Sunday, January 31, 2010

Goin' to the Chuppah and We're, Gonna Get Married ...

I can't believe I did it. I just purchased a wedding gown off the internet, before viewing, before trying on, before anything. Now, I know what you're thinking, Are you crazy!? And yes, I am a little off my rocker, but it's hard to be a tzniut-style girl searching for a proper wedding gown. So I went to Nordstrom's at the advice of a few Twitter friends for my measurements, sent them off to the gown's e-store, heard back from a nice lady, and ordered the gown. It should get to me in approximately two to three business days. Talk about FAST service. I'm praying like you wouldn't believe that it's the ultimate, perfect wedding gown. I just have to get over the self-esteem shocker of ordering a wedding gown two/three sizes too big. What's the deal with that anyway? I mean, if someone wears a size 10 (not me, that's for sure), why should they have to buy a size 14 wedding gown? Don't you think brides have enough issues about size and shape on their mind that forcing them into a super-sized wedding gown will only make matters worse? Egads.

Anywho, at the advice of a friend from shul (and subsequently a few other friends from shul), I nabbed a copy of a classic Judaica book that, I was told, will enlighten not only me, but any family members with lingering questions or queries, about what to expect with an Orthodox wedding. The book? "Made in Heaven" by the illustrious Aryeh Kaplan. If you start out with the "dedications" page, you'll rest assured that this guy's advice is second to none -- the book is dedicated to the author's nine children! Obviously, Rabbi Kaplan knows his stuff, right?

I'm not one for touchy-feely books, and aside from tidbits here and there about the eternal bond of marriage and the future generations, the book is very readable, and I highly recommend it to those who are prepping for marriage. Each chapter homes in on a specific topic: the ring, the chuppah, the wedding day, the ketubah, the processional, and more. It even gets as specific as talking about the tallit and the various specific blessings. The chapters are short, and the author was very, very good about being concise and quick in his lessons on the halakot.

I can't even begin to tell you how many questions I've developed for my rabbi. Feel free to chime in here, but I've heard some "that sounds crazy!" comments from friends. I'll let you know what my rav thinks. I'll admit, many of these are CUSTOMS, but still, I like to know/make sure I'm doing things "right."

  • Some sources say that, for the wedding band, gold is preferable to silver, others silver to gold. Add to this the fact that you are supposed to use a ring that is pure -- not masked, such as plated gold -- because this could invalidate the ceremony entirely! Does this mean I can't have a white gold ring? The point of the ring being simple (no designs, no stones) is that the bride (and others) should be able to ascertain the value of the ring at a simple glance. If it's plated or masked in some way, it's harder to discern. As such, white gold has a specific value, right? So white gold *should* be okay? 
  • The tradition is that the kallah (bride) gives her chatan (groom) his tallit (prayer shawl) for the wedding. Often it's used for the chuppah, too. Now, Tuvia has a tallit his paternal grandfather bought shortly before his death, so he wants to use that since it's unused and in great condition. What do I do for the chatan then!?
  • What's doing with this whole no seeing each other for a week before the wedding? According to the book, many hold the tradition of just the day before hand, but even then, it used to be a tradition to hold a prenuptial meal the night before the wedding! What did you do at your wedding? What's the tradition/community custom/standard these days?
  • There is a definite decision that men fast the day of their wedding, but some rabbis hold that the kallah does not fast! What gives!? Do I fast, or do I not fast?
And those are my questions and I'm not even halfway through the book! Luckily, Rabbi Kaplan's given me plenty of insight and things to think about. 

I've also discovered -- via the advice of the same friend that suggested I pick up this book -- a way to involve people in the entire service without violating halakot! The great thing about a Jewish wedding is that there are about a million different positions people can serve. There are six witnesses -- all must be shomer mitzvot, Jewish males -- as well as those who read the sheva brachot (seven blessings), and thanks to this friend's great thinking, the translations of these brachot also will be read, that is, by women and non-Jewish friends of mine. It's a beautiful way not only to involve everyone, but also to help those who aren't familiar with Hebrew or the Jewish traditions to really get the full impact of the blessings in order to understand the service. 

You'd be amazed at all of the obstacles and pits of fire and dragons that await one with planning a wedding like this. I'm sure they exist in all faiths, but with there being specific binding laws regarding various parts of the service, you really have to think hard about who to involve and how to involve them. It's a delicate, delicate process.

All I can say is, I'm getting married in less than four months, and I'm jazzed!