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Now, an artist has posthumously given Sendak the wedding he never had. Gay marriage was legalized in Pennsylvania in fall 2015.

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Maurice Sendak lived with his partner psychoanalyst Eugene Glynn for 50 years, though he never told his parents that they were a couple. Artist Ella German chose to posthumously give them the wedding they never had. What a lovely tribute to man who still makes children (and their parents) happy!

Born to Jewish-Polish parents, Maurice’s childhood was affected by the death of many of his family members during the Holocaust. Besides Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak also wrote works such as In the Night Kitchen and Outside Over There.

Sendak described his childhood as a “terrible situation” due to the death of members of his extended family, which exposed him at a young age to the concept of mortality. His love of books began when, as a child, he developed health problems and was confined to his bed. He decided to become an illustrator after watching Walt Disney‘s film Fantasia at the age of 12. He spent much of the 1950s illustrating children’s books written by others before beginning to write his own stories.

Sendak mentioned in a September 2008 article in The New York Times that he was gay and had lived with his partner, psychoanalyst Dr. Eugene Glynn, for 50 years before Glynn’s death in May 2007. Revealing that he never told his parents, he said, “All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy. They never, never, never knew.”[17]

Sendak’s relationship with Glynn had been mentioned by other writers before and Glynn’s 2007 death notice had identified Sendak as his “partner of 50 years.” After his partner’s death, Sendak donated $1 million to the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services in memory of Glynn who had treated young people there.

Sendak was an atheist. In a 2011 interview, he stated that he did not believe in God and explained that he felt that religion, and belief in God, “must have made life much easier [for some religious friends of his]. It’s harder for us nonbelievers,” he said.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BM9EIbHRSh0

This is for you, all the dear couples I have met over the years — or whom I will meet over the next years to officiate your wedding.

For any couple looking for a little inspiration as they plan the wedding event of their dreams, I wanted to share this tear-jerking performance by a famous operatic singer and children’s choir in Israel. It is a photo montage of the whole wedding, but clues with dress and so forth can tell us this is a modern Orthodox wedding in Israel. (Such clues include separate gender seating; only male voices singing; the groom and bride’s father signed the ketubah, not the bride herself; and the bride’s dress gives at least a nod of modesty by having full-length arms and neck covered with lace.)

Before I go further, I should add one important caveat: This wedding appears to not be a bona fide wedding. It is a staged wedding, and the montage has been put together for performance and marketing purposes. It will warm your heart nonetheless.

(If you are planning a wedding in Israel and, I presume, have a generous budget, you can reach these musicians at muzickids@gmail.com.)

About the song’s performers: The “musickids” is a children’s choir conducted by Tal Vaknin and Yossi Yossi Azulay, two nationally renowned singers in Israel. This wedding performance was done in Havat Ronit (Ronit Farm) with a song called “Boi B’shalom“. The clip doesn’t share the name of who this incredible (adult) operatic performer is.

Now here, to me, comes the interesting part. What is this song exactly? What are its origins? Initially, I thought the lyrics to Boi B’shalom may be based on the 7th of the Hebrew blessings that are chanted or recited during a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, often by the rabbi. The blessings date back to the Middle Ages. If true, this song is an innovation on the melody of the traditional blessings; the blessings did not originate in operatic Italy after all!

The lyrics of the traditional 7th blessing are the following: “Boi b’shalom ateret ba’alah, gam besimchah uvetzahalah toch emunei am segulah, boi kalah, boi, kalah; toch emunei am segulah, boi kalah, shabat malkahBoi beshalom ateret ba’alah, gam besimchah uvetzahalah toch emunei am segulah, boi kalah, boi, kalah; toch emunei am segulah, boi kalah, shabat malkah.”

A translation: Blessed are You, God, who lights the world with happiness and contentment, love and companionship, peace and friendship, bridegroom and bride. Let the mountains of Israel dance! Let the gates of Jerusalem ring with the sounds of joy, song, merriment and delight – the voice of he groom and the voice of the bride, the happy shouts of their friends and companions. We bless you God, who brings bride and groom together to rejoice in each other.

————————–

Now, if you take the time to follow those words closely and watch the video simultaneously, you’ll see there is only a partial match. So like most Jewish questions, there appear to be multiple answers. Here is a second answer: I’ll leave it to you, readers, to compare the two possible source texts and draw your own conclusions.

(Also, I welcome any Jewish musicologists to weigh in right about now!)

Answer #2: The refrain in Boi B’shalom is the last verse of Lakha Dodi, which has also traditionally be sung at Jewish weddings. Here is the verse and its translation:

Boi b’shalom ateres baalah gam b’simcha uv’tzahala, toch emunei am segulah, boi challah, boi challah, (shabbas malkesa).

בואי בשלום עטרת בעלה גם בשמחה ובצהלה, תוך אמוני עם סגולה, בואי כלה, בואי כלה, (שבת מלכתא).

Translation:
Come in peace, crown of your husband, with rejoicing​ and with cheerfuln​ess, in the midst of the faithful of the chosen people: come, O bride; come, O bride (the Sabbath Queen).

Now … if you went back and did a lyric compare to the Youtube song, you’ll see this doesn’t really match up either. Well, the one sentence matches up. But where have the modern artists come up with all the other parts of the song?

