Sunday, August 21, 2011

Emily's Wedding

Our dear Emily was married last week, a day full of happiness and joy. For several days before the event I felt very strange-an odd combination of anxiety and anticipation with a touch of sadness. I daresay I don't need to explain that to any mothers who have had a daughter or son marry. Here are some of the highlights that I will always treasure:

Before the actual ceremony there was a private signing of the marriage contract (the ketubah) with the rabbi, Emily and Jeff, the parents and a few guests. As we began the rabbi spoke some words of wisdom to this effect: We often go thru our busy lives just moving from one thing to another, hardly aware of what we're doing. Right now, Emily and Jeff are about to cross a bridge from being single to being married. Let's take a few moments to be quiet and acknowledge this step that's being taken and how all our lives will be changed because of it.

After the signing Jenny and I broke a plate together. It was made of heavy stoneware and wrapped in a cloth. Our first attempt was unsuccessful, so on the second try we slammed it down on the back of a chair with all our might and that did the trick. There are a number of explanations for this ritual, but the one I like best is that the breaking of the plate symbolizes the irrevocable nature of the wedding contract.

At a Jewish wedding the bride and groom process down the aisle escorted by both parents. As Bill, Emily and I began our walk with Elgar's Nimrod playing, Em burst out in peals of laughter...laughter stemming from pure happiness. I have never seen my daughter so ebullient. And then Bill added his own thoughts...this is quite a moment, quite a moment. On arriving at the chuppah Emily circled Jeff seven times, another traditional ritual.

The ceremony itself was rich with meaning. There was the customary stomping on the glass to ward off evil spirits, but my favorite part was when the rabbi wrapped Jeff's beautiful prayer shawl, which had belonged to his grandfather, around the shoulders of both the bride and groom.

There was a reception with good food, good music and great conviviality. We had the usual toasts and a rather unusual one...mine. I knew that I would not be able to say much without choking up, so I decided to "play" my toast. Fortunately the inn has a baby grand piano in the dining room. I began by saying that all my feelings and wishes for the newly married couple could be found in the piece I was about to play, and one could hear a hush fall over the room as I began Debussy's Girl with the Flaxen Hair. It is one of Emily's favorites and it truly did convey what I could not say with words.

Dancing the Horah was the most fun of all. Can you believe this was the first Jewish wedding I've attended? The band played Hava Nagila over and over and over and we all held hands and danced in circles, laughing and singing. The bride and groom, holding a napkin between them to stay connected, were hoisted up into chairs and promenaded around the dance floor. The fathers, Marty and Bill, were next. And yes, you guessed it, before I could even protest I was up in a chair (Jenny, too), feeling as if I were riding a roller coaster at the fair. I can't remember when I've had such a good time.

And now, a week after it's all over, I look at the photos and reflect on this occasion with awe. There is much love between Emily and Jeff, and even more encircles them from all of us, friends and family.