Friday, July 18, 2008

How Orthodox Will My Wedding Be?

So, I'm engaged. Yay! I've been debating whether to talk about this because it pretty much gives away my identity to anybody who both knows me in real life and reads my blog... but then I thought, how bad can you be if you read my blog? :-) And, what's this blog for if not to discuss this sort of thing? Please respect my privacy if you figure out who I am. (But let me know by email, as I'm interested to see who YOU are!)

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.

The Rabbi

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.
  1. 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.
  2. The notion that virgins are worth more money. This is in the standard ketubah. Spin all you want, that's basically what it says.
  3. 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.
  4. 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??
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
Final Thoughts

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.


Wandering Coyote said...

Hi JA,

I still read (from the distant window of my feed reader), even though I haven't commented in like forever.

Congratulations on your engagement!

This was a exhausting post to read. I can barely get my head around all the complications you've listed and I couldn't imagine having to organize something like this in my own life!

From my experience, weddings can be huge flashpoints with families because you're not just joining a man and woman together, but you are uniting and creating a new family. It was very hard to compromise - and I had so little to compromise on, unlike your case.

That being said, a wedding does not make a marriage. I wish people would put it into perspective because it is ONE DAY out of (hopefully) a lifetime. And because it is ONE DAY is has to be YOUR DAY. You need to do something that honours you and your needs.

I won't pretend to know what I would do in your situation because I'm know it's very difficult to have to juggle expectations and traditions. But I would hope that you and your fiance can let go of other people's expectations of what is YOUR celebration. Serving kosher food seems to me to be a reasonable accommodation; the rest...I'm not sure; I'm not you. But will your family love and accept your fiance any less if you don't do a lot of the traditional stuff you've described? Do your parents still love and accept you, even though you're overtly an atheist and have left Orthodoxy behind? In the end, those are the two key questions.

Sorry to be so long-winded...It's a fascinating topic for me, and I thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with getting your father to compromise!
One of my daughter's friends, who was technically Jewish, but not raised that way, married a man from an Orthodox family and he forced them to have the wedding he wanted them to have. The father offered to help them pay for the wedding, if it was done his way, but in the end the couple compromised on everything, down to the dress my daughter's friend wore, which covered every part of her body except for her head and hands, and the wedding was not the one they wanted, but the only one the groom's father would accept. Oh yeah, he never did help them out with any $$!

Holy Hyrax said...

Mazal Tov.

Anyways, I sorta agree with your dad just on the OJ rabbi thing. You know, just in case there WILL be a problem for future kids. I know it bugs you, but perhaps just think of them. Honostly, just make sure YOU pick the rabbi and tell him you don't want a speech.

>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.

This is nonsense. Ever been to a wedding in Israel? Nobody has seperate dancing. And I have been to weddings here as well with no seperate dancing.

Most of the tiny rituals should not be a problem for you. Like breaking the glass. NOBODY thinks or mourns (at least during the chuppah) for the temple. But it is such an iconic moment in all Jewish weddings that it would be a shame to get rid of it.

Jewish Atheist said...

No time to reply now, but I wanted to say good to see you to WC and I have a question for HH. Seriously, I don't know. What is the problem for future kids?

Holy Hyrax said...


I don't know. I am only assuming there might be. I don't think there should since the halacha of getting married is pretty simple. I mean, before I got married, the rabbi simply asked me if even in jest, had I once said "at mekodeshet li...." infront of two witnesses. Cause clearly, this could have been considered a marriage.

I would simply ask someone more competent thats not some extremist

ItsTheEmes said...

JA: Congratulations!!
I'm not one of those that knows you, though I wish I had.

Reading your list of conflicts I recognized many of my own thoughts on the subject..

I'd say just try to focus on your and your fiancee's happiness and try not to get too involved in the conflict; at the end of the day, it is your wedding. If your parents don't want to consider it "really" married, then so be it.

I have no idea what I'll do when my time comes, as I'm from a considerably more religious background than you, Modern Hasidic.

Again, good luck!!

Rabban Gamliel said...

"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."

No this is a common misconception. It is no more true then when it says to aquire yourself a friend. It is the same wording. We are not buying a friend.

Jewish Atheist said...

Thanks, itstheemes! :-)


You don't have to give a ring of a certain value to a friend, while simultaneously making sure that everybody knows its exact worth (the reason for the no stones rule.)

Rabban Gamliel said...

JA it just is not true that a man is are buying her. That is is known by all Halachic authorities. You own a couch or even a slave but not a wife. Anyway Mazel Tov.

Holy Hyrax said...


as usual, you are wrong.

Bruce said...

Hi JA. First of all, congratulations. Your wedding and marriage should both be great, and please do not let this sort of craziness ruin it for you. Think through these problems, make a decision, and then move forward.

I'll offer a few comments on your particular problems and let you know what my wife and I did at our wedding. But as a general matter, I think I feel more free in re-interpreting or varying traditions, and so I feel comfortable taking existing traditions and separating them from some traditional explanations. I think there is something special about being married using the same tradition that our ancestors did when they were married. It is a great connection with the past, albeit perhaps a romanticized past.

My wife and I came at the wedding from a different background than you are: our families are both Reform or Conservative, but I am very close with an Orthodox rabbi and asked him to marry us. I picked him personally, because he is my good friend and teacher, rather than an Orthodox rabbi more generally.

But FWIW, here's my thoughts and experience.

1. Shabbos and Kosher. Ours was a large (almost 300 people) brunch wedding on Sunday morning. That allowed people to attend but still get to work on Monday. It is less elegant and formal (and expensive) than an evening wedding, but we decided it was better to invite more people and spend less per person than the other way around. Something to consider.

Our wedding was not kosher (since only a small number of people kept kosher) but we brought in separate kosher meals for them.

2. Rabbi. Ours was Orthodox, as noted above.

3. Dancing. We had mixed dancing. We seated some of the Orthodox people further from the dance floor, and one Orthodox friend said that he simply sits with his back towards the dance floor.

4. Blessings at the Reception. We had a motzi but no benching or sheva brachos. (Although we had the SBs at the ceremony, obviously.)

5. Kippah. I wore one, and my groomsmen wore one (even though several were not Jewish). The symbolism of a kippah ranges from all sorts of things at the Orthodox end to simply a Jewish cultural identifier. I would recommend wearing the kippah and picking your synpolism.

