THE JEWISH WEDDING


TRADITIONAL JEWISH WEDDINGS


I have an expression! How do you get eight opinions from seven people?

Simple, book a Jewish Wedding! Now I can say that because I am very Jewish by birth, follow traditions, formal Bar Mitzvah and all with a Rabbi in the family.  

Another favorite expression of mine, I got from the Carnival people since I live near Gibsonton, Florida, the winter home of the Circus and traveling Carnival folks.  It’s in here a lot.  

They find out ahead of time “Who is the stick”!  The stick is the boss, not the mock boss, the real boss.  In the old day’s carnival bosses carried sticks and used them on animals and people.

Five bucks says it’s not the father. Its Mom. Get all that out of the way fast before you sign contracts. 

Simply ask “who is the person here that I am contracting with?”.  Coming from a typical Matriarchal Jewish family, I can tell you they are either open in conversation about Weddings in front of you and twice as vocal after you leave, the truth might come out.   

I called it “ Yenterism”.    It’s the sacred form of communication that takes place in whispers after you leave.  The movie with 

My beloved mother had a Master’s, possibly a Doctorate in reading through things.  It will get passed around the table and some input is allowed, sometimes softly, sometimes screaming and yelling encouraged and insisted by Moms, Aunts, Friends, Upstairs Neighbors and anyone who will listen. That’s why I say get it done up front.  To be honest,  and may she be still giving good advice to God,  she was always spot on and right about things.

If you charge by hours or time, get the overtime in writing and explain that to them three times and have them all sign it.  Otherwise, you will lose. You are outgunned and out maneuvered at every step.

Other strongly family-oriented groups present the same situation. Now therefore I insist “That you explain that the decision maker (the boss, the stick) at the Wedding is the Bride and she has the final word. Legally, spiritually, emotionally, she is the one you will do business with”.   If not, and you have clearly not designated this, I wish you well. (Get it in writing). I don't have false aspirations of success.

If hell breaks loose and something goes wrong she will go crying to ... her mother. You will be the next in line if there is no official Wedding Planner.  That’s why you must read BRIDEZILLA and follow these lessons. 


DIVERSITY IN DIVERSITY
The Jewish Congregation is itself divided into three sects, The Reform ( not reformed which is wrong ) The Conservative and the Orthodox.  The believe the same but do it differently in seating , language customs and heritage.  As  a Jew you might attend a Temple (used by reform) a Synagogue ( mainly Conservative)  and the Shul (Used by all including Orthodox) 

Traditionally, Jewish congregations were known as kehillot kodesh, or Holy Assemblies (in single form, a kahal kodesh). They were also referred to as batei knesset, or Houses of Assembly. The Greek translation συναγωγή (synagoguē) means “assembly.” Today, the Knesset (Parliament) is the Israeli legislative assembly.

While the beth hamikdash (the ancient Jerusalem Temple) existed, the role of synagogues may have been quite different from today. We do know that they existed in Palestine, Babylonia, and elsewhere; we know that the Torah was read in them on a regular basis and tefilot, prayers or psalms, were recited as part of the service.

When the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, the synagogue became more vitally central to the establishment of Jewish communities all over the world.

Synagogues were also called batei tefila, or Houses of Prayer, and batei midrash, or Houses of Study. In Eastern and Central Europe, this led to the synagogue being called a shul, the Yiddish word for school.

When the Reform movement emerged as a lay movement in the first decade of the 19th century, the first “temple” was established in Hamburg, Germany. The use of the name “temple” was intentional. It was a statement about the traditional belief in the restoration of the ancient Temple in messianic times.

 

THE GREAT SIDE


Once the plans are down pat and signed for and all grey and dark areas are covered, be ready for a good ride.  The Jewish Wedding can be very, very photographic. Some of the customs such as the vows under a small open tent and the breaking of the glass are very symbolic and offer some good chances of a winning shot.  

Then at the reception be prepared to move quickly as the traditional circle dances and the rest of the wedding party and guests get into the act. It grows and builds. You will be busy trying to catch the action. 

This is the time for the second shooter to come alive and tell him or her to get as much as they can.  The action is fast you need a strobe at half power on manual and get in tune with the dancing.  Don’t get in the middle, a couple all-star male dancers with chairs for the Bride and groom will jump in and a football gear won’t help you

They do dance and on one occasion, a Wedding at a three-story hall, the news station caught the floor collapsing they danced so hard on the second floor it caved and sent many to the hospital. This is not kidding about, it really happened.

