symbols and traditions without really understanding what they mean.

      2. Sarah Beth,
        Just wanted to say I also read Sex God a couple years ago and LOVED IT! I had been thinking about using a huppah at my own wedding because I loved that it symbolizes God’s presence and is connected to the “cloud of mist/water” in the old testament, as Rob Bell described. However, at some point I thought – “Oh, I wonder if Jewish people would be offended by a non-Jewish couple having a huppah?” – so I’m thankful Meg let us know. And Meg, I would be interested in hearing your paragraphs-long reason as to why it would be offensive.
        Anyways, Sarah Beth, I just thought it was neat that we’d both read that book! Have you read Velvet Elvis? I also loved that one!
        Stephanie

        1. Stephanie & Sarah Beth – I read it too, just a few months before getting engaged – I loved it! It has totally given me a new understanding of marriage. I think reading it made me more excited about entering into a marriage relationship than the whole wedding-planning aspect.

        2. Stephanie-Oh, yes! We read “Velvet Elvis” first. And have since read “Jesus Wants to Save the Christians” too, though that book is not the best, IMO.

      3. It’s interesting that you would write about about the huppah and it’s good to know that it could potentially offend members of the Jewish community. I guess I kind of feel the same way about the tradition of “jumping the broom” that is used in many African American wedding ceremonies. On some of the wedding boards I frequent, I have seen non-blacks incorporating it into their ceremonies. And while on the surface it IS a good thing, it’s bothersome in a way too that goes into my soul. I am the descendant of slaves, and as such jumping the broom was sometimes the only tangible symbol of marriage that they had and even that could be destroyed with the stroke of a pen if one spouse was sold away. And so I seek to honor those before me, who wanted to marry and couldn’t. And with the state of black marriage/family being what it is today anyway, the tradition takes on even more meaning, at least to me personally.

        1. Hmm. This is a really interesting situation that I’ve found myself in. Please take this comment as sort of a reflection of how these things can get mixed up. I’m not advocating any particular side – just giving an example of where cultural lines blur…

          The jumping of the broom was taught to me as part of a Gaelic pagan tradition, and at my first marriage, I jumped the broom. I’m Scotch Irish, and my husband then was half Irish, his father off the boat. I also had pence in my shoe, had a bagpiper, and would have had tartans if we could have pulled that off.

          That being said…I’d always thought that the African-American tradition of jumping the broom was ‘taken’ from the Irish tradition. I don’t CARE, per se, and never bothered to research it. But it was my impression that that tradition originated in the celtic cultures.

          Whether or not that is true, I had no reason to question at the time. I believed I was continuing a tradition older than myself. Now, I have no idea where the tradition comes from. (And not really interested in knowing anymore.)

          So I wonder if sometimes as cultures mix, traditions might lose a little grip on their origin. It was a very meaningful experience for me to continue something I thought was a part of my husband’s and my heritage. The thought that someone might now tell me that we were ‘stealing’ something from someone else seems…odd.

          1. Right. But that’s something that is part of two totally different cultures and has totally different meanings for each. That does not make it a meaningless blur of ‘it can be anything to anyone.’ It has strong American slave roots, regardless of where the American slaves got it from (lets not begrudge them figuring things out for themselves, since we ripped their culture away from them, yes?) It also is a celtic ritual. Both are beautiful. That doesn’t mean we all should go jumping brooms, because who cares anyway.

          2. Thanks once again for your amazing insight Meg. In particular thanks for taking the hard stance around appropriation of traditions. As part of a very small minority (australian aboriginal) I am constantly surprised that people can’t just accept that something is sacred and ‘off-limits’. I wonder if it is subconsciously being used to getting your own way all the time?

            Recently in Australia there was controversy over the fact that people continue to climb up Uluru and are acutally defecating on it because of the lenth of the climb. The message boards on news sites where rife with indignation about why people should be allowed to do whatever they want. Just.because.you.can’t…

          3. you’re amazing– i have been given much to think about (as always on APW), and for that i thank you. keep up the honesty, respect and intelligence. you rock.

  2. Meg, I LOVE this:

    “The huppah does not promise that love or hope or pledges will keep out weather or catastrophe, but its few lines are a sketch for what might be. The flimsiness of the huppah reminds us that the only thing that is real about a home is the people in it who love and choose to be a family.”

    Ever since my e-mail(s) to you about cold feet, fidelity, and all of that scary stuff, I’ve been reflecting and writing a lot about what my wedding vows (in 5 weeks!) will be about. They’re not a promise that we’ll never screw up, cheat, or disappoint; they’re a promise that even *when* we do, my husband and are still partners and friends, and that we are committed to having a team mentality when the storms come. Your analogy with the huppah is BEAUTIFUL. Thank you!

  3. P’s post is beautiful- “The bride and groom say nothing because their mere presence is a testament to their commitment to each other.”

    Through all the hard stuff, I think knowing to be happy now and to be present now is what helps to make a marriage. I don’t think one thing makes a marriage. The same can be said about many other things. But being mindful surely helps.

    I know I can’t wait to see, touch, feel and experience our wedding because it will be the product of one of the first things we built together. Do I expect it to feed our marriage? Yes and no… it’s our wedding and it’s important, but it’s just one day. Although it may feed it a little, I think there are plenty of other things that will feed it more. But I’ll find out soon and let you know then! ;)

  4. I want to chime in with some comment about how my wedding contributed to building my marriage, but as I am thinking through examples it just doesn’t ring true for me. I feel like the wedding was another step in an ongoing process of building our relationship and marriage.

    Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED our wedding for all the joy and love that were present, and for marking out a special day to recognise our commitment to each other.

    For me one of the big things about getting married was experiencing the unconditional love and support of both of our families, but when I think about it, that didn’t happen all of a sudden on wedding day. It was always there and continues to be there now (more than 2 years later).

  5. Yesterday’s post about readings made me dig up my ceremony, and when I did, I emailed our vows to Jeff. We kind of cobbled them together from a bunch that I found online, and yesterday, reading them over almost 11 months later, it really hit me that the things I said were a VOW.

    I, (Jeff/Lauren), take you, (Lauren/Jeff), to be my (wife/husband). To love you unconditionally and without hesitation, for it is your heart that moves me, your spirit that inspires me, your humor that delights me, and your hands that I want to hold for all of our days. I promise to laugh with you in good times and to struggle along side you in bad times;. I promise to do what I can to stay healthy in body and mind so that I may age gracefully by your side. I will share with you my hopes and dreams for our future, and I will support you in yours. I promise to love, respect, and trust you, and give you the best of myself, for I know that together we will build a life far better than either of us could imagine alone.

    Just to pick one example, when I think about eating an ice cream sundae instead of going to the gym, it’s usually pretty easy to decide which one I want. But in the context of our wedding vows, I made a promise to stay healthy, not for me, but for us. When I’m healthy, I am happier, more energetic, I think more clearly, and I’m bolder and more willing to ask for what I want, which makes me an infinitely better partner. Also, when I think about hopefully being married to the same man in 50 years, the way for me to be my best self in 50 years is to be my best self RIGHT NOW. Giving Jeff the best of myself means giving ME the best of myself, so we both win. And this isn’t just some abstract list of goals- I made a PROMISE, in front of a whole bunch of people. It was a really good reminder, so thanks for the post that reminded me!

