Providing quality experiences to enrich the lives of the community at large with award-winning preschool programs, summer camps and a wide array of enriching activities. JCC Chicago provides the opportunities to bring Jewish values to the lives of everyone from infants to adults.
A great way for Jewish professionals and volunteers who work with and provide programming for people in interfaith relationships to locate resources and trainings to build more welcome into their Jewish communities; connect with and learn from each other; and publicize and enhance their programs and services.
Last weekend, Erik and I celebrated the wedding of our friends Raul and Sarah, another interfaith couple (Raul is a Salvadorian Buddhist friend of Erik, who grew up in Northern Virginia; Sarah is Christian, from Birmingham, Alabama). As we enjoyed their special day, we took notes for ours.
Raul and Sarah held their wedding in a small church/community center in southwest Virginia, with about 35 of their closest friends and family—much different than the 200+ person wedding that we’re planning. The food was served buffet-style, and made by the bride’s cousin. Sarah, the bride, made all the decorations herself, and had friends help her set up the room. Although I know (or hope!) that our wedding will be lovely, there’s something to be said about the intimacy of a smaller, family-style engagement with the people you care about most in life.
One of our favorite take-aways, besides the fact that they wrote their own vows: Sarah’s grandmother, the associate pastor of the church, officiated. She told a story about how, growing up, Sarah used to play dress up with her cousin and ask: “Grandma, will you help marry me at my wedding when I grow up?” And, for 20+ years, her grandmother answered, “Yes, honey. I will be there when you get married, and I will marry you myself.”
It was such a special moment, that it underscored for us the importance of our choice to have family and a close friend officiate our wedding too. We’ve decided to have my cousin, Wendy, an Orthodox Jew, and Erik’s college philosophy professor, Ken, who introduced Erik to Buddhism, preside over our wedding. We’re thrilled about it. The next step: figuring out the vows and the ceremony.
We would welcome your suggestions and ideas as we move into the ceremony planning stage….
Thanks for reading, and Happy St. Patty’s Day to any fellow Irish-Jewish folks out there!
Check out me (Erik) and my fiancee Jess as we introduce ourselves via our first Hitch posting. We are super excited to be a part of the IFF community, to share our story and get your thoughts and opinions as we prepare for our interfaith (Buddhist/Jewish) wedding in November.
Thanks so much for taking the time to watch and we look forward to your comments and thoughts as we begin our journey with IFF.
As Yolanda and Arel wind down their blogging (after all, they did get married in January!), I’m excited to let you all know that we have a new couple blogging for us as they prepare for their marriage!
Erik is originally from Wisconsin and has lived in DC for 9 years. He works on Capitol Hill as a Chief of Staff for a Member of Congress from his hometown. A lapsed Catholic, Erik found Buddhism while in college and has been practicing, including hosting meditation at his apartment, for over 12 years.
Jess, who is Jewish, hails from Montreal, but moved to south Florida when she was a young girl. She currently works as the Director of External Affairs at a federal government agency and previously had spent several years in the Public Relations field and running Congressional campaigns.
They originally met in Wisconsin during the fall of 2000 while working on a rally for Joe Lieberman. After the rally they didn’t see each other for 10 years and were reconnected via e-harmony in the fall of 2010. The rest, as people say, is history.
Give them a big welcome, and stay tuned for their own introductory post!
Here we go with another video where Arel and I talk about the Aufruf before our wedding and the prepping required to ensure it went smoothly. We also discuss music for the ceremony and why that was challenging for us. On a side note: Arel sharpened his video editing skills with imovie to make this particular clip more interesting. Check it out!
Last week, we hit you with a pretty heavy topic as Arel and I took some time to figure out what marriage is really about and why and if we should head down that road. As you’re aware, we did take the plunge and documented the process so stay tuned for more posts.
The week prior to our wedding, the day of, and day after was crazy and filled with never ending tasks. Thank goodness our family and friends showed up a few days early to help us out. Remember, how Arel and I commented in an earlier post that we weren’t too sure what the point of a bridal party was? Well, our lovely bridesmaids and groomsmen sure did come through and our wedding could not have been pulled off without all of their hard work. We were so grateful for their presence and dedication.
In this video, we introduce you to two of the hardworking bridal party members, the best man and one of the bridesmaids. See if you can figure out who’s related to who…
It’s been awhile since we last vlogged and there’s good reason for it. Yes, Arel and I are now officially husband and wife as of January 15th (woo hoo), but we had some issues to address before we could post more videos.
We’re ready now and this particular video is our most important yet and is the primary reason we’ve been M.I.A. for awhile, however, we have documented the process, and we will be releasing those videos, so please stay tuned for those.
