East Coast Meets Midwest: Ryan and Lisa’s Wedding Blog Introduction

Lisa and Ryan

Ryan and Lisa at Cincinnati Museum Center

Welcome. Shalom. My name is Ryan Mount and I am a great story teller, but as far as writing goes, this is new ground. Ring-bear with me while I try to introduce myself. (Please excuse the How I Met Your Mother jokes and references; it has been a favorite of Lisa, my fiancé, and became a favorite of mine. I also tend to think I have a great How I Met Your Mother story, but that post is for another time.)

My name is Ryan and as you can see I am a terrible at telling jokes, a self-proclaimed great story teller, and I am getting married in November to my fiancé Lisa. This blog is hopefully going to be an adventure of how a Jewish kid born and raised on the east coast got mixed up with, fell in love with and is now planning an interfaith wedding with an Ohio native and soul mate, Lisa.

Lisa was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio (right outside of Detroit, which I mention because I never heard of Toledo, before I met Lisa). She has been a Cincinnati area native for 12-13 years and lived here her entire adult life. Lisa was raised in a tight knit Polish neighborhood by mainly her father and her extended family. She has an older sister who is seven years older than her who also happens to be getting re-married one month after our upcoming wedding. Overall, her family dynamic is much different than my own and it certainly brings up a lot of conversation during our wedding planning. Lisa went through 12 years of Catholic School and church was a strong part of her young life.

I was born and raised in a small suburb of New Jersey called Westampton, but if you ask me where I am from the answer is always, “Philly.” I come from an interfaith home where Dad was raised Catholic and Mom was raised Jewish, but neither practice. Christmas was always about Santa and Easter was always about the giant bunny. Jewish holidays stood as a staple of tradition, like Pesach/Passover, but no one kept kosher during it. We celebrated Hanukkah, which would end up growing to be one of the most important parts of my spiritual development as a Jew, but I would not come to realize that until much later. I have two sisters, one nine years younger, and one two-and-a-half years older, who was the definition of Bridezilla and is making herself into Wedding Guest-zilla. Somehow in the middle of all this non-practice growing up, I endured some personal hardships and continue to grow spiritually in the Jewish religion. I do not know if I classify myself as devout, but am a Friday night attendee of Temple and pray/meditate every day.

Who are we? (That is actually a sports chant Lisa and I both say every Tues/Thurs/Sun.) You see now we both live in Cincinnati, and initially met through the sport of Roller Derby. We are both skaters and each other’s coaches for our teams. I am a Jewish professional working for the Federation system and she works for a custom box making company in Northern Kentucky.

Our wedding date is November 8, 2014. This blog will explore more about our relationship, our upcoming wedding plans and he challenges it takes to make a true interfaith wedding. We are striving for something more than just a Jewish wedding in a chapel (which right now is actually the plan). It is not just about a merging of two faiths, but also two very different cultures meshing together and hoping for a lot of laughs and only tears of happiness. So again, welcome and shalom.

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Food Glorious Food…

Last weekend we met with the caterer to finalize the menu and taste some of the dishes we had picked for our wedding. We decided a while ago that we would serve dinner ‘family style’ with large platters of each dish placed on each table, instead of individual plates or buffet. We choose to serve the meal this way for two main reasons: one is because we think it goes well with the aesthetic of our backyard themed wedding, and the other is simply because we don’t have room in the backyard for a buffet table.

Once we nailed down the manner in which we would serve the meal, picking the dishes proved a bit more challenging. Interestingly enough, the meeting with the caterer proved reminiscent of Chris’s post last week about how “Jewish” our wedding is going to be. The caterer was very sensitive to potential religious restrictions and was very upfront about all of the ingredients in each dish. While we are not serving a Kosher meal, we will have some guests who keep Kosher and want to make the meal accessible to those individuals. It would have been quite expensive to serve a fully Kosher meal so we decided we would serve a ‘Kosher style’ meal, meaning no shellfish, pork, or milk and meat together–likely disappointing Chris’s Uncle Bobby who had requested both scallops wrapped in bacon and escargot. Sorry Bobby!