In short: I don’t know. But enough high-browed thinking. Now it’s time to just sit back and soar with the music that must surely have come down on eagle’s wings.

Hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

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imagesHow much can you expect to pay for a person to come to your location and officiate your wedding? What is a fair price ― a price that doesn’t seem like gross profiteering to you, and is a respectable wage to them?

Over the years, I’ve had many conversations with people about the economics of officiating a lifecycle event. Most of these were about weddings in particular, but they have also happened around vow-renewal ceremonies, tombstone unveilings (a Jewish funeral tradition) and baby namings as well.

Some, but not all, of these people made it clear that they were taken aback to discover the “going rate” for wedding officiation. One person put it more bluntly, in a comment she posted on the wedding site The Knot. Her vent to fellow brides was along the lines of this: “How can a person charge $500 for a 20-minute service!? It’s outrageous!”

Hmmm. Well, actually, it isn’t. And I’ll explain why.

In this post, here is what I hope to share:
• How much does it cost to hire a wedding officiant in metro Philly (or the East Cost in general)?
• How much should it cost?
• How can you save costs on a wedding in order to be able to hire the talents of a good wedding officiant ― as opposed to someone just “dialing it in?”
• Lastly, for the truly budget-bound, I’ll offer some even more frugal ideas.

As you continue reading, I’d like to challenge you to think of these questions:
• What kind of a price do you expect to hear when asking for a price quote?
• Is your expectation reasonable?
• Do you believe a person engaged in a “religious” occupation should be taking a vow of poverty?
• If you extrapolate out your price expectation, would the person be living in poverty?

How you answer those questions might influence how you have, up until now, thought about the economics of the people you are hiring to complete various aspects of your wedding.

So How Much DOES It Cost, Anyway? (Your cheapest option)images 2

In the state of Pennsylvania, you can get married for $90. Literally. Go to City Hall, request a “self-marrying license,” pay $90, wait three days (that’s a legal requirement), and then sign the license in the company of two adults. The witnesses will sign it too, and provide their addresses. Mail the license back to the court. You are married.

People often express disbelief when I tell them this, but it is the honest to god’s truth. This is how I legally married. You can thank the Quakers for this; the state has very easy marriage laws because it was founded by a religious community that believed ardently against hierarchies.

If I take one issue with the “wedding chapel” type businesses propped up around the state, it’s the fact that not one them ever admit this fact. As someone who worked in journalism for two decades, I’m a big believer in “full disclosure.” You can get married in Pennsylvania for under $100, and you don’t need anyone else to do it.

So, if you really can’t afford a wedding, don’t have one. Use a Quaker s elf-marrying license, and go on a honeymoon instead!

Your Next Budget Option

23987225_007_aNow let’s assume you do want to have SOME kind of ceremony with either NO guests or even just a handful of guests. Now you have entered the realm of Option 2. To save money, you will want to get your license at a county courthouse (Montgomery County is the one I’m most familiar with) rather than at City Hall in downtown Philadelphia. Philadelphia County charges $100 for their license but Montgomery County only charges about $55. Other counties also offer lower rates.

You can use a county license from any county in Pennsylvania anywhere else in Pennsylvania (as far as I know — you should always double check that at the courthouse!) In other words, bride and groom must go in person, to a courthouse somewhere in the state, pay the fee, show the right paperwork, and then use the license within the next few months, or it is voided.

Once you have your license, you need a place to get married and someone who can sign it. You can hire a freelance minister / rabbi / chaplain who will meet you at your home, in a restaurant or in a park (etc) and hold a short, simple ceremony. The cost of this depends on whom you hire, how far you want them to travel, and how much time they are going to spend writing the kind of ceremony that is just right for you. (I’ll come back to this option later).

But that option will not be as cheap as your next-lowest price alternative, which is to go to a place like the Philadelphia Wedding Chapel. They are located off City Avenue, about 20 minutes outside Center City, and their “standard package” is $375. They will recite a prewritten ceremony (just changing the names of the two people), between 10 am and 3 pm on Mondays through Thursdays, and limit the number of guests who may witness. However, their rock-bottom cheapest rate is $150. That ceremony is called their “elope” special and no guests are allowed. You are limited to the same times and days of the week.

Now, I have not seen them do their work, so I cannot comment on the quality. Since no one is spending any time getting to know you or talk to you in advance, you probably do not have any say in what kind of readings they do, whether they use “God language” or not, and they certainly aren’t spending time sharing aspects of your love story, or who you are as individuals. They are simply a business I have found online, and there are probably other budget options like them out there.

But I can help you calculate the math. Your total price for a basic legal wedding ceremony with no guests is the price of the license (which, remember, you got prior to the ceremony from a county courthouse for $50 to $95) + $150 at the wedding chapel = for a total of $200-$250.

If you want this kind of simple “justice of the peace”-style of wedding but want to have a handful of guests and perhaps some champagne in a clean, attractive venue — and you still are okay with getting married at 1 pm on a Tuesday — your bare bones budget price is going to be $50 + $375 = for a total of $450.

