In case you missed part one, you can find it here.
One of the people who kept poking his head into my dressing room was, of course, our photographer. Unsurprisingly, he kept inquiring when I’d be ready so we could start taking pictures. He always seemed to catch me right after another interruption, and thus I was never ready when he asked. This made me feel kind of bad for him, as I imagined him trying to placate my parents and future in-laws while he dashed back and forth in his attempt to retrieve me. The last time he popped in, I was basically dressed with the exception of my white chosson’s tie, since I don’t yet know how to do a full Windsor tie knot (yeah, yeah whatever - I'm trying to learn). He quickly offered to tie the full Windsor knot (which I preferred for the occasion since it just looks nicer than the standard half-Windsor), and I was finally ready to go.
Of course, we had to do the whole shticky bit of photographing the moment ASoG and I saw each other for the first time. One problem I had with this was that I had read an idea in the sefer Yom Chupa L’Chatan that it is important to try and say a shehechiyanu on the day of the wedding. While it is a very appropriate shevach to HaShem and would seemingly fit the occasion, for some reason the bracha was not built into the ceremony at all. Hence, it is worthwhile to have a new suit or something else that requires a shehechiyanu for the chosson to say in the presence of the kallah and have her answer amein, having in mind the significance of reaching the day of marriage as well.
I did, indeed, have a brand-new suit for the occasion, but the tricky part was figuring out how to put it on then say the shehechiyanu without creating a significant delay between donning the suit for the first time and reciting the bracha. So, the answer I figured out on the spot was to simply not wear my suit jacket during this first meeting picture sequence, and subsequently put it on after the cameramen left us alone, then said the shehechiyanu. My reasoning was that it isn’t worthwhile to say shehechiyanu on a new pair of pants, which isn’t so chashuv, since it should be said on the complete suit, which I wasn’t technically wearing without the jacket. I was very happy receive confirmation from Rav Simon (who, as I mentioned in the last post, is currently doing topics on Shehechiyanu in his weekly Sunday halacha shiur) that this course of action was a good thing to do.
The picture taking process itself, as you might imagine – or have heard from any married person, or sibling of a married person – is heck, simply put. The feeling of standing there, doing pose after awkward pose, straining the limits of your ability to focus, smile and re-smile, and maintain a good sense of patience through the whole thing is very draining. And don’t forget that all this is on top of the fact that I was fasting. ASoG had had a bit to drink earlier and was a slightly better off than I. Before any unmarried or uninformed readers jump all over my wife, after asking a she’ayla about this, my rav informed me that even the biggest poskim are very maykil (lenient) on women fasting on the day of their wedding, since they are often nervous wrecks as it is without the additional strain of fasting to burden them. However, she had to contend with the rather binding fit of her dress, which restricted her breathing and movement a bit, so perhaps she really was worse off than I was.
One good thing that our photographer did – which I recommend to all readers for their own wedding – is to kick out everyone else when we did our couple pictures, both before and after the chuppah. Pictures are of this sort are generally awkward enough as it is, all the more so when it’s just you and your soon-to-be/brand-new spouse. No one wants their crazy Aunt Faygel, let alone annoying little siblings or even beaming, proud parents sit there on the sidelines making comments, faces, and other distractions. Of course, all the onlookers were extremely disappointed when the head photographer announced that everyone other than ASoG and I had to leave. Despite this precaution, a few anxious, camera-happy relatives still tried taking pictures through the little window of the door at the back of the room, or attempted to follow us when we changed locations for different scenery in the pictures.
As a side note, it would appear to me that hands are a photographer’s worst enemy. I’ve noticed from my own picture taking experiences, both formal and informal, that hand positioning is always difficult. I’ve seen pictures I’ve been in where everything is perfect, except my hands are awkwardly or strangely positioned. In this instance, I don’t think I’ve ever thrust my hands into my pockets so many times in my life. Wedding photographers constantly make the guys stick their hands in their pockets to get them out of sight and out of mind. They kept telling me that it’s the fashion model thing to do; standing there with one leg up on a step-stool, and my hand facing the camera pulling my jacket aside while carefully inserted into my pants pocket.
