Sanctifying the Party

Mazal tov, you are getting married. You found your beshert (Hebrew for intended one) and are getting married. You located a rabbi to officiate at your ceremony who will take into consideration all of your special concerns. You’ve picked out a ketubah (Jewish marriage license). Now it is time to think about the party. Very often the marrying couple divide the wedding into two parts: the religious ceremony and the party. In reality, there are many ways to make your party into, well, more than just a party. It too can be something of a religious, or holy, experience. And this can happen without diminishing any of the fun!

Let’s start with sanctifying the party. Before diving into all of the food, libations and dancing how about starting everything off with a few expressions of gratitude? There are several traditional blessings to choose from. (All of the blessings suggested are found in transliteration at the end of this article). For example, you might begin with saying the blessing for doing something for the first time or also recited when you see someone you haven’t seen for a while. Follow this up with the blessings over wine and bread. In addition, you might want to take a few moments to remember family members and friends who are deceased. After eating you can have a friend lead the gathered in reciting either the traditional blessings after eating, called the birkat hamazon, or use one of the numerous contemporary alternatives. If using traditional prayers doesn’t feel right you can always use contemporary words of thanks.

You can also bring awareness, I like to think of this as another word for holiness, to your party by asking the caterer to use locally grown foods. Also, think about what you’ll do with the leftovers you won’t use. Can they be donated to a food bank? If not, will a farmer take the leftovers and use it for feed for animals? And let’s think about those flowers. Sure, they are beautiful. But they won’t last long. Can they be donated to a nursing home or a hospital to extend the gift of their beauty? How about opting for green plants that your guests can take home and plant in their gardens instead of flowers grown far away and with lots of herbicides?

By bringing this extra level of kavanah (intentionality) to your wedding celebration it too becomes an expression of the holiness with which your wedding began.

* barruch atah adonai eloheinu melech haolom shehehcheyahnu vekiyimanu vehegiyanu lazman hazeh. (On doing something for the first time)
baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech haolam borei p’ri hagafen. (Blessing over wine) baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech haolam hamotzi lechem min haaretz (Blessing over bread)