Having an Officiant Come to You

61If all of this is still too “bare bones” for you, you have now entered the realm of standard wedding officiation – where you are hiring someone to come to your event, wherever that might be, and deliver a heartfelt, meaningful ceremony before you and your guests. You plan in advance (in person or by phone), and you secure the officiant’s commitment at the time and place you have chosen.

I do see officiants sometimes advertise for this kind of ceremony for as low $350 for the officiant. For that price, an officiant will not hold any pre-meetings in person, will not spend a lot of time getting to know you or writing a personalized “speech” or blessing for your ceremony, and is probably not traveling too great a distance to the venue site.

However, one would hope they are still taking the time to customize a ceremony with readings, sentiments and God-language (or lack of God language) that matches who you are as people. (Again, one would hope). At that price, I can tell you that they are not really making a living at what they are doing. They are probably giving up a weekend or evening family time, they are probably spending most of what they earn covering the costs of online advertising, and they probably have some other vocation that is paying their bills.

A more typical price range for what I will call a truly customized service is $800 to $1,500. Factors affecting the price are: who is offering the service, where the event is being held (travel time), and perhaps even what season it is. This is the price range you can expect for a full-on, traditional half-day wedding. (Oh wait, you say! I only want a ceremony that is 20 minutes long!) That’s fine … but it will, in the still, still basically be 10 to 15 hours of work for the officiant, from start to finish, to pull off your ceremony, and your wedding itself will probably book a venue for 5 hours of time.

In this price range, you can expect to meet with the officiant beforehand. You and the officiant will communicate another half-dozen times shoring up details of your ceremony. The officiant will spend several hours on-site on the day of your wedding, plus however many hours traveling.

If the distance traveled is more than a few hours, it would be customary for you to offer to pay the cost of a hotel room for the officiant. I know I’m always grateful when people hiring me extend this option; I don’t always accept, because I have small children at home, but I appreciate simply having it as an option.

Couples also usually invite me to attend the reception. How officiants respond to this varies. Personally, unless I know the couple outside of this event, I usually decline. I’m touched and grateful that they have offered, but personally I feel like it’s a simple way for me to save the couple $100 by not going. Plus, couples are totally engulfed by people they have loved and often not seen for many years at their wedding receptions. It’s not a great time for me to try to get to know them anyway. If a couple really wants to have a more long-term relationship with me, I would suggest a fun outing with our families to Longwood Gardens or some other locale sometime after the event.

Here are three factors that influence officiants’ price:

print 61• The officiant’s educational investment. As in all professions, people who have invested tens of thousands of dollars into their learning tend to charge more than someone who, for example, was ordained on the Internet. (And all the shades in between).

This is why rabbis tend to charge more than ministers. Why? Two reasons.

One, because the length of our education is often five or six years of full-time post-graduate coursework. Most Protestant programs take about two years. Priests don’t pay anything for their training and are guaranteed lifetime employment. Hiring a rabbi is akin to hiring someone with a doctorate degree.

Second reason: Christian and Jewish communities are structured differently economically. Priests are paid salaries by a huge, wealthy, international corporation (the Vatican). Certain types of ministers are “appointed” to churches, which pay their salaries through a nonprofit, tax-free structure. Other types of ministers, as well as rabbis, are freelance agents who must constantly find work, negotiate and renegotiate their wages, and have no umbrella organization or nonprofit assuring they make a living.

• The season. Why is this? Well, there are a LOT of weddings in the spring. If you are struggling with a budget, you can negotiate better prices among all your vendors if you schedule in the off-season. I’ve never gotten a call to do a wedding in February! I’ll give you a great price in February! (LOL).

This spring, I got a call from someone pressing the price-panic button. I was very sympathetic until I learned their wedding was on a Saturday night in mid-May. I’m happy to give discounts to people in financial distress, but my Saturdays in May are going to be booked solid; can I really afford to take a huge cut in my usual fee when this means I will probably turn away another wedding that would have paid me full price? Especially when the wedding business (and hence my income stream,) is so erratic?

If you’re hoping to negotiate with your vendors, think about your timing. November weddings are much easier to negotiate than June weddings.

• Lastly, distance. If an officiant is traveling 4 hours to and from your wedding, versus 30 minutes, that’s a big difference. Not just in miles on a car and time in a day, but in my case at least, in the cost of child care! In my early years of officiating weddings, I actually lost money on several weddings because I failed to take travel time (and all its associated costs) into consideration.

Hiring a Wedding (or Ritual) Officiant: What You Are Paying For

So if you aren’t hiring a ritual officiant for the legal aspects of getting married, why hire one at all? And how can you weigh a “good” one from a “bad” one?

What you are paying for when you hire an officiant, is the skill, knowledge and heart of the person who is creating the ritual for you. Even if what you want is “very simple,” no officiant worth their own dignity is going to show up with some canned, pre-scripted script with just your names inserted inside.

But alas, some people actually would. When I see people advertising a “customized” wedding ceremony for only $250, all I can think is: “Well, it must not be very customized.” It’s just not possible to write a customized wedding, spend 3-6 hours on the day of the wedding getting there, doing your job and getting back — and then charge $250! When you compare ads and officiants for weddings, we all use words like “customized,” but we don’t necessarily mean the same thing.

Ask questions.

Get details.