6. Buying/acquiring the woman with a ring. You'll soon realize that it's actually the other way around. : )

A single-ring ceremony was one the requirements of my rabbi. And this one gave me some pause, as did the traditional ketubah. But ultimately I went with RG's explanation; in at least one circumstance, we "buy" something that we don't really buy: a friend. And a wife and friend are more similar than, say, a wife and land. So I went with that explanation.

7. Getting married "according to the traditions of Moses and Israel." This one screams out for interpretation. Which traditional (or law). I know the Orthodox have one explanation, but others have other explanations. Pick yours.

8. The fact that the Orthodox rabbi would not perform an intermarriage or gay marriage. This one didn't bother me at all. There are good but ultimately not compelling reasons for not performing a gay marriage or intermarriage. There are no good reasons for interracial marriage.

9. Kosher witnesses. This did not bother me either.

10. Breaking of the glass. Again, there are a zillion explanations for this. The one I liked is that marriage is irreversible, like the broken glass. And even if you interpret the messiah in a more abstract way (an idealized future time of peace, etc.), then it is sad that we are not there.

11. Yichud. I thought this was a good idea. Wedding planning can be a little crazy, and the actual wedding day is nuts. Lots of people, ceremony, food, band, last minute emergencies, etc. It is easy to forget that the wedding is about you and your fiancee (and by then, wife). It is wonderful to have a few minutes just to yourselves.

One suggestion: bring some food in with you. I think the minimum halachic time for yichud is the time to eat a small egg. Actually eating an egg (or some other similar food) is taking this halacha to a new level. : )

12. Rabbi's speech. Our rabbi gave a great talk about love. He talked about giving to the other without any expectation of getting something in return. ("If you expect something in return, it's not love. It's business.") It was sweet, touching, meaningful, and brought in aspects of Jewish wisdom without being preachy. Several of my non-Jewish friends commented on touching it was.

I think the key here is picking the rabbi.

* * *

I guess I'm sad that Orthodoxy has created such an either/or mentality in the minds of so many people who grew up with it. I think Judaism contains much wisdom and beauty. Unfortunately, much of it is linked up with some real mishegas. I think would be a mistake to reject the wisdom and beauty simply because some Jews also embrace the mishegas. Delink the two.

In any case, remember that your wedding simply celebrates your marriage and the latter is much more important. My wife and I have been married for almost 9 years now, and the details of the wedding become increasingly less important. Have a great wedding, but don't lose sight of your marriage in the process.

Anonymous in Teaneck said...

If you are going to have an Orthodox rabbi and an Orthodox ketubah, please consider whatever clause is considered acceptable under Orthodox authorities regarding any possible divorce. A traditional ketubah puts a woman at a tremendous disadvantage during divorce proceedings. I wish you all the best and hope that you may never need to use that clause, but show your fiancee how much you love her by insisting on that clause.

I've been married 21 years, with a traditional ketubah, and don't ever expect to divorce, but I would not advise my daughter (who is not anywhere near being old enough to marry) to marry as I did.

CyberKitten said...


Holy Hyrax said...

I agree with Bruce :P

Also, try to keep the engagement as short as possible. It tends to be a very trying time in the relationship.

anonymous reader said...

Congrats! So happy for you!

Anonymous said...


I don't think I've commented here before and I don't have time to read the previous comments (getting ready for Shabbat here)...but...

As a Conservative Jew I do understand your needs and desires. I also understand the thing about respecting parents. I'm so sorry you're in this bind.

I'm not sure the type of people you are but perhaps you can do a non traditional reception. For example, after the Chuppah have a nice cocktail party with shmoozing and no dancing. It's cheaper and gives people more time to socialize. That would solve the dancing issue :)

I don't know, but I do wish you luck, I will come back and read up on your post again later.

abandoning eden said...

congratulations on being engaged!!!! Yay!!

Some thoughts on your predicaments:
1. I had a lot of problems with jewish wedding traditions, and during my first engagement, when I was learning more about those traditions, it really made me start questioning in a serious way the jewish religion. Before that I was more off the derech already, but kind of ambivalent about it. It was the wedding traditions that made me more firmly against religion.

2. That being said, there is something to say for tradition. I know I'm the last person who should be saying that. :) But don't plenty of non-observant or non-orthodox jewish people have weddings with a bunch of jewish traditions in them? Maybe find something that works for you.

3. Are your parents helping you pay for the wedding? If they are, you have to take their feelings more into account. If they're not, you are more free to do what you want.

4. I also went through a similar thing in my first engagement...but my parents were paying for the entire wedding and I had pretty much no say. It started with me saying I didn't want to walk around him 7 times, and I wanted to go up to the chuppah together, and that I wanted to give him a ring, and that I did not want that bullshit seperate sex dancing. They agreed at first but as time went on, firs tthey were like "but if you give him a ring it won't be a kosher wedding" and I gave in on that and then they were like "but how can we have all our family and friends there and NOT have dancing?" and then they were like "but you have to walk around seven times!"

So in the end, if I had married that guy, I would have gone through with all the bullshit. The pressure is incredibly high, and I feel ya there. If possible, I recommend trying to pay for the wedding without them somehow, cause you'll have a lot more leeway. And remember that in the end it's YOUR wedding, and your parents are only guests. Important guests to be sure, but don't let them grind you down.

The Hedyot said...

Congratulations JA!

Your post had a lot of thought provoking insights about the dynamics between people like us and our families. I really appreciated your points. Like how we're not talked about, as if we don't exist and then when we see them we're expected to play along as if nothing happened.

Anyway, to the topic at hand, I'm surprised no one here has suggested you contact David Gruber to do the wedding. He is not Orthodox, but he has Orthodox semicha, so maybe if you kept the details of his current beliefs quiet, you can get away with it. He now considers himself a secular humanist. His website is

Rabbi David S. Gruber said...


Mazel tov! Tivneh bayis chiloni ne'eman biyisroel!


Kivanta lida'as gedolim. The first thing I thought when I saw this was, "Wow, if only there was a secular humanist out there with Orthodox Semicha. A guy who will marry interfaith couples, and satisfy the son, but have Orthodox Semicha and satisfy the father. Oh, wait, there is - me!"

Transcience said...

