Martin Bodek’s humorous inside look at the Jewish wedding ceremony.
Kabolas Ponim – this means, “How come the ladies get all the good food and booze while we’re stuck with four tins of Chinese food, sponge cake, and one bottle of Old Williamsburg?” It is here that the chosson’s friends psyche themselves up for merriment like a college football squad while rabbonim surround the chosson and pore over a document that looks like the Declaration of Independence. Ironic, since this is the exact opposite of what he’s getting himself into.
The mother and mother-in-law then come in to break a plate. They will never get it right on the first try. They will not get it right on the second try either. On the third try they will usually be successful, but they will also break several fingernails in the process. The reason they break a plate is to exact vengeance on the wedding hall, who’s charging them an arm and a leg for everything. The hall gives them an unbreakable plate for spite.
Badeken – This means, “Anybody who’s in the way is gonna be trampled.” The chosson’s friends escort the chosson toward the kallah – all while dancing backwards, smashing into the buffet tables, the band, and innocent bystanders – and sing “Od Yeshama,” which means, “Strange, we’ve sang this song hundreds of times at every wedding we’ve ever been to, but we still don’t know the exact lyrics, we don’t know what they mean, and we can never sing it in sync with each other or the horn section.”
The chosson then approaches the kallah and draws a veil over her face. Traditionally, this is because he needs to identify her as the person he wishes to marry. I don’t know about you, but I think that covering somebody’s face would probably inhibit an appropriate identification. Somebody should attempt to switch kallahs before the chupa to test whether this technique is effective.
The mother and mother-in-law cry a lot at this point. This is not because they’re happy, it is because the father and grandfather of the kallah just completely ruined her expensive hairdo when they splathered (my newest made-up word, you heard it here first!) their hands on her head to bless her that she should “bring forth multitudes.” That has GOT to hurt, therefore they wail in empathy. Don’t forget their fingernails; they’re still hurting from the plate-break.
The Chupa – This means, “Halacha says we should make it under the sky, but we’ll just remove a ceiling tile and settle for asbestos above us.” The chosson comes in and stands under the chupa, then some friends and family walk down the aisle, followed by adorable little flower-tossing kids who are completely bewildered as to what everyone’s laughing about, and wondering where that Barney tune is coming from. The kallah then enters and she circles around the chosson seven times to show that he is the center of her universe. This upsets egalitarians (ooh! Big word! Look it up!), so the chosson in turn encircles his kallah’s finger with a ring to show that she is the center of his universe. Now everyone’s happy.
The chosson then says “Harei at mikudeshes lee b’tabas zu k’das Moshe v’yisroel.” This means, “Here goes nothin’!”
The Sheva Brochos are then recited by an assortment of relatives and scholars who all seem to be amazed that they were selected, thinking that the other people nominated in their category had a better chance of winning.
The chosson then attempts to break the glass, but like his mother and new mother-in-law, he will miss the first time, fracture his arch the second time, and finally smash the glass on the third try, at the very least. Somewhere in the background, the hall employee who handed the Mesader Kidushin the glass is snickering.
Yichud – This means, “Rejoice privately, but make it quick before the photographers get here and put you through all sorts of uncomfortable poses.”
You are now about halfway done reading this article. Get up, stretch, take a walk, eat Shalashudous. I’ll be right here waiting for you…Ah, you’re back. Where were we? Ah yes:
The Meal – The wedding meal is very familiar, as it really is just a lavish Shabbos meal composed of the five Jewish food groups: Challah, fish, soup, chicken, and dessert.
Dancing – About a half hour before the chosson/kallah enter, the kallah’s friends line up at the entrance with these arch-y thingies and wave them around forever and ever, refusing to stop until the chosson/kallah arrive. The band then plays “The Final Countdown,” which is the only song ever played at this time. Even if the band has something else on the roster, they’ll play “Countdown” anyway because they’re so used to it.
The chosson/kallah then run through the arch-y thingies, the kallah immediately gets surrounded by her friends and family, while the chosson desperately tries to crawl over or around the mechitzah to join his friends and family. He will jump on a friend’s shoulders and make a grand entrance. They do not do this for the kallah. This isn’t because of tznius, it is because the shoulders of the kallah’s friends are charley horsed from waving the tchotchkes around interminably.
The ladies will then dance with the kallah using moves carefully choreographed at the Boro Park Y or local Ladies Auxiliary. The men will dance with the chosson using moves carefully choreographed by soccer hooligans.
The First Law of Jewish Wedding Dance Physics dictates that the dancing must take place on a three feet by three feet amount of space whether or not the dance floor is the size of the Gobi Desert, which I mention because “Gobi” was one of the answers in a crossword puzzle I was working on this morning.
The dance of choice for the second go-round is a more orderly jig called the “Hora,” which means, “Ouch! Ooh! Get off my feet! Stop kicking me! How does this dance WORK? How do the Lubavitchers add an extra step and not end up mangling each other’s legs???”
At some point, the kallah may enter to sit beside the chosson. Several people with complete lack of stage fright will try to impress everyone with their dancing skills. One of these people will usually be a middle-aged guy who took karate as a kid. He will attempt several kicks and splits, everyone will go “Ooooh” and “Ahhhhh.” But the next morning he will pay the price with several muscle pulls and all different kinds of agony.
The Chosson’s friends may then sing “Aishes Chayil” for the kallah. Even though she’s officially been married for just a few hours, she’s still managed to seek out wool and linen, bring sustenance from afar, give food to her household and a ration to her maids, consider a field and buy it, plant a vineyard from the fruit of her handiwork, strengthen her arms, support a spindle with her palms, get over her fear of snow, clothe her house in scarlet wool, make bedspreads and garments, deliver a belt to a peddler, and have children who rose up and praised her. That’s pretty impressive. Meanwhile, her chosson has managed to split his pants.
The wedding ends with various people engaged in all sorts of random activity. In one corner you’ll have someone on a cell phone getting all the sports scores. In another you’ll find one of the chosson’s friends mooching $20 off everyone to pay for the limo. At the entrance, several guests will suddenly turn into beggars for a ride home. There will be a minyan for Ma’ariv, and one person davening Shmonei Esrei will strategically place himself in front of a door that people need to access, usually the bathroom or the kitchen. On the dais, the chosson and kallah will sit together and wonder when they can finally eat. The fathers will be in a corner, getting shaken down by the hall and the band for every last penny they own. The mothers will be crying again, saying goodbye forever to their boychickel and maidele, despite being fully aware that they’ll be having dinner together for the next seven days, and Shabbosim, and Tuesdays, and days the kallah doesn’t cook, and Yomim tovim, and rainy days, and Wednesdays, and work days, and Thursdays and