After the serving style and food accommodations were decided it was time to choose the actual menu. This was the fun part! The caterer choose for us to taste a variety of appetizers including homemade hummus and baba ganoush with pita chips, a Caprese salad, beef satay, mini quiches, and roasted zucchini and summer squash. We loved them all and chose to serve each one. For the salad course we picked a spring salad with strawberries, goat cheese, and a pomegranate and blood orange dressing (my mouth is watering just thinking about this salad). For the main course we decided on two meat dishes–salmon with a spicy avocado sauce and chicken piccata–and green beans, wild rice, and a tortellini salad on the side. We were utterly pleased with each dish we tried and even more impressed with the effort the caterer showed us by serving Hamentashen for dessert! He also ordered fresh baked Challah from a bakery in Brookline that we will be serving on each table.

Now…all we can hope for is to actually get to eat some of it!

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When did I know Sam was “the one”?

Just like all beginning relationships, I had plenty of questions. “Will he still like me if I eat three burgers for dinner?” “Will my parents and siblings like him?” “Will his parents and siblings like me?” “Will we get along with each other’s friends?” “Will he be ok with my Catholicism?” At first, these questions bugged me. I had doubts that the relationship wouldn’t last because we are so different. However, after talking it over with my friends, something clicked. Instead of focusing on the fact that we were different, I began to embrace it.

I started sharing my hobbies with Sam. When I was with Sam, I experienced things differently than when I was with my other friends. After going to the theater with my girlfriends, we would talk about the rehearsal process, technical elements, and cast and crew. Seeing the exact same show with Sam, we would talk about how we related to the characters and how the acting moved the story along. Sam also started sharing his love of concerts and brewing with me, and introduced me to Judaism.

I began going to synagogue with Sam a few months into our relationship, and it was confusing at first. The service was completely different from the Catholic Mass, and it didn’t help that I didn’t understand Hebrew. After attending a few more services with Sam, I started researching the holidays and cultures and began to find joy in the ways that the Jewish holidays could benefit me personally or spiritually. Creating a menu for Passover became an exciting search, between my friends and I, to experiment with different ingredients within the dietary restrictions mandated during the holiday.

Sam and I started turning activities into exciting adventures.  Over the past two years we have attended numerous family holiday celebrations; the National Homebrew Conference, several beer festivals, numerous Synagogue events, Philadelphia Folk Festival, and other concerts; stewarded a mead (honey wine) competition; road tripped to Chicago (twice), Boston, and Minnesota; held a game marathon during the two-week black out of Super Storm Sandy; and celebrated a handful of friends’ interfaith/intercultural weddings.

Beer makes the holidays bearable.

Sam and Anne (2013)

So when did I know that Sam was the “one”? The answer is three-fold:

  • When I found that life is more fascinating with Sam than without him,
  • When being with him, no matter what we are doing, brings sheer happiness and joy, and
  • When I realized that I am comfortable with myself around Sam and being with Sam is helping me to grow as an individual.

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Wedding Season

Planning a wedding is difficult. Sam and I are trying to juggle all of our vendors. However, there is one vendor that we are not worried about at all: the florist.

A Flowerful Events designer creating a floral art installation

I work for an event production company that specializes in weddings. Flowerful Events has agreed to help us with our wedding décor and flowers. The designers not only create bouquets and centerpieces, but also custom pieces such as a butterfly-themed chuppah and an 8’ tall Eiffel Tower sculpture as place card table decor. Sam and I do not need an 8’ Eiffel Tower for our wedding; however, we are adding little touches to make the décor reflect who we are. We have given the designers a few ideas about our décor and they are excited to create something a little different for us. The designers have been trying to finish most of the prototypes before the start of wedding season, which runs from April to October. Because our wedding is at the end of wedding season, our prototype will be finished in July.

At any given time, I am dealing with 80+ events. Some of our clients are mothers planning their child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah or housewives planning a social gathering, but most of our events are weddings. All of our wedding clients are in various stages of the planning process, from recently-engaged brides to brides getting married next week. In addition to clients, I am also juggling clients’ vendors (especially their venues and event planners) and our supply vendors. We need to purchase, rent, or build every item for every event. This includes counting and ordering hundreds (and thousands) of individual flower stems, candles and vases; renting linens, lighting fixtures and trucks; and buying batteries, paint, oasis foam, wire, and tape.