    So yes, our vows shaped (are shaping? will shape?) our marriage. Could we have said them alone without 125 people to witness? Yes, so I don’t know if this counts as the wedding shaping the marriage. However, I have to agree with Rose that the wedding is just one step on the path. My memories of my wedding day now are blurred (unless I really stop to parse them all out) and kind of fall under one wildly happy umbrella. But my memories of how we planned our wedding, how we created our vows and chose readings and decided how to involve our families and wrote thank you notes to the people we loved– that’s where the real shaping happened. So wedding-related, but also life-related.

    That said, that wildly happy umbrella of wedding memories is sure to help guide us through the tougher times, and I’m incredibly grateful that we have it in our bucket of “this is what our love is at it’s very best” memories.

  6. I want to read WPM’s post about this, but the link only goes to her home page and I’m having trouble hunting the exact entry down…. any ideas?

    1. Sparkleparty-

      I searched a bit and found a description of her wedding in the April 2009 section–under a gorgeous photo of Audrey Hepburn. Is that the one you meant, Meg?

      Anna

  7. We had our wedding this last Saturday. Whew! I feel like I need to join a post-wedding support group and really, APW seems to be just that :)
    Our wedding, the process, the work of hosting it ourselves, the compromises we made shaping our ceremony, choosing our outfits, our music, our guest list, how we each gave 100% in whatever small or large detail needed attending too, the things we had to let go of, and even the emotional process of dealing with some major let-downs, is a huge learning experience for what we can expect of each other in other circumstances, but mainly that we are a team.
    Throughout the stress of getting our house ready the day before and of there was definitely tension. He was frustrated and angry, I wanted to call the wedding off (we can both be pretty melodramatic!) but when we ran into each other we would pause, smile, say i love you, connect in a positive way. we were doing this together, and it wasn’t the easiest but it is about our love and commitment to each other and there was no way our overwhelming feelings were going to let us be unkind to one another. I love that. And the fact that my husband didn’t write his vows, which he admitted during our ceremony (!) but still said the truest, loveliest words to me.

  8. Great post! I too have been thinking about how our wedding fed our marriage ever since it was mentioned a while back (and even considered writing a graduate post through this lens). There are many ways that the wedding and wedding planning process affected our marriage: negotiating and making compromises with each other and our families, learning how to make sound choices, bringing our families and friends together in celebration, but Meg, I think you hit it on the head when you talked about ceremony as a “crystal clear moment of honesty”. Standing up in front of everyone and speaking straight from our hearts, through tears and laughter, in front of all the important people in our lives, was the most honest and genuine thing I have ever done. Right before I said my vows, I was overcome with emotion and got choked up. I had to pause and compose myself before I continued. Under normal circumstances I would have felt rushed, or stressed, or worried that I wouldn’t be able to continue. But that short moment, where I paused and pulled myself together, is when I felt so present, so ready and so convinced. I spoke my vows with more confidence than I have ever said anything in my entire life. The words mattered. I spent time writing my own vows. But the act of speaking them so truthfully, with such conviction is one of the most important ways that the wedding has shaped my marriage.

  9. Meg,

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog. I’ve been reading it for a few weeks now, but haven’t commented until today. I’m in the pre-engaged phase of my 4 (almost 5) year long relationship with my boyfriend. We have discussed a timeline (next summer wedding!), but there’s been no official proposal (which he wants to do in a little while–but it’s a surprise). I am a planner, and have been putting together an inspiration board of sorts (a powerpoint–yes, it sounds a little freakish, but it’s a great place to compile pictures without using paper).

    I’ve been thinking about our chuppah this week (I’m Jewish and he’s not, but he’s not anything else either, and he likes Judaism). There are some BEAUTIFUL hand-painted chuppahs out there, (http://www.silkhuppah.com/id2.html) but of course they are priced as lovely handmade works of art–kind of pricey! I have a large tallit, but when I compared it to those lovely painted things, it looked pretty plain–black and white and striped. Woohoo.

    Then I read your post. “…the roof is a tallit so the couple is covered in holiness and the memory of commandments.” Lovely. Thank you– my eyes are a bit drippy and I’m very happy with my tallit. Who needs obvious expensive beauty when there’s cheap spiritual beauty to be had? (Not that there’s anything wrong with obvious beauty either! I mean, there had better be some expensive obvious beauty at my wedding! It just doesn’t need to be the chuppah.)

    Thanks.

    Anna

    1. Our huppah was a cheap white piece of linen tied to wooden curtain poles. And it was MAGICAL.

  10. Oh good, between this and the link to WPM (could her mama be ANY more gorgeous, jeez, she’s like an old movie star) now I’m crying 1st thing at work!

    & yes, it DOES make me want to not-elope.

  11. I don’t know how much the wedding itself has really shaped our (almost year-old) marriage, but the process of getting there very much did. The discussions, the choices, the compromises, the balancing of our needs and wants and family and friends needs and wants, the discussions about money and life goals and how we want to be with each other and our loved ones in difficult situations and what makes a happy situation for each of us. We learned so much about ourselves and each other, and got pretty good at a lot of important relationship skills (or at least did some dry runs that will continue (and have continued) to serve us well afteward. That PROCESS was huge for us and I’m so glad we had it no matter what our wedding would have looked or sounded like in the end.

    As for the wedding itself, there are probably two things that continue to affect our relationship – (1) our sense, despite our occasional feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed in relation to others at the wedding, that we were each others’ safe harbor from that stress, and that we were completely sure of each other, and (2) that the process we went through feels successful in that we acheived our goal of our wedding being joyful and fun for all (and especially our families), and that everyone continues to reflect that positive energy of our wedding back at us.

  12. Weddings are powerful things, not just in the respect that beautiful aesthetics can fill guests with joy and appreciation, or that beautiful words can cause everyone in attendance to tear up, or in any of the other myriad ways in which they invariably contain incredibly intense MOMENTS of power.

    They’re powerful in a much broader, deeper, scarier and longer-lasting way as well, because they DO shape marriages (and families, for that matter). Weddings are sort of a lens that refract, reflect, and sometimes magnify a couple’s values, choices, personalities, and indeed – their love. At their best, they’re also a prism that crystalizes all of these things, and scatters them about – communicating these truths to friends, family, and even mere acquaintances.

    It’s precisely because of this power that I think it is so important for couples to be intentional and deliberate in the choices they make and how they communicate them, because that power can be not only positive and uplifting, but also negative and demoralizing. For example – a couple who sacrifices the opportunity to plan the wedding that truly reflects themselves (what ever that may be) because of pressure from parents or other outside sources might find that in doing so, they’ve reinforced those expectations and maybe even inadvertently communicated that in the future, they will continue to make important life choices – such as when and how to have children, how to raise them, where to live, etc, etc, etc – based on what others might think is best for them, as opposed to what they think is best for themselves and their own baby family.

