Wednesday, August 30, 2006

once upon a june wedding

Dancing In The Mist
Backstory: Michael is my longest-lasting friend - we met around grade 4 and stayed close through the end of high school. In elementary school, we'd play games for hours on his Commodore 64 hours. In high school, we were involved in Amherst's annual musical - me on stage, Mike on the tech side. If you ever need to know what my life was like pre-university, he's the expert.

We lost touch for a few years after graduation. Around my second year in TO, Mom ran into his mother and discovered he was working at a Canadian Tire store down here. About a week or two later, I hopped into the elevator at work. Another guy was in the elevator and we noticed something familiar about each other.

"Mike?"

"Jamie?"

We still laugh about our reunion.

***

The wedding was the day before I flew to London. It was my first wedding outside of a non-denominational or Christian setting, so I was looking forward to seeing the differences. The program was very helpful in explaining the ceremony. Here is an excerpt, paraphrased in some spots to make it less specific to this particular wedding:
A traditional Jewish wedding is comprised of several parts, each one rich in history and customs. We hope that the following explanations will help you understand the meaning of our beautiful rituals.

Traditionally, the Jewish wedding starts with the signing of the marriage contract/Ketubbah. The Ketubbah is then given to the bride for safekeeping.

After the signing of the contract/Ketubbah, the groom goes up to his bride and looks her in the face. Having confirmed that she is the woman he has chosen to marry, he then lowers her veil. This is symbolic of the lesson learned from the story of Jacob who was tricked into marrying Leah instead of Rachel, his true love. Leah pretended to be Rachel by covering her face with a veil so Jacob wouldn't know the truth of who he was about to marry.

The wedding ceremony takes place under the chuppah (wedding canopy) which the couple and those closest to them will gather. The chuppah represents the home to be built and shared by the couple and is opened on four sides to let family and visitors know they are always welcome.

Under the chuppah, the groom will stand to the left of the bride. After the introduction by the rabbi, the groom recites his wedding vows and places the ring on the bride's right index finger. The bride recites her wedding vows and places the ring on the groom's right index finger. The rings are placed on the right index fingers because of an ancient belief that the index finger is directly connected to the heart, meaning from that point onwards, the hearts of the couple are forever joined.

The Ketubbah is read aloud by the rabbi. This is followed by a reading of seven wedding blessings (sheva berachot) by the cantor. During this reading, the couple will sip wine. When the reading is completed, the groom breaks a glass with his right foot. The breaking of the glass represents the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The shattered glass also reminds us how fragile life is, that even the most joyous occasion must be tempered with solemnity.

Michael had converted to his bride's faith and the rabbi noted he was a dedicated student. This wasn't surprising, as he has always been the type to carefully study anything he worked on, making sure it turned out perfectly. Who knows how much I owe him for fixes to various problems over the years.

Mother and Son The Flower Girls
Left: the groom and his mother. Right: the flower girls.

It was a sunny afternoon, which flooded the synagogue with light. Good sign, I figured. The ceremony went well - my only problem was my camera showing the first signs of its "demise", jamming twice (the camera survived London, "died" Canada Day weekend, has recently shown signs of being functional again - better two working cameras than none).

Place Settingd Hava Nagila On The Disco Round, Oh Yeah Fiesta of Fruit
Left: table waiting for guests, Left centre: a round of Hava Nagila. Right centre: the disco ball gets a workout. Right: a fiesta of fruit.

The reception was held at a restaurant in Concord. The meal started with a large selection of dips and salads and went from there. There was a live band, who got the room onto to the floor with a round of Hava Nagila. During the evening, I heard the odd Saturday Night Fever joke, owing to the disco ball, mirrored walls and upbeat music.

Betty Dances Shimmy Time
Left: the bride in the traditional family dress. Right: time to dance!

One of the most interesting parts of the evening came later on, when Betty switched from her wedding dress to a garment passed down through her family for many generations. Beautiful hues of gold and blue. Apparently there have been offers made to the family, but it is nice to see family traditions continue to be handed down through time.

Full photo set. - JB

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