As we got closer to our wedding date, we ran into some major fears that led us to question whether or not getting married was the right thing to do. Working through and addressing the source of those fears was the hardest thing we both ever did but we’re grateful that we had the strength, the desire, and the willingness to go through the process. I can’t say that pain is absolutely necessary to gain strength but in this case we got through the hard stuff – and persevered in spite of the hard stuff or maybe because of it… I’m not so sure which is which, but the end result is a stronger and much deeper relationship. This isn’t the stuff of fairy tales that we’re all brainwashed to believe in.
I listened to a YouTube video recently on marriage, and the poet said it’s not the love that sustains the promise, but the promise that sustains the love. Our commitment is what carried us through the last two months, not just the love. Arel and I take marriage very seriously, and you would think most couples do, but if so, I don’t think the divorce rate would be so high. We wanted to make sure this was right. Yes, we’ve been together for 9 years, but we wanted to make sure we can also do the rest of our lives together, supporting each other, loving each other, challenging each other, and elevating ourselves to be able to sacrifice for each other and compromise when needed as well as to help each other fulfill our potential as individuals and as a couple.
This whole experience has confirmed for me that couples should 100% talk about marriage before the proposal. Surprise proposals are nice and romantic but if all the important issues haven’t been discussed prior to that proposal, it’s going to be harder to go through it once you’re in the marriage (I think). In this video, we discuss some books to read and suggestions for figuring out whether or not marriage is the right step. For Arel and I, we concluded that yes, we wanted to still get married. We made some compromises, agreed to work on individual as well as couple issues, and commit fully to our marriage.
We would love to hear what you think. Did you have any fears before your marriage? Did you talk about life together as a married couple before you took the plunge?
First, a confession:
Hey there, Mia here, who married Ethan in July and wrote about the wedding planning last spring and summer. I have been meaning to write this final wedding-related post for months. Part of me held off because I was still reeling from the whirlwind events related to the wedding. I also wanted to take some time to let the whole experience sink in so that I could share some meaningful reflection. Truth be told, I think I was subconsciously procrastinating because writing this post, like printing photos for our wedding album, symbolizes the end of wedding-related activities. (But not the marriage!)
So here we go:
Our wedding day was the perfect combination of fun, celebration, solemnity, humor, gratitude, old and new traditions, community, reverence and most of all, love. Don’t just take my word for it ~ Ethan and I were humbled by how many of our guests expressed the same observations. At numerous times I was overcome, and had to pause to take a deep breath to prevent myself from sobbing with awe and joy. There was nothing Jewish or gentile about that ~ it was 100% natural and free-flowing.
Two days before the wedding, Ethan’s family hosted a Shabbat dinner at a local schul for his observant family and friends. My immediate family as well as my 16-month-old niece, Jewish aunt and Buddhist uncle also attended. It was interesting observing my relatives who were not familiar with a Shabbat dinner and their thoughtful expressions often seen on anyone who doesn’t quite know what to expect next. I remembered how I used to feel that way, and marveled at how far I had come in terms of learning Jewish traditions and practices. However, I realized as the guests were gathering that I was slightly anxious about this dinner setting a “Jewish tone” to the weekend, especially since it prevented me from visiting with out-of-state guests on my side who had arrived in town early. This concern was dispelled when my niece, who loves music, bopped along in her high chair to the sing-song prayers and clapped at the candle lighting. After the final blessing, she clutched a small box of raisins in her tiny fist, raised it high, scrunched her face up in an earnest expression, and, amidst the post-prayer silence, proclaimed loudly her support of the dinner in baby babble. She sounded just like when the cartoon warrior princess from the ‘80s, She-ra, exclaimed with sword raised, “I have the power!” She was clearly moved by the spirit of the gathering! Everyone loved it.
The Big Day:
The day of the actual wedding, the weather behaved, everyone showed up on time, and neither Ethan nor I got cold feet or tripped walking down the aisle. Despite having participated in seven or eight weddings, I was unprepared for how emotional I would be as I approached him. Here was this amazing man who accepted me 100% for who I was, who was standing before his family and friends to say that he chose me. I am still in awe! Getting married under a huppah didn’t faze me at all since I had officiated two interfaith weddings that also used one. In fact, I enjoyed the sense of enclosure it provided, the creation of sacred space, and the more intimate dynamic when friends and family stepped under it to read a blessing to us. We used Ethan’s talit as the canopy, and even though I have never been bat mitzvahed, I appreciated the significance of the talit, and loved that such a special item of his played a role in such a special day of ours. To know that I would recall the feeling of standing under it whenever he wears it for future high holidays, etc., forged my own sense of connection with it. I have a similar feeling when I look at our ketubah that uses interfaith text and hangs proudly in our dining room.