Most people getting married think: “Oh, I don’t want anything fancy. It’s simple.” Well, it may be simple in how it looks on the outside, but in the details, there are a million different ways that I can stand up and marry two people.

• Do you want someone standing up in front of your guests, quoting passages from the Old Testament and talking about the role of wife as a “helpmate”? If you do … that’s fine! But you don’t want to hire me.

• How do you feel about the audience saying “amen”?

• How “spiritual” do you like to get? Is it okay if your officiant wears a big bright hat and flowing robes? Or do you prefer a more demure or formal presentation?

• Would you like your officiant to crack a few jokes, or do you think a wedding ritual should be more serious?

• Does 10 minutes sound about right? Or more like about 20? Or even 30? Does your officiant ask you what you want!?

• Would you like a guest or two to come up and do a reading?

• Do you know what readings you like? How many hours do you have to find some? (I have a PDF file 25 pages long of readings I’ve assembled over the years; some officiants really strive to give you all the options; others leave you to figure it out on your own. That’s why they are only charging you $250!)

•  Do you want to write you own vows? Do you need guidance on writing them? Will the officiant offer it?

Even though we wedding officiants DO recycle parts of ceremonies and readings here and there, there is no such thing as a “canned script.” At least not one that is going to do you or your guests any justice.

Without spending at least some time talking to the officiant, explaining who you are as people and what your preferences are, we have no way of knowing what is the “right” thing to say.

alanah and scott, ketubahIt Just Takes Time

Beyond this ephemeral thing called “skill” you are paying for in an officiant, the other thing you are paying for is his or her time.

It takes time for an officiant to field calls and return calls (some of which won’t yield work). It takes time to:

* think about the couple and all the ways something can be said;

* get to know both partners, outline the many ritual choices, sometimes even meet with their parents;

* plan ahead for their date and not schedule vacations or personal events on the day of their wedding;

* give up time with our own family, usually on a weekend and often in an evening;

* possibly hiring a babysitter;

* travel each way to the venue site, which often takes more time than the wedding ritual  itself.

In short, we are investing way more than the “20 minutes” presumed by that blogger on The Knot ― even for a “simpler” lower-budget wedding. We are investing many hours for that magical 20 minutes that looks easy and came off seamlessly. And hey, don’t knock the importance of “magic”. A wedding ritual should be magical, and it is worth way more (in my opinion) than having high-end napkins on the table, or having 2 buckets of flowers instead of one.

One other thing to keep in mind: How many people you have in attendance at your wedding or vow renewal has virtually no impact on how much time we spend working for your wedding. Caterers use a price based on head count, but for officiants, we factor based on time. The prices people quote you will be an indication of how much time, thought and energy they are planning to spend creating the ritual of your wedding.

Is it okay with you if your officiant shows up five minutes before the ceremony, reads a canned script that takes under 10 minutes to declare you married, and then dodges out the door the minute it is over? If you are okay with that, then go for the $250 offer.

But, if the ritual part of your wedding is more important to you than that; if you want to be more involved, have a choice of readings, perhaps even meet in person first; if you want your officiant to show up early and stick around a little bit afterward – you’ll need to anticipate a higher price.

So just what kind of price quotes will you get in the officiant bidding process? Assuming your venue is within one hour of the officiant’s home, a typical price for a full-on wedding, with meetings, ketubahs and interfaith discussions (which take longer), I would be surprised by any price below $800. Some rabbis are willing to bend on their price (I am, depending on hardship, and depending on location). And again, a wedding in the low seasons of February or March are easier to down-negotiate. A full-on customized wedding in the months of May, June or September, a standard price would be $1200.

Lastly for very small home weddings, esp. second marriages, with 10-15 guests, in a non-peak season, $600 is a fairly universal fee.

I hope this helps!

Kim&Ryan3581***
For more on weddings, please see some of my other posts:

“How can I make my Jewish or interfaith wedding unique, funny or even funky?”

Mainline Philly’s best-kept outdoors wedding venue secret (and it’s free!)

“We are an interfaith couple. Should a rabbi or minister marry us?”

Is it possible to be a religious atheist? Can a Jewish ‘atheist’ have a Jewish wedding? Short answer : Yes.

Interfaith rabbi for secular, interfaith or Jewish weddings, baby namings and funerals

Secrets to finding a wedding officiant you’ll love

Best place to get married in Philly — and the world’s best wedding dress website!

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To write your own wedding vows, or not to write your own vows: That is the question. About half of the couples whose weddings I have officiated have wrestled with that question. Most of them, in the end, decide not to.

What are the pros and cons of writing your own vows? What are the different ways it can be done?  This blog post strives to answer those questions, by offering some examples of successful vow exchanges I have seen.


Pros to writing your own vows:

● You get to say exactly what you want to say.

● It’s a chance to show off your fine verbal skills – and your sense of humor.

● It is sure to make half the women in the audience cry.

● It is sure to make half the men in the audience struggle really hard NOT to cry.


Cons to writing your own vows:

● It’s hard. Really hard. How do you boil down such sweeping concepts as “love” and “eternity” into the English language? That’s why we have poets. Not everyone is cut out for this work.

