In this article we are taken through the thought process of one queer Jewish woman, engaged to her non-Jewish girlfriend, as she navigates the traditions of a Jewish wedding ceremony.
Judaism has been a huge part of my life this year as a movement worker for a Jewish youth group. However, in the three years prior, my religion didn’t play as large a role in my life. At a not-very-Jewish university where I clashed with the Jewish Society on multiple occasions my Jewish identity seemed very separate. I’d go away to Jewish weekends and summer camps and then come back to my regular life. So this year was the year I was immersed in my Jewish identity, going to Friday night dinners, discussing why we do social action as Jews and going to THREE seder dinners at passover.
This is also the year that I got engaged to my wonderful girlfriend who is, shock horror, not Jewish. As someone who has a non-Jewish parent, this is not a big deal, however it has led to many discussions over what our wedding will look like. She wants me to have the Jewish wedding I want (although mainly I think she just wants to step on the glass), but at the end of the day, I don’t know what my Jewish wedding would even look like. Growing up in the Liberal Jewish community, I’ve only been to four Jewish weddings, all very beautiful in their own ways but none of them very me. Now not only have I got to navigate the bullshit of the patriarchy that is so present in a traditional Jewish wedding but we have to decide the Jewish customs that we want to follow. And which we, as an interfaith couple, will be allowed to follow.
Looking at a simple list of 10 Jewish wedding traditions, there are some I wasn’t even familiar with. I was not aware of fasting on the day of your wedding until the first meal after the wedding ceremony (what if you’re not getting married until the afternoon?!?), and the bedeken, or veiling, where the groom traditionally covers the bride with the veil. Should I be incorporating these unknown traditions into my wedding, or just focusing on the ones that have meaning to me? The seven blessings, which are said during the ceremony and then by some every night for the next week, are a large part of how I want my whole wedding day conducted: with joy, gratitude and a loving community of family and friends. Another custom I have come across is yichud, a seclusion of 18 minutes with just the newly wed couple, which seems like the perfect opportunity to be able to process and reflect together, and a custom I am very much looking forward to. Other customs may not end up fitting us. I love the idea of the ketubah, the marriage contract, as a beautiful agreement of our marriage, however it is only legally binding in Jewish law, and as my partner is not Jewish, is it really appropriate?
These are some of the questions we will be tackling over the next year, and I am interested to talk to Rabbis and learn more about the Jewish traditions surrounding the wedding and marriage. And I’m sure there will be plenty to learn along the way about myself, my partner and our relationship.