Deena & Ben

Modern Jewish Wedding

It’s been far too long since we’ve had a traditional Jewish wedding on APW, so I’m thrilled to welcome Deena. She talks about Jewish wedding traditions and about negotiating for what you need within the context of a religious service. I love the way she ponders creating a wedding where the service is the key element and the party is the lovely afterglow (or religious obligation… because as a Jew, it’s one of your obligations to party with the wedding couple!).

Modern Jewish Wedding
From all the blogs I had in my Google Reader while engaged, it could have been easy to think that the wedding reception is in fact the wedding itself, but it’s not! There are many parts to a wedding, or exactly four if you’re having a more traditional Jewish wedding: bedekin (veiling), chuppah (the ceremony), yihud (seclusion), and sedat mitzvah (festive meal). I feel so lucky that we were able to really embrace all four parts of the day and make them each our own, and we added a fifth, at a nice, yet slightly dive-y bar across the street from our venue.

Modern Jewish Wedding

Planning our wedding was sort of my job for most of our engagement, as I was mostly unemployed for the majority of that twenty month period. Our families are both on the East Coast, and we live in Boulder, Colorado. It just didn’t make sense to plan a long distance wedding. Wedding research became the thing that kept me from going bonkers at home alone during the day. I was determined not to become obsessed with fussy details and instead focused on making it OUR wedding, picking out the gems from the internet and sharing them with Ben a few times a week. We also quickly decided that we needed at least one twenty four hour wedding-free day per week. So, we made a firm rule: no wedding talk during Shabbat.

Modern Jewish Wedding

One of my personal hurdles that I had during the whole planning process was learning to be okay with the traditional ketubah text. It was what Ben and our rabbi were most comfortable with, but not me (yet). Once we added on the Liberman Clause (allowing me to initiate divorce proceedings), my biggest issue was that it claimed I was a virgin. After talking with the rabbi we decided that this meant I was a never-been-married woman with no children kind of virgin, not Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” kind of virgin. I just wasn’t comfortable with signing a contract that I felt misrepresented me. Since the ketubah is mine to give, Ben was willing to let me pick it out, but wanted veto power. Finding a ketubah within our budget that had both text and graphics that we agreed on took even more effort than finding my wedding dress! Honestly I’m glad that it did; having a religious document incite more discussions than any other part of the planning process really helped me feel connected to the marrying part of the wedding.

Modern Jewish Wedding

I went to the mikvah on Thursday night before our Sunday wedding, and Ben stayed on the guest bed in the study. It was a bit awkward for both of us, but made us feel like we were really getting ready to do something big (which we were). Going to the mikvah wasn’t the spiritual experience I was hoping for, but it was relaxing (I got to spend thirty minutes in a huge soaking tub with unlimited hot water) and nice to get away from the craziness of all four of our parents and two of our four siblings assembling programs in our apartment.

Modern Jewish Wedding

I told everyone, before I left to go to the mikvah, that I was done with wedding stuff. Anything left they were welcome to finish for me or not. I didn’t care anymore because after the Friday rehearsal was a leg waxing appointment and then Shabbat! “No wedding planning on Shabbat” was thoroughly observed the day before our wedding. We went to services (including our auf ruf), ate with  families, and hung out with friends. It was great to have those twenty four hours of downtime to ease into the wedding.

Modern Jewish Wedding

The wedding whole day felt like a dream, but with photographic evidence! Cliché I know, but seriously, I feel as if I somehow floated through the day while being present and aware for most of the important bits (toasts are a haze, I really just wanted Bananas Foster!). It was like a big love blankie wrapped us all up together and smoothly carried us through (though I wish that love blankie had kept me warmer). The one time I snapped at someone—and apologized two minutes later—felt like a huge deal because I’d been so peaceful all day. Trust me, I’m not usually that zen.

Modern Jewish Wedding

The only thing I really wish I could have changed about our wedding day was making sure that everyone knew they were invited to the bidekin. There were quite a few people I would have liked to have been there who were outside, saving seats for themselves at the ceremony site. Oops. Maybe we should have included it on the invitations? Bidekin 11:30, wedding ceremony at noon, luncheon reception to follow…. Lesson learned, if you want people to be there let them know.

Modern Jewish Wedding

Throughout the planning process, our goal was to make all the religious bits as prominent as possible, and to make our families feel included. We wanted our wedding to be about marrying each other and celebrating that, not just a huge party with a mini ceremony to kick it off.

Modern Jewish Wedding

We had our list of reception things that were important though: hiring a day of coordinator to pass off everything {Ben comments: and everyone!} to, finding photographers whose style meshed with ours, great food, good ambiance, and having a dessert that I’m not allergic to. Things that were lower on the list: fancy makeup, fru-fru flowers, hiring a super-trendy DJ, being matchy-matchy with everything, having an f-ing theme (seriously, our theme was Jewish Wedding, if you can call that a theme). We started the process with what we felt were the basics: a date (101010=42 in binary), our rabbi, a venue that needed no extra attention, and our DOC; she helped us find almost everything else.

Modern Jewish Wedding

There were so many little details that we felt weren’t important enough to care or fuss about. But having a great catering/venue coordinator, DOC, and photographers meant that we could just trust them to make executive decisions on fussy details for us, since we trusted them enough to not care ourselves. How freeing! It meant they made the schedule without much input form us (aside from what religious things needed to be included and about how long they will take).

Modern Jewish Wedding

OK, time to brag! I think the chuppah (canopy) and kittle (prayer robe), that my mom made are pretty rad. I’m also super happy with how all the details came together, including the fact that the green and blue LED uplight in the reception room inadvertently camouflaged the exit signs. Yes, it all came out a bit matchy-matchy, but by accident! I didn’t want there to be too many colors going on, so I stuck with greens and blues (not specific Pantones, just broad color families) and it came out awesome!

Modern Jewish Wedding

I’m really glad that we got to include lots of quirky details that made the wedding more “us,” like simple equations to solve for your table number (√64 = table 8), reading a silly poem during the ceremony (I Like You), and playing lots of awesome ‘eighties music. The mostly unplanned after party at the bar across the street was pretty excellent, too. Most people (myself included) weren’t ready to leave when we had to be out of the venue at five, and ended up hanging around for another two to three hours, eating tots and sweet potato fries, drinking local beers, and playing pool. Spending time hanging out with my new husband and our family and friends, in my rockin’ wedding dress was exactly how I wanted to end my wedding day.

The Info—Photography by: Kokoro Photography / Venue: St. Julien Hotel and Spa / Dress: DREW by Melissa Sweet at Priscilla of Boston /Veil: Simple Beauty Veils / Earrings: A Finishing Touch / His Tux: Macy’s clearance rack, tailored at Men’s Warehouse / Day Of Coordinator: Danielle, from Something Classic Events / Florist & Chuppah Frame & Cover Rental: Boulder Blooms

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