Mazel tov! From a long time reader, I have to say that none of this gives away your identity at all. Have never met you, I still have no idea who you are. =)

It seems like every wedding is fraught with concerns of pleasing the parents, though it's usually over the color scheme and the bill. I guess I'd say that you should go for whatever is minimally halakhically acceptable. That is, I think you have a lot of wiggle room on the choice of rabbi, dancing, and what you wear at the reception. Regarding the ketubah, that's where the rabbi comes in -- try to draft one up that leaves out the things you don't like while maintaining the minimal requirements. If you object a bit to having two "kosher" witnesses, then keep in mind that you're by no means limited to two total witnesses.

The main thing is to stand up for yourself -- in the end, your parents will probably be there even if they don't like a few of the arrangements. I mean, you're marrying a Nice Jewish Girl. They'll forget the details later anyway.

Congratulations again! I'm really happy it worked out for you.

dbackdad said...


Sheesh ... I thought I had to go through a lot of crap to marry a Catholic. It was nothing compared to the religious and social conventions that you have to navigate through. Good luck.

cipher said...


I haven't posted a comment here in a long time, but I wanted to offer my congratulations.

I'd only compromise for the sake of your parents if they're paying for all or part of it. Otherwise, do what you like, what will be most meaningful and memorable for you. There was a time, when I was younger, that I would have been more patient with the "needs" of persons of faith; that time is long gone. This:

one Orthodox friend said that he simply sits with his back towards the dance floor

is the sort of thing that really sets me off. It's horrendously immature. No one forces them to participate; if they can't stand even to be in the presence of a practice of which they disapprove, they can stay home.

Remember - it's your day. Do whatever makes you comfortable.

Anonymous said...

Hey dude..even the jewish fags whose weddidngs (unions) are announced on the back pages of the sunday NYTIMEs are wearing a yarmulka

Nimrod said...

Mazal tov,

Surprisingly I side with the parents on this one,

I think you should remember that you are a Jewish Atheist, and not just a stam atheist, and therefore should embbrace as much Jewish customs and tradition as possible in ceremony etc. Its our tradition and heritage and shows connection with generations before or after in a shared cultural sense. I dont think it needs to be made into a big issue, a wedding is just one day of what is hopefully a life long relationship

Putting on a kipah for a few hours for "show" is an act of kindness for those still in the fold, your wedding day does not have to be about religous/non religous conflict. Rather just the love between the two of you, and how you are crazily joining your two families.

Random Visitor said...

I am just a stranger, passing by your blog, so take my advice with many lumps of salt (kosher or not). But I work with many couples getting married, and have heard many stories about couples and parents. And my advice is this, never forget that this is *your* wedding, not your parents. The wedding needs to reflect your beliefs, or it will lose it's meaning to you. Your parents will just have to deal with it. And if they don't, you have bigger issues at hand, issues that will not be solved simply by giving in. You must establish your religious independence. If you don't now, you will just have this same fight when you are planning holidays, or when you have kids, etc.

If your father wishes an Orthodox ceremony, then by all means your parents can renew their vows. But their job now is not to tell you what to do, but to let go. To recognize you as an adult, to trust in how they raised you, and let you walk on your own two feet.

Freethinking Upstart said...

Mazal Tov!

Hope all those complications you listed don't bog you down. Best of luck with it all.

asher said...

Congradulations and mazal tov.

Why the hell are you getting married anyway? In this country with a history of predjudice against marriage between the races and same sexes, you are only perpetuating this endless hypocracy. With a divorce rate at over 50% you are really shooting craps with reality.

In secular europe almost no one gets married and fewer of them have any kids. This is why in the country of Italy the average Italian is about 54. In Japan it's something similar. Perhaps they have the right idea. Why bind yourself to one person when just living together is just as good.

Finally, you can almost never get an Orthodox Rabbi to even enter a Conservative shul...(unless the catering hall is in a seperate area and you can check me on that one).

You also have to deal with the bedecking, the type of music played, and the raising of the couple on chairs...(scary as hell)

Have fun.


OriginalAbe said...

Some things you might want to consider.

1) Would you be able to have an Orthodox ceremony (with a rabbi, two witnesses, etc) before the wedding (as a technicality for your parents) and have the real deal however you want?

2) Another thing to consider is an explanatory wedding booklet. You could use that to explain all the symbolism and meaning behind all the ceremony. In this way you might be able to please your parents on the specifics while making clear that you don't buy into the Orthodox interpretation.

Orthoprax said...


Mazel tov!

I'd like to double what another person said above. You may be an atheist but that just defines your current state of belief - you are a Jew down to your invariable identity. Why so strongly reject so many things in your heritage that can easily be interpreted in a more modern light? They're only issues for you because you're making them into issues.

One remark about the rabbi's speech: ironically, I've been to dozens of Orthodox weddings and I've almost never seen anyone give a speech. That's one of the best things about weddings.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Holy Hyrax said...

as usual, you are wrong."

Holy Hyrax I am not wrong. I learned what I said in Daf Yomi.

Holy Hyrax said...

>And remember that in the end it's YOUR wedding, and your parents are only guests.


I wonder what some parents here would feel, had their kids said that to them.

Holy Hyrax said...

>is the sort of thing that really sets me off. It's horrendously immature. No one forces them to participate; if they can't stand even to be in the presence of a practice of which they disapprove, they can stay home.

Um, he IS handling it in a mature fashion. He is not causing a spectacle. He is not forcing his beliefs on others. He is simply quietly deciding to turn around without bothering anyone else.

secular said...

I fully agree with random visitor. You MUST assert your independence. You're making far too many RELIGIOUS concessions.

I do however agree with everyone here to remember who you are: a fricking atheist. That's what's important and what makes you a unique individual, not being part of a "heritage." You owe the Jewish people nothing and their stubbornness in trying to own you should be thwarted.

My advice: Tell your parents that you have no religious beliefs whatsoever and one of the most important ceremonies of your life should fully reflect that. It's inane to me how you're a complete atheist and your entire wedding is fraught with Jewish rituals and customs. I don't care how many people here claim Jewish culture is separate from Jewish religion. They're too intertwined to see a discernible schism. I think you should have a fully secular ceremony and be true to who you are!

cipher said...

Um, he IS handling it in a mature fashion. He is not causing a spectacle. He is not forcing his beliefs on others. He is simply quietly deciding to turn around without bothering anyone else.

