THREE FACTS: (1) Alyssa first met Colin when she was just 13 years old! (2) They are planning a Jew-ish wedding where they hope to highlight the religious traditions most important to them as an interfaith couple (3) They envision their wedding to have a nautical theme with a relaxed summer atmosphere, great seafood, a fire pit complete with a s’mores station (oh yes!), and lots of drinking and dancing with their nearest and dearest.
After the initial blissful moments of our engagement I was immediately asked the question, “So will it be a Jewish ceremony?”
Having been with Colin for the past 11 years it wasn’t the first time I had thought about what our wedding would look like. I had fantasized about what dress I might choose and what color scheme I would pick, but I had never really delved deep into the religious aspect of the wedding. Colin and I have such a mutual respect for one another and our religions that I always told myself we would make it work. But after becoming officially engaged there was no more skirting around the matter.
Religion or No Religion
As I shared in my first post, part of what drew me to Colin is his genuine ability to connect with so many different types of people. As a result, he has become sort of the male version of Katherine Heigl in 27 dresses.
Of the many weddings he has been in, and we’ve attended as guests, we have seen a wide variety of religious ceremonies. When it came to deciding on our own ceremony, my initial instinct was to go the secular route. I have many friends who have had beautiful weddings done by the Justice of the Peace, and I thought a secular ceremony might be the easiest way to accommodate both of our families.
However, a couple months after Colin proposed we had an intimate engagement party where a simple comment changed my mind. In the midst of all the congratulations, one of Colin’s family members said to me, “I have pictured him standing under the chuppah since he was a little boy.” In that moment, difficult route or not, I knew we personally needed to include religious traditions into our ceremony.
Image by Gianni Di Natale from Nejla and Alex’s Jewish wedding
Picking the Rabbi
In keeping with Colin’s upbringing I began the officiant search by looking for a Conservative Rabbi. As a typical millennial gal, I turned to Google and simply typed, “Conservative Synagogues near Mystic.”
There were not many choices close to our venue that were willing to perform our interfaith ceremony. Feeling a little discouraged, I broadened my search to all types of Judaism including Reform, which led me to Rabbi Marc Ekstrand of Temple Emanu-el.
Our 15 minute phone conversation was all I needed to know he was a perfect fit. He asked us if we would be willing to meet 4-5 times as sort of premarital counseling and to further discuss the vision for our wedding.
With each meeting we discussed the relationship between Colin and I, the vision for our interfaith ceremony, our future as a couple of two faiths, and our shared humanist values on being a kind person first and foremost. We are so excited to not only have Rabbi Ekstrand to co-officiate our special day but as a support system throughout our journey as a married couple of two faiths.
Choosing the Chaplain
Choosing the officiant on the Catholic side was a much simpler task. My parents had recently attended a wedding and were raving about our family friend Paul Uccello who was the officiant.
They carried on and on about how eloquent and touching the ceremony was. Paul is a chaplain who has a background in interfaith relationships, which made it feel almost destined to be. We all met for dinner at my parents where we discussed our relationship, our future goals, and what we envision for our wedding.
Paul has such a warm and caring essence that resembles Rabbi Ekstrand that we knew they would work well together. We know that the pair will seamlessly combine our two faiths into the perfect ceremony for us.
Image by Andrea Harborne and Diana Hogan from Dana and Alex‘s Jewish wedding (Ketubah by STG Recommended Vendor Ink With Intent)
Signing The Ketubah
Rabbi Ekstrand had suggested I read the book, The Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant to get a better sense of a typical Jewish wedding and to determine what traditions were important to include in ours.
He warned me ahead of time that the book was a little “old school” but that we could modernize many of the traditions we wanted to incorporate. One element we always knew we wanted to do was sign a ketubah.
The book talked about the difference between traditional ketubahs and modern ketubahs. Personally for us, a modern ketubah was the only way to go. We wanted it to feel less like a contract and more like unified vows.
We found the company Ink With Intent to not only have the most beautifully designed ketubahs, but a wide variety of pre-written texts for any type of Judaism, as well as Secular and Interfaith.
We decided that the Secular text best represented us as individuals and us as a couple. Colin and I are not the most confident public speakers, thus will not be writing or reciting our vows aloud, so when the Rabbi suggested he read our ketubah during the ceremony, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity for our guests to hear our commitments to each other.
Under the Chuppah
Colin and I toured a couple of venues prior to selecting Latitude 41. One of the first venues we looked at was setting up for a Jewish wedding while we were viewing the space. Colin and I were in awe, not only of the beautiful atmosphere they had created but of the gorgeous chuppah at the center of it all.
We congratulated the family and shared how beautiful the chuppah looked as the focal point in the space. The father of the bride then proceeded to tell us how he had handcrafted the chuppah as a gift for his daughter to cherish for years to come. I couldn’t get over the sweet sentiment and of course gushed about it to my mother.
My mom then shared the story with my dad who also could not get over the emotional gesture. My dad thought it would be even more nostalgic for our chuppah if he built the structure with birch trees from the yards of both Colin and I’s childhood homes.
