Video 3: Our first meeting with the Rabbi

In this video, Arel and I talk about meeting our rabbi, Rabbi Pepperstone (aka Rabbi P:). We spent 4 hours talking about the wedding and delved into other interesting topics. He was very open and answered all of our questions and made us feel confident about having a Jewish wedding with a mostly interfaith guest list.

Arel and I are both very happy with Rabbi Pepperstone leading our ceremony and we’re sure our families and friends will be just as content. He’s really easy to talk to, extremely knowledgeable and funny. We didn’t want to leave our meeting but we had to let him go home at some point.

I’m wondering: do most Jews choose their resident rabbi to officiate their wedding, or do they seek a rabbi elsewhere? Care to share? Love to hear your thoughts:)

Who are we? Arel and Yolanda introduce themselves

Hi everyone!

Check out me (Yolanda) and my fiance Arel as we introduce ourselves via our first vlog (video blog) and hear a little bit about your story and upcoming wedding plans. We’re very excited about this journey and look forward to learning more about Judaism as we figure out how to have a Jewish wedding with a mostly interfaith guest list.

We would love to hear from all of you out there. Please comment and show us some love or give your opinion. This wedding is a work in progress and we are eager to hear from y’all.

-Yolanda:)

Introducing: Yolanda and Arel!

While Mia and Ethan are off enjoying their honeymoon (mazal tov again!), I’m excited to introduce a new couple to this blog:

Presenting, Yolanda and Arel! They’re eager to get going, blogging and vlogging (that’s video blogging) about their upcoming nuptials.

Don’t forget to update your RSS feeds, keep an eye on our tweets and Facebook posts and you won’t miss a single wedding blog post!

I’ll turn it over to them…

We did it! And so did I!

Ethan here, and the wedding is over!

We made it through an absolutely amazing weekend of festivities, had a beautiful ceremony and shared in so much love and joy that we are positively bursting.

Now that it is all over I am reflecting on some of the choices we made as a couple and myself as an individual regarding kashrut, Jewish dietary law.

A significant portion of my friends and family keep kosher to one extent or another, so we knew from the start that we had to accommodate that for all meals.  We made the simple choice for the reception to go vegetarian because our venue had non-kosher in-house catering.  This turned out great since they had superb chefs who were able to come up with three unique, creative and tasty entree options for guests to choose from.

I, however, am a meat lover so we managed to get a kosher caterer for both a Shabbat dinner (for the family that doesn’t travel on the Sabbath) and the rehearsal dinner on Saturday night.  It wasn’t easy to find one that was affordable because kosher is such a rare and expensive commodity, but in the end we were very happy with the results and Mia was always willing to accommodate these needs and take on these costs without hesitation or objection.  Did I land a good one or what?

This is all by way of leading into the longer term thought processes about what to do as we move forward sharing a home where one of us was brought up keeping kosher and the other most definitely was not.

I have long internally debated how kosher I want to be.  Many people over the years have been asked by me about their practices and their reasoning behind it.  And in general the most compelling of reasons I’ve received for the practice in the modern era is the tying together of a community.  This is important to me, but my community isn’t just Jewish.  If I keep too strictly to the rules I start excluding people from my community since I won’t be able to eat in their homes and they won’t be able to bring food into mine.  Three quarters of our wedding party would be excluded if I kept to the extremes of kashrut.  That’s way further than I could ever go.  I want to maintain my identity, but also my flexibility.

It has been years since I’ve kept separate dishes for meat and dairy (though I separate for Passover), since that, to me, is just a silly anachronism.  But the other limitations are harder for me to let go, so I’m starting an experiment to see what happens and maybe in a few weeks I’ll have more to say.  I decided that for our honeymoon (in France, conveniently enough) I am taking an official kashrut hiatus.

This adventure has already begun as we marked the start of honeymoon with a pre-mini-moon for a night in Phoenix before returning to Boston for a week before leaving for France.  That night, at dinner, we were given a pair of complimentary seared scallops (with pancetta in the sauce too).  I hadn’t planned on starting yet, but we had declared this night part of the honeymoon so I sat and agonized for a minute or two.  And then, for the first time in my life (barring the accidental ham and cheese once when I was 5), I consciously and deliberately chose to eat the flesh of not one, but two un-kosher animals.

I’m not dead yet, but I’m still figuring out how I feel and how this will affect the life Mia and I are now building together.  WIsh me luck as the experiment continues.

How does one spell “Jewish Wedding Canopy”?

