So I put on my good suit, the navy blue one, and the short string of pearls I wore at my own wedding - a gift from my mother - and my clunky every day shoes and a blue headscarf with silver stripes. I have to say, I have *never* wanted a wig more. I felt odd going to a wedding with a schmattah on my head, even if it is a very pretty one that goes perfectly with the suit.
So we get there a half hour late to find that things hadn't even started. During Kabbalat Punim, the bride sits in a chair, often throne like, with the mothers on either side. Women line up to greet her and tell her how lovely she is and to ask for prayers to be said for them, as a bride is very close to haShem. It is a personal Yom Kippur for her and the groom, which is why they both fast. Anyway, the bride wasn't there.
This wedding was odd anyway - the groom's father is in mourning. His sister (the groom's aunt) died a couple of weeks ago, so he is still in "sheloshim", the thirty days of mourning. During this time, a mourner is forbidden to attend celebrations, listen to live music, buy new clothes, get a hair cut, shave... This is very difficult for the father of a groom. When we paid the call last Sunday, it was up in the air about if he could attend, and if so, where and for how long.
He stayed with the groom during the kabbalat punim - the bride and groom do not see each other for the week previous to the wedding until the actual bedeken, when he puts the veil over her face - and did take the normal father's role during the ceremony, but that was it. Since Yeshivashah Jews don't wear tuxedoes, his lack of new clothes wasn't a factor.
Anyway, the bride looked lovely in her modest gown. She'd wisely decided to do without a train. The mothers wore similar but not identical gowns in the same dark blue satin - both looked beautiful. There were other evening dresses, but mostly women wore suits like mine.
I did not line up to greet the bride because I didn't know her or the groom. The groom's sister did say hi and mazel tov to me (this is the greeting at weddings and bar mitzvas - "mazel tov", even if the simcha isn't yours.), and she was wearing a modest creation of satin and velvet.
I also chatted with our next door neighbors. I was surprised that my landlady wasn't there. Jonathan, meanwhile, found men from his various classes to talk to, and introduced me to one of his teachers.
Eventually, they signed the ketubbah (not a ceremony as such - the witnesses gather round and sign their names to the documents and that's about it, and it's all done on the men's side anyway) and then they had the mothers break a plate (this is the agreement to bring the bride and groom to the wedding. Many people do it earlier, and others skip it entirely because, well, they're there already.) Then they brought the groom in to veil the bride. Yitzchak, whom I've never seen clean shaven before, looked *twelve*. They danced him in, they danced him out and then we all went to the chapel, which had a hole in the roof because the chuppah, the wedding canopy, is under an open sky. A skylight will do.
The chuppah itself was just a platform wrapped in gauze and silk vines. This is something I've noticed in the more right wing weddings - no one actually worries about the chuppah. It's not flowers or custom embroidered or handmade - it's a platform that belongs to the caterer or the hall and that's that. My own chuppah was, in fact, a tallis held by four family members on poles. My husband uses that tallis himself.
We filed in, men on one side, women on the other. The groom came down between his parents (this was nice - I've been to too many where the groom came with the fathers and the bride with the mothers, and the symbolism is all wrong, imho.) He was followed by his brother and grandmother (I assume his mother's mother, since his father's mother is also in mourning and couldn't be there.) Then came the bride between her parents. We had the traditional ceremony and in about 20 minutes, we were on our way out of the chapel.
Jonathan said evening services, and we left, stopping for dinner on the way. It was a lovely wedding and they should have many happy years together.