● It takes time. And time is one of the few things couples have before weddings. Don’t you have some centerpieces that need stuffed? And where in the world is grandma’s old blue garter belt anyway? Has that been found?

● You don’t just have to write it. You have to read it. Out loud. In public. Without making a snot-filled fool of yourself. Hey, if you can get through it, you have my endless admiration. I can never get through a wedding without losing a tear or two myself, and I’m the officiant. I’m the one person who is supposed to have it pulled together! So if you can write and deliver your vows and keep your composure while doing it, my kippah is off to ya!


Here are three different ways of writing your vows:

1)      The groom reads his words. Then the bride reads her words (or vice versa). Below is a draft of one groom’s vows to his wife, which I found particularly lovely. With his permission, I am pasting them below. The vows were kept as a surprise to the other party; I looked over them to make sure they were similar in length and tone, and made slight editing suggestions to make them “match up.”

2)      The groom and bride alternate sentences. This came off really well; the crowd was touched, and everyone laughed a lot too.

3)      The groom reads; then the bride reads. The couple planned their vows together, to play off the same words and phrases. The guests loved these vows too.


OPTION No. 1: Surprise Vows

Groom reads. Then bride reads. (Or vice versa). Only the officiant has checked their vows before the big day. Here is just what the groom wrote.

 

Example from their Jewish wedding, replete with military honor guards, at World Cafe Live:

Alanah: Two-and-a-half years ago, I asked you out for coffee, out on our first date and thankfully, you said yes. After that date, we so effortlessly became entwined in each other’s lives, it was easy to picture this day ahead.

Eighteen months ago, while on a very long distance phone call, I asked you to move with me from California all the way here to the East Coast, and thankfully, you said yes. It was a leap of faith for both of us; a fantastic storyline still unfolding.

One year ago, while on vacation in paradise, I asked you to join me up here, witnessed by our family and friends, under this chuppah we’ve since created together, to take my hand and be my wife, and thankfully, you said yes.

So now, in front of our family and friends, I have another question to ask, one that you spend the rest of our lives answering:

Will you forever be my partner in this adventure of life and lend your endless patience to help me create a loving household where mutual respect, communication and unconditional love reign over all. Will you continue to be an everlasting source of deep personal strength, the rock by my side through trying times and stay the reassuring voice of better times ahead. Will you forever be the smiling face by my side every morning, to lighten my days with the sweetness of your personality and continue to be the most genuinely kind person I’ve ever met.

Though we walked up here separately, in a few minutes you and I will take hands and walk down off this stage, and down the aisle past our family and friends, and into our future as partners, as husband and wife. I can’t wait.

 

OPTION No. 2: The Planned Back-And-Forth

(The couples exchanges one-line vows, which they clearly wrote together. Groom in bold. Bride in plain script.)

 

Example from their secular wedding at a funky nightclub in Manyunk:

Groom: With this ring, I promise to be your best friend

Bride: With this ring, I promise to be your best friend

I promise to cook for you

I promise to try your cooking and bake you treats

To have family dinners every night

To ask you about your day and tell you about mine

To listen and hear your point of view

To respect you

To always be honest

To tell you how I feel

To play with your hair

To fold your socks and do the dishes

To support you in achieving your goals

To be your biggest fan

To compromise

To share my bowl of ice cream, and other things in life

To control my temper

To always say ‘I’m Sorry’

To hold you in good times and bad

To make you laugh

To let you have the window seat on the plane rides home

To take lots of pictures so we can always remember the good times

To tell you that you’re beautiful

To love you even in the moments when I don’t like you

To take care of you

To try new things

To never stop traveling the world

To be open minded

To be the best father I can be

To be the best mother I can be

To always put family first

To kiss you every morning

And tuck you in every night

I love you

I love you too

 

OPTION No. 3: The Planned Paragraph Vow

(The couples takes turns reading their half of a script, which the pair clearly wrote together. The upside is it creates and plays off of the parallel structure and promises. The downside is, neither bride nor groom is surprised in the moment.)   

 

Example from their secular Jewish wedding at Morris Arboretum:

Lauren:

Standing with you here today, among our family and friends, I cannot wait to begin this journey into the rest of our lives, with you by my side and my hand in yours.

I promise to listen. I will listen to your thoughts, your worries, your dreams and your concerns.

I promise to look after you. When you have a knot in your back, I will kneed it. When your head has a fever, I will cool it. And when you need ice cream, I will help you eat it.

I promise to treasure what you treasure. From furry and mischievous kittens to your interests and hobbies, I will help you enjoy life and experience it fully.

I promise to accept and embrace your idiosyncrasies. I will remember that our quirks make us who we are. When you wake up with only breakfast on your mind, I will steer you to Kashi. When we are out of Kashi, I will make you eggs.

I promise to support you emotionally. I will give support as you seek out your goals, when you are successful and when you fall short. When you achieve your goals, I will be there to celebrate. When you do not, I will be there to comfort.

I promise to not take our relationship for granted. I will actively nurture ‘us’. I will continue to communicate and check-in, to keep us stronger together than we are apart.

Stephen:

Standing with you here today, among our family and friends, I cannot wait to begin this journey into the rest of our lives, with you by my side and your hand in mine.

I promise to listen. I will listen to your zany, impossible ideas, your worries, and your dreams.

