Hooray Heritage – Part 1: Jewish Wedding

This weekend we celebrated Heritage Day in South Arica; a day where we’re encouraged to honour our diverse cultures and traditions. Since our language is ‘weddings’, we have decided to recognise our heritage by sharing 5 weddings over the next couple of weeks that celebrate the diverse range of cultures that contribute to our colourful nation. We begin with a Jewish wedding and then move on to Hindu, Zulu, Catholic and Muslim.

Jewish weddings are rich with tradition from beginning to end, and they vary from community to community and couple to couple. Some of the more well-known elements include the couple marrying under a chuppah (canopy), which is held up by four poles. It’s an honour to be asked to be a pole-holder. The bride circles the groom seven times when she enters the chuppah: there are various interpretations on the meaning behind this. Another well-known wedding moment is when the groom stamps on a glass to break it. This is most often described as a way to remember an important moment in Jewish history – the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Even on the happiest day, Jewish couples are reminded to be mindful of their cultural journey. We interviewed Taetim to hear more about her experience at her Orthodox Jewish wedding.

Thank you Fiona Clair for the beautiful images.

Hooray: Let’s begin at the beginning. Tell us about your love story and about how Darren proposed. 🙂
Taetim: Darren and I met in Margate at the Keg on Christmas Eve. I arrived with my parents in the pouring rain, and at the same time Darren and his cousin also arrived. He ran up to me and asked if he could share my umbrella. Of course I said no, thinking he was a little cheeky and presumptuous – especially in front of my parents… cringe fest. Later on a fight broke out between locals and holiday makers and in the midst of the brawl we got trapped in the crossfire of a flying glass. Long story short, Darren and his cousin saw this opportunity to come over and save the day, buy my dad a couple of whiskeys and ask for my number. And just like that, we’ve been inseparable ever since. I found the love of my life in the last place I ever imagined!

7 years, two dogs and an Orthodox Jewish conversion later, he popped the question. Darren was born Jewish and I fell in love with Judaism not long after falling in love with him. It was a drizzly day on the 9th of December 2013 and I had just completed my conversion to Judaism. We went to the beachfront to have a celebratory cling-cling and to my surprise I was dragged down the beach to where all the sand castles were and he dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him. He had a love throne built for us by the sandcastle artists which read “will you marry me Tae?”. Well obviously I said yes and just over 3 months later we got married.

Hooray: What can one attending a Jewish wedding expect to see/do/eat?
Taetim: You can expect 3 things…

1.  You will witness a beautiful tradition before the ceremony called the Bedeken. The bride and groom don’t have any communication for 7 days prior to the wedding. On the wedding day the bride will wait in an open room with all the guests and the groom will be led by the men in the party/family/community from afar, singing in a chant-like fashion to where the bride is waiting. The build up is emotional and hearing the men coming closer and closer is the most exciting feeling in the world. The groom will see you for the first time and lift your veil and acknowledge that he marrying the right person. An age old tradition stemming from biblical times when a groom was tricked by his future father in law into marrying his future sister-in-law and he only realised it wasn’t his bride after the vows as the veil was so thick he couldn’t see her properly. So now we always make absolutely sure we are marrying the right person! Ha ha! But up until the veil is lifted it’s such an emotional build up, there isn’t a dry eye in the house.

2. You will dance so much you will wish you trained for the wedding and at the same time you’ll never want to leave! Jewish weddings have separate dancing (men and women dance on separate sides of the dance floor) called a Horrah and basically it’s a crazy whirlwind of spinning around in circles, being thrown up in the air on a sheet or chair, building human towers, confetti guns, ribbons and umbrellas, masks and funny hats, human locomotion trains that go on and on for hours and holding hands and kicking to the beat of the songs! It’s one of the best best best parts of the wedding! It’s exhausting and liberating to dance like no one is watching for hours on end! The bride and groom are waited on by the guests and brought water to drink on the dance floor, given seats to sit on for a rest while the guests fan you down with napkins!

