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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.
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!
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.
Mia here…Ethan is at a meeting and our cat Daisy is curled up next to me. This rare quiet time inspired contemplative thoughts about my upcoming marriage to Ethan in an interfaith context. The theme of “in between” came to mind on three different levels, so I thought I would share. If anyone has had any positive experience with them, I welcome your feedback!
Level 1: Kinda sorta a “member of the Tribe” but not really ~
As previously shared, I have been overcome by the love and joy Ethan’s family and friends have exhibited as our relationship progressed, and especially when we became engaged. I have also been similarly touched by and grateful for their acceptance of me as a non-Jewish person, as well as their appreciation of my efforts to learn all I can about Judaism, and my participation in high holidays, Shabbat dinners, etc. I have been dubbed something of a budding resource about Judaism among my non-Jewish friends and coworkers. But beneath it all is the truth that I am not Jewish, and at this time, I don’t intend to convert in the near future. Respect, yes. Participate, yes. Continue to learn, of course. It’s just that I have had a very complicated relationship with organized religion since an early age. I was not raised in a religion because my parents wanted my brother and me to choose our own paths, and that process has been met with a lot of confusion and hostility over the years from many camps (not from anyone in Ethan’s family, thankfully!). I need to get to a place where I can find a good middle ground and not feel in limbo, nor feel defensive about my position (although Ethan keeps reminding me there’s no reason to feel that way ~ I hope he’s right!).
Level 2: What’s in a name?
Despite having issues with patriarchal societies, I decided to take Ethan’s last name when we marry. This decision has made me think about heritage a lot. “My people” were Irish, Scottish, Welsh, German, and French (among a handful of others), with a spectrum of heritage associated with them, whereas Ethan’s family name is Russian and Lithuanian with Jewish heritage. We both gravitate toward the unity a shared name implies, as well as the sense of connection we will have with our children. I can just picture my children’s responses to the ancestry question: “Well, we are (in no particular order) English, Irish, Russian, Welsh, Scottish, Lithuanian, Polish, French, German, Spanish, and Native American. Seriously.” I think I may be one of a very small handful of family members in many recent generations of my family to introduce Jewish heritage to the family tree, and this has made me marvel at the amazing webs we all are weaving for future generations of our families in this age of greater tolerance.
And finally (thank goodness, you say!) Level 3: What’s in a Seder and an Easter Egg?
Ethan and I are looking forward to celebrating our third Passover and Easter together. The former is celebrated to the fullest extent; the latter consists of my display of bunnies, painted eggs, and flowers around the house (nothing about Jesus) and the consumption of jelly beans and Cadbury Cream Eggs (drool…). Last year we hosted a Seder, and I asked Ethan in advance if his family would be startled to see Easter decorations. Instead, they were really interested and asked me what the decorations’ meaning is for me. The answer is the thrill of approaching spring and the renewal and fresh start that implies, and memories of savory brunches on the holiday with my family, with me in a new frilly pastel frock and white Mary Janes. Last year, friends and coworkers asked if I was fully participating in Passover since it was Ethan’s and my first under a shared roof, and I replied that I was except for attending every service and observing the restricted eating because I’m hypoglycemic. Again, I find myself in an “in-between” land where I’m partially blending two traditions that have different meanings for me than they do for people who observe them to the letter. But as I write this, I realize that it’s fun! Ethan makes THE best brisket in the world, and I have come to look forward to the bond that exists around the Seder table, while also counting the days until I can transform our home into a springtime display and honor the cycle of the seasons. Don’t worry, I don’t let the Cadbury eggs get anywhere near the brisket.
For those of you who have been around a while, you’ll remember that we’ve had interfaith couples blogging about their wedding preparations, and the ceremony itself, from time to time. The last couple to blog was Lulu and Alx, and you can scroll down to look back on all of that.
But this blog has been vacant for a while… I’ve been keeping my eyes and ears open, trying to find an interesting couple who would want to share their experiences with us. And then I found them: Mia and Ethan. Mia wrote an article for InterfaithFamily.com last spring, in which she shared details of their relationship, how they shared holidays and family meals with each other.