It is very easy to get lost in the overwhelming sea of wedding information. There are hundreds of little details to keep organized. Each detail plays a part in the décor that we bring into that specific venue. The color of the venue’s walls will help us determine the color of the uplighting. The number of chair rows or pews at the ceremony affect the number of chair/pew arrangements and the type of chair or pew factors into how we can attach the décor. Even the ceremony flooring is taken into consideration. If the aisle runner is thin on a wooden floor, it could be a tripping hazard.

Being immersed in this business on a daily basis has helped me navigate my own wedding planning. For example, when a client emails me her inspiration board, I may add some of their images to my own inspiration board. I may use a wedding planner’s day-of timeline as a reference to create my own day-of timeline. When I ask the client the quantity and size of her tables, I am jotting down a reminder to get that information for myself. While the clients and I are at a walk-through of a venue, I am envisioning my venue and where certain items will be placed.

Our wedding is at the end of wedding season. I have planned it perfectly that the thick of wedding season will be right when Sam and I are knee deep in our own plans. This may sound daunting to some people, but I find it exciting!

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Are you having a Jewish wedding?

“Are You Having a Jewish Wedding?” is a question that I seem to field a lot from friends of mine. I’m not sure why, but initially this kind of bothered me. “No, it’s going to be a fusion,” I’d reply, somewhat annoyed. I’ve come to realize that I was concerned because the question seemed to disregard my faith, my religious background. I was worried that people would assume that Dana’s faith was the prominent one, much the same as I used to get a little anxious when people would (jokingly) ask me if I was converting.

The more I thought about it, however, the more things I came to realize about the question. First, it generally came from non-Jewish friends of mine, whose exposure to Jewish customs was limited to pop culture representations. They weren’t asking whether Dana and I would sign a Ketubah or be married under a Chuppah. They didn’t want to know who would be reading the 7 blessings or if we would partake in Yichud following the ceremony. They wanted to know if I’d be stomping on a glass and getting picked up in a chair. A resounding “Yes” to both of those, for the record.

Secondly, I realized that I couldn’t accurately answer the question “What is a Catholic wedding?” Aside from being in a church, which wasn’t happening, and sharing Communion, which is also a no-go, a Catholic wedding doesn’t have much to set itself apart. Sure, I want my uncle, who is a Jesuit priest, to be involved in some capacity, and there are a couple of beautiful readings from the New Testament that I would like included, but other than that I am perfectly content to let the ceremony take shape as it will. The fact is that the Jewish faith has more customs and traditions for weddings, and I have to say that I am enamored by many of them.

I’ve been to a few Jewish weddings with Dana now, and one wedding between a Jewish woman and a lapsed Catholic that was probably the most similar in appearance to what ours will be. Aside from the breaking of the glass and the Hora, I love the symbolism of a Chuppah. Dana’s mom has requested various articles of clothing from both of our large extended families and is quilting them together to make our Chuppah. We will be married beneath the symbolic shelter of their love and support, and will keep this quilt throughout our lives together. I am also always struck by the power of the 7 blessings. We haven’t determined exactly what they will sound like or who will read them, but it does strike us as an opportunity to get many more people involved in the ceremony. Our wedding parties being limited to just my brother as best man and her sister as maid of honor, this is a great opportunity for other people to take on an important role. More than that, I have been moved by the obvious emotion shown by everyone who reads one of the blessings, and the intimacy it adds to the ceremony. Another element I am excited about is the Yichud. The interfaith couple I mentioned before introduced me to this concept, and I like the idea of taking a little bit of time after the ceremony to just be together, to celebrate our love and our union before we take the stage and start glad-handing during the reception.

