Weddings!

(No, not mine.) :-p

I’m sorry this  post was so long coming–these last couple of days I’ve been preoccupied by a very good friend’s family tragedy; I will just say that my friend’s cousin, a 15-year-old girl, just died after a long illness. Please keep their family in your thoughts.

On to more positive topics….

I’ve been to two weddings this week, so naturally last week was all about wedding prep.  The first kallah (bride) was one of my classmates–we’ll call her Shelly.  She came to school already engaged and shortly thereafter posted her wedding invitation on our bulletin board, so the whole school made plans to go.

Meanwhile, I’d been planning to attend the wedding of another friend of mine, not affiliated with the school–we’ll call her Kayla–and the two weddings were on the same day!  Since I’d already committed to going to Kayla’s wedding, I regretfully told Shelly that I wouldn’t be able to make it but that I’d be happy to join in all the pre-wedding parties that were going on…

…the first of which was a “tichel party.”  Jewish woman are required by the Torah to cover their hair after they get married, and the manner of covering varies by custom and personal preference–people use either a hat or a wig or what is called a “tichel”–basically a scarf.  Knowing that women have this expensive wardrobe addition to deal with in addition to everything else that comes along with a wedding, the custom arose to give a bride a “tichel party” where everybody brings various hair coverings as gifts.

Shelly’s tichel party was a lot of fun, as well as being the first one I’d ever been to.  It was at the house of one of our teachers, and we were each responsible for bringing an item of food in addition to our hair-covering gift.  I bought cookies and at the last minute decided I’d also make guacamole.  And I also bought a “pre-tied” tichel, which just slip onto the head and have elastic so that it stays on.  They’re a lot easier to deal with than trying to tie a tichel.  😉

So, I used a family recipe for the guacamole, and my roommates were appalled.  “You put APPLES in the guacamole?!  That’s heresy!”  cried these West Coast natives, who are apparently more acquainted with “real” Mexican food.

“Try it anyway,” I encouraged them, trying to decide whether I should be amused or offended.  I settled for amused.

They tried it.  “No.  That’s so WEIRD!  Well…um…I hope other people like it!”

Meanwhile, other people were coming in.  Shelly was one of the last to show up, and her arrival was met with a round of applause after which she was ushered to the special “kallah throne.”

People started to bring the food out.  Said our kallah, “Ooh, interesting, somebody put apples in the guacamole!  I like it.”  The previously complaining friends both caught my eye and we all burst out laughing.

After food came games.  Apparently the most popular tichel party game is the “dictionary bracha” game where people pass around a dictionary and, when it’s your turn, you close your eyes and open the dictionary and point to a word at random.  Then , using the word you pointed to, you give the kallah a bracha (blessing).  This leads to a lot of amusement.  When it came to my turn, the word I came up with was “cyanosis,” a bluish discoloring of the skin.  Now…how do you give a kallah a bracha that includes that word?!  I was given permission to choose another word (which is usually not allowed for this game.  Ordinarily, you just have to be creative and make the best of it.)

She opened all of the tichels and hats we gave her, and tried on each one.  One of our married students showed Shelly a few different ways to tie the tichels, and she practiced the methods as she opened each one.  Toward the end, she asked if we minded if she didn’t try on the rest of the ones she opened, since it was getting really late.  I only lasted a few minutes after that, as it was close to midnight and we had class the next day, so I can’t tell you how the party ended.

Somewhere in the week of kallah parties, I picked up my invitation to Kayla’s wedding to make sure I knew where it was.  And all I could say was, “Wow……I’m stupid.”

“What’s wrong?” my roommate asked?

“You know how I told Shelly that I couldn’t go to her wedding because my friend Kayla is getting married the same day?  Well…it turns out that Kayla’s wedding is the next day!”

“Wait, that’s good isn’t it?”

“Well, it’s good if it’s not too late to put my name down for Shelly’s wedding…do you have any of her roommates’ numbers?”  That mini-story has a happy ending, as I did manage to get the message to Shelly in time to reserve a place.  So now it was time to plan for two weddings in two days!

Later that week, we started preparing for our Shabbos kallahs–the parties that brides have in the Shabbos preceding their wedding.  So the whole school stayed in our neighhborhood and made local plans for Shabbos meals (and I already had one of mine covered since Kayla’s Shabbos kallah was a Friday dinner meal).  Then for Saturday lunch I went to Rabbi and Mrs. K, who both teach classes at my school, along with a lot of my flatmates.

Shaloshudos (lit. “three meals,” referring to the third Shabbos meal, which starts just before sunset on Saturday) was to take place at Shelly’s apartment.  I had made egg salad, all the other girls signed up to make stuff too, and the seminary also provided us with some food (tuna salad and veggies and such), so we had quite a spread!