So when I saw Ethan’s family (I’m good friends with two of his sisters) congratulating the couple on Facebook, I pounced.
Ethan and Mia will start blogging here about their plans for their wedding, the decisions they’re making about religious elements, and more. (I personally hope that Ethan’s step-father, a rabbi, will chime in…)
We got hitched went on a fabulous honeymoon in the city of sin and now we’re trying to get back on track with “normal” life. The wedding was absolutely everything we had hoped for. It was definitely worth all of the hard work that went into it from everyone involved. This event challenged Alx and I to analyze, digest, and ultimately accept whole heartedly the differences between us much deeper than we ever had before.
It gave us the opportunity to truly understand each others beliefs as well as incorporate each others’ as our own in our own way. Our Rabbi was key in this process. We couldn’t have done it without her. She taught us how to appreciate the small things in each other and it was those small things that got us through the stress and anxiety of not only the planning of the wedding but especially the planning of the interfaith aspects of the wedding.
The day was absolutely gorgeous and a miracle in itself. It rained for weeks before and for weeks after but on our wedding weekend it was clear skies and in the high 70s to low 80s the entire time! The garden setting was stunning and the semi-circle arrangement of chairs around our huppah made us feel completely enclosed in a circle of love with our friends and family.
Our ketuba sculpture that I’ve lovingly named Beetlejuice Bonzai was perfect and filled with blessings when we took it home. Alx and I will have the honor of reading them on our first anniversary. In the mean while, we enjoy looking at all of our guests initials as witnesses that are signed on each beaded leaf that dangles from our tree. Within its hollow trunk lies our written ketuba with our signatures along with our Rabbi’s.
For the wine blessings we drank from a beautiful handmade silver kiddish cup straight from Israel. This was special for Alx to have that connection and what can I say, I got a really cool cup out of the deal! All kidding aside, I am proud to have such a wonderful kiddish cup that we can pass down through our family to maybe even be used at our children’s weddings.
The ceremony was flawless. It embodied so many of the things that Alx and I hold precious separately and as a couple. We were surrounded by our friends and family on a gorgeous Spring day. The ceremony was happy, relaxed and full of humor…Alx cried, I laughed. One of my most favorite moments was the Seven Blessings. Rabbi Berman said the tradition ones in Hebrew and they were accompanied by seven of our friends’ and families’ blessings. These modern blessings were in haiku form as a nod to my Japanese roots. It was perfect. They were heart felt, gave advice, cherished the moment, and of course had humor.
Our wedding was completely filled with little surprises that made it very LULAX. From the handmade favors by each member of our wedding party that fully expessed them as individuals and why we love them to the hand painted cake toppers that my Maid of Honor designed for us.
Most importantly, our wedding was about family, our family. Our son, Raiden, was included in every aspect of the ceremony. He walked the aisle with us. He stood with us under the huppah adding his own rendition of the Rabbi’s words at various points. He cut the cake with us and he party like it was 1999 with us.
He is the reason we tied the knot. Raiden is the embodiment of everything good that Alx and I could give to this world and in the spirit of that, we made it official. Cheers to you Rai guy. Way to make the love go ’round.
I can’t believe that I am sitting here writing my last blog post before the big day. We’ve hit the final countdown and I’m reminded of it as the weather forecast moves from the 10 day into the 5 day. 5 days until the wedding!
I’m set to leave on my big Mikvah trip in a few hours. Well. Ok. Bachelor party. I’ve just decided to see my upcoming three day adventure as a way to cleanse myself of any feelings of anxiety or stress. I am going to use my time-with-the-boys to ground myself and walk down the isle with a clean mind and spirit. I don’t think that I can think of anything more comforting than spending time with people whom I would trust with anything. They have always been there for me, since we were kids, and will continue to be there for me no matter what happens. They are the people that I am most comfortable around and I’m happy to have them put me in the mind frame to push me out of this liminal space and into married life
We have so much going on that my whole body is spinning (not just my head anymore!) Although the plans are shaping up, I can’t forget that there is always going to be more to do.