A final element that I am excited about is the Ketubah. The same interfaith couple made their own contract which featured a beautiful drawing by the groom, and this is something I am interested in doing as well. I’m thinking about drawing a picture of a tree and some birds in flight, echoing a quote that my mom has hanging on the wall in her house, “There are only two lasting bequeaths we can hope to give our children: one is roots, the other wings.” I like to think that this is a good foundation to build a marriage upon, the idea of stability and freedom as equal elements. I know that the roots of our marriage are deeply embedded in our families, and we will try to honor them both by including elements of their religious faiths in our wedding ceremony. Exactly what it will look like, we’re not sure yet, but we know that it will be special and that it will be us.

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A Beautiful Shower

Since Chris and I have been planning our wedding for so long, it’s strange to think that it will actually happen–and soon! This weekend really put it into perspective how close it is as my bridal shower was this past Sunday. It was held in my hometown, at the home of a very good family friend. Four of my mom’s friends hosted the shower and it was amazing. They truly thought of every detail and made sure the women from both sides of our families felt included.As we’ve mentioned many times before, both of our families are large. So, as one may imagine, the shower was quite crowded with about 50 in all of family and friends–most of whom were meeting for the first time. The event began with lunch and schmoozing. After we ate everyone gathered in the living room to embarrass me (in the most loving way possible) with a quiz about Chris.

Then, some members from both families stood up and spoke. This part was so touching. My aunt Liz spoke about my grandmother, who passed 5 years ago, and how much she would have loved Chris. A few of Chris’ aunts read poems or blessings. My sister, who lives in Israel, sent something for my mom to read for her, and Chris’ sister, who lives in England, sent something for Chris’ mom, Judi, to read. Then, for the big finale, both my mom and Judi said a few words, both of which brought me to tears. Chris’ mom read the following poem:

A Mother’s Prayer

I prayed for you
Before I ever met you
And once I saw you
I knew I would never forget you.

There was something about you
That was special and rare
But I didn’t know yet
That you were the answer to my prayer.

You were the answer to the prayer
For the one my son would wed
I prayed for you from the time he was born
And this is where my prayers led.

I prayed for your health
Health of body, soul and spirit
And I knew always in my heart
That God, our Father, would hear it.

And now I know just who you are
And how you found your way
Into our hearts and homes and lives
And to your wedding day.

I have put together this little poem
To show you how much we care
How proud we are to celebrate together
The answer to a mother’s prayer.

Now…if that doesn’t bring you to tears, I don’t know what will! My mom also brought the place to tears, but mostly through laughter. She teased about how the key to a successful marriage is BreatheRight Strips and how it’s best to bake goodies when your children aren’t home so you can lick the batter, ha! Now I know why there was always banana bread and brownies around when I got home from school!

I truly felt like the luckiest person in the world, not only for the amazing gifts we got (!!!) but also for the immense amount of love that surrounded Chris and I. We are truly blessed.

110 days to the wedding!

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Fasting on Your Wedding Day

By Sam Goodman

Ash Wednesday fell this past week.  The holiday marks the beginning of Lent, a period of penance, fasting, and abstinence in the Catholic faith, as well as many other Christian denominations. Ash Wednesday is one of the two days during the liturgical year that Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 observe a fast; the other is Good Friday (which happens to fall on Anne’s birthday this year).

My first introduction to the concept of a Catholic fast was Ash Wednesday two years ago, when Anne and I had been dating for only a few months.  She had told me that she was fasting, but had asked me to have dinner with her that night. I thought that was strange, and upon further questioning found out that a Catholic fast means partaking in only one full meal throughout the course of the day.  Also, during the Lenten season (between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday, the day before Easter), it is customary to abstain from a pleasurable activity.  Among the most common are giving up sweets or Facebook.  Alternatively, a Catholic could also consciously perform an action throughout the Lenten season to bring himself or herself closer to God, such as pray more often, forgive more easily, or complain less frequently.  Finally, during Fridays in Lent, Catholics do not eat meat.  As with kashrut, in which it is considered pareve (neither dairy nor meat), fish is not considered meat for the purposes of the Lenten abstention.

Diana (Sam’s sister), Stacey (Sam’s sister), Anne, and Sam on Yom Kippur 2013

The two most well-known Jewish fast days (Yom Kippur, one of the “high holidays”, and Tisha B’Av, the date commemorating the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem) require abstinence from not only food and drink, but also washing, applying perfumes, wearing leather shoes, and engaging in sexual relations.  These fasts last 25 hours, and take place from sundown to sundown during the holiday.  For those of you who’ve never tried it, it can be really tough to go without anything to eat or drink for a full day!

