The marriage ceremony was in the afternoon, held outside near the water on the lawn of the beautiful Alderbrook resort, the view of the Olympic Mountains and Hood Canal almost as stunning as the bride and groom. (Almost. I need to mention the bride is my husband’s little sister, and her dimples-to-die-for inherited from their father could be seen by all as they stood and faced each other.) As the besotted couple engaged in their marriage ceremony in the bower of the chuppah, (the traditional Jewish wedding canopy) the guests sat baking in the sun in their formal wear – lots of blacks, and tuxes and woolen suits, and all the men in yamakas (or yarmulkes, but I’m going with the no-doubt bastardization just so the non-Jews know how to pronounce it). The bright orange hand fans provided were flitting like butterflies (or as the bride used to say when she was about 4, ‘flutterbys’) in various degrees of flight; some frantic, some loopy and lazy, some barely moving in a daze from the heat, Zen-like. Wasps were attracted to our saltiness, and I secretly hoped one would land on a neck or bare shoulder in front of me so I could stun it with a flick of my fan, an amazing ninja move that would make me The Heroine of Aisle Two. If we weren’t actually crying from being moved by the rabbi’s sincere tenor intonations, or the way the groom’s eyes never left his bride, or the amazing, intimate essays they wrote for one another further professing their love, we looked as if we were, as we all lifted our sunglasses to wipe away the rivulets of sweat streaking down our faces. At one point I felt a large dollop of moisture on my spine where I was amazed there was enough space in my dress for it to be able to move. As I concentrated on the lovely words the rabbi was reading I multi-tasked, following the drip’s progress down my back where it slipped over a particularly itchy mosquito bite I’d received the previous evening before being absorbed by my dress somewhere around my tailbone. The backs of my knees were gushing, and I was sure there was a pool forming beneath my chair, so that when I stood I would sink into a quicksand of Lori-sweat and sandy grass.
After the I-do’s were declared – followed perfectly by the husband and wife’s Corgi’s joyous bark of approval – and the glass was smashed (which I heard, rather than saw, as the photographer knelt in front to capture it, blocking the view for the bride’s side; not to complain, but oy vey!), I peeled my thighs from my chair and scrambled for the shade. Drinks followed, and then a delicious dinner sprinkled with heartfelt toasts, and heartier Mazel Tovs and Lechaims. The groom’s grandfather was quoted as saying “I feel like a rich man tonight,” and indeed, I believe we were all feeling that way. There were tears of the sincere variety, there was laughter, and afterwards there was dancing.
Oh the dancing! We were summoned inside for the first dance, which morphed into a hora, (which is not quite like this, but how cool, yes?), all with traditional Jewish wedding music, and I suddenly found myself clasping hands in a group encircling the bride and groom, and we were off! Around and around we went, rushing forward arms raised, and back, breaking the circle to add more revelers, or shake off the tired or thirsty ones like a friendly crack-the-whip game. Soon, there were the chair rides, as I liked to call them, but officially part of the hora as well, and really a chair ‘dance,’ where first the bride, then the groom were hoisted into the air by assorted virile young men, yamakas still in place, suit jackets long stripped off, and bobbed up and down to cheers and more dancing. Next came the bride’s mother, then father, then the groom’s mother, then father, then my husband’s oldest brother who walked the bride down the aisle; all bucking in the air! I loved it all! This was how weddings are supposed to be! A raucous celebration of love and joy; all smiles and laughter. I was hoping I could have a ride, but saw the men were tired, and rightfully so, so I gave them a break and suppressed my desire of a Jewish rodeo fantasy. Look ma, no hands!
There was a moment where the groom dropped to the ground and started to do the Hopak, what I always thought of as the Cossack Dance, where you cross your arms and kick your legs out in front of you while squatting, Fiddler on the Roof-style, or like the soldiers in the Nutcracker. I used to pride myself on being able to do this rather athletic dance as a kid, and even recall a quick version in my kitchen not many years ago, and my dancing soul was piqued as I stomped and clapped and the groom kicked away. I wanted to join in. But just as the thought entered my slightly drunken head, I rolled my ankle. Simply standing there, in my retro 40s-look chunky heels. I tried to shake it off, and limped out of the room to a quieter zone, where the guest book lay open next to a pile of the shining white guest yamakas. I may have been saved from the embarrassment of my wee, thick, late-fifties legs kicking out from beneath my Calvin Klein dress like a dwarf Cossack before I fell back on my chastened butt, but there was nothing stopping me from clipping a couple yamakas onto said dress over my breasts like a perfect-fitting bra, posing for a couple pictures, and dashing about secretively on my swollen ankle (can that really be done?) showing them to select people to make them laugh while avoiding the groom’s very Jewish mother. As I like to say, I haven’t been struck by lightening yet.
In the last year I’ve been to three different weddings/commitment ceremonies: A church wedding, a pagan hand-fasting ceremony (also a first!), and this last weekend the Jewish wedding. All were beautiful, and different in certain ways, but there was one common denominator: that look exchanged between the bride and groom as they faced each other, holding hands. We, the friends and family, didn’t exist to them. There was no minister, spiritual priestess, or rabbi near them, leading them through the ritual. Just each other, and a deep, pure love that was almost too intimate to observe. Thank you my friends, for sharing your moments. Mazel Tov!