  13. Our wedding was shaped by our relationship up to that point. And our wedding has certainly helped shape where we are even this soon into our marriage. To actually sit down and figure out how is going to take a lot of thought though. But I’m looking forward to thinking those thoughts.

  14. I wish you would quit posting about how awesome it is to be married, because you’re making me seriously anxious for it to just be October already, but the hardest lesson of my adult life is that time moves too fast and I still need these last three months to savor the remainder of the journey of being engaged.

    1. Yes, exactly.

      BUT, the whole point of it all is that too many people ‘out there’ (as in outside APW) see the wedding as the big deal, and not the marriage. And the wedding is f*cking great. But it’s ALL about the marriage. Every live-long day for the rest of your lives.

  15. I’m not sure our wedding shaped our marriage as much as it solidified it. We’ve been sort of casually referred to as the Dynamic Duo in our community, even before we were married (we’re pretty involved in our local food community). Our relationship was a coming together of two very strong-willed and independent people, who share the same values and dreams and just happen to love the other to the ends of the earth. We’d been through some pretty trying times for the year leading up to our wedding, but always managed to come back to our center, each other. I think our wedding absolutely was the symbol of that, as well as a victory lap of sorts.

    We asked a dear friend of ours, who we’ve often referred to as our Guardian Angel, to officiate the wedding. The affair was so laid-back, that on the night before the wedding, as he and I were finalizing our vows (wouldn’t recommend waiting that long to ANYBODY), she called me at 10 pm to talk about what she was going to say. It’s not that we didn’t have it figured out, we just trusted her completely with it. Other than our vows and asking the guests to support us in our marriage, this was the only other part of the ceremony. Tears streamed down my face as she read this excerpt from Wendell Berry’s The Unforseen Wilderness, because she thought it best represented us:

    “To a river, as to any natural force, an obstruction is merely an opportunity. For the river’s nature is to flow; it is not just spatial in dimension, but temporal as well. All things must yield to the impulse of water in time, if not today then tomorrow or in a thousand years. If its way is obstructed then it goes around the obstruction or under it or over it and, flowing past it, wears it away. People may dam it and say that they have made a lake, but it will still be a river.”

    It doesn’t say much about a marriage, per se, but it does speak volumes about us and our relationship.To have our guardian angel proclaim to all of these people that THIS is what she saw in the two of us, and in the bond of our marriage, was the most solidifying part of our wedding. :) Sorry for the long comment!

  16. I think our wedding (and the wedding planning) really did feed our marriage. We put so much work into planning the wedding. We made sure that we did the things that were important to us, and compromised with our families when it made sense to do so. We worked together to create something really wonderful, and the sense of accomplishment that came with that has really been a major factor in our marriage. We now know that if we work together, we can accomplish anything. Whenever things aren’t going fantastically well, we remember that. Wedding planning (and the fact that the wedding itself was a successful event) really helped us form an idea of how we would interact with each other and those around us in our marriage.

  17. I find this fascinating. As our wedding plans take shape, I realize that our wedding is not shaping our relationship, but our relationship is shaping our wedding. Together, we are mushy, loving, loyal, honest, geeky, and madly in love with each other, my kids, my family and our friends. We love games and Chinese food and music. We are sentimental, but not religious. And we like kitsch. These things are all reflected in our plans. We are already a family; the wedding will solidify and celebrate that status.

  18. Funny, I was just thinking about this exact thing this morning.

    In a sort of wacky context, though, because some friends of mine are getting divorced, and I was thinking about what it would take for me to want a divorce, what steps I would want to take before making that decision. There are lots of them, including vast amounts of couples counseling. It would probably be a multi-year process.

    The thing is, when we decided to get married I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. We’d been together 7 years at that point, living together for almost 4 of them. Having a wedding felt like celebrating a decision that had already been made, and a good excuse to get our families from opposite ends of the country to meet each other. I told myself we probably wouldn’t have even had a wedding if there was any other way to get our families to meet and party.

    But in retrospect I don’t think that was true. We could have had a wedding for our families to meet each other years earlier. We waited to get engaged because of some inkling that a wedding would be a big, big deal for us.

    Because our wedding was not just about our commitment to each other, but about our commitment to our community and our community’s commitment to us. I’m struggling to put it into words, but our families treat us differently now that we’re married. We treat each other differently–not a lot or in specific ways, but everything matters in a different way. If I treat Zack badly, I know that’s going to have repercussions for the next 60 years we’re together. There’s more incentive to work things out, because the better things are now, the better they’ll be 60 years from now. And our community KNOWS that. We told them, through our wedding, that we planned to interact with the world as a family for the rest of our lives. For me, divorce would be breaking a vow to my community as much as to my husband. I don’t want to be down on divorce–god knows there are a lot of situations where it’s completely the best choice. But… I don’t know. I take my vow to my community as seriously as I take my vow to my husband. Possibly more seriously–our relationship is between us and anyone else can butt out if they have a problem with it. But it does affect my whole community whether I interact with the world as only an individual, or as an individual AND a member of a marriage.

    I think this plays into the symbolism of the huppah, too, and why that was tremendously meaningful to me. Not only is it supported by family and friends, but like Abraham’s tent it’s open on four sides because he was just that welcoming to friends, family, and strangers. Just my husband and I stood under the huppah, but there was no barrier between us and our community. They were there with us.

    Ugh. I hope that makes sense. Super hard to put into words.

  19. so many have already pointed out that the wedding is shaped by who we are as a team already. but i think beyond reflecting who we are already, it perhaps cast a silhouette of what we want to become in the future, also.

    our kisses, our glances, our warm safety in one another’s arms from the scaryfunchaos that was happening around us was a little bit of both. we had already built a firm foundation of trust and comfort. and this wedding was solidifying those roles for each of us- from here on out, he would be my main support, and i, his.

    our vows were meaningful. i meant every word. and even now, when i can’t stand that noise he makes when he breathes because i’m trying to effing SLEEP for crying out loud, i can remember those words that i meant, and remind myself that i still mean them.

    limiting our budget spoke to who we were- well, broke. and also money-conscious. with a limited budget come limited options. we learned to compromise, to define and defend our priorities (no matter how seemingly insignificant to others), to negotiate with family, and to determine what’s best for us. those wedding arm wrestles- they really are insignificant in the long run. but they also set you up to learn how to negotiate in the future. only in the future, you’ll be deciding whether you should pay the gas bill or the car insurance this month (instead of “should we buy apothecary jars or monogrammed candies?”)

    lastly, i hate to feed into the diy wedding-hype. (weddings are meaningful, even if you don’t hand-dye your own bunting.) but. so many wonderful people had a part in piecing the day together- from sewing the veil, to baking cupcakes, to setting up chairs. and i still feel that there is a sense of ownership of our wedding day and now, too our marriage, for each of them. when josh and i have a happy moment, they cheer with us. when we have a sadness or a tough time, i never feel alone. just like the wedding, i know that our marriage comes down to the two of us- noone else. but the outside support and care leading up to, reflected in, and a result of our wedding day is invaluable.