My dad went to Colin’s dad for guidance and he too loved the idea. He even brought back trees to incorporate from their vacation home in Vermont. After researching many different chuppah structures my dad, brother, and soon-to-be father in-law all built the “home” we will stand under to begin our married lives together.
Image by Ricky Stern from Kate and Max’s Jewish wedding
The tradition of the Seven Blessings or Sheva Brachot was something I was not aware of prior to meeting with our Rabbi. This tradition was something that Colin and I agreed would be nice to include during the ceremony.
When reading through each blessing our Rabbi pointed out the harsh tone of the word “barrenness” in the blessing regarding children. Colin and I have talked about having children and both aspire to be parents, yet the future is unpredictable, and we personally found the word to be a little insensitive. Our Rabbi presented us with a reworded blessing that we felt much more comfortable with.
Additionally, our Rabbi suggested having the blessings read in both Hebrew and English as a way to highlight our two faiths and incorporate our chaplain Paul. I think it is a sweet touch that will make for a beautiful way to blend both faiths together.
Smashing the Glass, Yichud and Hora
One of my favorite parts of a Jewish wedding is when the groom smashes the glass and all the guests shout “Mazel Tov!” It is such a celebratory moment filled with joy and love. We are especially excited to use our Smashing The Glass pouch gifted to us by Karen! A special memento to remember my time as a blogging bride-to-be!
Directly following the ceremony Colin and I will take part in Yichud, where we will take a few minutes to be alone just the two of us.
Every person who has offered me any bridal wisdom has reminded me to stay present on the day. They all have advised me to soak up every moment because it goes by in the blink of an eye. One way I can force myself to do so is through the tradition of Yichud.
I am hoping years later we can look back on that moment and remind ourselves how truly amazing our wedding was and how wonderful it felt to finally be married.
Another one of my favorite Jewish traditions is the Hora dance during the reception. Having attended a handful of Jewish weddings, it has proven to be the best way to involve all your guests and get everyone up on the dance floor.
It is so fun to witness the bride and groom being lifted in a chair by their loved ones. Now that it is our to be in the chair, I am a bit more apprehensive to the tradition simply for the fact of falling off!
However, I know that I would regret it immensely if we skipped it all together, so I will have to muster up the courage (or have a couple cocktails) before being hoisted up in the air. We know all of our friends are especially excited for this part of the night!
Image by Ivan Franchet from Lauren and Christopher‘s Jewish wedding
Walking Down the Aisle
One Catholic tradition that has always been important to me is having my dad walk me down the aisle. In Jewish tradition it is customary for both the mother and father to walk the bride down the aisle.
And while both my parents have taught me so much about love, respect, and relationships, my dad is the one who showed me the qualities I wanted in a partner. Colin possesses all the best qualities that I love about my dad.
They both remind me to not take life so seriously, they are the ones I go to when I’m in a panic and need a calm voice of reason, and the ones who inspire me to be the best version of myself. Having my dad be the one to walk me to Colin is something I have looked forward to for a very long time.
Bridal Party by the Chuppah
It is not only customary in the Jewish faith for the mother and father to walk the bride down the aisle; it is tradition that they stand under the chuppah as well. In the Catholic faith, the bridal party stands by the bride and grooms side.
Our bridal party is on the smaller side and only includes our siblings: my sister, my brother, and Colin’s two brother, as well as my two best friends, one of which I have known since birth and the other since the first grade.
They have supported us for all 11 years of our relationship, and been with us for every step of this wedding planning process. It seems only fitting that they be the ones to stand by our side on the big day.
The Rabbi suggested that because the chuppah represents our future home together as a married couple they do not stand directly underneath it. This will be the perfect way to symbolize us becoming our own family while still having our support system close by when we need them.
Although Colin is the Jewish one in the relationship, ironically I am the one with a Bubbie. My grandmother lovingly got the name Bubbie from my sister when she was just a baby.
When my sister was sick with a cold my grandmother brought over her cure-all specialty, fries and a milkshake, which prompted my sister to shout “Oh Bubbie” and the name stuck ever since. Years later we found out that Bubbie is in fact the Jewish term for grandmother. My Bubbie is a remarkable woman who is kind and nurturing and all the things you wish a grandmother would be.
She is a main reason why my extended family is and remains so close. For almost every family function she has crafted a poem or blessing about the occasion to read aloud as sort of a prelude to the event.
It is always heartfelt and sincere and always brings my family to tears. It is important to us that Bubbie begin our most special event with a blessing just as she has done for all our favorite family moments.
Image by Barney Walters from Claudia and Nick’s Jewish wedding
Click here to read all Alyssa’s planning posts to date.
Alyssa & Colin’s Wedding Vendors booked so far:
Ketubah – Ink With Intent
Photography — Taylor Dunn
Venue — Latitude 41
Stationery – My Wed Ink
Hair – Beautifully Unafraid
DJ – Spin Enterprise
Flowers – Ladybug Designs