I promise to look after you. When you can’t figure out how to use our kitchen appliances, I will help you.  When you have a bad dream, I will comfort you.  And when you crave the mushroomy thing I make that you love, I will make it for you.

I promise to treasure what you treasure. From kittens, to data analysis, to moments of peace and quiet, I will help you enjoy life and experience it fully.

I promise to accept and embrace your idiosyncrasies. I will remember that our quirks make us who we are.  When you get so hungry that you forget to eat, I will bring you a snack.  When you need to double check something one more time – just to be sure – I will smile and remember that your careful nature is a wonderful part of who you are.

I promise to support you emotionally. I will be there with you as you pursue your dreams.  I will celebrate with you when you are successful, and I will comfort you when you fall short.  I will never let you forget how exceptional you are.

I promise to not take our relationship for granted. I will actively nurture ‘us’. I will continue to communicate and check-in, to keep us stronger together than we are apart.

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The Jewish New Year is upon us, making the time ripe for a wistful reflection on all those beautiful, stunning, heart-felt vow exchanges I had the pleasure of officiating and witnessing this past year in metropolitan Philly.

Do you have wedding coming ahead in the 2014 calendar year? If so, here are a few of my Favorites, for all things related to weddings. By the way, none of these places or businesses are giving me any “kickbacks” for endorsing them — they are, quite simply, my favorite sites and sounds for weddings in Philadelphia!

Drop me a line at Joysa@aol.com if you’d like information on hiring me to be your officiant. I specialize in Jewish and interfaith weddings, as well as secular/nontheistic weddings for couples coming out of any religious tradition.

#1: Best Philly Wedding Venue: Sweet Water Farms in Glen Mills takes the cake as most elegant. sophisticated, and yet tuned-into-nature venue of anywhere in metro Philly.

The former summer home of the infamous Grace Kelly, Sweet Water farm today acts as a winery, a small-scale B&B, and a rustic venue replete with an old-time wooden water well, a two-story farm house decked out in twinkly white lights, and rolling views overlooking horses, wild flowers, and a heated pool and jacuzzi.

The 50–acre historic estate features 14 guest rooms: three in the original 1734 Quaker farmhouse wing and four in the 1815 Georgian wing.  The original carriage house, greenhouse and caretaker’s cottage have all been transformed into seven guest cottages, five of which are pet– and child–friendly.

Other amenities for a perfect getaway are a swimming pool, outdoor hot tub, golf chipping range, nine-hole disc golf course, private massage room, fitness room, walking trail and a friendly family of horses, sheep and goats.

Check out their online photo gallery here, to get a complete picture of this beautiful property!: http://sweetwaterfarmbb.gracewinery.com/property/property.php

#2 Best Wedding Dress Shopping Online: BHLDN.

When it comes to shopping for that perfect wedding dress, you can’t do better than BHLDN. Their beautiful, flowing — and most important of all — UNIQUE gowns flatter every body size and can work with nearly every budget.

When it comes to wedding dresses, BHLDN has captured my soul. This Kauai wedding dress costs only $800 and is probably one of the most unique, imaginative dresses I’ve ever imagined walking down the aisle in!

While the form flows free, elegant details like intricate embroidery, an asymmetrical hem, and a slender braided neck ribbon with crystal button closure ensure this dress is anything but ordinary. Can’t you just picture it on a seashore wedding, walking barefoot in the sand?

This Lita Gown (below right) sells for a bit pricier at $2,400. But it is made of pearly beads that trim the edges of a gauzy, attached coverlet above a sleek dress of luminous silk charmeuse. Though not pictured here, a thin, self-tie string of silk at the nape of the neck ensures sleeves won’t slip off your shoulders.

The gown has underwire and bust cups, silk tulle and silk charmeuse shell, as well as a silk charmeuse lining.

*****

The company sells all sorts of other keepsakes useful for a wedding. For example, check out these beautiful, antique-looking gifts for the bridal party, as well as picture holders that could be used to decorate tables in a reception room.

This beautifully articulated  shining scallop opens to reveal a single pearl to hold the wedding bands. Handmade from silver, nickel-plated brass and pearl, they measure 1.5”H, 2.75”W, 2.75”L.

More decors can be viewed here: www.bhldn.com/the-shop-decor-keepsakes/.

For more on Jewish weddings, please see some of my other posts:

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This is the world’s greatest wedding engagement! Wouldn’t it be fun to work this directly into the ceremony itself, have the crowds separate to reveal an entire banquet area, chuppah, officiant waiting under a chuppah, the works? Engagement and wedding all in one!

It was would a lot of work to execute, and you’d need to have a pretty laid back couple and in-laws, but it sure would be fun!

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woman wearing red and gold dress holding up handsA few times a year, I am contacted by a couple looking to find two officiants to marry them, usually a rabbi and a priest or minister of some stripe. The idea is such a complicated and multi-faceted one, I have written this blog post as a way of offering a fuller, “all you could ever want to know” on this topic.

