Celebrating the "we" in wedding

Even though I'm a decrepit old bee, every once in a while a kind reader indulges me by pm-ing me a question.  Recently, someone asked me how I went about "honoring relatives" at our wedding. Relatedly, a current post on the Judaism board asks for ways to involve more people in the ceremony.  I'm sure many brides and grooms have this question, so I thought it'd be fun to invite the whole Weddingbee community, even those who aren't Jewish, to share their suggestions.

I'll kick it off by sharing what we did to involve our friends and family in our crazy Chewish wedding:

First of all, we had large, coed wedding parties, which allowed us to have our siblings and our dearest friends from all stages of our lives be at our beck and call hang out with us all day.

My lovely "friends of honor" helped me into my wedding get-up.  But if you have a small bridal party or no bridal party at all, you could invite friends to the bridal suite to help you get dressed.  The very creative Mrs. Lovebug (my bee crush) even made adorable "backstage bridal passes" for the friends who were invited to be "bridal chamber maids."

Our wedding parties took part in the Chinese groom's games on the morning of the wedding.  I'd imagine that even if you didn't have a big wedding party, groom's games (or any kind of pre-wedding hijinks, such as a tisch for a Jewish wedding or a barat for a Hindu wedding) would be a fun way to involve friends.  

(Relatedly, other pre-ceremony events, such as a rehearsal dinner, might be a good time to recognize or involve friends and family.  All our out-of-town guests were invited to give a roast or toast at our welcome dinner, and I've been to weddings where instead of having multiple speeches at the wedding reception, close friends or siblings were invited to toast the couple at the rehearsal dinner instead.)

The bonus of having an intercultural or interfaith wedding is that you often get multiple ceremonies in which you can ask friends and family to participate.  For our afternoon tea ceremony, we served tea to both our families.  Although the ceremony had the most formal significance for our Chinese relatives, it was really lovely to have both families involved: not only did it mean that our ceremonies felt more cohesive (and less like a Chinese ceremony followed by a Jewish ceremony), it also gave our families an opportunity to interact with us in a more intimate, less "ceremonial" way.  We sent out explanatory "programs" to our non-Chinese family ahead of time, so they'd know what to expect and would feel more comfortable participating.

For the sake of time, we kept our tea ceremony to our immediate family, but you could do much more elaborate, lengthy ceremony in which elders of all types (incl. distant relatives, employers, friends of family, etc.) are involved.

We asked our sisters to sign our civil marriage license.

Two of Mr. HC's oldest male friends -- both Jewish -- signed the ketubah.  But we also asked our grandmothers, only one of whom is Jewish, to sign.  Who can act as ketubah witnesses depends on the particular flavor of Judaism you subscribe to and on your rabbi's preferences.  Some rabbis, for example, require the two male witnesses to be fairly observant Jews (shomer shabbas); others have no preference as to the gender of the witnesses, so long as all are Jewish; and still others say that you can have anyone sign, regardless of gender or religion.  For our purposes, our ketubah was "kosher" so long as at least two male Jews signed.  For good measure, in addition to our grandmothers, our rabbi and the two of us signed as well.  The more the merrier!

Mr. HC and I ended up reading our ketubah aloud to each other, as vows.  But you could also involve one or two people in the ceremony as ketubah readers.  At a friend's wedding, I was asked to select and perform a reading that explained the significance of the intertwining tree motif on their ketubah, while another friend was asked to read the text of the ketubah itself.

We asked our guests to write wishes to us and hang them on our chuppah.  But I could imagine your asking a small selection of friends and family to do so, or perhaps to help create the chuppah (or mandap or similar structure) by autographing or decorating small squares of cloth or the like.  (We used Mr. HC's late maternal grandmother's tablecloth for the roof of our chuppah.)  And while our chuppah was stationary, many Jewish couples ask four special people to hold the chuppah poles.  I love the symbolism of having friends and family be a part of the "home" that the chuppah represents.

For our ceremony, we were able to involve an additional fourteen(!) of our friends and family by asking them to read the seven blessings (sheva brachot) in English and Hebrew.  At other Jewish ceremonies, I've seen couples include friends and family by having them act as additional readers or singers -- one of our friends asked her cousin, an opera singer, to sing "dodi li" during the processional.  

And here's another ceremony idea I love but didn't get to use myself: Instead of walking down the aisle with a pre-made bouquet, how about giving a select group of friends and family single flowers that they would hand to you as you made your way to the altar or chuppah?  Another person could have the honor of tying the flowers together into a bouquet.

After the ceremony, it's customary for Jewish couples to spend some time with each other in seclusion (yihud) before rejoining their guests for the party.  Traditionally, two or more people would guard the door to the yihud room, making sure that nobody else got in the room and that the couple spent the requisite amount of time in yihud.  This could be a "fun" role for two rule-loving friends (lawyers? police officers? grammarians?).

During the reception, aside from speeches, you can have close friends or family members participate by leading the blessings over the wine (kiddush) and bread (hamotze) -- or the equivalent in a non-Jewish wedding.  At our wedding, Mr. HC's uncles (my MIL's brother and FIL's brother) had the honor of making kiddush and hamotze.

We also involved close friends in our hora.  Two of Mr. HC's good friends from their Hebrew School days coordinated a schtick -- a performance to entertain the bride and groom during the hora -- in which they hula-hooped, chugged pomegranate juice(!?), and organized our friends to do a med school v. law school v. business school v. grad school dance off.  

Turns out our nerd friends have moves.  It was a riot.

Finally, how about some select photo ops?  It's customary among alums of my college to take a group shot for the alumni magazine, so we gathered for the "Locomotive" (our dorky alumni cheer) and a photo.  We took similar group shots with friends from our various graduate programs and work places. Asking a friend to coordinate the group shots or just having a small group of friends pose for a special picture could be a way to make their presence feel especially welcomed.


That was a much longer post than I expected!  Though I guess it makes sense, since it was important to us that our wedding be as much about our getting married as about celebrating and honoring the wonderful group of family and friends whose support made "us" possible.

Ok, now it's your turn.  How will you make -- or how have you made -- your friends and family a part of your wedding?  

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