  20. I am of the belief that a wedding can absolutely shape a marriage.

    I am just one month and one day past our wedding day. I had the task of shaping my wedding day without the help of my now husband. In fact, I nearly had to design the day *around* him, as he was of the persuasion that weddings were, in fact, silly.

    I was not one of those lucky brides whose groom is ever-so-present in the planning. The marriage he had no problem committing to. The wedding, he did.

    So, I went about my businesses planning a small, family-only wedding, centered around the things that are important to us. There were times when I almost called the whole thing off, sensing that I was roping my groom into something that he was not excited about and might actually resent me for later.

    But then everything changed the night before the wedding. That’s when it “clicked” for him why a wedding — not just getting married — was important to me and why it would eventually be important for us.

    There we were, rehearsing our ceremony with our officiants (our siblings) and I tell you, you could almost see the transformation on his face. I don’t know how quite to describe it, but I could sense that he understood why performing this bit of ceremony was going to dramatically change our relationship for the better.

    The night of the wedding, that transformation became even more clear. After a year of planning and stress and late nights and too little sleep, surrounded by our family and feeling such a great amount of love, seeing all those little details come together. Out of all of that, my favorite moment? My husband telling me how much he was enjoying this, our wedding day. This, the man who hated weddings and did not want to be bothered with the details of ours. He cried when we exchanged vows.

    Now, a month has passed. I can still see that transformation in him. We were driving back from our honeymoon and he said, “I feel so much closer to you now.” Closer! Even after having dated for five years and living together for three. That is the power of a wedding.

    1. My husband (of just under a month) felt the same way yours did before the wedding. One of my favorite moments from the wedding? When we stole a moment alone together, and he put his arms around me, and thanked me for making the wedding happen, and told me how much the day meant to him. Not just being my husband, but having the ceremony and celebration with our friends and family.

  21. Great post! I was always asking my married friends how their relationship differed pre-marriage & post-marriage. Now that we’re planning our wedding, complete with all the joys & frustrations that come along with it, I have started to wonder if the wedding planning & wedding day does affect the marriage that comes after. So far, it’s warmed my heart that my fiance & I have handled the good & bad so well & so together. Still, for my lingering wonder, it’s been great to read the post & the thoughtful comments.

  22. Meg wrote: <>

    It was finding out who really loved us and standing together.

    Almost a year later, I’m reflecting back on what was. I was so stressed about the dress, the shoes, the food, the ceremony toss flowers, etc etc. It doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now. I see brides running themselves into the ground for details that their guests will forget about or maybe not even notice.

    The weeks before my wedding were very hard. My father was ill and not getting better, I took a friend to the hospital for serious illness issues, relationships with two long term friends were going south fast (and they were “in” the wedding), my husband had some family issues to deal with, and I was in the middle of an unsuccessful job hunt. It wasn’t a good time.

    There are days that I wished I had put my foot down about my original idea of eloping. After all the family and friend drama that resulted to our commitment and the change in our identities and availabilities, it just seems better for us to have had our day in private.

    I finally went back and opened my dress bag and spent some time with my dress the other day. I had even started resenting that dress – which caused some drama about money, friendship and lack of the ideal experience of finding it. When I saw the dress again, I knew the way we did things was good.

    So for us, I think the wedding did have some elements to shape our marriage. We had to stand together in the face of change, illness, loss, renewal, anger, joy, and love. Our first year of marriage has brought along more challenges including the death of my father.
    The people that really matter both from our wedding and some new friends we’ve found along the way have stood with us in support through it all. That’s what we’ve found.

  23. It took me a few minutes to think this one through, and when I figured it out, I had to laugh.

    The one moment that continues to shape our (three-month old) marriage wasn’t on the wedding day agenda. It wasn’t even planned – or at least, not past the point that I hoped it wouldn’t actually happen. When it did – when we actually landed behind the microphones rocking out “The Weight” off-key, with the best man wailing on his guitar and the hired band backing us – I realized the transformative power of our identity as Erin and Joe (Married).

    See, Joe does ballsy, goofy things, in public, sometimes for attention (it’s really pretty charming). Erin and Joe did goofy things, in private, for their own amusement. When Joe towed me up to the stage at our reception, I realized how some things I love in Joe are now a part of me, too, simply by virtue of me participating joyfully in things that make him happy, because I like to see him happy. So, it turns out that Erin and Joe (Married) are a little bit goofy and ballsy, and attention-seeking. And it’s FUN.

    This counts equally for both of us. Now, Joe and Erin (Married) really believe in the power of vinegar and baking soda for all your cleaning needs (even taking the place of shampoo), because I’m personally a little nuts over it. And it’s FUN to be nuts over something together. Joe and Erin (Married) might even be chicken owners someday, because it’s been my life-long (for the last twelve months) ambition, and now if it ever happens, it’ll happen to both of us. And it’s still FUN to mix a little bit of my crazy with a little bit of his crazy, and slurp the delicious cocktail of our new, baby marriage.

    That moment at our reception was one of those moments when everything pauses and some kind angel whispers, “Pay attention, this is important!” It was the preface to the adventure of both of us polishing each other, and making each other better, for the rest of our lives. And it was also me consciously embracing that adventure in its first incarnation, right after I said my vows and promised to participate. Whatever I love in Joe is now also going to be a little bit of what I love in myself. And it’s FUN.

    1. “slurp the delicious cocktail of our new, baby marriage”

      i love that. great comment :)

    2. Love these: “one of those moments when everything pauses and some kind angel whispers, ‘Pay attention, this is important!'”

  24. I’m about a year and a month and a half away from getting married, so I can’t speak to how the wedding will affect our relationship yet. However, planning for it? Learning to navigate people’s ideas, dealing with 2 people with strong ideas about what they want (btw, these people are FH and MY MOTHER. I’m still in my little corner plaintively crying “I don’t care! I’ll be thrilled no matter what! Just tell me what time to show up.”)

    All these baby-family negotiations, interactions, figuring out how to stand up to my mother’s kindest intentions without hurting her, standing up to my FH and saying “Just because its my mom’s idea doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at it” and learning to enlist friends on both sides to help us figure things out- I needed this. I feel like I’m fast-forwarding through all the things that should have been dealt with in my teens, when I was a pretty good kid because I knew my parents were smart and mostly very reasonable and I could take it on faith that my mom knew best in most of our disagreements.
    Even learning how to say, “I need to think about that before I decide if I like it or not” without sounding like I’m “tactfully” shooting down an idea, is a major major thing for me- I have what has been called the “Pokerface of Doom” without even trying, and apparently I look really annoyed when I’m trying to picture something in my head, so I have had to learn to be REALLY clear and articulate and say exactly what I mean.

    Really, I just have to thank Meg and Team Practical and my buddy that sent me here as soon as I got engaged for talking about all the issues and confusion that go along with planning to be married.