The short answer is “Yes, I will co-officiate” but if feel like I would be shirking my ethical obligations by not inviting these couples to think more deeply about the question. Because having co-officiants will definitely cost more money, and it has the potential of becoming a very complicated and unhappy process (although I have not personally experienced that, thankfully. But I know people who have …). So, here are the issues:

If you are thinking you want two officiants for your wedding, the first thing to ask yourselves is: Why? Why do you want TWO officiants? Your reasons matter, because they determine whether it is really worth the extra effort and expense of having two officiants.

A few things to consider:

* Hiring two officiants is going to cost you double the price of hiring one officiant. Why? Because you are hiring the time of two people, not one. Unless Daddy Warbucks is financing your wedding, this may incline you to try to negotiate prices with both of your officiants that is considerably less than what he or she would be earning if they were doing the ceremony on their own.

* From the officiant’s perspective, this creates a quandary, for both of them. Leading half of a wedding is actually MORE work, not LESS work for your officiants because it involves trying to coordinate with an unknown other person who may or may not be easy to work with. The officiant’s travel time is the same and their monthly marketing costs are unchanged. (Mine are over $500 a month, in case you were wondering.) It especially creates a dilemma if your wedding date is in a busy month, like May or October.

If, for example, I were to accept a co-officiation gig for May 8, at half my normal fee because I’m one of two clergy — and then I get a call for a typical one-officiant wedding on the same day — I’ve suddenly missed out on hundreds of dollars! This is very painful for your officiant because weddings are a hugely cyclical business. There are about 6 months out of the year when we don’t officiate any weddings at all (but we’re still having to pay our online advertising fees.)

* Some rabbis are not allowed to co-officiate, based on the rules of their ordaining religious organization. This is why people often have a hard time finding the rabbi-half of a co-officiation equation.

Rabbis ordained in the Reconstructionist or Conservative movements are prohibited by their rabbinical assembles from co-officiating. (The reasons for that decision are another story). Such grads make up perhaps 60% of all rabbis in America. Orthodox rabbis make up another 15%, and they definitely won’t co-officiate (they won’t even officiate at an intermarriage.) That leaves you with about 25% of ordained rabbis who even have the permission of their ordaining institutions to consider your request (regardless of their personal feelings on the matter).

Also, buyer beware. Every “rabbi” is not created alike. There are handful of rabbinical groups out there that are not respected in the field. They aren’t quite as bad as “Internet ordination” but their programs demand about 5% of what a traditional rabbinical college demands of its students.

Legitimate rabbinical programs to look for (which DO allow co-officiation) are Aleph (Renewal movement) and IISHJ (International Institute for the Society of Humanistic Judaism). Aleph and IISHJ grads are allowed to co-officiate, and I can personally vouch for the legitimacy of their training programs. Contact the colleges and ask for a list of their graduates and their locations. The Reform movement allows its rabbis to decide whether they would like to co-officiate.

***

Let me pause here and clarify a few terms: Co-officiation means having two clergy of two different faiths jointly conduct the ceremony. This is different from a simple interfaith ceremony, which has o

nly one person officiating, but has both faiths being honored and incorporated in some way.

You have many more rabbis to choose from if you are looking for a straight interfaith ceremony with only one officiant, versus trying to orchestrate a co-officiated two-clergy-person ceremony.

***

All that said, let’s get back to what you said you want: co-officiation.

chuppah2

Let’s say you DO find a rabbi you like who is willing to co-officiate. Now let’s get back to my question: Why do you need two people? If the goal is to have some Jewish elements in your wedding, then a savvy minister or priest, educated in pluralistic values, can create a genuinely interfaith ceremony w/o a Jewish clergy present.

Alternately, if your goal is to just have a Jewish “figure” as part of your wedding, you can invite an elderly grandparent, for example, to come up and recite the Kiddush over wine. He would delighted by the honor, and you don’t have to pay him anything.

It works the same way in reverse. If you hire a rabbi to do your interfaith wedding, the right rabbi knows all the things to do to make the service comfortable and meaningful to both Christians and Jews. And, to compensate for the “official Christian presence” issue, you can invite a family member to come up and do a reading from Apostle Paul, Book of Corinthians, for example, to add a specifically theistically Christian flavor to your event.

In other words, it is completely possible to have one officiant conduct an interfaith ceremony where both religious traditions are honored and represented. You just have to hire the right person.

Why is Co-Officiating Difficult?

bride and groom walking down the aisle

Co-officiating a ritual is tricky because you basically have two people trying to jockey the job of one person.  It is the role of the officiant to meet with the couple, present you with a variety of readings and ritual options, and then to let you, the couple, come back with your decisions. (At least, that is how any officiant who is worth the money you are paying them conducts the process. There are people out there who just use the same canned script for everyone, but that is never how I would prepare a ceremony.)

For example, I give couples a 38-page file of poems and readings to choose from, many from explicitly Christian and Jewish traditions — as well as many more from secular sources. I also offer the same array of rituals to choose from. There are 8 elements in a typical Jewish wedding, so we review and discuss all of those.

Then we look at rituals from Christian tradition, such as a unity candle, sharing from wine, the Greek Orthodox crowning ceremony, and the handfasting ritual. Then we look at rituals from secular American culture, such as the sand ceremony, the time capsule, and the tree planting.

Lastly, we look at rituals borrowed from other cultures and still other religious traditions such as jumping the broom, a Quaker minute of silence or the Quaker “minute of joyful noise”, the Celtic ringwarming, and the Swiss log-cutting ritual.