Holy Hyrax, I'm not going to get into an argument in a thread about JA's upcoming wedding, but I'm sorry - you're wrong. He is not handling it in a mature manner. He's behaving like a child - if he doesn't see it, it isn't happening. If a woman were to sing, would he stick his fingers in his ears and shout, "LA LA LA"? If he can't stand even to look upon mixed dancing, as I said - he can stay home.

Baal Habos said...

Hey, JA, you should be Zoche to build a Bayis, errrrr. Whatever.

Mazal Tov.

Baal Habos said...

And Oh, I'm for as much peace as possible with the parents. Unlike Secular and Random Visitor, unless you feel you must, I don't see the point in ASSERTING your independence, you have your whole life for that.

You'll enjoy the wedding more if you know the people closest to you, fiance, parents, in-laws are all in a good mood. Life is a compromise.

Holy Hyrax said...


You are just plain wrong. I was at a wedding once where they brought litterally half naked brazilian dancers. So what am i supposed to do, go home?? Was I simply to NOT go to a family members wedding?

No, I simply turned around AND HANDLED MY problem like an adult. I did not bother anyone. I simply took initiative that MY belies would not hinder others. THAT is a sign of maturity. This gentleman OBVIOUSLY wants to be part of the simcha but has his OWN stringency. So he is not pretending they do not exist. They DO exist and he is dealing it without bringing attention to the situation. Sheeesh

Actually, many times people are happier that the guests simply turn around in which case they don't trouble the bride and groom with finding a place in the corner with a mehitsa especially for themselves. What do you know, another sign of maturity.

Orthoprax said...


"I don't care how many people here claim Jewish culture is separate from Jewish religion. They're too intertwined to see a discernible schism. I think you should have a fully secular ceremony and be true to who you are!"

JA blogs specifically not as just your run-o-the-mill atheist, but as a Jewish Atheist and for better of for worse he shares a Jewish identity. I think he's making the right decision to try and compromise.

Frankly, if you're not Jewish then you just don't get it.


"If he can't stand even to look upon mixed dancing, as I said - he can stay home."

I think you're misunderstanding the issue. The point is that in the Orthodox velt, a man should not watch women dancing - not that he's necessarily against the concept of others having mixed dancing. So he solves his religious/social conflict by sitting facing away from the dance floor.

Maybe you think his religious concerns are silly - that is your right - but it is a mature way of balancing his concerns.

cipher said...

I'll try this once more, then I'm done.

It's highly unlikely that an Orthodox person would typically find him/herself at a function at which there were half-naked Brazilian dancers. I don't doubt your veracity, but it's a one-in-a-million shot. The example given before was that the Orthodox man turned around because it was mixed dancing - mostly husbands and wives, I would assume (and yes, I understand about niddah).

Which leads me to Orthoprax's comment. I do understand - and my point is that the man would have known beforehand that it wasn't a frum affair, and should have assumed that there would be mixed dancing. Again - what if a woman had started singing? It's a common occurrence at secular and non-Jewish weddings. Would he have walked out of the room? I assume there were women with strapless gowns. Did he cover his eyes every time one of them walked into view? I'm sorry, but I think this is all terribly ill-mannered. My opinion remains unchanged; if you're going to turn your back like a petulant child - stay home.

If he wants to participate in the simcha, he can come for the ceremony alone, and eschew the reception. My understanding is that, according to most Orthodox authorities today, it's issur for him to be there in the first place.

On the off-chance that, before Moshiach comes, an Orthodox Jew ever again finds himself at a function at which they suddenly and without warning bring out exotic dancers - you can look me up and we can argue about it then.

Anonymous said...

Mazel Tov!!!

I wish you and your fiancee the best of luck.

In terms of breaking the glass, the best one I heard was the comment a rabbi made at my friend's wedding when he said "this is the last time you can put your foot down..."

Orthoprax said...


Oh, I see. And I guess that if one goes to an office dinner and chooses not to partake of the non-kosher food then they're being immature like a child, refusing to eat what's served at the table.

You're ridiculous. Your similes are not justified. People are not permitted any compromises? If a vegetarian comes to the shmorg then they'd better eat some of the roast beef or else they're just being rude, eh?

If you ever go to a religious wedding then you'd better go to maariv when it's called, hmm?

cipher said...

If you ever go to a religious wedding then you'd better go to maariv when it's called, hmm?

Actually, I do. In fact, I'm a Kohen, and if I find myself in shul (a rare occurrence these days), and there's no other Kohen to whom to give the aliyah, I do it cheerfully - even though I don't believe at all. Whether or not they should be asking me is another matter - you'd know more about that than I - but, my point is that, when called upon, I do it in order to be polite.

And I don't know anyone who, when catering an affair (business or otherwise), doesn't make provisions for vegetarians and for people who observe kashruth.

Juggling Frogs said...

Find an orthodox rabbi you can speak honestly to, and explain it to him. Explain that you're Jewish but Atheist, and so is your bride. Explain that you limited yourself to Jewish dates, specifically because you wanted shalom baiyit. Explain how you feel about all of it.

Maybe just show a printout of this blog post.

My guess is that the rabbi will help immensely. He'll help you pare things down to just what's necessary for a kosher wedding, and maybe run interference with your father.

Your father is mixing up a bunch of minhagim (customs) with other parts that are Jewish Law.

In fact, a reaction to this blog post would be a good "interview" for a rabbi. The right one will help this Jewish wedding take place, and will value the marriage of two Jewish, like-minded individuals, who might otherwise have opted for strife, who are looking for harmony and integrity in the ceremony.

So my suggestion is: find the right orthodox rabbi, and him help you have a kosher wedding that minimizes anything that is distasteful to you.

If your father objects to something, refer him to the rabbi, don't argue with him.

And tip the rabbi well after all this, or give a big donation in his honor. He will have earned it.

Juggling Frogs said...

Also, if you're set on a double ring ceremony, look into buying both rings, and having your bride give you the one you bought.

The first dance being separate allows the rabbi to dance at your wedding and leave, if he needs to do so.

Yichud is only creepy if you look at it through squinted distrustful eyes. It's spending your first moments as a married couple alone, shared with nobody. And a chance to eat something before the social whirlwind of the reception.

In my mind, spending the first hour after a wedding ceremony posing for photographers is creepy. Yichud is a genuine intimate moment.

Juggling Frogs said...

P.S. Mazal tov, may you and your bride have a lifetime of happiness together, and always find joy in each other's company.

