I just got back from Boulder, Colorado where I stayed for my cousin’s wedding. To be honest, I’m not a big wedding person. Many people assume that is because my parents are divorced and that is probably part of it, but I see the inequality associated with the ritual, its institutionalization and the commercialism that has boomed in accordance with an event that is supposed to be about love rather than exclusion and magazines. Cynicism is great when it allows me to think outside of the box and to create alternatives to rituals I deem discriminatory, but it’s not so great when it puts up a wall between me and appreciating a ceremony that is so much bigger than myself.
While one wedding did not get me to change my personal views on marriage, I did learn to appreciate the beauty of my cousin and his wife displaying their love and sharing it with family and close friends. And it was beautiful. The ceremony was at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, the chuppah outside overlooking an expanse so wide that it just feels Jewish in the faith sense of the term.
The rabbi (my second cousin) was upfront about the fact that this would not be a “traditional” wedding. By that, he meant that it would be egalitarian, featuring men and women equally and, in this case, within the boundaries of most Jewish laws. The ceremony began with circling. Traditionally, the bride circles the groom seven times, but in their wedding, my cousin also circled his beloved, creating a union based in equality. Then, when the Ketubah (marriage contract) was signed, they had four witnesses rather than the required two. They had four because it is mandated that there be two male witnesses, but female witnesses do not traditionally count. The happy couple made certain to have equal representation on both sides.
This was only the second wedding I’ve been to (the first being my dad and stepmom’s who were married by the same rabbi as in this one) and it made me feel safe in both Judaism and in my family, like I was not part of something that would be considered exclusive. That is a wonderful feeling and one that should be the basis of a union rooted in law, religion, and love.