I attended a beautiful Jew-Asian wedding a few weeks ago which really got me thinking about what my own Jew-Asian wedding could be. I have been to a number of weddings between Asian couples, Jewish couples, and even a Jewish-Muslim couple, but actually have never been to a Jew-Asian wedding!
The rehearsal dinner the evening before was at a Chinese restaurant, so authentic that the menu was only in Chinese. The parents of the groom who is Chinese, took the lead on making the arrangement. Decorated red and gold, which represents wealth and good luck, the restaurant had a private dining room that could hold party of forty. For Chinese tea ceremony, the Jewish American bride put on a custom made Chinese dress in red, with Chinese collar and long high slit on the side. For the tea ceremony, the parents and relatives were seated in the chair, while the bride and groom respectfully poured tea for them. The recipients of the tea said blessings in Chinese, which supposedly related to long life and many babies, and gave gift of value, such as jewelry, and better yet, cash in red envelopes.
I must have had 3 tons of seafood that night. The course meal entailed jelly fish, abalone, shrimp, squid, fish, clams, mussels, and more. All seafood imaginable was there. I retreated home concerned about whether I would be able to fit into the bridsmaids’ dress the next day.
7 o’clock in the morning, the alarm rang. The wedding is at 2pm, so it only makes sense that we should start getting ready at 7:30am, right? After a series of makeup, hair sessions and a photo shoot that lasted about 3 hours, I found myself in a small room, with friends and family, with the bride and groom seated at the table for katubah signing. Katubah is a Jewish wedding contract, and a gazillion different style can be found on www.katubah.com. There are many different styles of katubah, depending on the denomination, as well as whether you are a convert or not. In any case, each katubah is customized with your name on it, and this symbolizes the actual marriage under Jewish law. The Rabbi and the Cantor ran the Katubah signing, with singing and prayers. Then they called for two witnesses to sign the marriage license from New Jersey, and two witnesses to sign the katubah itself. After they have been pronounced “husband and wife” now we were on for the “press conference” as the Rabbi called it.
Unlike other American weddings, or Korean weddings that I am used to, the parents of the bride and groom stood in front with the officiant and the bridal party, which stood out for me. The Rabbi and Cantor led the ceremony, and here are a few things that stood out for me. First, the rings were put on the index finger of the bride and groom. Apparently, it’s because in the olden days people believed that there were arteries from the index finger that goes straight to the heart. Second, the vows were said in Hebrew. The bride and groom did not memorize anything, but the rabbi fed them words, and the vows were said. I thought it was interesting, because while Judaism is so practical, there is also a lot of ritualistic things that people do not think twice about. Third, there were seven blessings. These blessings are usually read in Hebrew, and by the Rabbi. In this wedding, the bride and groom had asked the bridal party and family members to read the blessings, and also read the English translation of it so everyone can understand. And of course, fourth, there was a Chuppah which is the arch with four corners that go over the couple and the rabbi, symbolizing a house in which they will live in. And Fifth, breaking of the glass by the groom, which supposedly symbolizes the fragility of marriage and world, reinforcing their commitment to each other.
It was a beautiful ceremony, and I loved that the couple mixed in the Jewish and Chinese traditions so beautifully. What this process of exploring conversion has always presented me with is the challenge of making it mine. I love cultural experiences, but declaring something mine takes not only understanding what it means, but embracing it, appreciating it, and personalizing it. What can I take as my own? What is some aspects of this ceremony that I can take my own and personalize, and have Aaron and I appreciate? I’ve got about 5 months to figure that out!