I'd bet you've got a great chance of this, because you're going to great lengths to achieve family harmony without sacrificing your integrity.

Orthoprax said...


"Actually, I do."

And that's your prerogative. But would you think it rude for an atheist to not go to maariv when everyone else goes off to pray? Of course not.

"And I don't know anyone who, when catering an affair (business or otherwise), doesn't make provisions for vegetarians and for people who observe kashruth."

Then, it would seem, you have fairly narrow horizons. Ever been out of New York? I went to a convention in Chicago last summer and there was no specifically kosher food made available. Frankly it's not uncommon among businesses in New York either. I went out to lunch with my team the other week and I just ordered (extremely rudely, I might add) for merely a soda.

Many places do try to accomodate, but it's hardly universal or anytime expected.

Holy Hyrax said...

>I'm sorry, but I think this is all terribly ill-mannered. My opinion remains unchanged; if you're going to turn your back like a petulant child - stay home.

No. There is no childish behaivor here at all. A childish behaivor would be to have your hosts compromise to you. But nobody is doing that here. And I am sorry to say that when I had friends come to my wedding, I was happy they were there even though I KNEW its an uncomfortable feeling for them. Yet, they STILL came to share in my simcha. All they did, was turn around. They didn't force their beliefs an anyone or made others feel uncomfortable by their piety.

And by the way, when my office caters lunches, they NEVER bring kosher food for me. And I work for a Jewish company. I say nothing. I make no big deal of it. I go on chatting with people like nothing happened. That is a sign of maturity

cipher said...

But would you think it rude for an atheist to not go to maariv when everyone else goes off to pray? Of course not.

Actually, yes, I think I would. If I felt I couldn't participate, I simply wouldn't go.

Ever been out of New York? I went to a convention in Chicago last summer and there was no specifically kosher food made available. Frankly it's not uncommon among businesses in New York either. I went out to lunch with my team the other week and I just ordered (extremely rudely, I might add) for merely a soda.

I live in Boston. It isn't a very Jewish town, but people here do try to accommodate vegetarians (proximity to Cambridge is probably a factor), and Orthodoxy certainly isn't unheard of. I'm surprised to hear that about New York, although Chicago I can sort of understand.

Look, I'm not saying this to be confrontational, but there's something of a tone of condescension inherent in Orthodoxy. When a frum person behaves in the manner of this fellow at the wedding (I mean the original fellow, not Hyrax), he's sending the message, "I'm better than you are. You'll pollute yourself with such things; I won't." It isn't simply a matter of different customs; there's a value judgment implied. I'm friendly with a very progressive MO rabbi and his wife - they're probably the closest thing we have up here to Upper West Side-style Left Wing Modern Orthodoxy - and I find it a little bit even among them and their friends. It's certainly much more subtle than it would be among Hareidim - but it's there. I've tried to talk to them about it, but they just don't see it, because everyone else they know shares their worldview. And, frankly, I've become uncomfortable around them because of it, and I've turned down a few invitations.

Over the past couple of years, I've been coming gradually to feel that frum people and frei people probably shouldn't mix; it just doesn't work out. Disagreements like this confirm me in my suspicion.

cipher said...

Actually, I should have worded it this way: "People here do try to accommodate vegetarians (proximity to Cambridge is probably a factor), and, although Boston isn't a very Jewish town, Orthodoxy certainly isn't unheard of."

avian30 said...

Jewish Atheist,

Perhaps you can take the easy way out and let your fiancee make all the decisions? :)

Juggling Frogs said...

I've lost track of some of the threads of this discussion, but had to comment at the "Over the past couple of years, I've been coming gradually to feel that frum people and frei people probably shouldn't mix;"

I strongly disagree with this statement. I'm frum and also live in Boston. Our Shabbat table is a big mix of worldviews, populated with friends, travelers, strangers, community members, etc. but never kiruv targets, because we are allergic to viewing anyone that way. We serve lunch, not dogma.

Over the years, a number of our regular guests have stopped being observant, and we have a number who never were. This has had no effect on our friendships because our relationships are based on mutual respect.

In fact, our shabbat table provides a valualbe service for those who would like to entertain and interact with others but don't have a kosher home or shabbat table of their own.

We have a few people who know that though they don't keep a kosher home, they can invite kosher-keeping people to our table, where we can all have a great conversation and great company.

Kashrut and Shabbat observance should bring Jews together, not force them apart.

Similarly, my parents are not observant, so we host all the meals. My father squrims when we bentch, so we bentch quietly to ourselves when he's around, or invite him for dessert.

As long as everyone keeps track of the love and respect that are the goals and core of the relationships, it is possible for everyone to be accomodated.

Bruce said...

The example given before was that the Orthodox man turned around because it was mixed dancing

It was my friend at my wedding. Let me clarify.

Well before the wedding, I mentioned to my friend that although the food would not be kosher, we were ordering kosher food for him and his wife (as well as other kosher guests). I then specifically asked him if there was anything we could do for him. He said no. He then noted that mixed dancing was never a problem for him. Most wedding receptions have round tables, which means that roughly half of the seats face away from the dance floor to varying degrees. He simply chooses a seat on that side. He was not being rude or deliberately turning away in an obnoxious way.

The Hedyot said...

Cipher -

I have to disagree with your perspective here. IMHO, someone unobtrusively looking away is a very respectful way to respond to such situations. If a vegetarian was served meat, unobtrusively trying to avoid the dish is not a statement of superiority. I don't interpret such a reaction as him saying "I'm better than you are. You'll pollute yourself with such things; I won't." To me, it's just someone with a different standard than me trying to make the best of finding himself in a difficult situation. Just because he feels that looking at a sexy woman is inappropriate for himself doesn't mean that he thinks everyone else is being inappropriate.

(Well, actually, come to think of it, most frummies would think that. But I know that the kind of person who would be ok with being at an event with mixed dancing and merely averting his gaze would not be the kind of person who thinks like that typical frummie.)

Compromise is a sign of maturity. How, in your mind, should two people with different standards ever do anything together?

Anonymous said...

Jewish Atheist:
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! But oh my, the complications!

Anyway, it made for a fascinating blog post.

G said...

Good Times!

My opinion for what it's worth (admittedly not that much) - this post may not have been such a good idea.

As is often the case around here there are no real answers when the most basic ideas and values are different.
Not that posting just to vent is without merit...quite the opposite!

