In the past three months, my husband and I have married off two nephews and a niece. Mazel tov!
Only 8 years ago, my husband’s youngest brother and my youngest sister got married (not to each other), only a week apart, marking the end of an era. You see, my husband is the oldest in his family and I am the second-oldest in mine. Ours was the first wedding in both families, back in 1993, kicking off two decades of weddings for his brothers and sisters and mine. 2013 marked the end of that era.
Now we have squarely, in the space of less than a decade, moved up a generation, from “brother of the groom” and “sister of the bride” to the aunt and uncle of the newlyweds, starting with my brother’s kids a few years ago.
It’s different. Still terribly exciting of course, just different. I did my own makeup. Picked my own dress. Didn’t need to come early for pictures. Not every aunt and uncle comes to every niece and nephew’s wedding. In our community, with large families being the norm, thank God, that’s just not possible.
Covid showed us that you actually can get married without the “Big Fat Orthodox Wedding”—our son and daughter-in-law did, last year, with 20 people in our backyard. It took some time for my brain to process that they were, in fact, married, without the bells, whistles, and accoutrements normally associated with our family affairs.
But I’ll confess, the big fat weddings are just so much fun. Reuniting with all our cousins, participating in the solemn ceremony of the chuppah, the sheer joy of the dancing. Participating in three of these, as aunt and uncle, in a short span of time, has given us a certain aerial view that I had not had prior.
The Jewish wedding is a study in the vast sea of emotions a human being can experience.
The surprise, first, in learning an engagement was imminent. The anticipation leading up to the nuptials: the planning, shopping, travel. The day of, getting dressed, doing our hair and makeup (women, an hour) and getting a suit and tie ready (men, five minutes). The meeting and greeting relatives and friends and chatting in shared excitement. The heartfelt blessings exchanged between bride, groom and guests. The joy of the “badeken,” when the groom is danced in after not having seen his bride for a week. The solemnity and sacredness of the chuppah ceremony. The explosion of excitement after the glass is broken. And then, the dancing, celebrating a new couple, a new Jewish home, a new family ripe with potential and possibility.
Actually, it’s genius.
The Jewish wedding gives voice to all the emotions we are already feeling as we join two human beings choosing to tie their lives together forever within the context of Jewish faith and law. Getting married is a huge responsibility: to share, to care, to safeguard. To love, to listen, to let go. To commit, to communicate, to compromise.
And there’s a lot of emotion around that. Joy. Fear. Hope. Love. Anxiety. Solidarity. Connection. The wedding releases them all. Together. With loved ones. Shoulder to shoulder. We send the couple off, not into the sunset, but into real life, with the power of our love and with the strength of family and community.
Mazel tov—may the goodness flow for them, and for all the newlyweds!