At the end of a Jewish wedding ceremony, there is the dramatic moment in which a wine glass (wrapped in a napkin) is placed on the ground. The groom stomps on and shatters the wine glass as the assembled guests shout their congratulations, “Mazel tov!” There are many interpretations for this portion of the ceremony.
• It is a reminder that life holds both joy and sorrow and that the couple’s commitment must remain strong through good times and bad.
• It represents the newly married couple breaking with their old lives and stepping forward into their new life together.
• It symbolizes the fragility of human relationships, reminding the couple that great care must be taken to maintain the marriage bond.
The breaking of the glass by the groom is so integral to a Jewish wedding that many a Hollywood movie uses such a scene as a shorthand way of telling viewers that the bridal characters are Jewish. It was surprising therefore to attend my cousin David’s recent wedding, and to have this very traditional part of the ceremony used instead to symbolize the breaking of tradition. It was the bride, not the groom, who crushed the glass!
I am not a newcomer to unique life cycle ceremonies and I actually find them to be wonderful. David and Ellie, like many young couples, crafted a lovely ceremony that perfectly reflected their union. I should mention that they are both children of intermarried couples; each has one parent who is Jewish by birth. This gave them lots of traditions from which to pick and choose.
• They opted not to have a clergy person marry them. Instead, a friend became an ordained wedding officiant online and performed the ceremony.
• From Jewish tradition, they chose to stand under a canopy, the chuppah. They chose to bless wine and to sign a Jewish wedding certificate, the ketubah.
• From the groom’s mother’s tradition, they chose a “tying of the hands” ceremony.
• They also included poetry that was meaningful to them and to the bride’s parents.
• They wrote their own vows.
Coming home from the wedding I had lots to tell my friends about:
• The unique ceremony!
• The bride’s beautiful dress with its peek-a-boo midriff, not to mention her smile that lit up the room!
• Even the groom’s attire was great! It included a bolo tie made by his late grandfather.
• The outdoor garden venue was fabulous and the cool June evening couldn’t have been more delightful.
• The vegetarian food that was not only delicious but beautiful to look at — I would hang photos of those gorgeous appetizers in my kitchen!
But beyond all these sights and sounds and tastes, I came home filled with joy from the human connection the wedding provided. I loved being together with my extended family and I loved extending the group further as we added Ellie and her loved ones to it.
Indeed, of all the traditions that Ellie and David included in their wedding, the one most meaningful to me was that they stood under the chuppah. This canopy is a piece of fabric held over the couple by four poles. It represents the home the couple will make together, open on all sides to allow friends and family into their lives. I am very grateful that the sides of that chuppah were wide enough to allow me, a second cousin, to enter.
Clearly, all these traditions have a lot of significance. If nothing else, they are so recognizable that they pull at our heart strings as they evoke other happy occasions in the past. And I love to get weepy as my heart strings are tugged. But I’ll tell you, I didn’t cry at the end of this wedding. I was too pumped up. Watching Ellie stomp on that wine glass was electrifying! I couldn’t help but think of all the glass ceilings in her future. Let’s face it, some traditions are just waiting to be broken!
Find out more about Lorie Kleiner Eckert at www.loriekleinereckert.com and/or at www.etsy.com/shop/loriekleinereckert.