My Daughter’s Wedding
My daughter was married last week despite the Covid crisis. Or better yet, because of the Covid crisis. The planned date of her wedding was supposed to be May 13th, but when it became clear that there weren’t going to be any gatherings of 400 people taking place anytime soon they opted to move it up and move on with their lives instead of floating along in limbo indefinitely.
To say that is was one of the most unique weddings is an understatement.
We arranged the whole thing in a little over a week. The goal was to make it as special and wedding-like as possible. We had to accomplish this even though there was no proper “event space” (I love that pretentious New York Times term), wedding hall or synagogue to speak of. We kept the wedding planner who was helping us with the original big affair and was now quarterbacking the much smaller and very different evening. One of our smartest moves was to keep Meli Naierman on the job because she made it spectacular.
The “Badeken”, where the bride receives guests whilst awaiting the groom who covers her with the veil, took place on our driveway. The Chuppah was in the backyard of our dear friend and neighbour, Janet Sitchin. The festive wedding feast for the two families along with Tzippy and Yehuda’s three closest friends, 20 people in all, was in our backyard at an elaborately set table that rivaled the poshest weddings I have ever attended.
All the preparatory people come to our home to do their thing on the day of the wedding just like at a hall. They arrived faces covered and gloved up. There was the hair lady, the make-up lady, the flower arranging team, the musician and light guys setting up music in all three spots and Henry Grunberg the photographer along with his son who would handle the YouTube feed. A lot was improvised and made up as we went along for after all, how often are weddings taking place on a driveway and in a backyard?
And it all amazingly came together. Over a hundred people came out for a drive-by parade as Tzippy sat in front of the beautiful wall of flowers created for the day. They came in their vans and convertibles and cars and SUVs with decorations and signs. Rabbi Shmaya and kids were dancing atop of their huge SUV, making everyone nervous. People came from all over the neighbourhood and dotted the nearby houses at a safe distance. Neighbours hung out of their windows. Others came with wine and drinks in hand. Norman Levine showed up with his trumpet and belted out his wedding tunes. Random people from all over came to witness, to celebrate to clap and sing and dance. One of Tzippy’s friends drove all the way down from New Jersey and stayed in their car to give well wishes.
The Chuppah was small and intimate but not really because there were over 900 views on YouTube. Given that many were watching with others, there must have been well over a thousand who witnessed the nuptials. Way more than our original guest lists. And much cheaper too!
Oh, and one other difference between this wedding and all “normal” weddings: The bride and groom were actually able to enjoy the meal. And what a meal it was thanks to Benny Rudansky, the private chef and family friend we hired. It was the best wedding food we ever had.
This wedding taught me that there are some real advantages to smaller affairs. Nobody was there because they felt they had to be there. There was no, “Will so and so get insulted if we don’t invite them?” Nor were there any invitees wondering, “Will they be offended if I don’t show up?” The only ones who came and participated or watched did so because they wanted to. It was totally authentic, nothing fake about it at all. So much so that a couple of my kids have already declared that they want a small wedding.
But what made this so special was that, for everyone, it was the first happy thing that had taken place in about six weeks. It wasn’t just a celebration for Tzippy and Yehuda. And it wasn’t just a celebration for the Nightingales and the Sahars. It was a celebration for everybody. It was a celebration of life. It was an affirmation that despite all the difficulties, despite all the fear, despite all the bad news, despite all the lost jobs and wages, despite the sense of being cooped up and when will this all finally end – despite all of that, life goes on. Joy happens. People get married and life is really about the good times moreso than the bad. Happiness and joy trump misery and uncertainty.
We all needed a reminder of that and this wedding accomplished it. It brought joy in a time that sorely needed it.
And this is my bracha to Tzippy and Yehuda: That this special wedding should be the hallmark of their lives. That it should catapult them to continue to have a meaningful and beautiful life together, filled with love and happiness, and that is contagious and spreads to everyone around them the way it did on their wedding day.
At times I just don’t know
How you could be anything but beautiful
I think that I was made for you
And you were made for me
Laughing eyes and smiling face
It seems so lucky just to have the right
Of telling you with all my might
You’re beautiful tonight