TRADITION, TRADITION!
In the traditional Jewish ceremony, it is highly representative of the sentimental rites laws brought down for centuries. The center is the marriage contract, the Ketuvah.

There are many significant rites such as the two-mothers of the bride and groom, smash a dish wrapped in a towel to officiate the marriage of the families. It represents a broken dish can never again be united. When I was younger I believe my mother used the oldest ones on me for no apparent reason of course…when I got bigger the frying pan became her weapon of choice.

Dishes have meaning. Their children should only know unity—with no breaks in their relationship.  Later on, you realize broken dishes are a Jewish Tradition. I can think of many my dear mother threw at me.  She only threw the older miss-matched ones for effect.  But not the English China she adored.  

 At my nephews wedding, they are standing under a Chuppah, four poles and a very ornate covering.   The Chuppah is open on all sides representing open skies. In his temple, there are skylights as you will find in most temples to be under open skies and this means you better be thinking light balance.

His was a nightmare of lighting.  For the groom in the more orthodox or conservative movements the groom will wear a kittle, a white cotton cloak-like garment and the Bride will enter, and the groom will bring her to the Chuppah. 

At this time, the bride will slowly circle the groom seven times. It is followed by blessings, seven usually, toasts, Mazel Tovs and then the groom gets to smash a glass, carefully wrapped in a cloth napkin, so as to prevent injury, under his shoe, which according to my nephew who happens to be a Rabbi, a solemn reminder of the destruction of King David’s temple. And to modernists it represents the breaking of all bonds of the past with others (Old Girlfriends, Great Fantasies, Wild weekends, etc.) 

Now, in my opening remarks I told you about opinions. That’s a sub-chapter!  Again, find out which they are following, what synagogue,  and attend or sneak into one just to see how things go.  Again a Jewish wedding can fall into one of the three major categories of Judaism which are Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform. Not Reformed, its correctly pronounced Reform. 

That will determine partially what you are up against. The soon to be newlyweds' families will tell you what they are, but you have to ask about, seating, dancing, and recitals, because in the Orthodox men and women do not participate in some of these customs, they are basically separated.   The most restrictive are the Hassidic.

They sit apart and if you are not accustomed to “ very proper people and by chance walk into an Orthodox wedding”, get help. I avoided doing them, they are very strict.  They are my people but at times very tough to deal with. I left it for others.

 

MY JEWISH NON-JEWISH WEDDING

 

MY SIDE OF THE STORY
Just so you understand, I’m not picking on Jewish Weddings. Again, I am Jewish and naturally have shot many.  That’s why my wife and I eloped, my brother and his lovely wife did the same.  It’s a TRADITION in our family to elope. 

I believe my father and mother did the same. But came back to Brooklyn and had the small but traditional ceremony or my grandfather was going to shoot the two of them.   

Many years ago, early in the morning I asked my significant other if she should could get a few hours off on next Thursday and she asked why?  I thought and explained marriage was a good idea, we were soul mates, had been together for the longest time, I knew there was no one else. 

She said yes, I had it planned and it was less than 48 hours later, it was over at 11:00 am at the courthouse.  All these years she was alive she never regretted having the big wedding day, I always asked her. “No way” she says.  She added, we worked and attended many weddings, she was my right arm, helped and we saw the good, the bad, and the ugly, we saw the beauty, we saw hate and the bad things.  We didn’t need it.  Four hours later in my plane we were in Key West, a belated Honeymoon escaped from everyone and everything.

We were together thirty-one years till illness took her.  Other than yearly trade shows we never spent a day apart and she attended and assisted many stressful weddings I got called to do when the others less experienced shooters who were afraid to handle passed on.  That was her reason for not having one.  

As my partner, she was my right arm and best friend and I have ever had.  With all the stress and strain of my business, she was an Oasis in the Desert, an Island in the Ocean.   She is the good thing about marriage, it lasts more than just one day. I’m old school, you married and meant it, good and bad, richer or poorer... in good health or bad... life is way too short.  Ok before you all start crying, on to the next one.  This was before I lost her in August 2007 to Cancer, life has never been the same.