    1. One of the best things I did during wedding planning was say, “FH and Mom, you talk to each other and let me know what you decide. I’m getting the hell out of this conversation.” Ugh, what a headache. And even worse, they ended up deciding on what I had originally suggested anyway! :)

      But ditto ditto ditto to everything else you said too, about feeling like you’re redoing your teens, and learning to negotiate all these relationships, and communicating more clearly… wedding planning is a huge emotional growth process. I don’t miss it, but I sure got a lot out of going through it. :)

  25. Thanks Meg for another great post.

    Re: the huppah. I thought that what Sara at $2000 Wedding did was a perfect way of incorporating some of the ideas behind the huppah into a tradition of their own. They asked guests to submit pieces of fabric to them, which she then made into a quilt. During their ceremony they explained various traditions that bind (i.e. the huppah) and then did a “quilt wrapping” instead. Similar symbolics, different outputs.

    Although my fiance isn’t Jewish (he’s atheist/born Catholic), I’m a practicing Jew and it was really important for me to include some elements of my heritage in our non-religious wedding… namely the huppah, glass-breaking, and ketubah. We’re not doing a veiling or reciting prayers. I thought that these traditions were both culturally and religiously significant without being uncomfortable to his non-Jewish family. In the process of getting married to a non-Jew, I have been able to re-evaluate my own religious and cultural beliefs. I’ve realized that it’s the cultural aspects that I enjoy being part of a community with, but that the religious aspects of being Jewish I prefer to observe by myself (i.e. I pray every night by myself before bed, but feel somewhat uncomfortable as a synagogue regular… at the same time I love taking part in community Jewish gatherings that are more cultural). Finding my center in my own beliefs and practices allowed me to go forward and decide what felt important to include in the wedding vs. what not to.

  26. thank you for this post, Meg! we are getting down to the ceremony-crafting in the next few weeks so the topic is once again very much on my mind. So much so, in fact, that I haven’t even really been able to process all the awesomeness (and highly relevant – how DO you do that??) from APW this week. I think we need to go work on our ceremony for a while before I come back and read too much else, actually. So thank you for posting a beginning answer to my question :) and I look forward to reading more responses from more graduates after we’ve done a little center-finding of our own.

    p.s. I know it was hard for you to bring up but I *really* appreciate the discussion of tradition-appropriation vs. inspiration. As someone very much in “seeking” mode, it is easy to be drawn to the lovely, rich, meaningful traditions of other religions & cultures and a reminder on how to navigate those waters respectfully is very much appreciated!

  27. I don’t know if our wedding has shaped our marriage, but I have found myself returning to it often in the eight months we’ve been married. Being a newlywed is wonderful and exhilarating, sometimes, and sometimes it is hard – even when you’ve known your husband for seven years and didn’t think marriage would change that much.

    We had a long engagement while my husband finished school, so for me, the wedding was a long time coming, and my tendency post-wedding is to want to move on to what’s next (a new city? a new place, or at least some grownup furniture? babies babies babies?). I have to remind myself that my husband is just catching his breath after what was for him a whirlwind year, and I’m not good with patience.

    Having our wedding day to look back on helps me ground myself and remember that we are not even a year into this marriage business, that we are at the beginning of our adventure rather than the end. Honestly, some days it doesn’t make waiting any easier, but I know that just like our wedding was ultimately worth the wait, the next step we take will be so much better because we are taking it together.

  28. Well, yikes. I was very surprised to come to the site today. I certainly had no intent to offend, but rather wanted to tell Meg what a beautiful statement she wrote and how it captures a certain sentiment perfectly. Also, I read just about every day and never saw something this week about appropriating traditions being rude. I guess I missed that one?

    I obviously am not planning to get a prayer shawl and call it a huppah so I’m sorry that some thought that’s what I meant. I think the sentiment is beautiful and it would be lovely to have friends standing there with us and have our officiant take a minute to say something along the lines of, “In the Jewish wedding tradition, being married under a canopy symbolizes x, y, and z and these four friends are here today to support Jane and John” etc. etc.

    We are a religious minority as well and are planning on drawing inspiration from many cultures, countries, and religious traditions. This is partly because we have lived abroad in multiple places and so in our souls feel to be a very mixed culture couple. We’ve also chosen this path because we don’t believe that anyone has all the answers or knows the right way to do this, and we all need to support one another. We need and want to bring the wisdom of our entire village to the wedding and marriage.

    In my experiences abroad, those I have met have been thrilled to share their cultures and seem more than happy to educate and to see others adopt the same or similar practices. I’ve also found my Jewish community in the States to be very open and enthusiastic about bringing me into the know regarding various traditions. I’ve even been (very enthusiastically) invited to live on a kibbutz, so seeing these comments today really shocked me.

    I’m very sad with the turn this conversation has taken and am now questioning a lot of these decisions. I would like to use a beautiful Apache marriage blessing as a reading, but now I’m wondering if that would be offensive as well? How do we know where to draw the line? What if I wanted to borrow from traditions of ancient populations? If those people aren’t around today, how do I know what is appropriate? And by this logic, shouldn’t Christians be deeply offended by the commercial Christmas that so many have adopted?

    I’m sorry, Meg, that you were offended, and we’re clearly on different wavelengths here as I am having a hard time understanding why what I’m saying is so wrong. The statements above certainly surprised me and I’m not sure where to go with this. My mother’s best friend is conservative Jewish and will be at the wedding. I guess at this point I should sit down with her and discuss.

    1. The original comments Meg referred to were made in the post about her wedding ceremony a couple of days ago.

      I just wrote a really long comment upthread about cultural appropriation, but I just wanted to say that I don’t think that anyone so far is claiming that it is always wrong or offensive to borrow in any way, shape or form. I think adaptation can often be done in a respectful and meaningful manner, but as Meg and others have pointed out, it can also be problematic, given that rituals and traditions are often steeped in the history, trials and tribulations of an oppressed culture. It’s not so much “don’t do any of this, ever”, it’s “appropriation can be offensive and hurtful to the subject culture, so please take these things into account and be respectful”. From what you’ve said, it sounds like you want to respect these cultures and traditions, and I think consulting your best friend’s mother is a good way to proceed.

      Also, about the Apache wedding blessing – if it’s the popular one that I’m thinking of, it’s not actually connected with the traditions of the Apache or any other Native American group; it was written for a film and would be more accurately credited as ‘the wedding blessing from Broken Arrow’.

      1. oh my word, I never knew that about the “Apache” wedding blessing. we didn’t use it, but I ran across it and liked it. UGH

    2. I think what is offensive is when people take a deeply meaningful tradition with a huge history behind it and use it because it’s “pretty” or “sweet”. That’s reductionist and patronizing.

      For a non-Jewish person to use a huppah in their wedding without being reductionist, I would argue they would need to understand what Meg said above: that it represents the Jewish people’s covenant with God. And they would need to feel some connection to that as well as to the neat idea of having family and friends support their symbolic new home. I mean, I consider myself a (mostly) secular Jew, so my huppah was not necessarily about my personal covenant with God, but it was absolutely about my connection to generations and generations and generations of ancestors who also had huppahs at their weddings, and about the connection of my ancestry back to Abraham and his tent. It was a statement that I intended to embody the continuation of the Jewish people through my marriage.

