This post is the ninth in “Feminist, Orthodox and Engaged,” a series by Simi Lampert on love, sex and betrothal in the life of a Modern Orthodox woman.
The number one lesson I’ve learned from planning my wedding is: This is not my wedding. Sure, I get to wear the ivory gown and the invitations have my name on it, but the wedding is only a fraction about me and what I want. I’m not even sure how the Bridezilla creature was invented; whatever bride actually forced the wedding party to bend to her own personal will must surely only exist in the fantasies of frustrated brides everywhere.
It’s common to read (and receive, from well-intentioned or simply thoughtless friends) articles on why and how weddings should be limited in both expense and size. Every few months, it seems, newspapers regurgitate the topic with a selection of new words and ingenious ideas for cutting costs. But I don’t see the average cost of weddings — not to mention Jewish weddings, outsized only by Indian fares — getting glower, in spite of the plethora of brilliant suggestions published by every news-source ever. As a bride, I get it.
I spent half of my wedding-planning months scheming how my fiancé and I could elope. Not only would it be easier, we argued, but it would be so much cheaper. A quick trip to Atlantic City, a cute hotel on a beach, no fuss. When we presented the idea to our parents, half (but only half) jokingly, they played along. Sure, they said, why not? You’ll save us money and headaches! Inevitably one of the siblings would jump in: “But you’ll bring us along, too, of course.” They couldn’t imagine not being present at our wedding. And if they had to come, then our closest friends had to come, and if we were inviting our friends, then relatives would be hurt … and so it was just a case of giving a mouse a cookie — they’ll want milk and, eventually, a wedding invitation.
Eloping was a fantasy, and it had to stay filed away with our wildest dreams, right next to those gorgeous suede boots I saw online. But that didn’t mean we couldn’t have a smaller, more intimate wedding, did it?
Actually, it did.
The Orthodox Jewish wedding is not simply a celebration of the marriage of the bride and groom; it’s a celebration of the entire community, by the entire community, about the continuation of the community. Everyone feels they are part of it. And I want everyone to be a part of it — I want to include everyone I know in our happiest moment. (For fact checking purposes, please consult with my fiancé, who has reminded me — on multiple occasions — that I don’t need to invite everyone I’ve ever smiled at.)
My wedding day is not about me, I discovered over the course of several months. It’s about us: my fiancé and me “us,” and the community “us.” And that’s okay. That’s how it should be. Suddenly, with this realization, eloping grew less tempting. My fiancé and I will have the rest of our lives to spend exulting in our mutual happiness. One night with everyone we know and love is the most wonderful way I could imagine to begin it.