I think it would have been slightly disconcerting for me had we just had one officiant who followed a traditional Jewish wedding service because that was not the tradition in which I was raised. (See our previous post about working with two officiants.) Having two stand with Ethan and me under the chuppah grounded me and really reinforced the communal aspect of the ceremony.
Said ceremony, as outlined in an earlier post, included a mix of Jewish, Celtic, and Native American wedding traditions that many guests said blended beautifully together. I will confess that the only tradition during the entire day that felt slightly foreign to me was dancing the horah; I didn’t really know the exact steps, nor did many of my family members and friends, so we just threw ourselves into the circles, grabbed hands, and kept up! Sadly I got separated from my new husband who ended up flanked by his family members, which made me feel like this was “their thing.” But I have a terrific photo of Ethan, his step-dad, my brother’s wife, and my mom all smiling and dancing together in one of the circles, and I love the unity of that moment! Any lingering concerns I had about whether members of Ethans side would think the wedding “wasn’t Jewish enough” were mitigated by the enthusiasm with which they participated in the various celebrations, and the warmth with which they embraced us and me on that day.
Six months later:
So here we are several months later, during which time I attended the fall high holiday services and/or dinners, as well as a traditional Jewish wedding of one of Ethan’s step-sisters, with a slightly different perspective knowing that such rituals would be part of my future for the long term. I’ve come to realize that Ethan’s family’s traditions can now no longer be seen in black-and-white terms as “theirs versus mine,” since his family is now my family. Just as how Ethan willingly helps me set up my Christmas decorations, and helped me bake Christmas cookies for a “Christmas Mia-style” open house I held for some of his family in mid-December.
As we were preparing for the open house, I quietly contemplated how blending the two December holidays would work for our future kids. Would they fall into the “yours, mine and ours” mode of thinking, or would Ethan and I be successful in creating a home in which both traditions merge well? (For the record, Christmas was never about celebrating Christ’s birth for my family; it is a time of gathering with loved ones, adding light, magic and sparkle to a dark season, and sharing gifts and giving back to the community and those less fortunate to demonstrate your love.) A recent rabbi-rabbi-lev-baesh">Boston Globe feature noted the increasing number of interfaith families in Massachusetts, which is good, but acknowledged that sometimes it’s hard for the kids who feel like they are straddling worlds, which is disheartening. Later that evening, as Ethan and I sat with 10 of his family members in our living room, each of them began sharing aspects of Christmas that they “actually like,” most particularly non-secular songs, food, and made-for-TV movies. Ethan’s step-dad then led everyone in a rousing rendition of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I got choked up when I looked around the room and realized, “This is going to work. Both histories and realities can be honored without sacrificing anything.”
That is how I hope Ethan and I will continue to live our lives together and to raise our children: to demonstrate that core values cross faith and traditional divides, and that love, family and community are what matter most, no matter what language, song, or decoration you use to honor them. Am I afraid that members of Ethan’s family will look upon our kids as “not Jewish” with some sadness? Yes, and that isn’t easy for me. But then I think back to the joy, acceptance and inclusiveness of our most wonderful wedding day, and feel confident that we will be able to make it all work out. To paraphrase She-ra, “We have the power!”
So in this episode, Yolanda is trying out new hair styles and seeing what look she will go with for her big day. This video shows one of the hair style options. You’ll notice Arel isn’t too excited about how it turned out. But what do you think? Is this the look? Any suggestions on keeping the hair up or down?
This is one of those small details that are important (at least to the brides
We are less than 4 weeks away from the big day…eek! We’re still working on a gazillion things but it has to get done and will get done. One thing we waited till the very end to work on was our first dance as a married couple. Procrastinating a dance that will be performed in front of a 100 people is never a good idea but fortunately we have the talents of an amazing choreographer to our rescue. He’s one of Arel’s groomsmen and best friend. He’s a phenomenal dancer and beyond creative. Arel really wanted to do a dance that would be memorable and I think what we have planned is certainly that. I can’t tell you what it is but I can say it will be super, there might be some veggies involved of the fungi persuasion, and possibly slow moving animals and a damsel in distress. I’m being serious. I can predict our older guests will not get it or think we’re absolutely nuts. We are going to do a bit of a slow traditional dance but to do only that would not fully reflect us as a couple. We first met dancing to hip hop and decided our first dance as a couple must have hip hop. Our first dance will be a mixture of dance and a skit mostly performed through dance….sounds crazy huh? Hopefully crazy fun. We’re going to follow the dance with the hora or maybe Zumba but most likely the hora! I’m a bit nervous about how we’re going to get the hora going with a mostly non-Jewish crowd. Any tips on how to smoothly initiate this dance with folks who have never done it before?