These are the kinds of things the right officiant, schooled in interfaith weddings, can offer you. And none of them require two people to do them.

In the end, this is what you are paying for when you hire an officiant — you are paying for someone who has combed the world’s literature and can offer you a wide range of options; you are hiring someone’s expertise and experience working in interfaith groups. You’re hiring a person who will be able to make every person in the room, no matter their faith tradition, feel “heard” and “represented.”

By adding another chef in the fire, you potentially have two people basically playing tug-of-war over who writes what section, who reads what section, etc. Here are some conflicts that sometimes arise:

* What happens if one clergy wants to do or say something that the other clergy believes will make part of the audience uncomfortable?

* What if one of the pair refuses to show their half of the ceremony to the other officiant?

* Who gets the final “read” or “say” on the whole ceremony? Do you want to get involved in that, and NOT have the words and blessings of the ritual be fresh and be a surprise on your wedding day? (Most couples like that element of surprise and mystery, so I don’t recommend the couple “proof” their ceremony in advance.)

* If you ask each officiant to do a part of the ceremony, how do you ensure it flows together? How can you be sure that the ritual has a range of quiet, speaking and ritual, and that it doesn’t come across like chopsticks — words and rituals just piled on top of each other?

Conducting a wedding is like conducting a theater piece. Would you hire a director to do Act I and another director to do Act II? Of course not. That would be just … odd. It could potentially be disjointed and jerky.

… That’s often what it’s like to have two ceremony officiants. Yes, a wedding can be done with two people and, sometimes it works, depending on the officiants involved. And, I’ll be honest, I’ve heard stories. Sometimes, it’s a nightmare.

My Own Experience

chuppah

Most of the time when couples first contact me saying they want two officiants, they end up deciding one will do just one, and not one of these couples has ever regretted their decision. On only two occasions has a couple decided that they really did need two officiants, and in both instances, they were couples who were not stressed about their budgets. 

Both of the ceremonies went fine, and I am still friendly with one of my co-officiants. I would be happy to recommend her to any couple and work with her again. I can also report that I probably spent 40% more time preparing that ceremony than I would have if she had not been involved. It wasn’t because she was hard to work with — to the contrary — but it simply takes time for two people to blend and meld their own distinct ideas and styles into one cohesive ceremony. We sent our ceremony back and forth probably 10 times before we came up with one flowing whole that we both felt happy with.

In the end, it was a beautiful ceremony and no one had any regrets. But the experience confirmed for me that the one thing dual officiants will never be is time-efficient! For this reason, co-officiated ceremonies is the only type of ceremony where I am unable to offer discounts on my fee.

Let me leave you with two ideas, which may or may not be provocative to you:

1) Trying to hire two people for a job that can easily be done by one person might be an indication that you don’t have faith or confidence in any one person you spoke with to do it right. If that rings true to you, then I encourage you to keep looking. There are people out there who are masters at weaving multi-faith ceremonies; I’ve seen it done, and I’ve done it myself.

2) Your desire for two officiants could also be an indication that you two, as a couple, have not fully processed how you are going to live a blended faith home together. If any part of that idea rings true to you, I implore you to go back and start talking about it, perhaps with a clergy person or a couple’s therapist, to facilitate the conversation. Your feelings need to be aired NOW, before the wedding day, and before the first baby comes! If you are both really solid and confident about how your family is going to blend your faith traditions, then I think you will feel much more comfortable hiring just one officiant.

More Than Just the Officiant

anniversary birthday cake celebration

One final thought to consider: Interfaith weddings are about much more than just who does the officiating. They are also a statement, a reflection, of the kind of future you envision.

When I get a call asking me to co-officiate — and then I find out the wedding venue is in a CHURCH, I confess, it leaves me slack-jawwed. A church? Really? Could you not find a more neutral wedding venue? If your wedding is in a church, you’ve made the decision that your family’s primary religious identity (as a unit) is Christian — which is perfectly fine — but it also means you should hire a minister or priest to officiate your wedding!

The same thing applies to a synagogue. If you goal is to create an interfaith home, you should avoid having your wedding at a synagogue. If you book in a synagogue, I would say your goal is not to raise an interfaith family; your goal is to raise a mainly Jewish one, maybe with a few Christian holidays sprinkled in here and there that “Daddy” (or whomever) is technically celebrating. That’s OK, that’s your choice, but be courageous and acknowledge it from the get-go by hiring a rabbi to officiate. Don’t begin your married life with a bunch of mixed, contradictory messages.

Create a wedding ritual and wedding day that reflects the future home you intend to build together.

Here’s another way of framing the question: Are you sending your future children to Hebrew school or Sunday school? Because they both happen on Sundays, and you can only choose one. How you answer that question might help you answer what kind of officiant you hire for your wedding.

I hope some of this helps! Good luck!

And, if you have any questions, I’m always happy to talk these ideas over with people (at no charge), so just drop me a line.

Finally, I heartily recommend a nonprofit association called interfaithfamily.com. They have great resources for interfaith couples about not just wedding ceremonies but all aspects of interfaith family life. They are a wonderful organization with many great resources free of charge.

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