By Bonnie Pickett
Cinderella is apt to dance in a prospective bride’s memory as she plans her wedding day. Whether in a church, a synagogue, or a gazebo, no matter if it’s formal or informal, it is her time to be the princess at the center of the celebration.
Unlike a fairy tale, however, the couple’s story will not end when the glass slipper slides onto her foot, or the ring on her finger. Rather, it is just the beginning. That’s why the ceremony, which may take only a small part of the wedding day, is so important. The Jewish Wedding Rabbi Andrea Frank of Bronxville, N.Y., reminds her couples, “Amidst everything else, all of the plans that will make the day beautiful, don’t forget that the ceremony is what is making you married. It is what is uniting you.”
The meaning is in the details
Unique touches during the ceremony can involve the couple on a more personal level and make it memorable, says Donna Schonhoff, LaDonna Wedding Officiants and Ceremony Coordinating Services of Utica, Mich. “The people who know and love them can feel involved in the ceremony because they can relate to the personalizations in the individual choices the couple has made.” She describes one bride’s choice to symbolize her unity with her husband and with both of their families with a Peace Lily Ceremony (above right). The bride provided a special flowerpot from her family, the groom added some soil, and the bride planted a peace lily. Their parents and grandparents added more soil to represent family support and then water to symbolize the love that would make the union bloom. The growing plant is a now a living reminder of their vows.
Sometimes memorials from the wedding ceremony become traditional treasures, traveling through generations in a family. The kiddush cup that holds the wine used to bless the marriage participants in Jewish weddings is such, says Rabbi Frank. Wine is consumed from two different cups in the ceremony. The first, used early in the ceremony, is a treasured one that was used by a participant’s parents or grandparents and at family life cycle ceremonies. A new kiddush cup is used later to seal the seven wedding blessings, and this will become the family cup of the newly united couple, to be used for special occasions during their life together.
Schonhoff recalls a couple who used the Japanese San San Kudo ceremony (above left), each drinking three sips of sake from three cups in graduated sizes. As odd numbers cannot be divided by two, the number sequence three, three, and nine is considered lucky, according to Japanese tradition. An aunt poured the sake, and the couple’s choice to share the sake symbolized their unity and also united their families. The graduated size of cups, from large to small, shows how the love, wisdom, and happiness of marriage deepen over time.
Family unity: the circle of love
The support of extended family is an important element of the Jewish wedding ceremony, Rabbi Frank explains, remembering a Jewish Wedding Ceremony in the Round. The chuppah, representing the couple’s future home, was in the center, and the guests sat around it during the ceremony. A wedding is very much part of the couple’s cycle of life, she said, so it is memorable when two individuals are united in marriage with their families encircling them.
By its very nature, the wedding ceremony is about unity—the uniting of two people, two families—and symbols of that unity, which can be displayed in the couple’s home, make it more powerful, says Michael Letney, Christian design/artist of Tulsa, Okla. “It’s more than a gathering for the day. It’s a lifetime covenant. If we can help create things that help the couple reflect on the covenant that they are making, it will help them walk through their life together.” Letney created the Unity Cross sculpture as a symbol of the marriage covenant, reflecting the marriage relationship depicted in the Bible. In the ceremony (above center), the groom places the outer form of the cross into the base as a reminder of the strength and protection of the man. The bride then inserts the intricate sculpted interior of the cross into the base, filling the outline of the cross and symbolizing the beauty and capabilities of the woman. Finally, three pegs, representing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are inserted to hold it together. The sculpture is a reminder that they’ve locked their union together, he explains.
Creating lasting memories
Memorials from the wedding ceremony can become living reminders for the couple for the duration of their marriage. Special candles, different colors of sand or water blended in a vessel, colored marbles or pebbles mixed in a bowl, artwork created especially for the occasion can all become honored art in the couple’s first home—daily reminders of the ongoing commitment of love, unity, and cooperation that springs from their personal fairy tale.
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