In the end, the wedding went the way it was supposed to. That’s not to say that we didn’t hit a few snags along the way, most of them caused by me. I may have left our room at the hotel a mess prior to Shannon’s arrival. “Do you want the photographer to get pictures of your socks and underwear?” Shannon asked me. I may have forgotten to take the cake to the restaurant at which we had dinner afterwards, but one of Shannon’s brothers was able to get it there. And my best man might have stared in horror as I prepared to iron my tallit by first touching the iron to see how hot it was. In my defense, I had other things on my mind, and Mike’s much better at ironing than I am, anyway.
Our common phrase “mazel tov” is used to mean “congratulations,” but its origin is really astrological, meaning something like, “it was in the stars.” That’s what our wedding day was like; the stars were aligned for us. The weather was beautiful. Family members were all on their best behavior. I managed to keep my awkwardness to a minimum.
Our rings and ketubah.
Shannon and I wanted our ceremony not only to join us in marriage, but also to educate our families regarding the faith that informs our life together. To that end, we began with havdallah (the ceremonial end of Shabbat), and Rabbi Freedman narrated the ceremony throughout, explaining why we circled one another, why I broke the glass, and so on. Our approach seems to have worked; Shannon’s grandmother enjoyed the ceremony so much that she said she needed to find a Jewish man to marry!
Readers of this blog know that the decision to hold a Jewish wedding ceremony was not an easy one for me, but I couldn’t imagine having done it any other way. The picture above, in which Shannon is placing my prayer shawl on me, is symbolic of our relationship and the role Judaism plays in our lives. Although she is not Jewish, it is Shannon who cooks Rosh HaShanah dinner, Shannon who encourages me to become more involved in shul, and Shannon who has chosen to adapt to my lifestyle.
Shannon drapes my tallit on me. Look at how serious I am!
Drama on the bimah!
I wrote this blog in part to share the experiences of one interfaith couple, and I hope it has been interesting and informative for readers. But my motives weren’t completely selfless; it was therapy, too. I learned about life and myself as Shannon and I navigated the wedding planning process and as I narrated our story here. (These are the lessons I learned, and aren’t meant to be instructions for anyone else!):
- It is easy to speak, harder to listen, and harder still to find common ground.
- It’s important to examine the gap between what one does and what one claims to do.
- Individual experience is as important as ideals, policies, beliefs, etc. In other words, life is messy and complicated.
- Just as “haters gonna hate,” “lovers gonna love.” (Thanks to Rabbi Freedman and my friend Eugene S. for sharing these nuggets of wisdom.)
Community is an important Jewish value. Shannon and I couldn’t have planned our wedding alone. We’d like to extend our sincere thanks to:
- InterfaithFamily for providing us the opportunity to share our story, and, in particular, my managing editor, Lindsey, for her help throughout.
- Congregation Rodeph Shalom for being so welcoming.
- Our many friends, who were always there for us. I won’t name anyone here, but if you’re reading this and you suspect that I might be referring to you, I am.
- Rabbi Eli Freedman for his counsel and friendship, and for performing the ceremony.
- Our families, the Finnegans and Rices, especially those who were with us for the ceremony, as well as those who joined us for our party on November 9.
- My best man, Mike, and Shannon’s maid of honor, her sister, Megan.
- Shannon’s mom, Kathy, for her unparalleled planning skills, and my mom, Bonnie, for her support.
We made it!
Shannon and I are looking forward to reading the next couple’s story. Until then…
(Photographs by Kirk Hoffman Photography.)
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