Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Vacation: Part 2, Matrimony

On June 23, 2013, my cousin Haley married her best friend, Greg.  It was perhaps the loveliest, most fun wedding celebration I've ever attended or been a part of.  I love Haley and Greg dearly, I look up to them in so many ways, and I was so honored to be involved in some very special aspects of this wedding.
 The festivities and celebrating started here....
I am so thankful that I was asked to join Haley at the Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikvah as she prepared for her wedding.  (Fun Fact...Anita Diamant, the author of the Red Tent, is the founding president of this beautiful facility).  Ritual immersion in a mikvah is a long held tradition in Judaism and is a requirement under Jewish law for brides.  After Haley emerged from the mikvah, the afternoon was spent celebrating Haley.  We talked about family, women, our ancestors, and the hard and joyous work of marriage that lies ahead for her.  Women from Haley's family and Greg's family were both present at this peaceful, small, gathering, and I will always treasure that I was able to join her. 

As people started coming into Boston from all over the country for the weekend, the celebrating really got up to speed.  Manicures and pedicures for friends and cousins...and my little flower girl too!  She felt very special to get to join the big girls (and her favorite cousin Michael) for this event. 

The rehearsal dinner was a perfectly lovely evening.  Great food, funny and touching speeches, family slideshows, and a very special challah made by my Great Aunt Sylvia, my grandmother's sister. 

Sunday morning was a whirlwind of getting ready to head to Camp Kiwanee, about an hour outside of Boston, for the ceremony and reception.

There's always a fair amount of anticipation, excitement, and even nervousness when someone near and dear to your heart walks down the aisle.  But those emotions were a bit (who I am kidding...a LOT) amped up this time around.  I had some big jobs associated with this particular wedding.  Jobs I was BEYOND honored to be asked to do.  But I was a bit nervous....

First, my little Sadie was asked to be the flower girl.  She was so excited about this role; she loved her dress, her pretty shoes, her new haircut, and the fact that she'd be walking down the aisle with her cousin Chloe by her side.  But she'd also been dropping comments fairly regularly about how she didn't want everyone looking at her, and she didn't like having her picture taken.  And I was having nightmarish flashbacks about the last time she was a flower girl.  She and I walked down the aisle, hand in hand, at my brother and sister-in-law's wedding.  All eyes were on us...and then people started oohing and aahing and taking pictures.  And Sadie couldn't handle it.  She dropped to the ground and tried to disappear.  And I somehow bent down in a short dress and very high heels and proceeded to carry her down the aisle, all the while whispering reassuring comments in her ear and telling her to just close her eyes and hold onto Mama.  Not so smooth.  Needless to say, I was the teeny tiniest bit nervous this second time around.  And I wouldn't be holding her hand this time.  But she's two years older, so I kept telling myself she'd be fine.

Then there was the chuppah.  I think once upon a time I sewed an apron for Haley on my 100-year old sewing machine.  And my mom and I, of course, have gifted her with plenty of handknit items.  But we are not, by any stretch of the imagination, seamstresses.  But despite that small fact, when she asked us last November to create a chuppah for her wedding ceremony, we leapt at the chance.  I'll do anything for this girl.

Well, that sent Mom and me down a long, winding, sometimes stressful path to the final product....this patchwork chuppah, assembled from panels contributed by members of both Haley's and Greg's families....

It's clearly handmade....I didn't want anyone looking too closely.  But I do feel immensely proud of what my mom and I accomplished with this chuppah, and I hope that Haley and Greg can feel all the love and well wishes that went into it. 

But all this really felt like small potatoes when up against what was really making me nervous.  Haley had asked my dad, my husband, and I to play music during and after the wedding ceremony.  As in....during the processional and recessional!  Like....as a beautiful bride was walking down the aisle on her wedding day, I would be playing my mandolin.  WHAT???  I'm the mandolin picker who won't even play in front of other people in the comforts of my own home.  I prefer to hide in a dark closet where no one can hear me.  But again, I'd do anything for this girl.  So I have been practicing my ASS off!  I have played more mandolin in the past 6 months than ever in my life.  There's nothing like the looming threat of having to play your instrument in front of more than 100 silent and listening friends, family, and strangers, on your dear cousin's most important day, to put the pressure on you to pick up your instrument and practice.  So that's what we've been doing.  And I was sweating, and fidgety, and feeling a bit panicked until the moment I got the thumbs up from the wedding planner to strike those first notes.

And we pulled it all off just fine.  Nothing was flawless.  I hit some weird notes, Sadie walked down the aisle looking at the ground, and the chuppah certainly has a few (more than a few) "oops" spots.

But it was all perfect for the occasion.  All this work and effort was worth it.  We succeeded in helping Haley celebrate her marriage in the way she wanted to.  It was personal, and intimate, and all about family and friends and love.  And although professional musicians certainly would have sounded better...no one other than her Uncle Jon (my dad) could have written a song, Haley's Waltz, JUST FOR THIS OCCASION.

And obviously, playing music alongside my two favorite pickin' buddies, but husband and my dad, made it that much less scary, and that much more fun.  And it was all about the giant love I have for these two beautiful people, Haley and Greg, as they start their married lives together.

The wedding reception was one of the more fun that I have been to.  They had a great live band, that played songs that filled the dance floor the entire night.  I danced with my husband, my mom and dad, my daughter, my brother and sister-in-law, and the rest of my extended family.  Such fun...


And it was SO cool that after the wedding festivities were over we stayed the night in summer camp cabins, after continuing the party around a bonfire and skinny dipping in the lake.

It was such a joyous celebration and I felt so thankful and blessed to be able to celebrate the marriage of Haley and Greg. 

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