I bring this up on the Wedding Blog because it is traditional for Ashkenazic Jews to fast from sunrise until after the ceremony on their wedding day.  This is because the sins of the bride and groom are forgiven as they begin their new life together. In that way, the wedding functions like Yom Kippur, one of the most holy days in the Jewish calendar.  I intend to uphold this tradition during our wedding, fasting from sunrise until our Yichud, a ritual in which the bride and groom are secluded in a private room for about 15 minutes immediately following the conclusion of the wedding ceremony.

Our wedding is less than two weeks after Yom Kippur.  Normally I’d be concerned about my ability to endure two fasts in such quick succession, but this is one of the reasons why our ceremony will be over at 4:30pm!  In any case, I’m looking forward to a pair of meaningful fasts in the month of October.

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The Perfect Veil

My mom & dad on their wedding day with my mom's parents

My mom gave me her wedding veil: a simple veil that she had made for her wedding. In my head, I had always wanted a veil, but I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t know if it was a religious symbol or a fashion statement. I also was unsure of the “proper” way to wear the veil. Does the size and shape matter?  Wanting to discover more, I did a little research in what the veil means, in both Judaism and Christianity.

 
In Catholicism, the veil is a reminder of the white dress worn at Baptism and First Holy Communion, which signify the grace of the Holy Spirit. The waters of baptism symbolize the water of death and the marriage veil reminds the bride that she is entering into a new life with her spouse.  Nuns wear veils as a reminder that they are the bride of Christ and they are entering a new life with Christ.

Before the wedding veil was introduced, Christian brides wore a crown of twigs to symbolize the sacrifices in marriage. Jesus, the Ultimate Sacrifice, wore a crown of thorns on the cross. The moment Jesus died, the veil between the Holy of Holies and the Inner Sanctuary of the Temple was torn. A veil was used to shield sacred things, such as a chalice, tabernacle, or consecrated hosts, “from the eyes of sinful men”. When the Temple veil was torn, the separation between God and Man was removed, now anyone enter the Holy of Holies and come in direct communication with God. When the wedding veil is removed during the marriage ceremony, the Christian bride is entering in a direct communication with God through the sacrament of marriage.

During the wedding the bride and groom are in an elevated state and are closer to God, the veil gives them a little privacy and covers the light, which emanates from the bride. Wearing a veil to shield against Divine light is also referred to when Moses received the Commandments. He placed a veil over his face to talk to the people in order to filter the Divine glare. The veil is also a reminder of the Veil of the Virgin Mary and her meekness, humility, submission and obedience to God. The wedding veil acknowledges the bride’s submission to her husband, as the head of the household.

Traditionally, a Jewish bride wears the veil until she meets the groom under the chuppah, thus displaying her complete willingness to enter into marriage and her absolute trust that she is marrying the right man. In arranged marriages, the bride wore a red or yellow veil to conceal her completely and the colors were thought to ward off the evil spirits. The veil covers her face completely until just before the end of the wedding ceremony, when they are legally married according to Jewish law, then the groom lifts the veil as a way of consummating the marriage. This act of unveiling is usually directly before “you may kiss the bride”.

This unveiling of the bride has many reasons behind it. The most common reason is to make sure that the groom is marrying the right person. In Genesis, Jacob’s father-in-law tricked him into marrying Leah instead of Rachel. When the groom lifts the veil, this is the first time, that he sees the bride and the veil symbolizes that the groom is marrying her for her inner beauty and her beauty is only reserved for the groom alone.

The shape and size of the veil has evolved over time. In the Victorian Era the weight, length and quality of the wedding veil was a sign of social status.  The length of the veil also determined the location of marriage. A chapel veil was worn in smaller churches and the veil extended only two yards from the headpiece, where as a Cathedral veil flows for three and a half yards from the headpiece to be worn in a grand Cathedral. Modern veils are no longer a sign of social status, or purity but have become more of a fashion statement and a bridal accessory. Just like all of the other wedding decisions, modern brides can choose what they would like their veil to look like and symbolize.

