We just returned from a delightful honeymoon in South Carolina, rested and a little tan, and feeling incredibly blessed by God’s goodness to us. Besides all the usual things that are wonderful about weddings and honeymoons – the love of family and friends, moving words, pretty dresses, etc – we had managed to get Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox to dance a hora in a church basement. What’s not to be happy about?
As I bask in the final afterglow, here are six things that worked well for us in doing what I had dreaded ever since my baptism five years ago: having a Christian wedding that’s Jewish enough for me and my Russian-speaking secular family.
All of these are, of course, contingent on resources, personalities, and particular family religious configurations, but here goes:
Have two weddings. We had a secular ceremony and reception on Saturday and an Orthodox church wedding on Sunday. My parents were very happy after hosting a “real” (and fun) wedding for their friends and family, with nothing Christian about it, and that sure helped ease them over the hour-long church service the next day. Dividing it up into “the family show” and “the newlyweds’ show” (with the respective parties shouldering the costs) was a surprisingly helpful way of dealing with the religious divide, and both enjoyed both events.
If you splurge on anything, splurge on a live Klezmer band. Jewish music and dancing – lots of dancing – are essential to a wedding that feels Jewish. Our two musicians, from The Klezical Tradition in Connecticut, were amazing, and far less fun would have been had without them.
Don’t let anyone get away without dancing. See above. It is, after all, a mitzvah to dance at someone’s wedding (I’m sure it is one, anyway…). If your guests are dancing hora, they will know they are at a Jewish wedding, even if an imam, a Druid, and the Roman Pontiff had joined forces to perform your marriage ceremony just an hour ago.
Don’t forget the chairs. In the Orthodox wedding service, the bride and groom are crowned (using actual crowns) – as king and queen of their domain and as types of Christ and the Church entering the Kingdom. Raising the bride and groom on their “thrones” (struggling to maintain regal expressions as they fear for their lives at the hands of the inebriated chair-holders) nicely complements this idea, and makes you wonder about the parallels.
Have lots of toasts, preferably funny ones. It breaks up the tension, and if lots of people are talking and being funny, the Jews feel at home.
Pray that some of your Christian friends say nice things about you to your Jewish family. Guaranteed to make the latter feel more comfortable.