So anyhoo, watch us with our groomsmen/choreographer in the studio. He’ll talk a bit about the dance he created for us and more. And we added a little extra special something for you…a clip of our choreographer doing his dance thing. Ready to be wowed.
I know I’ve been ranting and whining about wedding invitations but now that they are over and done with, I wanted to take you back a few months to where I talked about the wedding dress.
There’s so much that goes into the dress. I mean this is ‘the’ dress that so many girls dream about, envisioning their day dressed in a to die for gown. To be honest, I never really thought about what dress I would wear, but when the day came to actually start thinking about it, I couldn’t believe how many options there were and how most of them did nothing for me. As much as I love sparkly things in everyday life (love glitter), I for some reason found it to be ghastly on a wedding gown. Who knew? I also found it disturbing the lack of options for a Conservative bride. And don’t even get me started on the ‘modest’ dresses that are out there. Seriously, it’s as if ‘modest’ is equated with lack of fashion sense and taste because dresses made for Conservative Jewish girls like me are just plain ugly. Blech. All I wanted was a beautiful dress that was simple and covered the arms. I want to be modest for the ceremony which means covering myself. I know many liberal Jews do not share the same opinion, but I’m naturally conservative and do not like showing my arms. It seems so risque but for this post you’ll see I’m wearing all strapless gowns because that’s what’s out there.
I did eventually find my dress love, the beautiful ‘Addie’ by Monique Lhullier. It really was pure love at first sight. It’s modern, simple, no bling, sequins, or sparkles and it has 3/4 sleeves, sheer beautiful sleeves. This dress is conservative and stylish. But as I mentioned before, it’s also $6000. Ahh.. This was one of those moments where I actually thought life isn’t fair for the budget conscious bride, but I reluctantly got over it, and started the search for ‘the’ dress that looked like my dear ‘Addie’. I started my search at Alfred Angelo, followed by David’s Bridal, and then NY Bride. For all you brides out there, please do not wait to buy your dress. I waited until 4 months before the wedding date which left me very little time to find a dress in time. I felt sort of pressured to make a decision quickly and although I did find my dress, and I love it, it’s not my first love, the Addie, and to be honest, I don’t love it as much as the Addie. It’s true. I still look at pictures of my dear dress but like a long lost love that didn’t work out, I try to focus on what I do have now, my actual dress. I’m happy with it and I bought a sheer tulle bolero with a train to give it a conservative twist because of course it’s strapless. I’m not going to show you what I chose until the actual wedding, but I’ll show you a few of the dresses that didn’t make the cut. Notice my facial expressions in some of the pics…clearly, I wasn’t so thrilled. However, wedding dress shopping is fun and I felt like a princess. I wish there were more occasions to wear such gorgeous dresses than just one day.
So let’s start with my dream dress, the Addie.
And now let’s move onto the ‘real’ dresses
Dress 1 from Alfred Angelo. Pretty but it didn’t catch my eye.
Dress 2 from Alfred Angelo. Simple and modern. I liked it but it didn’t have enough ‘oomph’.
Dress 3 from Alfred Angelo. I just thought this looked weird on me.
Dress 4 from Alfred Angelo. I like the simplicity of this one with the crystal band but it’s hard to tell how it would really look. All the samples were way too big so everything had to be clipped back.
Dress 5 from Alfred Angelo. I like the idea of this dress but it was just too big to really tell what it would look like. It’s very romantic and lace-y. I think if it fit, I would have liked this one more.
Dress 6 from David’s Bridal. I adored this dress from David’s Bridal but once I tried it on, it didn’t look right on me. This is from Vera Wang’s new White line. All the dresses are gorgeous. I tried quite a few on but it didn’t seem to work for me. You’ll also notice my Blue Steel face. I was trying to be Vera Wang-ish and no one was there to take a pic for me. Yes, I went wedding dress shopping alone (initially). I wanted to see how I felt about it without the influence of other’s opinions.
Dress 7 from NY Bride. I really enjoyed this dress but it was too thin for a winter wedding. It didn’t have as much heavy material like the other dresses. It was effortless to move in which is a big plus but I wanted more material.
Dress 8 from NY Bride. I just had to try on a big poofy dress. Fun, but hard to move in, and it swallowed my short body.
Dress 9 from NY Bride. This dress was so pretty and flowy but I found another dress I liked more, so this one could have been the one.
I think I tried on about 20 dresses total. For those ladies who are already married or are getting married, how many dresses did you try before you found the one?