Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A do-it-yourself wedding

[Sunday, June 17, 2007 update: The bride finally figures out how to use the scanner! :) ]

[Sunday, April 6, 2008 update: Having somehow neglected to save the scan to her computer, the bride figures out how to copy her favorite wedding photo from this post into My Pictures and upload it onto Flickr from there! In the interest of protecting what's left of her and her husband's anonymity, she then deletes the aforementioned scanned photo from this post, where it can be seen be anyone walking past her computer, and moves the bride and groom's picture here.)

Here's a little something from Jack that brought back some memories. You see, I described the event in the video as a "homemade" wedding--and so was ours.

When it came time for the Punster and me to go under the chuppah, we faced three major challenges:

1) We wanted to get married in the synagogue in which we'd met and of which we were members--and the Social Hall there had a fire-safety occupancy limit of 200 people (if memory serves me correctly). We had roughly 225 guests in mind.

2) We were hard-core folk dancers, and wanted to have a folk-dance reception.

3) My soon-to-make-aliyah brother and his then-wife were still Orthodox at that time, and we didn't trust the kashrut of our synagogue's kitchen.

Because of the room-size limitation, we had only two choices--either we could have a sit-down dinner, or we could have a folk-dance reception. There was simply no way to do both.

So we decided to have it our way. We lined the walls with chairs, and drafted a fellow folk-dancer to play disk jockey with my chattan's (groom's) personal collection of folk-dance records. (The hubster was still teaching folk-dancing at the time. And yes, we still have the records. One of these days, we really should figure out how to convert them to a more current format.) For the "chuppah"/wedding ceremony itself, we invited the entire volunteer synagogue choir, of which we were then both members, to sing a lovely piece (comprised of excerpts from Shir HaShirim/Song of Songs) called "Ma dodech mi-dod." (I don't know whether we still have the sheet music, but I could probably still sing the alto part at the drop of a yarmulke.) We figured that that would work out better than hiring a band, because folk-dance music is sufficiently esoteric that we assumed that no one band could possibly know how to play all the dances that we knew how to dance (and who has sheet music for this kind of stuff?).

And we had a decidedly unchic buffet of cold glatt kosher deli.

We probably still hold some kind of record for having had one of the least glamorous weddings to take place in Manhattan in the past 30 years.

And you know what? Who cares?!

We and our folk-dancing friends had an absolute blast dancing our feet off. (We relented every 15 minutes or so, and put on one of my father's Big Band albums for the older guests. Benny Goodman really isn't half bad.) We were told that one guest commented that she hadn't had that much fun at a wedding in years.

And we paid for almost the entire wedding out of our own pockets. A friend was kind enough to lend me her wedding gown without even being asked, and we had another friend, who was a calligrapher, create the invitations, which were then photocopied onto store-bought stationery.

Here's a semi-legible photo of the inside of our wedding invitation:

We owed nothing to the bank, and almost nothing to our parents, either. We even had enough money, between what we'd saved and what we received in wedding presents, to visit Israel the following summer.

Obviously, a folk-dance reception isn't for everyone. But really, was it absolutely necessary for a certain bride of my acquaintance to pay $900--over a decade ago--just for flowers? Think about priorities when it's time for you or your daughter or son to get married. What's important, and what's not so important? Are flowers or centerpieces at every table really necessary, or is a donation to tzedakah (charity) in the name of the bride and groom more appropriate? Is it really necessary to spend $3,000 on a wedding gown, or would the bride prefer to spend more money on a hand-calligraphed ketubah (Jewish wedding contract) and less money on a one-time-only dress? Is it more important to the chattan (groom) and kallah (bride) to have a lavish dinner and less important to worry about music, or more important to them to have a simpler meal and a really good band? And while we're on the subject, whose wedding is this, anyway? Those of us hoping to see a child (or more) wed would do well to remember that it's the bride's and groom's simchah (happy occasion), not just the parents', and that, in the final analysis, the bride and groom should be the ones calling the shots. My parents wanted me to get married at their synagogue. I flatly refused, on the grounds that (a) it was my wedding and I wanted to be married by my rabbi in my shul, and (b) I knew that my parents and relatives, all of whom had cars, would trek to New York, but wasn't so sure that our friends, almost none of whom had cars (or tons of money) at the time, would schlep to Nowheresville, New Jersey.

(Major rant, and warning to our son: The one thing I find intolerable is the serving of alcoholic beverages at a pre-wedding-ceremony buffet--I think it's absolutely disgraceful for a person to take part in a serious religious ritual, even as an observer, when he or she is half-drunk, Simchat Torah and Purim perhaps excepted. People can save the l'chaims until the seudat mitzvah after the wedding ceremony.)

Bottom line, both figuratively and literally: Let the chattan and kallah choose what's important to them, and go for it.

We did.


Blogger Sheyna said...

Yes, it definitely can be done! Our wedding had about 75 guests and cost about $800. That includes dress, tux rental, cake, live music (a friend's klezmer band), food (plus a generous donation of day-old leftovers from a bar mitzvah - no one minded!), flowers, hall, ketubah, invitations, postage, and photographer (a student building his resume).

It wasn't the fairy tale blowout, but it was fun, memorable, low-stress and affordable (it all came out of our rather shallow pockets).

We've been to some REALLY expensive Jewish weddings through our shul, and what's interesting is that while people remember the great spread of food, when they start telling the fun & funny stories (hey, remember when we...), most of them were from OUR wedding.

I have photos of rabbis playing jump rope (many linen napkins tied together) and joining others to play "bulls" charging at waving napkins.

It was all alcohol-free. Just a group of people with an adorably demented sense of humor!

Wed Jan 31, 01:19:00 AM 2007  
Blogger Jack Steiner said...

That sounds nice.

Wed Jan 31, 11:25:00 AM 2007  
Blogger torontopearl said...

I like your logic -- fun and tasteful...not going broke over a few hours of celebration! As has been said before, it's only one day OF THE REST OF YOUR LIVES -- it's those many days that follow the wedding day that have the most impact.

We chose tasteful and practical for our wedding 13+ years ago. We're still that way.

Wed Jan 31, 10:27:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Indeed, that really does sound nice. Do-it-yourself weddings can be a lot of fun.

I think we probably raised some eyebrows by serving only (kosher m'vushal) wine at our wedding. We figured, "*we* don't drink much, our *families* don't drink much, so who are we buying booze for?" Sheyna, you and your husband probably raised some eyebrows, also, going totally alcohol-free. There's something to be said for a party that one actually *remembers.* :)

"As has been said before, it's only one day OF THE REST OF YOUR LIVES -- it's those many days that follow the wedding day that have the most impact." Amen to that, TorontoPearl.

Wed Jan 31, 10:34:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

I think we had the same idea for ours, and if I had it to do over again, there are some places could have cut (the DJ that only 6 people danced to, since the rest of us were out playing croquet on the lawns), but only a few of them. We paid for our own outfits and the commissioned ketubah, and parents paid for the location, amenities, and food - in other words, we each paid for what was important to each of us. There were good compromises, like serving afternoon tea instead of a full dinner, and choosing a neutral location. If we'd had enough friends and family in the area I might have done what a friend did and have a potluck - now THAT was a feast! But obviously, only if everyone is comfortable eating each other's food.

Fri Feb 02, 03:05:00 PM 2007  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Tea and croquet? Tzipporah, your wedding must have been a real picnic. :) Glad you enjoyed.

Sun Feb 04, 03:55:00 PM 2007  

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