Posts Tagged ‘Creative weddings’

It’s possible to be married under twinkling stars in the planetarium of The Franklin Institute! It is definitely one of the most memorable and ethereal wedding venues in metro Philly.

Should you write your own wedding vows? It’s a question only you can answer; it’s a challenge only about 1 in 10 couples whose weddings I officiate choose to take on.

Below is an example of a great personally written vow — it’s an ideal length and strikes the perfect tone.

I’m sharing it with permission; their anonymity was requested:

They say love comes to those who still hope after disappointment, who still believe after betrayal and who still love after they’ve been hurt. I know this is true because I found you.

Patrick – you are my best friend and I thank god he brought you into my life.

I love how tenderhearted you are toward me and when you show your sentimental side, the side that comes out when I am having a bad day and lifts my spirit.

I love how you love me, a pure love that I have never found in anyone else; the kind of love that is accepting of my flaws, knows my deepest insecurities and pain and continues to love me without judgment, but with acceptance and strength.

In this sometimes chaotic world, I know I can find peace with you by my side (and by that I mean binge watching Netflix and HBO Go).  I know with you beside me it will all be okay because of the love and friendship we share.

I promise my unconditional love for a lifetime, to listen and to hold your hand, to always kiss you goodnight and to do my best to always make you feel loved.

I promise to remember that although neither of us is perfect, we are perfect for each other.

I promise to fight for us, and to forgive quickly, no matter what challenges might carry us apart.

I promise to always find my way back to you.

Finally, (because this could be a deal breaker), I vow to love you when you are 65, retired and still playing Xbox.

I love your soul.

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Whenever a couple has a piece of literature, movie or music that they share passionately in common, it presents such a fun opportunity to try to work in some quotes or passages into the wedding ceremony. This week, by happenstance, I finally found a perfect excerpt from Star Trek, which could be used for a Trekkie-loving couple!

Here, in Season 6, Episode 7 of Deep Space Nine, “You Are Cordially Invited,” we watch the wedding ceremony between Worf and Jadzia Dax. Watching the choreography in the episode is much better than just reading the script, but I’ve typed up the exchange below, for anyone who might wish to adapt it in their own ceremony.

Acting out the batlyths and the drumming would probably be a bit over-the-top for most folks, but even just using some of the quotes, or passages, as spoken by the officiant, could sound completely beautiful in a ceremony. Obviously, the references to “Klingons” would be replaced with “human” – as in No one can oppose the beating of two human hearts. And you could skip the fable about destroying the gods. In other words, this scene could be adapted into a funny, yet touching, text for the vow exchange.

For all of you random Google-readers out there, who have happened upon this blog entry, I’m an officiant in metro Philly who writes about Judaism and weddings (and sometimes both!). If you want a creative Star-Trek inspired wedding ceremony, I AM willing to travel! 🙂

Prior to the ceremony, the Klingon Martok says this:

And yet I love her deeply.

We Klingons, often tout our prowess in battle, our desire for glory and honor above all else. But how hollow is the sound of victory without someone to share it with? Honor gives little comfort to a man alone in his home, and in his heart.

At the ceremony, his wife Sirilla speaks as the Officiant:

{Officiant} (drumming) With fire and steel did the gods forge the Klingon heart. So fiercely did it beat, so loud was the sound that the gods cried out ‘on this day we have brought forth the strongest heart in all the heavens’. None can stand before it without trembling in its strength. But then the Klingon heart weakened, its steady rhythm faltered, and the gods said ‘Why have you weakened so? We have made you the strongest in all creation!”

And the heart said {groom} “I am alone”.

{Officiant} And the gods knew that they had erred. So they went back to their forge and they brought forth another heart.

{bride enters} {batlyths presented} {Officiant} But the second heart beat stronger than the first. The first was jealous of its power.

{ceremonial clash} Fortunately, the second heart was tempered by wisdom.

{bride} If we join together, no force can stop us.

{Weapons set aside. Couple embraces}

{Officiant} And when the two hearts began to beat together, they filled the heavens with a terrible sound. For the first time, the gods knew fear. They tried to flee but it was too late. The Klingon hearts destroyed the gods who created them, and turned the heavens to ashes. To this very day, no one can oppose the beating of two Klingon hearts.

{Officiant turns to the Groom} Does your heart beat only for this woman?

{Groom} Yes.

{Officiant} And will you swear to join with her and stand with her against all who would oppose you?

{Groom} I swear.

{Officiant} (Bride), daughter of ____ , does your heart beat only for this man?

{Bride} Yes.

{Officiant} And will you swear to join with him and stand with him against all who would oppose you?

{Bride} I swear.

{Officiant} Then let all here present today know that this man and this woman are married.

{Then guests rush them with padded sticks and konk them!}

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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).

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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This is part of a series of posts about my experiences officiating weddings. Most of my weddings are Jewish in one fashion or another. But many incorporate readings from other faith traditions, or even secular tradition.