      For someone to use a huppah in their wedding because they want to symbolize their friends and family supporting their new home, and NOT because they feel any sort of connection to Jewish history, would feel to me like they’re saying Jewish history doesn’t matter and isn’t worth considering. Unintentionally, of course, but that would still be the unspoken message to me.

      Conversely, if they DO feel a connection to Jewish history (which it sounds like you might, since you mentioned being involved in your local Jewish community and possibly living on a kibbutz) I would personally be all for it, although I know there are a lot of people who wouldn’t–a lot of Jews are big sticklers about defining who is a Jew and who is a gentile, and never the twain shall meet. Probably talking to members of the community you’re involved with, like you mentioned, would be your best bet.

      I hope that makes sense. It sounds like you felt attacked, which is really unfortunate–I think this kind of conversation is so important to have, so we can all decide consciously how to represent ourselves through our weddings, and I’d hate to think that you’d been turned off of talking about this kind of stuff.

    3. Ok. Sigh. This continues to be painful, but I need to be a little firmer, and I need to draw some boundaries here. I’m coming from a very liberal Jewish interfaith perspective, which means that I’m willing to speak out a little louder sometimes, but it also means what you’re hearing from me is among the most tolerant and liberal beliefs in the Jewish community.

      So, first. If you are an interfaith couple or from and interfaith family or a secular Jew or a convert or partially Jewish, as far as I’m concerned you should have full access to the traditions and rituals of the Jewish world. That’s non negotiable, so lets take that out of the equation.

      Second: If you are a non-Jew (or in this case a non-Jew who really loves Judaism) there are lots of things that you are joyfully welcome to do: you can attend services, you can pray in Hebrew, you can live on a Kibbutz, you can attend passover seders, you can learn all you want about Judaism. People will be thrilled by your interest and welcome you with open arms. But I want to be totally clear on this point: there are things that you CANNOT do, that are inflexible, and would be disrespectful for you to do (especially with full knowledge that this is how it is). You can’t wear a tallis, at all, ever. And you can’t have a huppah at your wedding, or have a Jewish wedding. At all. You can be inspired by Jewish weddings, but it is not ok for you to have one or for you to co-opt cultural and religious symbols from them.

      I’m not, and have never been Catholic. That means I can’t take Catholic communion. At all. Ever. To do so knowingly would be deeply disrespectful. Now, I can debate whether this is a good rule or a bad rule if I want, but I still can’t do it. And that’s what we’re talking about here.

      Be inspired by. But please don’t disrespect.

      As for the Apache blessing – it’s only disrespectful and/or offensive if you call it the Apache blessing. It was written by Hollywood screenwriters. So I guess, in closing, that illustrates the nature of the problem. When you start appropriating bits of culture that are foundationalally important to people – the fundamental problem is – it’s not your culture, so you don’t really know what you’re doing. You don’t know when you’re crossing the line. You don’t know when you’re using something that isn’t valid or true. So when you do that, you roll the dice.

      1. I have trouble with this to some degree, because I have some difficulty separating between the idea someone like me wanting a huppah (I’m Jewish in the sense that my mother is Jewish, but I’m only semi-culturally Jewish in terms of how I identify, not religiously Jewish at all) and someone who is not Jewish wanting one. If it’s not an issue for me to have one, why should it be an issue for a non-Jew to (respectfully) use one? If the difference is the presence of Jewish family, would it be wrong for me to have one in a private ceremony? If the difference is having been brought up celebrating Jewish holidays and with some Jewish traditions, doesn’t that really come down to my own personal connection rather than a religious one? Or would it be wrong for me to use a huppah at all, since it would be a cultural symbol rather than a religious one?

        To me, as long as someone isn’t being disrespectful in the WAY that they handle the symbol, I don’t have an issue with someone appropriating it… but then, I can’t think of *any* symbols in my life that I consider so sacred that for someone to appropriate them respectfully would still be offensive.

        Forgive me for any offense (it is not meant), I’m just trying to understand the position of those who are firm on this issue.

        1. The difference is simple – Judaism is part of your cultural heritage, practiced or not practiced. No one should be able to take that away from you. Someone who isn’t Jewish, who just say, likes Jews – that’s appropriation.

          The problem with your argument is that all it does is take the huppah away from people that should have access to it. I’m being liberal in my interpretation of saying that everyone who has the cultural heritage of Judaism has the right to Jewish life. I deeply believe it, but it’s a liberal interpretation. It’s NOT ok for non-Jews to use a huppah, period. It is, actually, *expressly* off limits religiously, and less expressly but equally deeply off limits culturally. So, you’re argument is just going to make people say, “Ok, fine, I guess you can’t have it either.” And frankly, I don’t think that’s right. No one should rob you of your cultural heritage.

        2. And while you might not have any cultural affiliations that make you feel like particular symbols are sacred, that’s fine. But there are so many sacred things, that can’t be used out of context without disrespect, no matter how respectful the intent. Communion, say. Baptism. It’s not ok for someone to play at communion, or baptism, because it’s cool. And there are a million other things from cultures I’m less fluent in. The bottom line is, if it doesn’t belong to you, and the culture that it does belong to says, “This is not ok for you to use,” you just have to take it on faith sometimes. To say, “I don’t get it, but I respect your wishes.”

  29. Yet another awesome post. And oh my gosh yes, our relationship shaped our wedding(s), which has completely shaped our marriage. Right now, I don’t feel able to write about it, because I’m holding things close and savouring them. But it most certainly did.

  30. seriously…this is why i think religion is ridiculous..i say do what you want because someone or maybe a lot of people are gonna be pissed off or just politely offended somewhere…sorry…but im sure some people are gonna yell at me.

    1. That’s like saying, “Well I might as well punch people in the face because they’ll get angry at me if I punch them in the face OR trip them!”

      I think it’s always worthwhile thinking about how to be a better person, even if you don’t get an immediate pat on the back for it.

      1. im sorry…its not at all like punching someone in the face and of course there are always ways to be more respectful or as you put it “a worthwhile person” but if you REALLY like the concept of something and copy it…it is what it is no matter what you call it…i just personally feel its silly to have to achieve something in a round about way because someone might be offended when you had no intention of hurting someones feelings or offending their religious sensibilites especially when people are trying to find ways to connect and make traditions…which is why i personally find religion ridiculous…which doesnt mean i find most religious people ridiculous…

      2. That’s a bit of a stretch, Marina. Performing rituals in the privacy of our own weddings is a whole lot different from physically harming someone. I think Shellie was saying, “do what feels right to you because you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

        I peeked in on a similar discussion in an online forum and found a group of non Jewish brides asking if they could use the huppah or a variation and a Jewish bride replied that she thought it was a lovely way to honor Judaism and, in fact, she has been to Christian weddings that incorporate not only the huppah but a rings tradition and having the bride stand on the right. There are clearly very varied opinions on this.