The people Ethan would playfully refer to as “punks” would say “J-E-W-I-S-H…” but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

One thing we noticed while on our whirlwind trip through Phoenix last week, talking to florists, planners, event location managers, caterers, and other sundry people involved in The Wedding Day, was that we just couldn’t come to agreement on how to spell Huppah.  There are just so many choices, Chuppah, Hupah, Huppah, Huppa, Chuppa….  Though some would probably argue that there is only one right way to do it, they better not be using the Roman alphabet.  Because there just isn’t standardization in transliteration.  Oh sure, some people have tried, and large groups of Jews choose to use one standard or another, but there just isn’t a universal.

This can cause a bit of a problem when dealing with people not familiar with all the variance.  If you use a spelling they’re not used to, then they might not understand what you’re talking about.  Certainly this problem is more prevalent in the modern age when so much is done via email and the internet, but trying to make arrangements from 2000 miles away doesn’t help either.

Fortunately we haven’t run into any major snafus because of the joys of transliteration, but there has been occasional minor confusion.

All that being said, we’re happy to report success in making major progress from our trip, and invitations are going out tomorrow.

On a related note, when we drafted our invitations we had included the Hebrew date, and had spelled out the English year “Two thousand and eleven,” as is often traditional in formal invitations.  We had kept the Hebrew date as a numeral and got a near universal reaction from people who reviewed it that that looked weird.  In the end we chose uniformity in numerals because spelling out “Fifty seven and seventy one” in addition to the above just took up way too much space.  So be on the lookout and keep it in mind for your big day.  It’s a minor detail, but one worth looking good.

Phoenix Here We Come, Phoenix Here We Are

This week, Ethan was freed from the bonds of the academic calendar (boy, finals are fun) and we near instantly picked up and flew out to Phoenix for a long weekend to taste, meet vendors and walk through venues for the upcoming wedding and associated events.

Our first stop (a mere hour and a half after our plane landed) was at Temple Chai in Scottsdale, where we had the pleasure of seeing where our Shabbat and rehearsal dinners will be.  It took a little imagination to picture our events taking place in Room Gimel (I believe named for being vaguely shaped like the Hebrew letter), given that it was set up for a blue and white, sports-themed bar mitzvah party.  But nonetheless the facilities were looking quite good and we’re confident that they will be treating us very well.  (Ethan has family who are members.)

Mia had an interesting revelation as she walked with Ethan and her parents into the hall: her folks were very concerned about whether they were dressed appropriately for this visit, and what the dress code would be for the actual dinners. This reminded Mia of when she first started attending services with Ethan and was really worried about fitting in and not being “offensive” somehow (not that she wears cutoffs and bustiers, of course!). She noted how relaxed she was as she encouraged her parents to trust Ethan’s assurances that they were just fine. (What a difference 2.5 years make: now she’s reassuring her parents rather than being reassured by Ethan.)

Meanwhile, back to the caterer… conveniently enough, the event we were watching get set up was being catered by the same company we were hoping to use for the dinners, and they were kind enough to let us sample some of their hors d’oeuvres to get a sense of their cooking.  It is pretty important for Ethan that we get a kosher caterer for the Shabbat dinner because he simply likes his meat and with a significant number of guests who keep kosher the rest of the weekend will have to be milchig (dairy).  So who could be more happy when the first waiter to come by brings out the traditional pigs in a blanket?  Mia found the concept of the non-dairy pastry wrapper to be quite novel too.  (Perhaps yet another indication of how she’s becoming accustomed to thinking about the kosher/non-kosher dynamic whenever she’s eating.)

So thus our weekend begins, tune in next week for more thrilling adventures from the desert.

How to make a Jewish art deco ring

Wow, has time flown or what?!?!? Ethan has been working full time plus taking classes toward a grad degree at night, which is like a second job, while Mia recently changed jobs and has been wedding planning at night….which is like a second job also!

Among many developments are the successful and laughter-filled meetings we have been having with our two officiants. One is the cantor at Ethan’s family’s shul who we love, the other is a long-time family friend of Mia’s. We have been very pleased by how naturally everything is coming together for our interfaith ceremony which will honor both of our heritages. (For those of you just starting to think about your interfaith ceremonies, we respectfully recommend checking out the options provided here on InterfaithFamily.com – what a resource! And we’re not just sayin’ that cuz we’re bloggin’ here – it’s true! We looked elsewhere!)

The other notable development (more exciting than cake and DJ selection and wedding gown fittings) is that we recently contracted a local jeweler to design and make our wedding bands. Supporting local businesses whenever possible, versus buying from chains, has been a major goal for us for all aspects of the wedding. We are thrilled to know that our rings won’t be mass produced in another country, and that we are supporting a local craftswoman.