3. You will be fed A LOT, Jewish folk love an opportunity to feed people copious amounts of delicious food!

Hooray: Where did you get married and what attracted you to that venue?
Taetim: We got married at DUHC Synagogue in Silverton road and had our reception at Umhlanga Jewish Center in Izinga. We chose our synagogue because we had been attending that particular synagogue for many years, Darren grew up in that synagogue and I was converted there. It is rich in history and is just the most meaningful place for us to get married… it helped that is utterly exquisite inside. We chose our reception venue because we wanted a Kosher catered venue and of the 3 or 4 options we had, Izinga won hands down with the best view of the rolling hills of sugar cane behind Umhlanga.

Hooray: Your gown is both classic and very trendy. Tell us all about it.
Taetim: My wedding dress was my dream dress. We had roughly 14 weeks to plan a wedding for 180 people so didn’t have a lot of time to go dress shopping. My mom and I went to JHB for a few days and tried on about a bazillion dresses but nothing that made me excited enough to commit to buying it. So we decided to get my dress made. Gideon designed it with me and he made me the most beautiful dress I could ever imagine. Everything I wanted in one gown. Jewish brides traditionally need to have their shoulders covered and be modest. So basically you shouldn’t find a loop hole by wearing a long sleeved mini dress. Modesty and femininity on your wedding day is very important. The process of getting the dress made went quite smoothly considering we had such a short time frame to work with. I picked my lace and bought tiny silver star of davids of the back ribbon ties which I hope to pass on to my kiddies one day for their weddings. The rest was up to Gideon and he did a beautiful job. I love my dress and still look at it often!

Hooray: What should a guest attending a Jewish wedding wear?
Taetim: So when guest attend a Jewish wedding it’s a sign of respect to be modestly dressed. For men, they will be given a “Yarmie / Yarmulke” to wear inside the synagogue for th ceremony. And woman are usually reminded to wear a dress/skirt and not pants and to cover their shoulders for the ceremony in the synagogue. Some bridal couples supply pashminas for the female guests to use for the ceremony if they forget to cover up.

  Hooray: Did you choose any special songs for your wedding?
Taetim: There are loads of traditional Jewish songs that we dance and sing to on the day. Our wedding song for our first dance was John Legends “All of me” which wasn’t popular yet at the time.

Hooray: Complete the sentence:

We could have done without so much… nothing… ha ha! Everything is bigger with Jewish weddings… I had 8 bridesmaids and my husband had 11 groomsmen for example.

I wish that we had… spoken to more people on the day, there was so much excitement and festivity that some people I didn’t even get to say hello to. It was a bit of a blur.

Best money spent was on… our photographer Fiona Clair and videographers The Shank Tank. We look at our photos and watch our video ALL the time and they captured our day exactly how we remember it.

Hooray: Is there anyone in particular who you would like to thanks?
Taetim: There are so many people to thank! Our families were amazing and helped us pull of a wedding in 3 months. Alexis Yapp, our last minute saviour/planner and on day coordinator was a blessing beyond words and thought of everything we didn’t. All our suppliers were outstanding and pulled out all the stops for us! My parents who literally cut down trees for our wedding and made miracles happen overnight, my make up artist/genius Lindsay Nixon took me from plain old me to feeling like a princess for a day. Our kosher caterer Selma who made the most delicious food. We had a cocktail party style wedding with no set seating and finger foods that came out every 30 minutes all night. Our DJ Franky who was phenomenal and kept everyone dancing until they literally fell over with leg cramps. Labola did our flowers and table set ups and absolutely wowed us! We have so many people to thank it’s outrageous. Our bridal entourage were all our favourite people at the time and made us feel so special! I’m almost sure I’m forgetting some people as it really took a village to pull our wedding together so everyone who attended our wedding played a big part in making us so special for us!

Thank you so much Taetim for sharing your wedding story with us and for offering insight into the traditions and cultures seen within an Orthodox Jewish wedding. 

Check the blog later this week for the Part 2 of our HOORAY HERITAGE series: A Hindu Wedding

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