Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Post Wedding Report Part 7: The End - Or - The Beginning

Welcome to the 7th and final part of my Post Wedding Report. This has been a project that was in the works for a long time, but I'm glad to have finally completed it. Enjoy!

Before you read this post, don't forget to check out parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6!

Dancing was intense and very fun. I say intense for two reasons – my friends were really, really into it, and because I had eaten a little too much in the yichud room, so I was very focused on not having my delicious break-the-fast meal revisit me on the dance floor. I had listened to the advice of an older married friend who suggested we request the caterer to serve real food in the yichud room and not just cake and soda. This was great advice, but I will add to it that despite how hungry you, as the chosson or kallah might be (and generally the chosson is the more likely of the two to actually eat anything significant) don’t push yourself. Aside from the usual stomach shrinkage due to fasting, you’ve also been on pins and needles all day with excitement, anticipation, and a healthy dose of nervousness, so your stomach really can’t handle so much, and it certainly can’t handle a lot of spinning around in circles afterward. Thus, during the first set, I had to ask those dancing with me to slow down or not spin as much to prevent any messy scenarios.

The band was fantastic, and really did a great job getting everyone present into a simcha-mindset with their energetic performance.

During our engagement, I did my very best to keep to my rebbe’s advice that he imparted to ASoG and I when we first met with him after we got engaged, which was to “be cool” throughout the engagement process and let our parents do as much of the planning as possible. However, the band wasn’t something that I could just leave to my parents or future in-laws to take care of. In fact, this was pretty much the only thing I had any desire to be involved with vis-à-vis planning the wedding, and I had to make sure that the band we had was a good one.

I’m a big fan of Jewish music (as evidenced by a number of posts on this blog), and I had debated with myself for a while what style of band I wanted at our wedding: either the very standard orchestra type, with the blaring brass instruments and loud, pounding sound, or the more laid-back 4-5 member band set up with the focus on acoustic/electric guitars. Think Neshama Orchestra versus The Moshav Band. My dilemma was to go with the stereotypical wedding band sound, which, despite its tendency to burst eardrums, honestly infuses a lot of energy into the dancing, or the more b’nachas approach, which although lacking the oomph of the big-band approach, is far more leibedig. In the end, I decided to go with the non-orchestral approach, and I don’t regret it for a moment.

The dancing was a big deal for me, since it was the part of our wedding where all the different people in attendance, who represented all the different time periods of my life joined with each other in one big mixture to celebrate together. I had friends there from pre-school/middle school, high school/NCSY, my yeshiva in Israel, and Yeshiva University – aside from all the relatives and friends who came in from my hometown. It was truly wonderful to see all the diverse elements of my life come together in such a beautiful mosaic of simcha.

The shtick was amazing, and turned out to be almost as good as, if not as good as it would have been had I planned it all myself. I had dropped a few hints here and there regarding some things that I wanted to see, such as my request for one pair of friends who randomly did the Macarena in a hilarious fashion at another mutual friend’s wedding to do a repeat performance at mine. However, some guys totally surprised me, knowing exactly what in-jokes to play off of even without my suggestions. Even the bits of shtick that I did request were done better than I had imagined. There was also a lot of shtick that I had no clue was coming, but was executed very well and drew many laughs and smiles from ASoG and I.

As a result of all of this wedding related merriment, I’ve heard dozens and dozens of comments from those that were there that our wedding was one of the best they’ve ever been to. We didn’t go overboard with excessive frills that are often found at weddings nowadays, but we managed to have an amazing simcha – largely in part to all of my friends who came. Even the disparate groups, such as my hometown friends and my YU friends, all worked together very cohesively, instead of the “take turns” method I’ve seen at other weddings where the different groups share the chosson back and forth because they don’t want to have anything to do with each other. I really can’t take any credit for how wonderful everything was, because the guys really outdid themselves with the dancing, shtick, and celebrating – it seemed like everyone had their simcha-meter dial cranked up past the maximum limit. My family also really got into the shtick performances when they brought ASoG over to sit with me. Even my less-religious relatives got in on the game and seemingly had a great time.

