Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited to the wedding of a childhood friend of my son. She was marrying a woman she had met in college during a course in Feminist Theory and Criticism. They became loser while sitting on the campus safety awareness committee. After some long distance relationshipping, they started dating and moved in with each other about a year ago. I have been looking forward to this wedding for months ever since we got the “save the date” announcement.
It was a milestone for me in that I had never been to a Jewish wedding and had always wanted to go to one. Bride A (as I will call her) was Jewish and a woman of deep faith. She is now in rabbinical school. Bride B, my son’s friend, converted to Judaism for her despite being raised lightly pagan. It was NOT a coincidence that the wedding took place on the summer solstice. There was even a solstice altar set up just outside the ceremony area to honor that part of her heritage.
Bride A was dressed in a homemade ivory linen dress with pink flowers in her hair to match her cateye vintage style glasses. Bride B wore gray slacks with a matching vest over a light blue shirt and pink tie. Over her shortly cropped hair she wore a large leaf reminiscent of a yarmulka. The male members of wedding party (the entire wedding party was described as Friends of Honor as oppose to the more common groomsman/bridesmaid designations) had full beards and wore suspenders making them look like hipster artisanal pickle merchants. Even the band had a certain turn of the century look. In some respects the whole event had the vibe of a community theater production of Yentl.
The wedding program included lots of little notes on the elements and traditions of a Judaic wedding which were very helpful. I could
tell that some portions of the ceremony were being altered to accommodate the fact that two women were being married rather than a man and a woman. There was prayer after prayer in both Yiddish and English. There were two large artistically rendered marriage contracts which included their vows. There was a lot of laughing with a touch of tears.
The ceremony was outdoors in a small park with a gorgeous old stone building on the grounds but except for the food service line, all the events were outdoors or underneath a tent. Predicted thunderstorms never arrived and weather stayed clear if June hot. Restroom facilities were two single occupancy bathrooms in the building which, as the program declared, had been “liberated from the gender binary.”
The guests were the usual mix of older relatives, mostly from Bride B’s side since the ceremony was in her hometown, and college friends of the brides. They were dressed in a variety of styles ranging from traditional to formal to casual. One person had both a beard and a dress and I told my wife I’d be disappointed if there hadn’t been.
As with all weddings, the reception is where the heavy partying began. Fortunately beer and wine are vegan and were available in abundance. In addition to red and white wine there were two brands of craft brews and PBR available. This gave my son, a professional brewer, a great opportunity for conversational gambits with the guests his age.
The food, as I feared, was the greatest disappointment. In anticipation, I had taken my family out for a Father’s Day barbecue lunch just in case I wasn’t going to get a full meal. The hors d’oeuvres were tasty but disappeared quickly. I was not quick enough to get the tofu spring rolls but the corn fritters and the potato knishes were delish. The main dishes were bland and, as the joke goes, the portions were small too. The best dish was some parpadelle with basil, spinach, artichoke and zucchini. The wild mushroom and tarragon seitan (whatever that is) was also fairly tasty. But overall, I thought a family of vegetarians could have found a more adventurous caterer.
For the wedding reception the band quickly ran through a whirlwind of the presumably standard traditions including ring dances and chair dances and jumping rope. It was all a bit confusing to me but the largely Jewish guest roster seemed to go at them with great gusto.
As with most weddings, the toasts from the fathers were very touching. The father of Bride A was delighted to be gaining a future lawyer as a family member and made a plea that Bride B give corporate mergers a chance for decade or so before going into public advocacy. Father B waxed nostalgic over the childhood memories of teaching Bride B which sports teams to follow and why. (I was told that her vest was lined with silk fabric covered in Orioles logos.) The deepest divisions amongst the families and guest were opposing loyalties to Red Sox, Yankees, or Orioles, although I suspect plenty of Phillies fans were in the crowd as well.
I’ve been to a wide variety of weddings but this one was definitely one of the most festive I have ever been to. It was a day full of prayers. And food. And dancing.
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