We went around the room to each give the kallah a bracha again, this time without the help of a dictionary.  Many people prefaced their bracha by telling us what gave them the idea for their bracha:  “I was looking at the picture on that wall,” “I was looking at Chana Batya’s egg salad” (seriously!), “I was thinking about how you said such and such in class the other day,” etc.  My bracha was based on Aishes Chayil, the 31st chapter of Proverbs, which is sung by husbands to their wives every Friday night at Shabbos dinner; it praises the “woman of valor” and extols her many virtues.  So I said something like, my bracha is that you fulfill all that is in the song (go look it up if you want), and that you and your husband use this moment of him praising and appreciating you to renew your relationship every week.

Okay, so fast-forward to Sunday.  I’d had an appointment with a shadchan (matchmaker–this deserves its own entry!), so I got back to school around 6 pm to find everyone getting into their formal clothes or standing around waiting for our private bus that would take us the 2 hours north to Shelly’s wedding.  I used a lot of the time on the ride to update my two best friends Elena and Emily about what they called “Chabibi Drama,” i.e. my shadchan adventures.  (“Chabibi” is their new nickname for me…it’s apparently some approximation of an abbreviation of Chana Batya, and it’s also the Arabic word for “friend.”)

So we got to the wedding and it was absolutely NUTS.  I think all of Israel showed up for this wedding.  It’s customary for a Jewish wedding to start with a “kabbalas panim,” in which she sits in the center of the room on a “throne,” usually draped with white silk and lace and flowers and such.  We take turns visiting with her, and she gives us a bracha.  Eventually, the guys come in and the next part of the wedding starts, so we knew we had limited time, and…well, since as I said all of Israel was there and Israelis tend to be kind of pushy, we really had to fight for our brachas.

Finally I got to the kallah (after five of her friends pushed me aside to get their brachas first).  She was absolutely beautiful…I think there just something about kallahs that makes them almost ethereal.  So I wished her mazal tov, and she asked me for my Hebrew name so she could use it in her bracha, and she wished for me that I’d find a shidduch soon and in the right time with everything I ever wanted and no worries about parnassa (income) and that everything would be beautiful.  Unfortunately, it’s been a few days since that wedding, so I don’t have much of her bracha committed to memory anymore.

The chassan (groom) came to do the bedecken–this is where the guys escort him from the other room where he’s been receiving his visitors, over to where the bride is, he takes a really good look at her to make sure he’s marrying the right person (yes, really.  It comes from the first biblical wedding we see, where Jacob accidentally married Leah instead of Rachel), and covers her face with the veil.  Then he turns away and walks to the chuppah, escorted by parents (usually both fathers) and she follows, also escorted (usually by both mothers).

We all have some idea of how weddings work, so I won’t go into detail about standing under the chuppah and having all these rabbis do the official stuff…so, anyway, after the ceremony part they went into the “yichud (seclusion) room”, the first time they’d ever been alone together.  While they were in there, the rest of us got served dinner…and took a lot of pictures.

Music started playing, our cue to get up and prepare for the kallah.  As she came out of the yichud room, we started to dance in a circle around her.  Silliness commenced as we picked her up and tossed her into the air, threw glitter-filled balloons around for the kallah to pop with a fork, and jumped up and down, among other antics that I’m sure I’m forgetting.

We stopped dancing for the meat course, and then the dancing never really picked back up, because we were given a half-hour warning to catch our bus.  We should have gone home and fallen asleep instantly, but instead, a party occurred in my room, led by overly-hyper roommates. I think we got to sleep around 2 am Sunday night.

Then came Monday.  I was still recovering from Shelly’s wedding, but I had every intention of celebrating Kayla’s marriage just as enthusiastically.  This one couldn’t have been more different from the one I went to the night before.  Shelly’s wedding had been sort of informal, Israeli, Sephardi style, with lots of dance music, spicy food, and random Yemenite traditions that I wasn’t familiar with.

Kayla’s wedding, though, was very frum, very Ashkenazi…she was wearing a sheitel (wig) under her veil, in deference to the rabbinic opinion that a woman is considered “married” and therefore needs to cover her hair from the moment the marriage ceremony is over.  (Shelly, on the other hand, didn’t start covering her hair until the morning after her wedding.)  Kayla’s wedding was smaller and quieter–for the one,I didn’t have to fight for my bracha!  Since I didn’t know anyone there, it was a little weird at first, but once you start dancing in circles around the kallah, nobody cares who knows who anymore.

I suppose I could go into more detail about both weddings, but I think this entry is long enough.  Suffice it to say that I had two pretty awesome evenings.  😀

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4 Responses to Weddings!

  1. Although cyanosis makes your skin bluish
    I wish for your bracha all good things Jewish!

  2. ayalinbetween says:

    Chabibi = marvelous!

  3. Dev Singer says:

    Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease write about your shadchan adventures!

  4. David says:

    Sounds like two great experiences! It brings back memories of my Israeli wedding experience – WashU had hired somebody to be our liason on the ground (she also was working for Brandeis and Cornell) and this woman’s son got married that semester, so we all were invited. It was quite the experience. And I agree with Dev – I’d love to hear about the ChaBibi Drama!

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