It was perfect, starting from the couple. If Jeremy's parents were to have drawn up the specs for the right daughter-in-law and fed it into a computer, Paulette would have popped up. They're both bright and good-looking, they have similar secular interests (sports, rock-and-roll, opera) and they're both highly committed Conservative Jews. Paulette is an assistant rabbi at an old established synagogue; Jeremy routinely gabbais (deacon) at the synagogue his mother founded. I don't know much about Paulett's family, but I'd describe Jeremy and his mother as "High Church Conservative" - Modern Orthodox in everything but egalitarianism, so that their shul has mixed seating and Terry leins (reads the Torah.)
Jeremy, for his part, was meant to be a rabbi's husband.
So, we started out with a good feeling about this, and it just got better.
We got there late - we left the gift wrapping (a facsimile of a bentcher (grace after meals booklet) that a 17th C groom gave his bride, which my husband found on eBay.)and card writing to the last minute. This meant a search for the card.
And I had dress problems - the hook part of a hook and eye closure broke off, so I had to go out, buy a card of hooks-and-eyes and sew it on (and neglected to get the right color thread) and then the closure didn't stay closed. I ended up using a brooch to hold the top together at a higher point. Also, the shell I'd gotten was too small,and I couldn't find another. So, I butchered it. I cut off the side seams, leaving the sides joined at the hem, removed the shoulder pads and then cut through the bottom of the sleeves. It worked just fine, and looked better than Plan B - a natural long sleeved t-shirt.
So, we left late, and to make matters worse, there were no Manhattan bound trains at our stop. We had to go one stop further out and change trains. Plus other things cropped up and we arrived just at the bedeken.
The bedeken is a ceremony where the groom puts the blusher over the bride's face. This way he knows it's Rachel, not Leah. I didn't get a chance to see this, as we were well back in the crowd, so I enjoyed the buffet instead. And what a buffet - freshly made sushi, Peking duck, caviar, veggies, fruits, dips, freshly carved meat and fish canapes, circulating hot nibbles, and two bars. Both with Macallan single malt whisky. Yum. (Groom's father knows his Scotch.) There was also a long involved ketubbah (marriage contract) ceremony which is *not* something I'm used to. The ketubbah, yes - and they used the traditional one, hand calligraphed and everything - but I'm used to it being done privately and quietly. However, other than the public aspects, it was done quite traditionally.
And then we went to the chuppah, the wedding ceremony itself. And here, too, it was slightly different. The bones
were the same - canopy, groom walking in with his parents, bride walking in with her parents, they drink wine, he gives her a ring, the ketubbah is read, the seven blessings are recited over a second cup of wine, a third expendible cup is broken, we all shout mazel tov! And then it's over. (No kissing, of course, and no vows.)
I've been to weddings that took twenty minutes, including two sets of grandparents and several siblings-plus-families marching up the aisle *and* enthusiastic group singing of the final of the seven blessings. My own took about that time, and we had a minor crisis.
This took over an hour. It makes sense - the wedding was in her synagogue, and how many shuls get to marry a sitting rabbi? So they went all out. The two rabbis made long speeches, one of the cantors chanted the ketubbah (as opposed to my cousin Avraham rattling it off at high speed) and the two cantors sang the sheva brachot to an original composition (the practice I'm used to, they call upon prominent rabbis to say the blessings; in my own, we used our fathers and brothers.)
They also found an appropriate moment for Paulette to give Jeremy his ring without any real ceremony *and* without it looking like she gave his ring back and therefore rejected the ketubbah. Also, one of the cantors was female. And the rabbi gave an additional blessing at the end and announced them as husband and wife (as opposed to "proclaiming". A rabbi at Jewish wedding is more of a coach (Bujold fans'll get the reference) than an officicant.)) But, other than the length, it was lovely and the singing was beautiful.
The reception was in the synagogue, for 400 people. Which was a subset of the group attending the bedeken and the ceremony. This was not surprising - a rabbi of one shul, a prominent member of another, both with many friends and large families plus whatever connections/friends their parents have. There simply wasn't room for the whole group in the reception hall. :)
They had a ten-piece band that played things ranging from traditional Jewish wedding music (all at once in a medley) to swing to Sinatra to Simon and Garfunkel to dance songs. All of the dancing was mixed, including the one major bout of circle dancing. This made things a touch hard for Jonathan and me - he doesn't dance with women and I don't dance with men, so I had to find groups of women to break into, and at one point I had to refuse to take a man's hand. However, everyone else had a lot of fun with both the circles and the couples dancing and it was fun to watch.
And the food was not only marvelous, but it even managed to be low carb enough that my mother-in-law could eat most of it, and therefore not feel deprived - one high carb for the appetizers and the main course, and dessert included fresh raspberries along with the warm chocolate cake and the lemon sorbet in the lace cookie cup. I was sitting next to an elderly cousin of Jonathan's, and she insisted on giving me her raspberries when she saw I'd refused a plate of dessert.
There was also, eventually, wedding cake, and I did eat a little of that.
And it seems Paulette was the last of her family to marry, so they did a "mazinka" - a special dance for her parents, crowning her mother with flowers to celebrate this accomplishment.
My brother-in-law came with his girlfriend, who is bright and beautiful and funny and sweet (and Jewish), and I think we all got images of doing the same dance for *his* parents.
All he needs is a tenure track job. And to decide it's time.
We were called together for the final grace after meals, with the special blessings before and after that are due in a wedding feast.
And then we got a cab home. Note. We arrived, late, at 4:15. We left at 10PM.
*That's* a wedding.
But the best part? Jeremy's face when he looked at Paulette - pure joy and amazement.