Good luck.

G said...

I jusr re-read the post and in a funny way it sounds like you and your father are more alike they you may want to admit.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"And by the way, when my office caters lunches, they NEVER bring kosher food for me. And I work for a Jewish company. I say nothing. I make no big deal of it. I go on chatting with people like nothing happened. That is a sign of maturity"

And if someone is a vegetarian and and all the food served is meat. I don't know if you are mature for pretending nothing has happened. You are being nice like I would be but stating the obvious is not being immature. If they are aware you keep Kosher they are being less sensitive than if they would make sure there is something you can eat. Does it harm to accomadate you?

cipher said...


Thanks for clarifying. Yes, his behavior is less objectionable to me, but I still consider it problematic. I imagine he wanted to attend because of your relationship, and that, ordinarily, he wouldn't attend a non-frum function. I don't really understand how he can say that mixed dancing isn't a problem for him, if he has to turn his back to it. It's okay as long as he doesn't see it? I assume he's Modern Orthodox; again, most Orthodox authorities today would probably tell him he had no business being there in the first place. As it is, he allowed himself to be there only so long as he could pretend to himself that certain behaviors weren't occurring. Again I ask - what would he have done had a woman begun singing? If a woman in a revealing gown was brought to his table to be introduced, would he have turned away from her? I really think this sort of "solution" creates more problems than it alleviates.

I have a young cousin who is in a Chabad yeshiva. He dropped out of Maimonides, Rav Soloveitchik's school, in order to attend (don't even get me started). He has told me on a few occasions, "Modern Orthodoxy just doesn't work. You have to make too many compromises. The only real 'Modern Orthodoxy' is Chabad." Although, of course, I can never agree with the underlying ideology, I'm beginning to think that, in pragmatic terms, he's correct. Fifty years ago, it was a different story; Jews of different orientations interacted with one another far more easily. Orthodox rabbis sat on boards with non-Orthodox rabbis, and taught in their institutions. Now, under the growing influence of the Hareidm, Orthodoxy has retreated into its own isolated bubble of reality. Trying to get that bubble to intersect with a wider reality - it's just asking for trouble.

From a personal perspective - if I were to have a large function, and I invited the MO rabbi and rebbetzen I mentioned, of course I'd provide kosher food for them. However, if I had to worry about my other guests engaging in behavior that they'd deem inappropriate and which they'd be uncomfortable viewing - frankly, I'd just as soon they stayed home.

(Actually, I don't believe they would have a problem watching others engage in mixed dancing, but they belong to a rapidly shrinking minority. Please see my response to Heydot, below.)

cipher said...


I consider your opinion valuable because you come from that world, and I find it significant that you reversed yourself midstream - "Well, actually, come to think of it, most frummies would think that." My contention is that the person you describe, "the kind of person who would be ok with being at an event with mixed dancing and merely averting his gaze would not be the kind of person who thinks like that typical frummie." still internalizes that mindset; it just isn't as overt. And he's becoming an increasingly rare phenomenon, in any case, as Heilman's "slide to the Right" continues on its inexorable course. I told the MO rabbi and rebbetzen the other day that when their grandchildren are of parental age, they will either be Hareidim, or frei, or will disassociate from Judaism altogether, because these will be the only options. Naturally, they didn't want to hear it.

How, in your mind, should two people with different standards ever do anything together?

Religion is in a category unto itself; religious standards are unlike standards in other arenas, because religion deals with our assumptions about reality, and the foundations upon which we base our lives. Religious ideology is becoming increasingly polarized; we see the devastating results in our society. In Judaism, specifically, I think the long-predicted schism actually has taken place; we now have two Judaisms, neither of which regards the other as authentic. On the one side, we have Right Wing Orthodoxy. On the other, the vast majority of Jews of all other denominations and of none. Left Wing Modern Orthodoxy (I don't really recognize "Centrist" Modern Orthodoxy; I see it as just RWMO without as much attitude) finds itself in the unenviable position of defining itself in opposition to those on either side of it - "We aren't them, but we aren't them, either." Its numbers are decreasing, it's producing few if any powerful, charismatic leaders, and I think it's just about finished. Once Yitz and Blu Greenberg and Avi Weiss are gone, I think that will, pretty much, be it.

I guess my answer to your question is that I don't really think it is possible - not on an ongoing basis. As an unobservant Jew (even the term troubles me, as it implies not a difference of opinion, but an insufficiency), I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with the Orthodox attitude I've described. As an atheist, I find myself gravitating more and more to the position voiced by the recent crop of atheist authors - Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, Hitchens - that religion is a dangerous delusion that has for too long enjoyed a free pass.

Orthoprax said...


"Actually, yes, I think I would. If I felt I couldn't participate, I simply wouldn't go."

That's absurd. Basically you're saying that if not everyone holds the same beliefs and values then they should not participate in the same affairs. How divisive can you be?

"Look, I'm not saying this to be confrontational, but there's something of a tone of condescension inherent in Orthodoxy. When a frum person behaves in the manner of this fellow at the wedding (I mean the original fellow, not Hyrax), he's sending the message, "I'm better than you are. You'll pollute yourself with such things; I won't." It isn't simply a matter of different customs; there's a value judgment implied."

And? Now you are against individuals holding themselves to higher standards just because it makes _you_ feel inferior?

Do you have the same sort of psychological difficulties with vegetarians, teetolers and Linux users? No, I'm quite confident that your difficulties are centered entirely around Orthodoxy. You are projecting.

"Over the past couple of years, I've been coming gradually to feel that frum people and frei people probably shouldn't mix; it just doesn't work out. Disagreements like this confirm me in my suspicion."

Because you cast aspersions on people who do you no harm, and merely wish to take part in the celebrations of others without compromising too much on their basic values. Somehow you've absurdly contrived this as an offensive act. It seems to me that this is classic bigotry rather than a discussion on social etiquette.

Anonymous said...

Do an orthodox wedding for your parents and a secular wedding for yourself.

Anonymous said...

well you are a complete coward who is doing everything to make his father happy.

of course you would only date a Jewish woman. of course your son will have a bar mitzvah. of course you expect your son to have a rabbi at his wedding- it's for his grandfather!

it just continues ON and ON!

get work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i guess you are thinking about your inheritance, right?

Foilwoman said...