The benefit to being us is that we don’t stress too easily. This is one of those times where we both understand that if it gets done, great. If not, we will still have the best day ever.
I will be totally ready.
I’m excited to start this adventure, and honored to be a part of Lula’s life. I’m just so glad that it’s her.
All of the details are starting to fall into place and it’s actually looking like we’re going to pull this wedding off. We’ve done so much work and there is still some to do. Clean the house, meet with the caterer, get the stuff to the venue…my gosh, it’s like running a marathon. Just when you think your cool for the home stretch, you come up against “the wall” gasping for breath with stabbing pains in your ribs. Well, it’s not quite that dramatic but you get the picture.
I’ve run into a little bit of a hurdle in our home stretch. Traditionally in a Jewish wedding vows are not said like in the movies when the blushing bride and groom look into each others’ eyes and proclaim their love before saying “I do”. The ketuba pretty much serves as the vows. Alx and I decided to go with reading the ketubah out loud before signing it to serve as us saying our vows. We wrote it together and it’s beautiful; however, we felt that something needed to be said when we exchange our rings. Maybe I’ve watched too many romantic comedies but whatever the reason I just couldn’t exchange the rings without saying something.
Herein lies the hurdle. What the hell am I supposed to say? Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy with all of my heart but how do you express that in a few sentences without sounding like it came straight from a cheesy romance novel? On top of that, there’s no “do you take this man/woman” stuff to fluff-out any literary shortcomings that my proclamation might have.
The real kicker is that I always bounce my writing off of Alx before putting it out into the great wide open but we decided it would be sweet to not know what each other is going to say. Damn, I didn’t think that one through.
So, I figured I’d hit-up the next best thing and ask you all what you think. Did you say something to your significant other? Is there something someone has said to you that you’d like to share?
In other words, HELP! My wedding is in eleven days and I’m supposed to say something earth shattering to the man I love and frankly, my mind is so bogged down with random details about everything else in life right now that I just can’t get it out. Your insight will be much appreciated. I look forward to being inspired.
So we got our marriage license today. May 7th. Exactly one month from the wedding.
How nutty is that?
Our list keeps getting smaller but for some reason it feel like it never ends. When I worked in the bookstore it felt like no matter how often I alphabetized the stacks or cleaned up the kids section, it would never be done. The next day I would have to start all over again. You know. Like homework. Well. That’s kind of what it’s like planning for a wedding. You turn a corner and boom. Double boom. Two more corners to turn.
I hated homework. In high school it was a chore. In college it was busy work. Now. Homework separates us from our wedding day.
We meet again with Rabbi Berman in a few days and I haven’t even looked at the list of things that we are supposed to have prepared. (She’s reading this now and thinking about how interesting our conversation will be when I tell her that we did it all last minute—Hi Rabbi Berman.)
And we’re talking important stuff here.
Since Lu and I just outright refuse to take things at face value it means that we will be crafting our own 7 blessings. We will be writing the Kettubah. We will be tweaking the language and we will be happy with it. But, man. There’s a lot to do!
So as I sit here knowing full well that the next month is going to be a rough ride I can’t help but think that I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The other night Lu and I talked about how it would be if I were marrying a Jew. Well. I probably would just take it all at face value. Jew to Jew means that you can kind of roll with the punches and take the easy route. I could take what was handed to me and just let it be the Jewish wedding that has happened for centuries. The fact that we are trying so hard to make sure that there is meaning in it for both of us makes it that much more awesome. I’m proud of what we are doing. We are taking a Jewish ceremony and making it have meaning for me, Jewishly and non Jewishly, and crafting the ceremony that Lu has always wanted.
Granted, we could never do this without the wonderful guidance of our Rabbi and community.
It’s a wonderful ride and I have every expectation that we will get an A+.
Our wedding is right around the corner. We’ve done the leg work: the venue, the DJ, the invites, the catering, our attire, and on and on the list goes. Here I’m thinking that all the hard work is done so now we just kick back and work out some little details. Whew, was I wrong! The real work has just begun.