        I guess my point is that you can never please absolutely everyone and no one can speak for others in such personal matters, even if they are members of the same religion. I don’t like the direction that this discussion is taking with some becoming the propriety police and “deciding” which traditions can be used by which people and in what way. At this point I don’t feel that I need to apologize nor receive “permission” for my wedding. We’re going to do what feels right and what honors the diverse community that has made us who we are and that will continue to love us and provide life inspiration throughout our marriage.

        1. Oh, absolutely you shouldn’t need permission for your wedding from anybody! I am totally in favor of everyone making an informed decision about what they personally feel does and doesn’t belong in their wedding.

          Key word being “informed”. I find it useful to know that if I do X, some people will feel Y. I don’t have to do what other people want, (especially random strangers online!) but I do find it useful to know.

          You sound upset that I find non-Jews using huppahs offensive. I agree with you that I don’t have the right to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do in your wedding, but the corrollary to that is that you don’t have the right to tell me what I should or shouldn’t be offended by. If you decide that you don’t care whether a random stranger online is offended, that’s your decision. But saying I SHOULDN’T be offended, or shouldn’t tell you when I’m offended, is something else altogether.

          1. Marina, thanks for trying to help me understand this and for validating my feelings. I did feel a bit attacked for having expressed a desire to celebrate a tradition and receiving a virtual slap on the wrists in exchange. I am more confused than ever now that we have some brides saying that it is “really offensive” and some brides saying that it is “a lovely way to honor Judaism”. I think all of these conflicting thoughts underscore how individual and personal this is and that there is no way to say who is wrong and who is right.

            I am sorry that you are offended by this but as I said in my (really long) post below, what I don’t like is NOT your feelings, but rather being told that I am “wrong” or don’t have an appreciation or taking what you interpret as the meaning and projecting that into rules under which I can use it, etc. You wrote about not feeling the covenant so much as the connection to other generations. I’m guessing you wouldn’t be very happy if a fellow Jew told you that that was the wrong interpretation. Several posters have taken to saying what is “okay” and what is “not okay.” What is okay and not okay is different for everyone both between and within religions, so really, let’s stop trying to decide for each other.

            Maybe I am being too sensitive as I have interpreted your expression of offense to be a judgement against me, and that is what is stirring my defensive reaction. Phew, this is getting complicated, and all I wanted to say in my original post was that I love the tradition.

    2. Ah, but what you’re not hearing is this isn’t just about religion, it’s about culture.
       
      The Atheist movement was originally primarily a Jewish movement. There are lots and lots of Jews, particularly after The Holocaust, who want **nothing** to do with God or with religion. But, it almost goes without saying, those are the people you would most deeply offend by appropriating the huppah, or the breaking of the glass, or what have you.
       
      You can believe or not believe whatever you want. But that doesn’t give you ownership of other peoples culture. Sacred things, whether religiously or culturally sacred, are still hands off – for you too.

      1. I do get that…by using something from someone elses culture or religion doesnt mean you are taking ownership of it because its yours now because im gonna have a huppah or whatever no matter what anyone says or thinks…thats not what im saying…many people as im sure you already know dont have any traditions and want to make this moment in their lives special and at least for that moment are trying to create a deeper meaning for this occaision…i dont mean to be offensive but i feel same sense of ridiculousness for anyone who is gonna be pissed because i used something from their culture…i just think its too much…its too too too much…we live in a world where people flip out too easily instead of embracing each other for our differences, commonalites, and what we LIKE and ADMIRE about each other…i have been married for 10 years and had a 10 minute ceremony… my husband and i didnt need to look to other cultures or religions to understand what we were doing …making a promise a big fat scary forever promise that has held more delights and sometimes sorrow…i wouldnt trade being married for anything..does that mean i think other people should do or think what i do…of course not…and just because you do something,practice something, or live something doesnt mean one owns the ideas of it as well…fortunately or maybe unfornately we are all free to use ideas and we shouldnt feel bad about it especially if ones is doing it out of love…i know this conversation could go back and forth forever…i truly mean no harm by words…its just how i feel and thank you for letting me express that hear.

      2. I know we’re getting way off topic now, but how is Atheism originally a Jewish movement? There have always been Atheists quietly or not-so-quietly springing out of every religion.

        What you said is precisely the part of this discussion that is starting to rub me the wrong way. The “hands off” part. I just don’t like the idea of telling people what they are and are not allowed to find meaning in and how they can express that, provided they are not harming others or encouraging violent behavior.

        Some have written here about the covenant represented by certain traditions and that performing them without subscribing to or understanding the deep significance is offensive and wrong.

        First, I think it’s pretty presumptuous to claim to know what is important to another person, to know what I understand about a certain practice and my relationship with its meaning, and to judge these feelings as wrong or incorrect. If religion and traditions are so personal and individual, then who are you to say that I don’t have a proper appreciation or that my interpretation is not okay?

        Secondly, there are plenty of subscribers to all religions who go through the motions and do various things for show or because it is expected, and don’t follow through with all of the practices or rules that are part of that deeply religious covenant. And it’s not our place to judge them. Members of all religions decide what parts of that faith are important enough to them to follow and how they want to interpret teachings and texts and that is for them alone to wrestle with (or not). You wouldn’t criticize a Catholic who never goes to church yet whines about giving up chocolate for Lent (I know plenty) because that is their personal spiritual business. So why criticize me for celebrating in a way that I think is beautiful? (Isn’t it my business?) Even if I don’t “get it” in someone else’s opinion, isn’t that my spiritual business?

        Again, I fail to see how wanting to celebrate my family with a beautiful tradition from a religion, that itself celebrates love and family, could be wrong. I guess this brings us back to the APW mantra that we must do and honor what feels honest in our weddings. And what is honest and meaningful to who I am cannot be decided by anyone else (well, let’s not forget FH!).

        1. Before I continue, I will just say that I apologise in advance if I get a bit strained – this is an incredibly painful thing for me to talk about, but I think it’s important to have the conversation.

          “If religion and traditions are so personal and individual, then who are you to say that I don’t have a proper appreciation or that my interpretation is not okay?”

          The whole point I (and others) have tried to make here is that religion and traditions are *not only* personal and individual: we are talking about a culture’s stories, history, rituals, the times and events and symbols that collectively signify who they are. If anything, I would argue that while *beliefs* are very personal, what gives these rituals and traditions their weight is the fact that they’re something that has been carried on through history by a group, and that is a big part of what makes them so significant to the members of that group.

          I don’t think you mean to come off this way, but when you question what right Meg or Marina have to “say that this is not okay”, it comes across to me as if you are questioning their ownership, as members of that group, of their own religion and traditions. Michele points out below that many traditions have, in the past, been appropriated *precisely* to strip them of their power and their meaning. That’s why people (including myself) are so protective and feel so strongly with regards to cultural appropriation, so please do not discount that as people just “being judgmental”, unless you honestly believe that we do not have the right to take ownership of our cultures and traditions.

          You say that anything goes, “provided they are not harming others”, but the fact is that cultural appropriation has been and continues to be harmful to subject cultures. Again, as Marina said, you don’t need anyone’s permission; as Meg said, you can believe or not believe whatever you want. That doesn’t mean anyone is *entitled* to the use of what doesn’t belong to them.

