So anyway, we're just starting to plan the wedding. My fiancée and her family are Jewish but not Orthodox, my fiancée is a non-religous semi-agnostic, I of course am an atheist, and my parents are Orthodox. (Long-time readers may recall that I decided to only date Jews a couple of years ago so that I wouldn't break my parents' misguided hearts by marrying out. Obviously, that one worked out.)
We have just started negotiations with my parents regarding their needs. Here are the issues that have come up so far:
Shabbos and Kosher
Obviously, the wedding cannot be on a Saturday or my parents and half our guests wouldn't be able to attend and it must be kosher, or they won't be able to eat. Not a big deal, although a Sunday wedding requires us to either have it on a three-day weekend or put a burden on the mostly non-religious guests coming in from out of town who would have to go to work on Monday morning.
I do not believe in God. I do not believe in Orthodox Judaism. To have an Orthodox rabbi officiate at my wedding, then, would make the ceremony less meaningful to me and make me feel like a hypocrite. If I were going to have a rabbi at all, I would want a Humanistic one, but obviously, he or she wouldn't count. And if he was a gay man or she was a woman, that would make the Orthodox people extra uncomfortable.
Considering it's our wedding, shouldn't we be allowed to create a ceremony that reflects our love and beliefs and nothing else? Why do we need all this religiocultural bullshit?
Yet my father insists it must be an Orthodox rabbi. Why does he get to insist? It's not his wedding. It doesn't directly affect him. I tried to press him on this and he just said that we wouldn't "really" be married if it weren't an Orthodox wedding. I also got some dark, vague muttering about future problems with kids and/or divorce if the wedding isn't halakhic.
But you don't even technically need a Rabbi to have a halakhic wedding! This debate is ongoing, although I'm leaning towards finding the most liberal Orthodox rabbi I can and negotiating with him just to make my parents happy.
My fiancée and I want nothing to do with traditional, single-sex dancing. Admittedly, this is not so much an ideological issue as an aesthetic one, but neither of us would feel at home at our own wedding if we had it. My parents originally expected this and seemed okay with it (they are pretty modern, by Orthodox standards) but then a couple of days ago, my mom called and said that an Orthodox rabbi might not perform the ceremony if we didn't have at least the first dance be separate.
Well, what kind of hypocritical bullshit is that? Either mixed dancing is completely out of bounds, in which case the rabbi should have nothing to do with the wedding, or it's acceptable, in which case, what difference does the first dance make?
I think we're standing firm on this one, and if we're lucky, maybe that will get us out of the Orthodox rabbi question as well.
Blessings at the Reception
We haven't discussed this yet, but we want no part in any benching or sheva brachos. I'd probably be willing to have someone make motzi if necessary.
Wearing a Kippah
I obviously don't wear a kippah (a.k.a yarmulka.) I know my father will be embarrassed if I don't wear one to the reception (I'm willing to do it for the ceremony, I think) but I'd feel like a fraud wearing it. I think my dad's just going to have to deal with that one.
Not Being Counted as One Who Left
One of the things that bothers me the most about the Orthodox community is the way people who go off the derech just disappear. We obviously have to leave the community when we stop being religous, but we're also expected to sort of pretend to be religious when we come home and to not rock the boat. Any discussion about us has the furtive, whispery quality of a bunch of Victorians discussing a sexual deviant. From within the community, you'd barely know that anybody who grew up there ever left (or was gay, etc.) This marginalizes those who leave and it leaves the kids who are thinking about leaving without any positive role models. I emphatically do not want to give the impression to anybody that I'm still Orthodox.
Rituals and Other Concerns
In addition to being uncomfortable with giving the appearance of supporting Orthodox Judaism by having an Orthodox wedding, there are a number of specific things that really get my goat.
- The notion of buying/acquiring the woman with a ring. The Orthodox ceremony is based on the idea that the man is buying the woman. Besides being entirely distasteful and out of date, this might make a modern ceremony with a ring exchange difficult AND, due to Talmudic nitpicking, will restrict us from using the actual wedding band we want during the ceremony because it has diamonds in it.
- The notion that virgins are worth more money. This is in the standard ketubah. Spin all you want, that's basically what it says.
- The idea that we're getting married "according to the traditions of Moses and Israel." Uh, no. We're getting married according to the traditions of America. She's not 12 years old and I'm planning on being monogamous.
- The fact that the Orthodox rabbi would not perform an intermarriage or gay marriage. Would I have someone who refused to perform marriages for black people officiate my wedding? How can I support such a person? My father suggested that the rabbi might even investigate my fiancée's background to make sure she's halakhically Jewish. She is, but how intrusive and offensive is that??
- The fact that Orthodoxy doesn't consider me (or, of course, my fiancée) a kosher witness. We need two kosher witnesses and yet neither of us is considered good enough to witness at someone else's Orthodox wedding.
- The breaking of the glass for the Temple. I know there are other interpretations of this event, but I can't in good faith say that I mourn the destruction of the Temple or hope for it to be rebuilt.
- The yichud room. (For those who don't know, this is where the bride and groom go immediately following the ceremony in order to have the opportunity to consummate the marriage. Although they generally don't actually do that in there, the idea is that they could.) This is just plain creepy and it contributes to the idea that premarital sex is wrong, which I do not agree with.
- The rabbi's speech. Obviously, I can't have a rabbi up there speaking from our chuppah going on and on about God and how we must raise our children as religious Jews. I'm assuming I'll be able to keep the rabbi on some sort of leash here, but that remains to be seen.
We went into this process naively thinking that we would graciously accommodate my family by having kosher food and a Sunday wedding and then everything else would fall into place. It's not going to be that easy.
The problem is that anytime we want one thing and Orthodoxy demands another, it's just what we "want" versus what my parents "need." Orthodoxy is so rigid that compromise is impossible (except, hopefully, regarding the mixed dancing.) So we volunteer to have kosher food and a Sunday wedding, which are substantially different from what we would prefer, and we get nothing in return. We try to be gracious, and they just make more demands. Unless we are extremely careful and willing to get confrontational on things we absolutely do not want to compromise on, Orthodoxy will just take over the whole thing and it will feel like any other Orthodox wedding. Maybe my father will be able to compromise on the rabbi. It's just so hard to tell what's negotiable when everything is supposedly non-negotiable.