We went to the Hasidic wedding of the daughter of friends, Ori and Susan, expecting to learn a lot, but frankly not to have any fun.
“Dress modestly,” comes the first email to those friends of theirs who are not personally familiar with the Lubavitch community. “You’ll sit together, but you can’t dance together. The women will dance with the women, the men with the men.” Funny, how Jon’s bum knee starts to act up. “And dress warmly because regardless of the weather, custom requires that the ceremony be held outdoors.”
So with a little bit of dread and a good deal of curiosity, we drive the one and a half hours to Livingston, New Jersey with friends David and Jackie. I have added black tights to my dressy three quarter length organza skirt and a black tank to wear under my beaded cropped sweater. Despite it being only October 30, it is cold and damp and I have on a long wool coat, scarf and gloves. I don’t feel as much modest, as I do frumpy.
The wedding begins with a bountiful buffet of all sorts of foods and an opportunity to see and congratulate the bride and the mothers of the bride and groom. As a woman, I am allowed to hug Erica. Jon isn’t. He, in fact, heads upstairs with the men who are conducting their own rituals with the groom.
At one point before the wedding vows, the groom comes down to make sure he has the right bride, and returns again to cover her face with a veil as thick as the curtains in Tara. I keep focusing on how gorgeous Erica looks.
As promised, the ceremony is held outdoors in the cold, raw, gray late afternoon. The men in black suits and black hats and the women in warm coats and gloves create a contrast to the bride who looks illuminated in her long-sleeved, high-necked lace gown and thick, opaque veil.
I take in everything, fascinated by a culture that I am unfamiliar with but one that has invited me in as a guest. The bride and groom smile a lot but they do not touch. In fact, up until this point in their engagement, they have not been permitted to touch. That will come after the ceremony, and in private.
We all head into the party – women dancing on one side of a cloth wall that divides the dance floor, men on the other. I am not prepared for how much fun it is to dance to energetic music and with Erica’s friends. No one remains seated.
All evening long the music continues, as well as forms of entertainment for the bride and groom. There is the fire twirler and the man who balances three chairs on his nose. And the dance performed by Erica’s roommates, all of whom don brightly colored wigs for the number. We jump and gyrate until, well, at least until my feet hurt.
Despite the requirement that the men and women dance separately, at one point Ori dances with his daughter. I don’t know whether this follows custom, but I do know there isn’t a dry eye.
As the evening winds down and we say our goodbyes to everyone, I realize I’ve been smiling all night. It has been a beautiful wedding and, maybe a little bit unexpectedly, a total blast.
Jon even forgot about his bum knee.