When my husband read an early draft of this essay, he asked, "Why doesn't her partner have to support our daughter? After all, they agreed to raise children as Jews." What does it mean to raise a Jewish child?Go To Parenting
Julie Daneman and her husband Bryan blog about their wedding-planning, and life as newlyweds, on InterfaithFamily.com's Weddings Blog.
All was ready. Downstairs, I could hear the string quartet tuning up as guests began to mill about and be seated. As I stood upstairs in the ballroom, I was surprised at how calm I felt. I had fully expected to be a nervous wreck by this time, but I just felt ready--ready to be married to the love of my life, ready to have a fun evening, ready to not be planning the wedding anymore!
Planning our interfaith wedding had been onerous at times, and I felt a little guilty at not being nervous. The rabbi and minister didn't meet until an hour before the ceremony was to begin. They had talked via e-mail and on the phone about our ceremony, but they hadn't met face-to-face. Shouldn't that have made me nervous? What about the ceremony? It was different than any our families have ever witnessed before--should I have been nervous about how they'd react to it? Why wasn't I?
Preparation… that's why I didn't feel nervous. Bryan and I spent the last nine months working diligently to make sure we got the wedding we wanted, but that respected our families' wishes and traditions also. We chose a non-religious site, the historic YWCA building in downtown Fort Worth, and searched for a rabbi and minister willing to co-officiate.
We talked about the wedding with Bryan's two boys--Jacob, 6, and Caleb, 3--what it meant for them, for us, for our family. We wanted them to understand that this was a big day for our whole family, not just Daddy and me. We asked their opinion many times on how they wanted to be involved. Did they want to stand up with us at the ceremony? Did they want to wear tuxedoes like Daddy, or "regular" clothes like their cousins and other guests' children would wear? The more we talked about it, the better they felt. They decided that they wanted to wear tuxedoes and that they wanted to walk down the aisle with Daddy, but they didn't really want to stand up there with us the whole time, with all those people watching them.
All the while, we were also planning standard wedding things--choosing attendants, interviewing vendors, picking invitations, etc. The closer we got to the Big Day, the more pressure I felt about getting everything done. I vacillated between calm level-headedness and semi-crazy "bride moments" (total loss of common sense and getting tearfully upset about silly things). Through those, Bryan was perfect--calming, soothing, and smart enough to wait until I had regained my normal brainpower before teasing me about it.
It rained the whole week of the wedding. It poured the day of the rehearsal, and the forecast for the wedding day was much the same. The night before the wedding, we spent time with my extended family, who drove to Texas from Alabama. Most of them had met Bryan, but none had met Jacob and Caleb. The boys were so charming; everyone just loved them. After the boys were in bed, my fatigue, the rain, and my ruined manicure were enough to send me into a bride moment. Bryan let me go on for about two minutes, then reminded me to breathe… it was a reminder I needed, and it helped calm me down almost immediately.
The day of the wedding was beautifully sunny--the weatherman had been blissfully wrong in his predictions! Everyone was dressed and ready to go--even if the men good-naturedly grumbled at how early I wanted everyone there. Everything was set up, photos were taken, the marriage license and the ketubah (Jewish wedding contract) were signed. I enjoyed a few quiet minutes with my dad before my sister came in to tell me they were about to seat the grandmothers. It was show time. I'll admit I had a few butterflies, but the good, excited kind, not the panicky kind.
In the ceremony, we included traditions from our faiths that were important to us. We said Kiddush (blessing over wine) and lit a Unity Candle. Bryan's sister and stepmother read the seven traditional Jewish wedding blessings, and the minister read about love from First Corinthians. Reverend Bassford did a family prayer where Jacob and Caleb stood with us as we all held hands, and Rabbi Marc talked about our new family being formed and the blessing of family. The rabbi and minister blessed us with the ancient priestly blessing, alternating a line of Hebrew and a line of English, before Bryan broke the glass and kissed his bride.
The ceremony went really well. We did have one humorous moment, when the rabbi said my name wrong, but we all just laughed. Rabbi Marc and Reverend Bassford moved fluidly between their parts of the ceremony. I didn't spill the Kiddush cup. We didn't drop the rings or stumble over our vows. The boys were perfect angels and did just like we practiced at the rehearsal. Before I knew it, Bryan was stomping on the glass and we kissed to the shouts of "mazel tov" and the applause of our guests.
After some pictures, we headed upstairs to our reception. It was hard to believe that just about an hour earlier, I had been standing in that very room, a single woman… now I was entering to the announcement of "Mr. and Mrs. Bryan Daneman." We weaved our way through the smiling faces to the dance floor to share our first dance as husband and wife. Then I danced with my dad, Bryan with his mom, after which and we opened up the dance floor for the rest of the party. The DJ was a lot of fun and kept the reception moving at a good pace.
The food was good--according to our guests, anyway. We didn't get to eat a whole lot because people kept interrupting to congratulate us (not that we minded). The cakes were fantastic! I was nervous about the cake-cutting--I didn't want cake all over my face or down my dress. It was a needless worry. All went very smoothly. Then there was more dancing and merry-making until the garter and bouquet toss. One of the groomsmen, Bryan's childhood friend Kyle, caught the garter, and my friend Margaret (who got married June 16) caught the bouquet.
Bryan and I had planned on leaving the reception around 8:30 p.m., but we noticed earlier that several people were already leaving. We wanted to leave with a large crowd cheering us, so Bryan arranged for our ride to come pick us up a little earlier. Guests began to file downstairs as we gathered up the last of the things we'd need for the night. We walked downstairs and as we turned toward the door, I caught a glimpse of our ride--a white, horse-drawn carriage, complete with top-hat adorned driver! I was so surprised! We ran through the gauntlet of birdseed-throwing well-wishers and climbed into our carriage. After some last hugs and kisses from Jacob and Caleb, we were carried away from a cheering crowd to our room for the night at a local upscale hotel.
We took the day after the wedding (Memorial Day) to rest and relax, then left early in the morning the following day for a six-day honeymoon in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. It was wonderful. We fell easily into a routine of wake up, work out, eat breakfast, and lie on the beach until lunch. We'd take a break from the sun to eat lunch, and then head back to the beach until dinner. After six days of being pampered and having our every whim catered to, we didn't want to come home. Once we returned, we joked about our disappointment that there was no turn-down service or chocolates on the pillows on our bed at home.
Since we've been back in the "real world" several people have asked me how it feels to be married. In a word, great! My new name already looks and sounds normal to me, though I'm still working out my new signature. (Hey, after 28 years with the same signature, I have to retrain my signing hand!) It feels great to be able to talk to friends and co-workers about my stepchildren, my in-laws, and best of all, my husband! So many people have wished us well, and told us just how lovely, elegant, and unique our wedding was. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect start to our life together.