Just let it go
It’s not easy to let go. But if we have learned anything from planning a wedding in another country, during a pandemic, with a Yemenite future daughter-in-law across a language and cultural divide with different levels of religious observance and vastly different customs, it’s that we need to do just that.
Just let it go.
Imagine telling a guy who spends three hours a day, five days a week on radio, aside from podcasts and other presentations, that there will be no speeches at the wedding. And that he’s expected not to go within 10m of a microphone. And telling the same guy who wakes up at 04:00 each morning that the buses back to Jerusalem will be at either midnight or 02:30. And that the chuppah is scheduled to start at 20:30, but that most likely it won’t be before 21:00, give or take an hour or two.
There’s not enough Xanax in the world to calm a Jewish South African down.
Retinue colours? My wife asked expectedly on one of the numerous Zoom calls. Our future daughter-in-law and existing son exchange glances. “Whatever anyone wants. Your choice. Why would we tell people what to wear”? The question seems to puzzle them. “How’s it going with your dress?” the South African mother of the groom enquires. “I bought it. Vintage. I love it!” And promptly sends the family, including the groom, a picture. The concept of him not seeing her dress is as baffling as dictating that pale people wear yellow.
Why would that even be a thing?
When the couple realised quite how out of our depth we were, they did what any 2022 twenty-somethings would do. They prepared a PowerPoint presentation called “The 101 guide to Israeli/Yemenite weddings.” We were invited to an evening that might have felt a bit “special needs”, but we appreciated it, nevertheless.
Rule one: no matter what you wear to the wedding, you will feel either overdressed or underdressed. People will arrive in ties and bowties or jeans and T-shirts. And no one will feel that they got it right. The lesson? Wear what you want, be who you are, and enjoy. But don’t for a moment think that anyone feels more appropriately dressed than you do.
Rule two: the bedekin, where in traditional Ashkenazi terms, the groom sees his bride for the first time, when he lowers the veil over her and then is marched to the chuppah by his parents, isn’t quite the same. The couple will have seen each other, mingled with guests, and even had a photo or three. When the chuppah begins, he is indeed marched down the aisle by his parents but then after his bride is ushered halfway down by hers, he leaves the chuppah and walks to her where he sees her for the first time in, like, 30 minutes. He lowers her veil, and then together, they walk back to the chuppah. Although not our custom, there is something rather beautiful about this that somehow speaks to me.
As for the henna party, I still remain clueless.
Which is all the more reason that we need to let it go.
So far, this is all theory. Next week this time we would have, please G-d, enjoyed the henna party, celebrated the shabbat chattan, and after the wedding, at which I won’t speak, have taken either the midnight or 02:30 bus back to Jerusalem.
The lack of control doesn’t sit easily for me. But whereas there are many unknowns, what’s known are the things that count. We adore our future daughter-in-law. She is kind and she makes my son happy. And her family are warm and caring and can’t do enough to make us feel comfortable. We might have made the choice to let everything else go, but that’s something we’ll hold on to.