The Jewish Wedding Crashers

One of the more popular films of 2005 was the comedy hit “The Wedding Crashers”. It related the antics of two bachelors who crashed weddings in the hope of meeting eligible women.

Jewish tradition also deals with the issue of unexpected wedding guests, but of a highly different nature.

A brief look at the three types of visitors who might “crash” a Jewish wedding provides wonderful insight into the law and lore of Jewish values, as well as a profound understanding of the Jewish wedding itself.

The three unexpected “crashers” include departed souls, the Creator, and the poor and needy.

While conventional texts of Jewish law make almost no mention of afterlife, according to the Zohar, the classic work of Jewish mysticism, souls of departed ancestors may be present at the wedding.

It writes: “Even though his (the groom’s) father and mother have departed from this world, they participate in every ‘simcha’ (joyous occasion). The Holy One, Blessed Be He, goes to the Garden of Eden and takes the groom’s father and mother, who are partners with the Creator (in giving birth to the groom) and brings them along with Him to the simcha. And all of them are present but the people are unaware.”

Other opinions go so far as to say that even the grandparents and great grandparents are present as well.

What’s so remarkable about this passage is not only that the souls of the departed participate in the wedding, but the Creator, Himself, takes them by the hand, so to speak, and personally escorts them to the wedding. And, as if this were not enough, the Creator too is a guest at every wedding!

Being the skeptic and rationalist that I am, I never placed much faith in this idea until the birth of my youngest son, eleven years ago.

Several months before he was born my mother passed away.

When we conducted his “brit milah” (circumcision) eight days after his birth, as is traditionally done, I had the strangest feeling that my deceased mother was amongst the celebrants.

I can’t explain it, but I felt her presence near. I had never experienced that feeling prior to this event, nor have I since. But I’m convinced, on that special morning, she was with us.

The third type of Jewish wedding crashers I’ve become accustomed to see are more prevalent in Israel than in America. These are those whom the Kabbalah refers to as society’s “broken vessels”. The poor, the hungry, and the homeless.

At my own wedding, twenty six years ago in New York, the planning of seating arrangements was a major undertaking. Taking care to make sure that each guest was seated with the right people, required considerable thought and sensitivity. Every table and chair was carefully accounted for.

In Israel, where I’ve lived for the last twenty five years, weddings are much more informal.

Usually there is no reserved seating. Guests tend to sit wherever they feel comfortable. It is not uncommon at Israeli weddings for a number of uninvited guests to also attend. These include the indigent and the less fortunate members of society.

Jewish law is very explicit in it’s demands that the wedding feast is not complete unless such guests are present and seated. The groom himself must take special care to personally attend to these guests and show them honor and appreciation. He must do his utmost to make them feel welcome.

In reward for such behavior the bride and groom are assured a life of happiness and blessing. Which they most certainly deserve.

So the next time you attend a simcha, look for the Jewish wedding crashers. These are the departed souls, the Creator, and the poor and needy.

And if you, like I, initially have difficulty finding them, rest assured that when you witness the hungry and homeless leaving the wedding hall, their handbags filled with rolls and overflowing with food… you’ll know for certain that the first two “crashers” are also present.

And you will understand why the Creator, who takes particular pleasure seeing His needy children fed and cared for (especially by the bride and groom, on this, their wedding night)personally escorts the souls of the proud, departed parents, to witness their precious children’s wedding.

A Garden Wedding

Couples, prepare your thermometers, because if you thought hay fever was the only thing you had to worry about this spring, guess again! Springtime sets up the perfect conditions for lovers to catch the greatest fever of them all: WEDDING FEVER (Of course, I have it year-round)! Some awesome things about having weddings in the springtime include: the perfect weather conditions, the blooming and blossoming of the flora, and the relaxing rains. All of these things really get you in the mood for outdoor weddings!

Outdoor weddings are a fantastic way to celebrate your union because they really give you great one-on-one time with nature. Why does this matter? Well, some say that truly experiencing nature is very spiritual-that is, it brings you closer to your respective god, or, it helps you become more in tune with your spiritual center and self. For me, being outside during this time excites the senses… all of them! Think about it: the wind blowing through your hair, the birds chirping a springtime love song, the vibrancy of the natural flowers accentuating your color scheme, the ripples of the pond expanding in time with the crescendos of the wedding march as you walk down the aisle… the romance abounds!

The tricky part of an outdoor wedding (and all weddings) is of course, choosing a pristine location. Location is everything because it sets the tone for the rest of your wedding. There are several really great places to have weddings outdoors! I have officiated weddings in backyards, beaches, parks, golf courses, vineyards, and gardens. Of course, the choice is yours, but gardens are my absolute favorite.

Here in Fayetteville, we have a great botanical garden called “Cape Fear Botanical Garden.” I’ve visited the gardens several times, for fun, for my birthday, and of course, for weddings! It has always been a wonderful experience. During my most recent visit, I had the pleasure of speaking with the Event Coordinator, Sharon Osborne. We shared many ideas about why the garden is a great place to hold weddings, and some helpful tips to look out for while planning!

Versatility

The great thing about the botanical gardens is its versatility and flexibility. Cape Fear has many great places to hold your special event! Many weddings take place at the gazebo, a personal favorite, and there is also the Great Lawn, a fantastic spot because of all the adorning perennials. Of course, with 77 acres of land, the possibilities seem endless! In addition, we all know the risk included in outdoor weddings (weather can be SUCH a wedding crasher), and how important it is to have a plan B. Cape Fear has plenty of places to move your event inside just in case (it can also double as your reception hall)!

Stress-free planning

Decorating can really be a hassle, and often times determining the decorating scheme is the most difficult part of a wedding. That’s why it is so important to pick your location first! And with the garden, it gets even easier! “Sometimes, less is more, and since we already have a great backdrop, it is great to utilize what is already available. Weddings are the most stress free without a lot of moving parts,” Osborne advises.

Other Tips

After choosing your location, it is important to consider a few other things to make sure your day goes off without a hitch:

Consider the time-Osborne shared that after 3 o clock in the gardens, shade is prominent in many places.

Dress appropriately-you will be outside in the sun! Wear clothes that match the weather outside. If the sun is too bright, Osborne mentioned how fun it is to have parasols for guests to shade themselves, and you can always make a statement with a great pair of sunglasses!

Enjoy the scenery-it will be a beautiful day in addition to being one of the most important days of your life, so take the time to enjoy it!

Of course, you don’t have to feel tied to springtime; outdoor weddings are also perfect for summer, fall and (in some places) even winter! So, if wedding fever has your temperatures high, it’s time to take a holistic approach! In the backyard, at a vineyard, or in a garden, it’s up to you to decide where you’ll find your natural remedy!