So I mentioned in my first ever post on this blog that my husband Gil and I got married twice.
This is Gil. Also known as Gili Bazili, Mubs, and Rav Gil to some. He’s not a Rabbi (yet!).
You cannot tell from this picture that Gil is a serious dude. I mean way serious. He studies in Yeshiva whenever he possibly can, and runs around this crazy city attempting to make life easier for our family the rest of the time. Serious? Oh ya. Silly? You bet.
So why get married twice? This deserves a little background. Well, actually a lot of background but I will give you the condensed version and I’m sure there will be a million unanswered questions and that’s the beauty of my imperfect personality. I did not grow up Jewish. We celebrated Christmas and ate bunches of bacon for Easter brunch at my Grandparent’s WASPy country club. I frequented St. Christopher’s Church on occasion with my devout Catholic Grandmother who lived with us. I even went through a short (ok not so short) stint as a practicing Wiccan, hence the “Witchy room” in my parent’s basement that is still referred to as such to this day. I got a mini cauldron from my Aunt for Christmas one year. That’s all I’ll say.
But I knew that something was off with me. At around 8 years old I decided that I really should be Jewish, and perhaps I should join the tribe. My ever wise parents advised that the conversion process to Judaism was long and arduous, and that I would not be able to participate in the same family activities as the rest of them. Not a great idea in other words. I agreed, but the idea stayed with me. It would take more than a decade before I successfully completed an Orthodox conversion to Judaism and officially became a Jew. About 11 of those years were not spent bent over Jewish texts. There were boyfriends, and concerts, drinks, trouble and a whole lot of fun. I would not take those years back for anything, although my life now looks a hecka of a lot different.
Back to the wedding. I met my husband Gil on a small Kibbutz (communal living settlement) in the Negev Desert in Israel. We shmoozed, flirted, took motorbike rides through the sandy dunes and rows of date palms, and smoked Noblesse cigarettes (I have heard these are illegal in all other countries other than Israel. They are so strong they will for sure make you sick the first time you try one. Also on several occasions I would smoke a Noblesse and it would POP. This was a bug hidden in the tobacco. Mmmmmm). And then slowly but surely, when we trusted each other enough to talk about those hidden things, those of life’s secret pursuits, we realized that a religious, Jewish path was one we both desperately yearned for.
Gil went to the Center Program at Ohr Sameach Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and I went back home to college in the snowy Midwest and studied with a whole mess of Rabbis ranging from my school’s Reform Rabbi to the Black Hats of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Gil and I got engaged the summer after I graduated from college. But where to have a wedding??? Gil’s parents and brothers live on Kibbutz Ketura, considered to be a Conservative Jewish congregation. My parents eat pork tenderloin slow cooked on the grill, and love going to movies on Friday nights. AND THEY LIVE IN CLEVELAND, OHIO. There would have to be two weddings. One in Israel, with a beautiful chuppah, an Orthodox Rabbi, and traditional Jewish dancing. But what to do about this Cleveland wedding?
It was decided that we would have a real, American wedding, but with a few conditions in order to meet our religious standards. This meant having a beautiful venue, a DJ, and dancing. But we would not be participating in the dancing. This also meant a gorgeous display of food and wine, but ours were brought in double wrapped in plastic right to our newlywed table. The wedding cake was gorgeous, and baked by an expert Kosher caterer. But what about the ceremony? Would we do a repeat of the chuppah? That didn’t feel right. Leave out the ceremony all together and just celebrate our new marriage? Then my two older brothers and large extended family would not have been witness to see us actually tie the knot. So here comes the awkwardness.
After much consideration, Gil, my parents and I decided the best option was to have a civil ceremony, done our way, so that my family could see us get married, and then have a big ol’ party to follow. We hired (what we thought was) a civil wedding officiant, and planned to walk down the aisle with our parents. I spoke to this lovely woman on the phone several times before the big day. She even let us alter what she would normally say during the ceremony so that it didn’t over step any of our religious boundaries. She knew that there would be no kiss following the vows because religious Jews choose to keep physical affection with their spouse for private venues.
Our wedding day rolls around. Nervously everyone is anticipating what will the ceremony be like? Will we dance? And since we also do not show physical affection to those of the opposite sex (other than our spouses), should our guests lean in for a kiss from their beloved cousin, friend, or new family member? Our wedding officiant shows up to the venue like this:
You see that itty bitty little CROSS? And the flowing robes similar to a PRIEST? Regardless, this woman was exceptionally nice and understanding. As I didn’t see her until I walked down the aisle, when I reached Gil I naturally burst out laughing. I think everyone thought it was nerves. Did I mention that we forgot to have processional music? So my bridesmaids, Gil and his parents and mine all walked down in DEAD SILENCE. I’m pretty sure our guests thought this was a weird Orthodox Jewish thing. No, just another awkward oversight.
We said our heartfelt, personal vows, which meant a lot to my parents.
During a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, there are several blessings made, but the bride never actually speaks. My post-Feminist Mother could not believe that. So following our Israeli wedding which was about as traditional as it gets (except for the fact that we were on a Kibbutz in the middle of the desert), this was a nice touch. I cried, Gil even got choked up, my ever stoic and bordering-on-robot-like husband. Pretty cute.
As the ceremony came to an end, our beloved officiant was supposed to announce us as husband and wife, and introduce us to our family and friends as Mr. and Mrs. This was meant to signal the end of the ceremony, because as I mentioned, there would be no kiss. Not even a peck. Not a hug, a hand hold, or a high-five. It’s how we roll. But I think given the strange nature of the ceremony, she forgot. And of course there was no music. So I silently turned to the audience, gave a wave and a shoulder shrug and said “Thanks! It’s over!” Ya, I’m smooth. And then we walked away. I’m pretty sure that as we got out of the door she yelled “And now announcing…” which I felt really topped it all off.
It was New Year’s Eve, so we danced (well actually everyone else danced), ate, laughed and counted down until the Ball dropped. The night went fairly smoothly after that. But oh wait. It’s not over. Did I MENTION the Christmas trees? Our venue was a botanical garden and that was their “winter themed” decor. At least it wasn’t Santa’s workshop as we horrifyingly anticipated.
We had a blast. It was awkward, it was funny, but it was fun. The mix-ups and paradoxes proved to genuinely reflect our strange union- suburban convert meets kibbutznik turned yeshiva student. I wouldn’t want it any other way.