Many of the couples I work with are devotedly “agnostic” in their beliefs (whether “Jewish” or not). They bristle at the classic hierarchical God language that so dominates traditional blessings and liturgy. Hey, no problem, here; I do too! For me, this discomfort is a bright open door inviting me to create the words that do capture my heart and soul. It is my deepest honor to be asked to do this for others too…

Here, in these posts, I am sharing some of the most common questions couples have asked me along the way of their wedding journey.

“How Can I Make My Wedding Unique, Funny or Even Funky?”

No cookie-cutter weddings here!

Wedding are supposed to be times of great joy – not somber sobriety! They’re a time to bring out the best of our traditions, but not bury ourselves in them. It IS possible to create a wedding ritual that mixes meaningful words of love with joyful, even unexpected elements that will have your guests chuckling about your wedding for years to come.

There is no “recipe” for creating a funky, unforgettable wedding. It comes about by brainstorming, thinking creatively, and most importantly of all – giving me the license to go! Once I know what you are open to a funny curve ball, I promise you, I can come up with one!

Example 1: “No God, Two Cultures, Please Make ‘Em Laugh”

Eric and Maria wanted a non-theistic wedding that was light-hearted and not overly serious. They were an “older” couple, with grown children, who each had small parts in the ceremony (playing instruments, for examples). I came up with two surprise elements in their wedding that I felt proud of:

1)    First, I read, in Spanish, a poem about love by Pablo Neruda. The bride is Spanish, and I knew her family would be watching the wedding later via YouTube, and would be delighted to suddenly hear some of the ceremony in Spanish. I practiced it for hours and think I got the accent decent enough!

2)    Then, with a little behind-the-scenes sleuthing, I dug up some dirt about the couple’s younger lives. Then, when it came time for the vows, the “repeat after me” part, I mixed in serious vows, with funny ones they totally didn’t expect.

“Repeat after me. I, Eric, promise to not get drunk and wake up naked beside the Colorado River.” {Insert riotous laughter here!}

“Repeat after me. I, Maria, promise to always make you really great mojitos” …

You get the idea. It was the best part of the ceremony!

Example 2: “No Religion, No Time To Plan, the Funkier the Better”

Claire and Collin got a sudden job offer in Europe so they had a quickie wedding with very little preparation time. But they were careful to throw in their own quirky touches in all aspects of the day.

First, my favorite, they had the groom’s sister dressed identically to all the groomsmen, and she was also called a “groomsman!” Then they had a wall of tea lights, before which we conducted the ceremony. It was gorgeous! They also had everyone pitch in. The bride’s 13-year-old sister played all the entry music on the violin; a friend sculpted the bride’s hair.

Their main ritual request was that I not use any traditional God liturgy (either Christian or Jewish). They also had an aunt and uncle whom they wanted to honor by doing a blessing or reading for them.

After giving my rabbi-ly advice on the secrets to lasting love, with quotes from the great poet Kahlil Gibran, I called up their aunt and uncle to dispense their marital advice. That advice, much to everyone’s surprise, was a spirited reading of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You Will Go!”

The audience loved it. A few days later, I received a nice note from one of the moms, Ruth, telling me that their crowd of Jews, atheists and Christians of all stripes had been touched by the ceremony. As an officiant, I couldn’t have hoped for more!

Example 3: “Christian-Jewish Interfaith … And Honor Both Religions”

My last example is a showcase of how it’s possible to do a wedding that is religious both Jewishly and Christianly, without offending either side.

For this wedding, the couple was not personally religious, but they had agreed to raise their children Jewish. Thus, they wanted a Jewish wedding and rabbi officiant. The groom’s family, however, was very devotedly Christian. While they weren’t upset about having a Jewish wedding, the groom didn’t want them to feel “left out” or to feel like they were watching some alien scene out of a movie they didn’t understand.

I’ve officiated many Jewish or Jewish-lite weddings for interfaith couples. But this was the first time I was asked to do such a wedding actively incorporating something distinctly Christian. The million dollar question was: What to incorporate without totally “crossing the wires” of the two traditions? What Christian thing could we say that was authentic to Christians, but not alienating to Jews?

After much discussion, we did two things:

1)    The mothers came up and lit a unity candle. This beautiful ritual, which symbolizes the creation of a new light by a new family, comes from Protestant tradition. But there is nothing “Jesus-specific” about it.

2)    We also included a reading from the Book of Corinthians on the nature of love. The passage, while from the New Testament, does not quote Jesus, and thus would not have made the Jewish members of the audience uncomfortable.

At virtually every interfaith wedding I have been blessed to officiate, some very old Jewish grandmother or great-grandmother comes up to me afterward with tears in her eyes, grateful that a rabbi officiated. She is, I know, scared for the fate of her grandchildren. Will they still be Jewish? Will the Jewish family lineage live on?

This wedding was the first time I also had the Christian grandmothers come up to me, crying. “Thank you,” they said, “for making our faith feel so respected. We feel so apart of this family now.”

Ah, what a joy. What an honor. I would have made my dear Christian grandmother, Zelda, of blessed memory, proud. I felt proud too.

This is why I love what I do!

I love to hear from readers. Please post your comments below. To inquire about my wedding services, write me directly at joysa@aol.com.

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