When Ethan proposed to Mia, he surprised her with a vintage-style art deco ring that has marvelous elements in it that attract the admiration of everyone who sees them. We decided to mirror some of these elements in our wedding band for unity, artfully interspersed among the Hebrew lettering of the beautiful phrase, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”

In the interest of full disclosure, since this is a space dedicated to sharing some of the trials and tribulations of interfaith relationships, Mia confesses that she had pause about having Hebrew lettering on her wedding band since, well, she’s not Jewish and she questioned whether that would be a true reflection of her. But then she realized that the sentiment in the expression transcends languages, religions and heritages and that the Hebrew lettering would be a daily reminder of the leap of faith Ethan is taking with her as well.

We were thrilled that the jeweler had created rings before with that phrase and was so supportive of it, and we know our rings will be unique, a constant reminder of our love for each other. We can’t wait to see them and to see people marvel over them, and their significance, like they do with Mia’s engagement ring!

The Power of Skype

It’s us again, and Daisy (our cat) says hi too. (Have you ever tried using a laptop while a cat is also trying to occupy said lap?)

We’re continuing to move along with wedding planning, with just under four months until W Day!  Slowly things seem to be shaping up.  This of course has entailed the usual back and forth with our respective matriarchs, calls to DJs and florists, menu planning and continuing the ongoing odyssey of discovering how we actually want the day to look and feel. All of this while Ethan juggles full-time work plus two grad classes, and Mia transitions between jobs. Suffice to say we got a lot goin’ on, and practically have to book appointments with each other to ensure dedicated planning time. But it works, and that’s the important thing!

So far we have been fortunate in many things.  For instance, one of the DJs we contacted said it would be no problem to have a period of traditional Jewish dancing.  He even threw down with some Yiddish.  Mia is confident a traditional Indian wedding vase can be easily procured (she says “Indian” because, as the residents on the reservation close to her parents’ house note, they aren’t Native Americans because this wasn’t always America…but we digress…)

Technology has definitely made living in Boston while planning an Arizona wedding much more feasible. Emails help bridge the time zones, and our “wed site” has kept friends and family members from across the country informed about logistics and what to expect. The Internet also played a large role in selecting vendors. Our wedding consultant had sent us a few links for photographers she highly recommended, and because photography is, well, visual, as is the Internet, we felt very confident when we clicked on one of the links and found ourselves staring at an album that matched our vision. But how to connect with this person who would memorialize moments of our most special day? We’d heard horror stories about photographers who looked good on paper but were wet blankets on the day of. Skype to the rescue!

We were particularly excited this past week when we Skyped with Christine, our photographer, so that we could “meet.” We felt like goofy kids, all three of us giggling and exclaiming how cool it was that we could see each other! It’s not like we’re new to Skype, but it is still neat to have a chance to have a face-to-face interview from 2,000 miles away. (Mia has noted lately how it’s hard to feel like a bride sometimes when she can’t physically be there to meet vendors or go shopping for dresses with her interstate brides maids…but she digresses…) We hope to Skype with the DJ and florist as well. We’ll have to fly to AZ to do our menu and cake tastings…no food replicator similar to that in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” has hit the market yet. Unless you know something we don’t know…;)

Has Skype played a valuable role in YOUR wedding planning or relationship building?

No one ever said WHICH seven blessings

Mia stole the show last time, so now you’re all stuck with me — Ethan.

This week we had our first serious sit down with one of our two officiants.  One is a close family friend of Mia’s who lives in Arizona, he’ll be representing… Well, I don’t know exactly, we haven’t worked out the details entirely, but he’ll be important in the non-Jewish aspects of the ceremony.  The other officiant is a cantor out here in Massachusetts who is a great, soulful, spiritual and all around fabulous woman. 

We met with her over Korean Bibimbap after work this week.  A lot of the discussion was background on our spiritual, personal and family histories so we could build a common language as a basis for the ceremony.  When we did start getting into specifics, I found it was important for me to have much of the basic Jewish liturgy included, while Mia wanted a variety of blessings and ceremonial touches from her diverse background.  (Did we mention that her people hail from over half a dozen European countries and the Western Hemisphere and has no overlap with my 4 European countries of decent?)

So we’re looking into unity candles, wine drinking/glass breaking, hand fasting, and native American wedding vases, among other things.  In thinking about all this though, we still want to keep the ceremony to a reasonable time.  Clearly there are going to have to be some compromises to keep it under 2 hours.  :-)   And that’s when it hit me!  Often when doing the Seven Blessings, you’ll have people read them in both Hebrew and English.  Sometimes it’s the same person, sometimes different.  But what if we do it differently?  We’re now looking into writing/stealing our own unique set of seven blessings.  Some of the traditional ones are sure to be there, but there will definitely be others as well.

We’ve still not really worked out the details of course, but at least we have a direction for some of this insanity.  And it’ll keep things moving if we do it right.  Winners all around.