To me, my veil represents the beauty of my mom, who I look up to and admire. It is also a symbol of my own Christianity and beginning my new life with a Jewish spouse.

 

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Will We Raise a Future Olympian?

child skiingAs the Winter Olympics have been consuming our TV watching the past few weeks, Chris and I have been talking about our future children–particularly, our future children and sports. Will we raise a future Olympic athlete? Possibly, but probably not. We are both relatively athletic and played sports as children; Chris was an avid hockey player through high school and I took up rowing in high school and stuck with it through college.

I often ask myself how people get into sports in the first place (this came up often while watching many of the sliding events at the Olympics–how does one become a skeleton competitor?!) I imagine children are first exposed to the sports their parents’ were (or still are) involved with and then make choices from there. Of course, Chris is already talking about buying our future first child a pair of hockey skates, and I know I’d love my children to experience the lifelong friendships and physically active lifestyle I attribute to my years as a rower.  We both enjoy skiing and would surely expose our children to that at an early age. But…the rest is really up to them.

This made us think about how in many respects, religion parallels athletics, or really any interest that can be passed on from a parent. A child’s first exposure to religion is through their parents and the religion(s) they practice. Clearly this is more complicated when parents practice different religions, as we do. Chris and I do not happen to be the type of believers who find Judaism and Catholicism mutually exclusive, but we know that there are many among both faith groups who would say that you must pick a side.

So what do we do? Try to expose our children equally to both faiths and wait and see which they choose? Will our children have Bar or Bat Mitzvahs or first communions and confirmations? Is it possible for them to choose to practice both? We do not really know the answer to these questions, and in fact think that our kids will be infinitely more qualified to address them. We do acknowledge that exposing our children to our faiths will require us to make some changes, but we can’t exactly foresee what this will mean. Ultimately the best we can hope for is to raise our children with the values our religions have taught us; kindness, caring, loyalty, honesty, and generosity. And if they end up competing at the Olympics one day, we’ll be there to cheer them on.

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The Whole Package

Sam and I couldn’t be more different. Sam enjoys heavy metal rock music. I like classic rock, jazz, folk and NPR. Sam gets lost in each musical component- the percussion, the vocals, the guitar etc, whereas my music puts Sam to sleep. I use my music to cheer me up, get me going, and to keep me company at work.

I work in the event industry and my background is in arts management. Sam, on the other hand, works in pharmaceuticals and his background in engineering, physics, and computer science. Our backgrounds and training have taught us to think differently about problems, situations, and the world around us. Sam is very logical, he concludes that the fastest way from point A to B is a straight line and A plus B always equals C. My brain doesn’t function that way. The fastest way from point A to B may not be the best way and A plus B may equal purple or square or dog.

Sam likes sleeping in; I am an early bird. Sam was born in Pennsylvania; I was born in Minnesota. Sam has 2 siblings; I have 9.  Sam is Jewish; I am Catholic. I could go on and on listing the ways that Sam and I are different. Through all of these differences, we both understand that we love each other for the whole package.

I love Sam Goodman for the whole package!

I love Sam for his rock music, Pharmaceuticals, physics, logic, Judaism and all. Sam loves me for my NPR, arts background, Catholicism and everything.  We both understand that it is all of these elements combined that make up who we are.  If you were to take out any one of these elements Sam would be totally different and not the man that I love. If you were to take out the element of my religion, or family, I would be totally different and not the woman that Sam loves. You can’t say, “I love you except_________ (fill in the blank)” or “I would love you more if ___________”, because then you would be taking out little pieces of that person.

We love each other because of these differences. As we plan our wedding and our future together, we are learning that we can use our differences to balance out each other. I can help Sam see things from an arts management perspective; he can help me appreciate heavy metal rock music. I can learn about his Judaism and he can learn about my Catholicism. It is in learning, understanding, and loving ALL of these aspects of each other that will help us with our lives together and raising a family. I can just imagine, our future three year old reading the Wall Street Journal and teaching me about physics.

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