The girls’ side, from what I heard/saw (and witnessed in the video) wasn’t quite the same as ours. ASoG tells me she enjoyed everything – with the exception of the silly umbrella breaking confetti-filled balloons thing – which I still don’t understand whatsoever.

At the end of the first set, everyone danced us over to the head table in the typical fashion (after refusing to stop dancing, as is usually seen). The photographer scuttled over and wanted to take the prerequisite hand washing pictures, even though we had already washed and begun to eat in the yichud room. We obliged, taking turns pouring water over each other’s hands and me posing with the big challah and knife – though I don’t think anyone ever ate any of it.

Of course, as I had been forewarned, we didn’t really have a chance to eat much during the break. My mother had told me before the wedding that we should go around to eat table to greet all our guests, but I insisted that we weren’t going to do that for two reasons 1) We were going to be exhausted from the fasting and dancing (which we were) and 2) If we’re the king and queen for the day and it’s everyone’s job to entertain us, then they should come to us and not vice versa – which is basically what happened. There were guests who wanted to say hello and mazal tov, others who were leaving early wanted to say goodbye and mazal tov, and others just came by to visit. Before we knew it, we were back on the dance floor for round two.

One thing I particularly enjoyed during the dancing (all three sets) was the individual partner dancing with my friends, relatives, and rabbeim. As each one emerged from the throngs to grab my hands and begin his own personal dance – and there were many different sorts – the crowd let out a cheer and turned the dancing and singing up a notch. It was so meaningful to go one-by-one and dance with each of my friends, and even more so with all of my rabbeim who were present, which ran the spectrum of my Jewish educational career, starting from my local day school when I wasn’t really religious all the way to my rebbe at YU.

After the second set they brought out the dessert buffet, and ASoG and I made a point to cut our cake, which had been largely ignored the entire evening. Of course, I’m sure everyone was waiting for us to cut it, and take our cutesy feeding each other pieces of cake pictures, but even after that very few were willing to try some. I cut up a bunch of pieces and started calling out to people to please take. There was a large group of women huddled nearby chatting, so I got their attention and told them that they need to take a piece, since the wedding was already over and there was no need to worry about fitting in their dresses anymore. I only got a few more takers from that offer…

By the time the last set started most of the attendees had left for the evening – it was getting later after all. Nevertheless, a core group of my friends refused to let the liveliness of the celebration die down, and they yanked me back onto the dance floor once again. I remember someone once explained to me how the last dance set is really the most important, because the majority of guests have already gone, and you need to make sure the chosson and kallah aren’t left twiddling their thumbs the remainder of the time the band has on their contract. These fellows were definitely some of my closest friends, and they didn’t disappoint whatsoever. As per ASoG’s family tradition, we did jump rope with a big sparkly streamer-thing, and it turns out I was pretty good (I could leap rather high). We started off a bit rough since one of the rope-swingers was a little on the short side, which made for uneven rotations, but once we got two taller guys to take the job, we were in business.

My friends kept things going strong up until the last minute, when someone came in and said that our limousine was due to arrive shortly, and we needed to wrap things up. We semi-abruptly ran over to our table to begin sheva brachos. At this point, I had forgotten my list of kibbudim somewhere in the hall, and with my second copy, which my uncle had had at the chupa also missing in action, my shomer saved the day with my third back-up copy, which I had given him for just such a scenario. It turned out a number of the guests we had wanted to say a sheva bracha at the bentsching had already left, so we improvised for a few selections.

We finished the last sheva bracha after which ASoG and I sipped the awful tasting hall-provided wine again and passed around the leftovers for all the eager singles to get their segulah wine. Our remaining friends quickly lined up for parting words and to receive brachos from us. We had to do this in a bit of a hurry because the limousine driver had already arrive and was beginning to threaten that he’d leave without us if we didn’t get downstairs soon enough.

