I am so happy, I cannot begin to describe how in words. Jewish weddings are indeed a wondrous occasion, filled with lots of joy, happiness, and really good food like everyone says. And for a fact, I would not have attended my own wedding if the food did not meet our collective standards; both my wife Ashley and I are well-known Chicago foodies.
Now that I have been through my own Jewish wedding, I thought I’d share just a few select words of wisdom and guidance to anyone that has not experienced a Jewish wedding, or is about to experience one of their own for the first time.
Tip: When invited to a Jewish wedding, get excited!
Next to a world championship, a Jewish wedding is one of the most hyped-up events of a Jewish person’s life, and rightfully so. Did you know that tradition dictates the bride and groom trump the bar or bat mitzvah on the day of their aufruf (celebration of the bride and groom on the Shabbat before the wedding)? This holy union is so important and so holy, it literally steals the limelight from anything else going on at that time. It’s not meant to be for selfish reasons, only to recognize and validate God and the spiritual union of two souls into one. As you will see in the beautiful wedding ceremony, the couple establishes a house of their own and joins their souls together, linking themselves to thousands of years of tradition. Pretty big deal for anyone who’s witnessing or part of it. As an observer, you need not worry about doing anything except smile, say “mazel tov,” and celebrate!
Tip: Thoughtfulness goes a long way.
Yes, the couple will probably get a chance to hear you thank them in person for being invited to the wedding—if they ever get a moment from the hullabaloo. Even so, a thoughtful written note in your wedding card will mean a lot, and will be cherished long after the wedding has come and gone. Also, be sure to find your way to the couple at some point during the event. They may make their rounds, but keep in mind that they are overwhelmed with joy and happiness. Dance with them during the horah (celebratory Jewish dance), toast them when they walk by, and sign the guestbook.
Tip: Compliment and thank parents from both sides.
You may or may not know that Jewish weddings are typically hosted by the parents of the bride, while traditionally the parents of the groom host the brunch the morning after. Lately, Jewish weddings have been accompanied by a rehearsal dinner, typically hosted by the parents of the groom, where they are able to welcome family and out-of-town guests and share in the wedding celebration. They choose the place, food, entertainment, and speeches. It’s now a very important part of the wedding experience, even though not everyone invited gets to attend. But whether or not you are invited to the rehearsal dinner, make sure to pay homage to the groom’s family. They will appreciate it greatly and will add to their already overflowing nachas (pride and joy).
Tip: Celebrate and par-tay!
This is the most important tip I can give you. For the wedding couple and family, it’s tough to deal with all the pressure that comes with planning and organizing the wedding, but once the ceremony is done, it’s time to let off that steam! For the wedding attendees, it is a mitzvah (good deed) to partake in the celebration of a Jewish wedding. If you’re not a drinker, don’t worry—you can get buzzed on all the sugar from the sweet table or dance until you’re dizzy. Enjoy the ceremony, give the bride lots of attention and compliments during the reception, and have a good time. It’s mandatory.
And grooms—don’t forget to kiss the bride, and don’t lose the ring!
To married life! L’chaim!
Ari Moffic Silver, who lives in Chicago, is a Jewish educator, bar/bat mitzvah tutor, and a freelance writer for Oy!Chicago and The Jewish Daily Forward.