I haven't read all the comments (62 already!), but I just want to say congratulations and I wish you and your future wife all the happiness. Don't spend a lot of time focusing on the wedding -- put that energy into the marriage. But be true to yourself and be happy. To have a life's companion is truly a gift, and that you have found someone to share your life is is wonderful. Good luck to both of you.

On Her Own said...

Awesome and congrats!

I'm actually going through similar worries myself (though I haven't blogged about it as of yet). I don't know what I can compromise on and what I can't - especially having not "come out" to my parents yet (my boyfriend's parents already know he's a skeptic/not Orthodox).

The feminist issues bother me most...and I'll probably blog about them soon...but I really don't think you should compromise about anything you feel strongly on. Especially since your parents (and presumably most of the guests) know you're an Athiest.

You have no need to hide anything. And you have no need to follow traditions that don't mean something to you (or worse, are against your beliefs).

I guess, the only exception to this would be if your parents are paying for it... In which case, I guess, some compromise will be necessary.

M said...

Mazal Tov! May you have a beautiful, happy, and healthy marriage. All the best.

Anonymous said...

firstly congratulations! Secondly, are your parents paying for the wedding? If so they have some say. If her parents are paying they have some say too, are they against anything your parents want at the wedding? I have been to quit a few weddings that were officiated by an orthodox rabbi and had couples dancing i don't think that will really be a problem (finding an orthodox rabbi that will officiate a mixed dancing wedding) . BTW you dont need a yichud room, a lot of sephardim dont do it, as it is pure minhag (custom). Also there have been weddings where the girl is NOT a virgin and they just don't mention that part in the ketubah. As a Out of sheer curiousity if it will really make your parents happy and you are leaving your parents house anyway why not humor them? Will t really make you and your wedding so horrible or are you embarrassed and worried of what the non- religious guests might think of the "weird" customs?

Anonymous said...

ps. i hate speeches under chupah- def. a custom, def. been to more weddings that have not had speeches, def. does NOT need to be done!

Anonymous said...

I may or may not know anything specific about your fiance, but I would recommend - since you care about marrying a Jew for whatever reason - making sure that she is halakhically Jewish.

For example, she just might have been converted to Judaism many years ago as a young child by her adoptive parents.

Again, without meaning to be too too suggestive here, let's say her "conversion" may not have been by an Orthodox Rabbi or even by any rabbi at all.

This would be a problem - trust me, you should check it out.

Jack said...


A little late to the party, but better late than never.


I have more than a decade of marriage beneath my belt and a ton of stories about the narishkeit that took place before the wedding.

Frankly I'd just let a lot of this go. As JF said Yichud is actually a nice moment for you and your bride to spend together before the chaos of the reception sweeps you away.

Few of these things are likely to have any sort of lasting impact on you. So make it easy and pick a couple of issues that don't think you can live with and put your foot down about that.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

JA: Mazal tov :)

Hope you get these questions worked out.

BTW: If you were to get married in Israel, the issue of "Orthodoxy is so rigid that compromise is impossible" is less of an issue. While the rabbanut does handle the actual "halachik" part of the wedding, everything else is rather flexible.

Regardless - Mazal tov! May you and your wife have a happy and healthy life together.

ProfK said...

The question really boils down to do you love your parents or don't you--not really a religious issue at all, despite your saying so. Parents wait for what seems like forever to have the joy of a child getting married. Yes, you are getting married but it's their wedding too. Why make a battle out of it? You expect them to compromise on everything--where is your compromise? Be honest here--you've never done anything else in your life that wasn't what you basically believed in but that you did anyway to please someone else, or because it made life easier for everyone?

Re what have kids got to do with a "kosher" wedding, from what you write your parents are religious. You made your choice not to be. But what if your children want to make different choices from yours when they are older? I assume you would want them to be their own people and make up their minds on religion themselves, just as you did. What if they were to choose something with more religion in it? By having a "kosher" wedding you leave open the options for your children.

Ten Jew Very Much said...

Yes and no.

Yes, it's your wedding. But no, it's not just for you. It's for your family and friends to celebrate with you. To have fun. (Ahhh, you can tell I'm not so litvish.) Why have all those guests in the first place? My suggestion: An ample amount of kibud av v'em and an ample amount of good whisky. And a good band. (I like ones that can play both "secular" and Jewish tunes.)

Ten Jew Very Much said...

Part 2:

JA now: 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?

JA then: "Judaism is not only a religion .... It is not only a race.... It is not only a culture...."

"Jewish Atheist" is therefore only a contradiction for those few (almost exclusively non-Jews) who would limit the definition of "Judaism" to a question of religious belief or practice.

Devorah said...

I enjoyed reading your entire post. It's wonderfull for some one like you who can express his feelings so openly.
I wish you a happy marriage and good luck for the rest of your life.

Anonymous said...


Congratulations to you for this happy development. May you and she be excellent teammates for each other in the game of life.

As to the arrangements and complications, I'll say this: I think you are legitimately torn between the values of authenticity, on the one hand, and kindness to family, on the other. And because both these values are good ones, no one answer is the only right way to go. Some balance and compromise--a direction to which you seem inclined--is probably best.


Anonymous said...

Mazal tov on your engagement!

I had a completely Orthodox wedding with all the trappings and I loved it, really felt like it was an experience in trying on a foreign culture (my husband was baal tshuva and I was a geress). But I completely understand if you don't want it. It IS your wedding, after all. I have a radical idea -- what about having two weddings? The first could be very small, with just your family and their friends, and you do what they want, but then later you have the REAL wedding where you invite your wife's family and all your collective friends and you do it YOUR way. ? Is that too crazy? I think if you do what you want, your family and their friends may not even attend. I'm surprised that they want their friends to attend, actually. It would be a shame not to do everything as YOU wish since this is, after all, your special day. Good luck with everything.

Theresa said...

You should be glad that your parents are supportive of your wedding and want some input in it! I also am newly engaged and planning a wedding and I wish my parents would give me advice and input as opposed to being unhappy over it!

If you didn't want your wedding to be a social event, why would you even be having more than a quick trip to see the justice of the peace?

But weddings are public events where the people in your life give their support to committing to each other. Your people are Orthodox Jews and they are as much a part of this wedding as you are.

You are way too manly and chill to go all bridezilla and make the wedding be all about you. You don't give your identity on this blog which is all about you so why would you require your wedding to be ideally honest? Like the reason you keep your identity a secret here, there is something to be said for practicality.