Family pictures were fun, crazy, and a bit of a hassle at the same time. Despite the fact that our immediate family was (hopefully) on time, the abundance of extended relatives were not even close. Several of ASoG’s uncles and cousins came rather late to the wedding, my father forgot to tell his younger brother what time pictures were so that he and my aunt were “busy” relaxing at the hotel when we did my side’s pictures, and a cousin of mine had to fly in from a business trip - from Europe – but only after making a connecting flight upon reaching the States (he arrived in time for the tisch). We ended up having to round up my extended family a second time, which was a hoot in-and-of-itself, following our post-yichud room pictures just to make sure these temporarily absent relatives got their chance to appear in the wedding album.
Once pictures were finally over, Mom and ASoG’s Mom whisked her away with other assorted female relatives squealing in tow to her throne by the shmorg for the Kabbolas Panim.
As a side point - another thing I noticed during the course of my wedding was how much of a difference of attention is given to the kallah versus the chosson. ASoG had a whole entourage take her to the kabbolas panim, whereas all the male relatives simply dispersed, either running to the bathroom and/or to grab food at the shmorg. So there I was, all alone with the ring, kesubah, and tana’im, just waiting around by myself for guests in the tisch room (my shomer had stepped out during pictures, since I wasn't alone and I didn't have my phone with me to call him back). The same thing happened at the badeken and after we made our grand entrance, but I’ll talk more about that later.
Thankfully, one of my rabbeim, along with my friend who drove him in showed up a few minutes later and kept me company until everyone else starting filing in after they stopped by the shmorg on their way in. I didn’t really sit at the head table so much as I had seen many friends do at their own weddings. Instead, I spent most of my time walking about and schmoozing with friends, family, and rabbeim.
The two most frequently asked questions were “Wow, can you believe you’re getting married?” and “Wow, I can’t believe you’re up and about. You’re fasting, right? Are you okay?” Generally, I am a pretty good fast-er, especially on days unlike Yom Kippur where I can ride around in cars and enjoy air conditioning instead of making the long walk to shul from my house. I was perhaps a little weak, but the excitement of the moment and the accompanying adrenaline were keeping me pretty buoyant.
I was also regularly accosted by soon-to-be distant relatives I had never met before who would simply say "Mazal tov! I'm going to be your cousin/great-uncle/some relation so far removed that even your kallah doesn't know me!" then omit actually telling me what their name was. I guess it was nice of them to realize that I would have about 0% chance of remembering who they were, even if one or two of them were somewhat significant figures that I had been briefed about/heard about many times during our engagement. Despite that courtesy, what was the real point of actually saying that to my face? Particularly if this was one of the few chances I'd ever have to interact with them, why not make it memorable and give me a name to feebly attempt to store in my mind?
Anyway, the kabbolas panim was a big deal for me (as was the rest of the wedding), because it was the first time the two halves of my life, namely the YU side and my hometown side, have ever interacted. I’ve sort of lived two distinct lives, one when I'm here in New York and the other when I'm back home. I have two totally different sets of friends and rabbeim, each quite different from the other, but for me the variety has really benefitted me and given me the ability to grow into the person I am today. Very few people from there have ever gone to YU, with several notable exceptions, and I’m probably the most pro-YU person in the community. It was wonderful for me to feel such a sense of shelaymus/completeness when my rabbeim from home and YU were all together, some even acting together as pairs of eidim for different kibbudim. Seeing Rabbi Blau together with my middle school rebbe/former NCSY advisor or Rabbi Carmy with a close family friend who half-adopted me when I became shomer shabbos, put a huge smile on my face.
Finally, things got underway when my Mesader Kiddushin (henceforth referred to as MK) arrived and I was called to my seat at the head of the table. My YU friends, who were sitting nearby, began singing very enthusiastically as we began with me doing the kinyan for the tan’aim, which was signed by the witnesses, the kesubah was similarly signed, and read aloud by a friend of ASoG’s family. After I did the kinyan, and my MK was busy making sure the eidim were signing correctly, the photographer had me take several cheesy pictures holding up the ring and looking intently at the kesubah, etc.
There have been so many times where I've sat at a chosson's tisch, munching on food, singing and enjoying the festivities. It was a somewhat surreal experience to suddenly be the center of attention rather than simply a guest. I would venture to say that most of the day's proceedings had at least some tinge of that out-of-body feeling, as though the significance of the moment wasn't quite hitting me just yet.
After the tana'im were read, Our mothers broke the plate over the back of a chair, and the band struck up the usual “Od Yishoma.” My Father and ASoG’s each grabbed a hand to lead me to greet my bride amidst the cheers, singing, and antics of my friends.
Look For Part 3 Soon!