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Postponing Our Wedding But Not Our Marriage

What happens when postponing your wedding goes from nightmare to reality?

I first started working at 18Doors shortly after I got engaged, which seemed like the most perfect timing in the world. Here I was, starting to plan my own Jewish wedding for my interfaith relationship, and I had access to rabbis, resources and essays all about couples similar to me and my fiancé, Evan. I swear I read through just about every post we have about Jewish weddings and interfaith marriages.

When we started to self-quarantine in March, I truly didn’t think that the Coronavirus would still be an issue come our wedding in November. Even as friends started posting on social media that they were postponing or canceling their weddings, I thought this couldn’t possibly affect us. We were cautiously optimistic, until we weren’t. We started thinking about how much we still had to do to get ready for our wedding, and the list of things we needed to figure out was getting longer and longer. When our venue finally reached out and offered to let us choose a new date in 2021, we made the decision to postpone. It seemed like the safe and smart thing to do.

In the past couple of weeks since we made the decision to postpone our wedding celebration, I have felt just about every emotion you could imagine. First, I was in denial that we were actually doing this—wasn’t November far enough away? Wouldn’t we be OK? Then I oscillated between anger, regret and sadness. The night we made the decision, I ugly cried for a while, had Ben & Jerry’s for dinner and then set out making a to-do list of all the vendors, family and friends who would need to be notified.

Over the next couple of days, I cried some more and felt like every time I looked at my phone, there was some sort of wedding content taunting me. Then I felt guilty, since what’s a postponed wedding in the grand scheme of this pandemic? We have each other, we have a roof over our heads, food on the table and our families are healthy.

While we’re extremely sad that the wedding we had planned on having won’t be happening this year, we’re still going to be legally married this year and have our larger celebration next fall on our new date. We are looking for the silver linings and trying to figure out how we can divvy up rituals and make our two days special and meaningful.

It took a lot of reading and research to explain the parts of a Jewish wedding to my fiancé. There were parts of a Jewish wedding that I knew existed (circling around each other, getting married under a chuppah), but I realized I had only been to a couple of Jewish weddings before and I wanted to truly understand these rituals.  

Now that we have the extra time, we are diving into the components of a Jewish wedding and making them uniquely our own. One thing we’re working on in particular is the seven blessings. We know that the blessings as they are written don’t quite work for us, but we do love the broader themes. In our new seven blessings, we may choose to include poems or song lyrics that are meaningful to us, or we might draw on Evan’s Unitarian upbringing and the Seven Principles of Unitarianism. We already knew we wanted our friends and family to be involved in this part of the ceremony, and now we are able to be more creative and thoughtful in crafting this part of our day.

Another thing that’s important to us is our ketubah—our marriage certificate. There are a bunch of things that my fiancé and I have gone back and forth on: Do we want it to include any Hebrew if he can’t read it? Should our ketubah language mention God if we’re different religions, and he has no plans on converting? Or if we don’t know if we believe in God? We poured over dozens of websites and hundreds of different ketubah designs, and while we ultimately found wording that we loved from Ink with Intent, we couldn’t agree on the art. This was a piece that we intended to hang in our home and look at every day, and nothing seemed quite right.

Luckily, my sister has been using the quarantine to practice her watercolor painting, and painted us the most beautiful ketubah I could have imagined, inspired by the art on the invitations we will eventually send out. She has left the text blank for me to fill in (I do all sorts of hand-lettering and calligraphy), and we’ve decided to make this ketubah a completely custom work of art. We will have one set of text, followed by two sets of everything else: places for witnesses to sign, places to mark the date, places for us to sign. Ultimately, we get to affirm our commitment to each other and to building our own traditions twice—once legally, and once Jewishly, surrounded by our friends and extended families. We can frame our truly unique piece of art and hang photos from both of our wedding days on either side.

Another thing we now have time to work on is a program for our wedding. Save for my family, over half of our guests have likely never been to a Jewish wedding before. It is important to us to explain why we do each of these rituals and that people understand what they are witnessing. 18Doors has a ready-to-print program, but I think I’ll be using this tool to help us build a program that feels right for us—which I will certainly be consulting in the coming months.

Part of me still wonders if this was the right choice, or if we acted too quickly. So many people have told us to feel some amount of comfort in the fact that it isn’t just our wedding that’s been affected, it’s every wedding and lifecycle event that was supposed to happen right now. Sometimes that makes me feel better—like I’m sure it will when I have FaceTime cocktail hour with another friend whose wedding should have been this fall—and other times, it feels especially unfair. In the grand scheme of things, I’m not quite to the “acceptance” phase, but I also have things to look forward to. Like spending the rest of my life with my best friend! If we can make it through a pandemic together, we can make it through just about anything.

Molly Kazin Marshall

Molly is the Boston Community Director at 18Doors