I’m talking about the nitty gritty details of the actual ceremony. Being a non-Jew, I just had absolutely no idea what kind of intensity goes into the structuring of a Jewish ceremony. Yeah, I knew there would be ritual but my gosh. There is so much history behind each and every aspect of the ceremony. It makes my head spin trying to sort it all out. Thank goodness that our Rabbi is as awesome as she is or we’d be completely lost.
Here in lies the thick of it. Because Alx and I come from such different backgrounds and various other reasons, we have chosen to dissect every piece of the ceremony to make sure that each element that we choose to include has meaning for both of us. Well in order to do that, we have to understand the reason as to why the specific ritual is done in the first place. That’s where our Rabbi comes in and a handy little guide by Anita Diamant called The New Jewish Wedding. They both really break-it-down in an efficient, effective way.
So far, we’ve decided to include: the chuppah, the badeken, the ketuba, the giving of the rings, the seven blessings, the breaking of the glass, and the yichud.
The chuppah, or canopy, was an easy call. It symbolizes the home that the new couple will build together. We both thought this was a nice sentiment and it also adds a beautiful visual element to the ceremony especially since we’re having it outdoors.
We were a little wishy-washy on the badeken for a while but decided to include it in a more modern way. I’m not wearing a veil because really I just don’t do veils. It also isn’t happening before the ceremony. We decided to have a public private moment. It’s going to happen when we first enter the chuppah. Basically, we are going to have a moment of silence with our Rabbi and each other to take a breath and center ourselves.
One of the harder decisions for me was the ketuba. Long story short, I wasn’t jazzed about officially getting married in any sense because I really don’t need a piece of paper from the government or anyone else stating who I love. So on that line of thinking, why would I need or want a ketuba? In steps the genius of our Rabbi. She pointed out that if I thought about the ketuba simply as a piece of paper stating that we were married I wasn’t giving it the chance to be all that it could be. Our Rabbi challenged us to think of the ketuba as something we could mold to represent who we are and what our relationship means to us. We really went outside the box on this one but you’d have to read my other post, It Lives, to get the skinny on that.
The giving of the rings was a no-brainer. Come on, what girl doesn’t want to get a lovely bit of bling? Materialism aside, this held meaning for both of us. I can’t speak for Alx but I’ve always associated being married with wearing rings. I guess, for me, it’s a way of publicly showing my commitment to my relationship without having to say a word. Not that I need to do that but it’s also a little piece of Alx that I carry around with me wherever I go. Well, you know, besides our son.
We’re going to do the seven blessings because well, why not? Who wouldn’t want blessings and well wishes? This is one of the parts that we still need to work on. The traditional seven blessings have a bit of a disconnect for us so we are trying to come-up with something to supplement them. I know that there are a several things that could be done like asking friends and family members to give blessings and such. We just haven’t settled on anything that seems appropriate for us. Any ideas? I’m all ears.
Another easy call was the breaking of the glass. From what I understand, this has numerous meanings ranging from a symbolic gesture as a reminder of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem to symbolizing the breaking of the hymen and the consummation of marriage. Whatever the symbolism, it’s simply something Alx has always wanted to do because it’s just cool. I’m down with letting him have his moment.
The yichud seemed very practical and just made sense to us. Traditionally it’s directly after the end of the ceremony when the new couple are escorted to a special room where they are left in seclusion for a short time which signifies their new status as husband and wife. For us regardless of what the history of it is, it really seemed like a good idea. After literally being married, why wouldn’t one want to stop for a second and just be in the moment with the person that you are going to spend the rest of your life with? I actually think this ritual is kind of genius in recognizing the need to just breath and take it all in.
All-in-all, we’ve done a lot of work in sorting out the details but we still have so much to do. The most important thing to us is to make sure that each ritual that we include has significance for us. I think that we are slowly but surely headed towards a beautiful ceremony full of love and meaning for us both as well as for our friends and family.
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