I attended the wedding of a friend last night. It was a very fancy wedding out on Long Island. My friends and I got all dressed up, ate lots of really yummy food and then danced like crazy. We got home around 2:00 AM, so I'm a bit tired today.
It was one of the most interesting weddings I've ever been to.
Part of the reason it was so interesting is that the guy my friend married is a Sephardic Jew. The customs at Sephardic weddings are a bit different than at Ashkenazic Jewish weddings, and I had never before been to a Sephardic weddings, so it was cool to see the differences.
Most of the differences in customs happened at the chuppah (marriage ceremony). In contrast to Ashkenazic weddings, the bride and groom are allowed to see each other before the wedding. In Ashkenazic weddings, right before the chuppah, the bride sits in a beautiful chair with her family surrounding her and the groom is ushered in to see the bride and to put her veil over her face (the badeken). This is the first time in a week that the bride and groom have seen (and sometimes even spoken) to each other, and is usually a very moving moment. This isn't done in Sephardic weddings (though last night they did do this, because the bride is Ashkenazic and wanted to).
What was really different, though, was the ceremony itself. A large number of the bride's and groom's family members walked down the aisle and took place under the chuppah (canopy). (In Ashkenazic weddings, it's usually only a few members, and they don't stand under the chuppah.) At this wedding, there was probably 30-40 people standing up there. What I really liked was that when each person walked down, the crowd clapped for them. I had never seen that before, and it was so much fun. Also, the bride was walked halfway down the aisle by her parents and then the groom came down and escorted her the remainder of the way. The rest of the ceremony was fairly similar, with the exception of the absence of the bride circling the groom seven times
After the ceremony, the guests were invited to eat lots of food and enjoy great music and dancing.
While all these things made the wedding fun and festive and quite interesting, what made it so special was the diversity of the guests. Both the bride and groom have become more observant as adults. The bride is, as I said earlier, Ashkenazi and the groom is Sephardic. So the guests were from all kinds of backgrounds - all different observance levels from Chasidic to non-observant, Sephardic and Ashkenazic, from all over the United States. The music was a mixture of traditional Jewish wedding music and Sephardic music and some Israeli rock thrown in. And everyone danced together and made sure the bride and groom were happy and enjoying themselves. And it didn't matter that there were differences between them - we were all there for the same purpose.
I wish there were more events where Jews from all different backgrounds and customs and practices came together and enjoyed themselves so much. It was truly an example of Jewish unity in that room. And it was great.