I will say that it is darn hard to figure out how to stay smiling so long during that march to the chuppah, as well as how to configure your facial expressions during the time you’re up there. The second issue is more relevant to the chosson who is up there during the entire procession of the kallah’s family, though the walk-down is something they both must confront. Smiling the entire way down, without moving a muscle above the neck is very difficult, not to mention somewhat painful - particularly after having exercised those cheeks, lips, and eyebrows for several hours beforehand. While I did smile the whole way down the aisle, I didn’t just stare ahead like a zombie, I looked to the side (the men’s side that is) and saw family, friends, and rabbeim standing and beaming with anticipation.
While the whole day felt so surreal, that particular aura was compounded dozens, if not hundreds of times over the minute I stepped through that door. Everyone, and I mean everyone was looking right at me. Man was that intense, to say the least.
My mind was racing, a million questions flying through my head, most wondering if this, in fact, reality.
Was this really happening?
Was this day finally here?
After all the trials and tribulations of two and a half years of dating, the ups and downs, disappointments and triumphs, was I really walking toward my own chuppah, holding the hands of the two people who gave birth to me and raised me to be the man I have become?
Was I really about to start my own family, to have someone I love and care about take on my last name and align herself with me over her own parents and siblings?
Was I really ready to be a husband; did I have what it takes to be loving, understanding, patient, considerate, respectful –and a hundred other things – to truly fulfill the role as it should be?
Was I mature enough, responsible enough, and grown enough to take upon the responsibilities required of me?
In short: Was I really ready?
The answer to all those questions, at that moment, and certainly now (at least I hope) was simply: yes.
Once we ascended the few steps to the chuppah, we had a little bit of a break as the band began to sing Mi Adir. The wedding coordinator told my parents to dress me in the kittel, to which Mom replied, “I have no idea how to do that!” Dad stepped in, very nonchalantly, and offered his services. Dad helped me into the white robe – which was to remind me of the personal Yom Kippur I had endured all day until this moment, the purity that my soul had attained in being forgiven of all of my sins, the holiness of the day, as well as the day of death, since one day (G-d willing not anytime soon) I will also don a white robe, but for the last time.
Standing up there is a bit nerve-wracking. I had my list of things to daven for, primarily thanks to this wonderful article on Aish.com. I printed that list out and read it probably 5 or 6 times over the course of the day that I had practically memorized it. I also davened for all the single friends I knew, both those present and elsewhere. The one tefillah that I kept repeating over and over again, almost mantra-like was that “ASoG and I should be always be as happy and fulfilled in our lives together as we are at this most sacred and elevated moment.”
I very distinctly remember my Mother commenting to me after my graduation from our local Jewish day school in 8th grade that I never smiled or seemed happy while I was up on stage with my classmates. I replied that I wasn’t happy at all, it was a very serious moment and I was in fact a bit sad, since I knew we were all never going to be in the same class together again, with different kids going to one of six different schools. Because of this incident, I told myself I wouldn’t be stone faced under the chuppah, despite the gravity of the occasion.
As I alternatively watched ASoG’s relatives walk down, scanned the crowd, and closed my eyes in prayer, I made sure to vary my facial expressions, going from smiley happy, to serious concentration, and optimistic longing for ASoG – as well as many other emotions that were swirling through me.
The moment ASoG appeared was absolutely magical.
The band did a stupendous job at creating just the right atmosphere with each walk-down theme - particularly when ASoG was escorted down the aisle toward me –I was almost in tears. Yom Chuppah L’Chatan mentions that it is particularly important for a chosson to shed tears under the chuppah as part of the overall teshuva process of the day. Although no tears flowed down my cheeks, I was darn close. I remember one chosson who married a friend of mine had both tears and mucus from his nose running down his face to the point where I really wanted to announce “won’t someone get the poor boy a tissue!?!” Perhaps that memory kept me in check…
When ASoG was within a few feet of the chuppah, I descended the steps to go greet her, as it were. Her parents released her hands, and we walked side-by-side up to the chuppah – the first act of leaving her parents’ home to join me in forming our own.