Of course you should have your wedding on a Sunday with kosher food. This isn't you graciously accommodating someone else, this is you being practical so that those people close to you who you want to be there can attend.

Some of those things like a traditional separated first dance and what you wear on your head seem like really silly things to cause friction over when there are sooooooo many more important things you could be standing up for.

Atheist Non-Jew said...

Excellent post and replies. My Jewish gf and I have discussed marriage but not yet the wedding. Even a more tame Reform ceremony includes "religiocultural bullshit" that will, to me, range from the irrelevant to the repulsive. It's hard to imagine myself not feeling like an outsider and hypocrite at my own wedding. While some of her friends and family may find it too secular, my friends and family will find it too religious. She's not even religious herself, but without the "look and feel" of authentic Judaism, the ceremony will be empty to her.

The Raz said...

Congrats and Goodluck. As a newlywed myself, we had to balance an orthodox wedding in which no one knew squat about Judaism except us. My advice, religion aside, weddings are a complicated issue that demands balance and compromise from everyone. Choose your battles carefully and let things slide whenever possible. Really, all weddings are about the bride, the groom and the families they come from. Yes it’s your day but it is also the culmination of years of love and care, it’s a highlight for your parents, it’s a life marker, a new branch on a rich beautiful family tree, a part of history for you and your families, and of course, the beginning of a whole new family.

When we tried to find an orthodox Rabbi that was willing to bend here and there, we found out real quick how orthodox Rabbi's do not bend tradition. Change those traditions and kiss the chance of an orthodox Rabbi goodbye.

I wish you the best of luck but you may have to make the hard decision, orthodox ceremony or one that represent you two. My guess is, unfortunately you can’t have both. Unless you find a way to put a spin on the orthodox ceremony and make it more about tradition, about family you may be SOL.

The cold hard truth is I’m betting your fighting a losing battle here.

Last, do not agonize over this; it’s like a band aid, rip the sucker off and get it over with.

Think about it for 2 weeks, contact a few Rabbis to feel it out and then sit down with your fiancé and just ask, Orthodox or Not? Give it 5 minutes of thought/discussion and make that decision. Then you can get on with the rest of the hell you have to look forward too (the planning not the marriage.)

Keep us posted because I really hope you find a way to merge the traditions of your past with the path of your future. I hope you find an orthodox Rabbi that will meet you in the middle. And if not, you will have great material for future blogs on orthodoxy’s inability to compromise.

Anonymous said...

You ignored my comment before, but seriously, no Orthodox rabbi is going to perform this wedding because your fiance is not halachically Jewish.

I know who she is and I know who you are, and I happen to know her background and story in detail. You might want to investigate this if you really intend to marry a Jew.

Jewish Atheist said...


You clearly have the wrong person.

Anonymous said...

If I have the wrong person, then you have another woman on the side who recently moved into your area and whom your fiance should probably be informed of ASAP.

Because I know of a woman who is seriously involved with you or thinks she is and who left other relationship(s) and risked a lot to pursue her relationship with you.

Either she is the fiancee and is right about your mutual connection or you are conning multiple women one way or another.

I know at least part of what's going on and I will respect your confidentiality for now by not divulging specifics but I suggest you either straighten out or come clean.

Jewish Atheist said...


Anonymous said...

I'm not orthodox and my husband is not Jewish so I am not coming from a religous position, but I think you should try to make your parents as happy as possible. Big deal if you have to step on a glass, or get the "right" rabbi, etc.... It won't kill you and your parents will be happy.

You can't change who your parents are, and it sounds like you really care about them. It would be hard for them to be flexible on some of this stuff, they live in a very cloistered community of orthodoxy. I sometimes envy those people, there is a certainty to their lives.

In any case, be nice to your parents, and remember, you have the rest of your lives to eat shrimp, drive on Saturday and dance to rock and roll!!!

amir said...

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I'll leave my two cents. My wife and I both come from secular families (hers is more traditional) but we have few relatives and friends that are religious. Also, we live in Israel. Since we invited religious people (that was our choice) I suggested we have the first few dances be single gender so that they could join in the dancing. I mean we invited them, why not allow them to share in the party. It was a blast because that kind of dancing is a lot of fun (I wouldn't want a whole evening of it, but 20 minutes aint bad.) A lot of our secular friends said what a great idea that was because they had a lot of fun too. I have never been to a wedding since where two secular people from secular families got married and had seperate dancing. On the other hand, if your wife is as principled as you are, you should let your family understand from the beginning that you and your wife have chosen a different path and they might as well get used to it from day one. onflicts with in-laws can be very detrimental to a marriage especially between a wife and her mother in law, especially when the husband sides with his mom.
Good luck.

mOOm said...

Congratulations - I just came across your blog. Well I got married this year and my wife is not Jewish (or any other religion - she was born and grew up in the PRC). My mother and brother are modern orthodox and live in Israel. They came here to our wedding in Australia. The ceremony was secular. I wrote it including the minimum legal requirements here and basing also on ideas from the Jewish ceremony, some biblical verses, Chinese poetry etc. We exchanged rings saying "with this ring I marry you". We had it on a Sunday. They were the only out of town guests. We had a meal at a Vegan/Buddhist Chinese restaurant. No dancing involved. There was champagne which my brother wouldn't drink so we also had apple juice.

Make your wedding so that there is nothing stopping participation in terms of date, or food or whatever and then do a secular or reconstructionist or whatever ceremony you like.

PS - we did break the glass - my wife insisted on it :) and my brother made a speach based on the sheva brakhot.

Anonymous said...

If you were lucky enough to. Find a nice Jewish girl to marry. Regardless of your own interpretation of life or how you were raised. Why not consider this as extra. Blessing heading your way. It's a blessing your a Jew. A blessing. Gd sent you a Jew . A blessing to have parents that wish for a ceremony. To. Bless your future. And come to think of it. It seems like however they raised you so far till this second as u read this Your in good. Hands of enormous blessings . Why. Take a different. Route on ur. Gps in life?! ....... The direction your in holds a blessed marriage n bright. Future. Continue down the highway. Do not exit off. You need. To. Get off two more exits. 770 Easy Street

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Anonymous said...

There is no way around the fact that the interface with orthodoxy is painful. Their allegiance is to a rigid system. Experiencing that within close relationships is painful. I hope your marriage is going well.