        2. “I guess this brings us back to the APW mantra that we must do and honor what feels honest in our weddings. And what is honest and meaningful to who I am cannot be decided by anyone else .”

          But you’re missing something – the APW mantra has not ever been “Anything goes, and it’s you’re special day so do what’s right for you.” It’s about being responsible, about being adult, about being a caretaker for yourself and for the world. It’s about finding your voice, on a day that you share you relationship with the world around you – a world that you treat with respect. And I’m sorry, it’s not your special day, in that you have the right to hurt others. The Knot will tell you that’s so. I never will.

          And Sophia is bang on, “You say that anything goes, “provided they are not harming others”, but the fact is that cultural appropriation has been and continues to be harmful to subject cultures. Again, as Marina said, you don’t need anyone’s permission; as Meg said, you can believe or not believe whatever you want. That doesn’t mean anyone is *entitled* to the use of what doesn’t belong to them.”

          Cultural appropriation does violence to minority cultures. What you don’t see is that these cultures have rich ritual traditions because EVERYTHING else was taken from them. Now, you’re trying to strip the last thing that they have. That is violence. The huppah is not being offered as yours for the taking. No matter how much as you might like it, it’s not yours. If you don’t understand it, that’s fine. No one is asking you to understand it. We’re asking you to RESPECT it.

          I started this site because allllll the other wedding sites tell you to do what YOU want because it’s YOUR day. But in getting married we’re saying that we’re grown ups. Grown ups don’t hurt other people unless they have no other option. Grown ups realize they can’t just do whatever they want, because they want it. Being a grown up, becoming a grown up, is f*cking hard, but it’s f*cking awesome. THAT’s what this site is about. I want to encourage women to find their own honest voice, while still respecting and honor the community and world around them. THAT is the APW mantra.

  31. The whole Christian communion analogy made me understand your point, Meg. *NOW* I get it. Thanks for explaining – I really would have never realized how/why using a huppah in a non-Jewish wedding could be offensive. Good to know.

  32. After reading through the comments and spending some time thinking about it, I’ve realized the effect our wedding has had on our marriage and on my individual life. It wasn’t the flowers or the cake or the dress or the music or any of that that has shaped us. It was the ceremony and what it meant to us, the symbolism of it. Because of that my life has more calm, more peace, and more security than it did before. And when things are hard, I can remember that ceremony and find that calm, peace, and security once more. Because of the ceremony there are some things I just don’t need to stress about any more.

  33. I’m sorry this conversation ended up being painful, Meg. I hope it is some consolation that it has probably been very eye-opening and valuable to many people. The hard conversations are especially valuable, and no doubt RW posts will spark them too!

    I too feel very uncomfortable personally with appropriations of others’ traditions. At the same time I have so much empathy for people who want to have a wedding with some ritual, but have no tradition of their own. This is much bigger than weddings, but I think wedding are when it can become the most obvious.

    I come from a long line of failed marriages and Protestant affiliations I do not feel connected to, and was raised in a secular home. My fiancé was raised Catholic but is no longer practicing. I’m trying to put together a ceremony that uses the frame/structure I think of as Protestant -Influenced Standard American, with rituals that feel authentic to me. So far that means secular readings, that means a ring exchange, classical music, short vows, and a ring-warming ceremony (which doesn’t seem to connect to a faith tradition, at least not that I’ve seen!).

    I guess my message to other secular brides trying to create a ceremony with meaning, but without appropriating, is this: let the truths behind the symbolism that speaks to you influence how you think about your ceremony, more than what you “do” in your ceremony. As I create my ceremony, I carry in my heart and mind Meg’s lovely words about the huppah, and P’s beautiful rites. Meg’s influence may be that I have our officiant talk more about how we are coming together to make an intentional home (that might seem far from raising a huppah, but not to me…and I think it as close as I would comfortably come). P has inspired me to see the value in shorter vows and more words from the celebrant. She also got me thinking about indivisible numbers (nothing is more universal than math!) and while we won’t exchange rings three times, maybe the truth of indivisibility will make its way in somehow.

    So, mental and emotional truths over physical symbols. Does that makes sense? I hope this little bit of my personal experience is helpful.

  34. …I don’t know why my comment moved yours around. Maybe because it took me a day to write it? I’m sorry Meg!

  35. Holy cow! What a discussion. I really appreciate everyone’s candor and curiosity, as I’m the one who originally brought up the issue of cultural/religious appropriation in the comments of a post the other day.

    To anyone who has found this discussion painful – either as someone who has borrowed (or is considering borrrowing) from a culture/religion other than their own – or as someone who holds those things dear as a part of the culture/religion that IS their own – I’m sorry. But I’m also not sorry, simply because I feel like I learned a lot here, and I would imagine some others have as well.

    It also occurred to me just now that the issue of appropriation is something that’s part and parcel of being a religious OR secular Christian – as SO MANY traditions that we define as Christian today have their origins in something else altogether and were appropriated by early Christians – often to strip them of their power. So I imagine this is a debate that’s been raging for generations, and will continue to rage for generations to come.

  36. This may be kind of a spirited topic on which to post for the first time, but here goes. First of all, I love the fact that people here are not afraid to weigh in honestly on such a volatile topic…particularly Meg. I do wonder about the need to worry so much about respecting things that are felt to be culturally sacred, when what is culturally sacred seems to be evolving all the time (it happens slowly, but it does happen). I think that in the end it is worthwhile to have a sense of how people from other cultures (and religions, where they overlap) feel when you’re thinking about borrow/stealing (there’s some overlap there as well) from them. At the same time, you can’t please everybody and if you’ve made a good-faith effort to be aware of what your doing and not to offend, you can’t do much else. All you can do is try to do your best. In the end, you are almost always going to offend someone, and it’s probably not worth condemming yourself over. And I’m saying this as a member of a minority group who has been offended many times by other individuals appropriating parts of my culture who clearly hadn’t the slightest idea that they might be offending me.

  37. You guys, I’m really sad that this conversation stopped being about what it was about – how weddings can feed marriages, but it did, and that’s where it’s at. This thread became about cultural appropriation, and it’s now so off topic I’m shutting comments.

    In sum, even if you don’t understand why people from other cultures don’t want you to use their traditions, it’s important that you respect them. A few people have said that APW is all about “finding what’s right for you and then just doing it,” and I have to respectfully disagree. This site has never been about just doing what you want on your day. I want to encourage women to find their own honest voice, while still respecting and honor the community and world around them.

    Sometimes you have to honor people even when you don’t understand them. Sometimes you have to say to your mom, “Mom, I don’t get why XXX is so important to you, but if it is that important to you, lets find a way to make things work.” And sometimes that’s saying, “I don’t get why I can’t use the huppah, but I’ll respect that.”

    APW is, fundamentally, about me growing into my own adulthood, and become about a lot of women growing into their own adulthood. Being an adult is hard. It’s about finding a way to stay true to yourself without being selfish. It’s about realizing the world is a complicated complicated place. That’s why it’s so f*cking hard, and that’s why it’s so f*cking awesome. Here is to more of that.

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