In my previous wedding attendance experience, I’ve seen the chosson either give generic brachos to the guys that they learn a lot and find their kallah, or actually make an effort to be more personal and formulate a bracha that is direct and more meaningful. I did my best to opt for the latter, which always made a lot more sense and made me feel far more appreciative when I was the on the receiving end of those brachos.

We managed to collect almost all of the wedding shtick we had, though a few semi-important/expensive things ended up missing and were never found. ASoG and I ran to the yichud room to gather our belongings and grab our prepared food to take with us. I handed off my kitel and a few other things to my mother to take back home, and we dashed down the stairs to catch our ride.

The photographer was long gone at this point, so we don’t have any official pictures of us leaving/getting in the limo. The driver was particularly determined to leave at the appointed time, so we ended up running out without even saying goodbye to our fathers, who were left behind to deal with paying the hall manager and the band leader. A small group escorted us with our things into the limo, we said our goodbyes and headed off to our hotel.

The limousine ride had a sort of magical quality to it, since this was the first time we truly were totally alone as husband and wife. All the ceremonies and celebrations were over, and we finally had a chance to relax and take a deep breath as Mr. and Mrs. Shades of Grey, without worrying about that bothersome knock on the door to the yichud room. We made it! We survived the engagement and the wedding, and although a lot more lay ahead for us, we were ecstatic over the new life we were beginning.

I won’t divulge anything further about that evening, for obvious reasons, other than that it turned out the hotel we stayed at was hosting several weddings that night. As we pulled up to the front driveway, dozens of drunken men and women were milling about, clearly continuing to party long after the wedding they attended had ended. A number of them saw the white limo, ran over and thumped the car with their fits, cheering us on – I think they may have mistaken us for their own recently wedded friends. At any rate, we successfully managed to avoid the unwelcome visitors and enter the hotel, quite exhausted, but filled with joy at the life we were beginning together.

So ends my series of Post Wedding Reports detailing all the ins-and-outs of our special day. I’m glad I was able to complete them, despite many delays, and hope I can look back on this record, along with our video, to help me recall the funny, bizarre, meaningful, and happy goings-on that we experienced.

Was everything absolutely perfect, just the way I envisioned it? Nope – see my post about the pictures as one example. However, the amount of things that went right far outweighed the issues and incongruities that popped up. Life isn’t perfect, and weddings certainly aren’t perfect. The main thing is to focus on the most important aspect of the wedding; namely, the fact that you are marrying the one person you want to spend the rest of your life with. All the other mishugas simply falls away when viewed from that proper perspective.

The wedding is truly only a start to life together, but it encapsulates a level of simcha as of yet unparalleled in one’s life. However, as Rav Reichman told us at Chana and Heshy’s sheva brachos, this elevated intensity of simcha does not last, and does in fact fade away as normal life sets in following the week of sheva brachos. The key for any married couple is to understand that this is but a taste of the true simcha that can be attained in marriage – a realistic goal that can be attained through hard work, dedication, mutual giving, and lots of love.

Someone recently told us that he’s been married for 24 years and it only gets better and better. I hope that we can strive to embody Rav Reichman’s lesson, and use our wedding as a model for the happiness we want to achieve and maintain throughout our lives. May everyone who is married take this lesson to heart and focus their attention on working together to ascend spiritual heights together, and may everyone not yet married soon experience this great joy and begin their own journey to recapture and relive the elation of their wedding day.

1 comment:

  1. I've learned so much from these wedding reports that you've shared with us. Thank you so much for taking the time to type it up.

    Those last two paragraphs are the key: the goal is not a wedding. The goal is to build a bayit NE'EMAN b'Yisrael.
    B"H it seems like you and Mrs. Shades have the healthy and proper outlook towards marriage! May HaShem always bless the both of you, and may each year only get better and better!


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