(Part II of II)
We now rejoin our wedding, already in progress.
At the entrance of the Chuppah room, ushers will often hand out programs and mints like they’re bathroom attendants. We insist on grabbing a program, not because we care about who’s walking down the aisle, but because we need something to read. It’s like in shul how we make sure to read all the announcements or when we‘re in the bathroom without a magazine, we read every last word on the Softsoap bottle.
Everyone finds a seat, and the emcee makes an opening announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, the chosson and kallah want to thank everyone for joining in their simcha. Please make sure to silence your cell phones.” But I always think he should add one more line…“The Wi-Fi password is ‘Hopefully Short Chuppah.’ That’s C-H-U-P-P-A-H.” I went to a wedding in Lakewood this summer, and there was so much talking during the chuppah, I couldn’t help thinking, “There’d be a lot less talking if these guys had smartphones.”
The different pairings then walk down the aisle while everyone tries to figure out what song is playing, creating their own version of “Name That Tune.” You realize that Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” sounds awfully similar to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and wonder if little kids are required by law to walk down to “Let It Go,” the Sesame Street theme, or “Hey Dum Diddley Dum.”
The groom and bride eventually make their respective entrances. The bride is escorted around the groom seven times, while the two mothers hold the end of her super long dress. Another symbolic lesson here is that the groom should worry about pleasing this woman first, and only then worry about pleasing the two women behind her.
Before the reading of the ketubah, sometimes the rabbi asks if the groom bought the ring with his own money. If the groom is still in college or yeshiva, you can hear the groom’s father snicker before his son says “yes.” My favorite part of the chuppah is when the ketubah is being read, and there’s the two-second break from Aramaic where they suddenly say “Teaneck, New Jersey.”
For the Sheva Brachot, the emcee brings up rabbi after rabbi along with their respective titles, making most people quickly Google “What does the phrase ‘morah d’asrah’ actually mean? Close friends and family are also given Sheva Brachot honors. Again, another time where they need a realistic announcement: “Honored with the sixth Sheva Bracha, uncle of the chosson, Mark Rosenblum, who’s getting this kibud because Uncle Aaron is stuck in traffic.”
As Im Eshkachech ends, the groom breaks the glass, which elicits a Pavlovian “mazel tov” from the crowd. The couple is escorted down a long processional as “Od Yeshama” is sung over and over again. Depending on how far away the yichud room is, this part could take days.
The couple is left alone in the yichud room, which is guarded by two snickering guys and some police tape. At this point, a bunch of guys try to get as many minyanim going as possible like they’re waiting at the gate at JFK Airport.
When you sit for The Meal, you’ll either notice that you’re at a singles table or a married table. The singles table is a lot more fun and lively, while the married table has the excitement of a PTA meeting. Married people are kind of just grouped together without anything else in common, as if the bride and groom figured these couples could bond over the fact that they’re married and now equally hate this part of the wedding. Singles tables also tend to have random assortments of people. This is because wedding seating is a bit like playing Tetris, where some people are like those nice long pieces that are fine in every situation and some people are like those Z-shaped pieces that don’t really fit anywhere.
Some weddings have separate seating, which has always confused me since I figured an easy way for singles to meet each other would be when they’re looking their best and if conversation is too awkward, at least there’s loud music to drown it out. But some weddings insist on there being a 20-amah mechitza in between the men and women’s sections. I don’t know if you’ve seen some of these but I think Berlin had something smaller. I wonder if God sometimes looks at a separate-seated wedding and just thinks, “This is exactly why it’s harder to set people up than to split the Red Sea.” Some weddings don’t have separate seating, but still have men at women at different tables, which I guess shows that the only time young men and women can interact is if there’s a seforim sale as a cover.
There’s about 40 minutes to an hour of the guests pretending they like salad while they wait for the couple to take pictures they should’ve taken beforehand. A friend of mine wanted me to tell jokes at this point during his wedding because everyone knows the ideal comedy audience is a bunch of hungry, annoyed Jews.
Once the band announces the couple’s names, there is a mob rush of men huddled around together on this wooden floor. No matter how big the floor is, only a small portion of the floor will be utilized for The Dancing, if you can call it that. There’s a certain point in a wedding when it’s no longer circle dancing, but rather just a bunch of guys awkwardly holding hands. Jewish wedding dancing comes in two forms: clockwise and—if things get really crazy—counter-clockwise.
Nobody really knows how to dance at Orthodox weddings, and that’s likely always been the case. The Gemara even asks when it talks about weddings, “keitzad merakdim,” which literally means, “How do you dance?” And that’s the part we repeat over and over again. That’s why when it comes to the shtick, everyone is in a circle looking toward the middle, waiting for someone to step in, hoping someone will step forward and show the crowd how to dance.
Orthodox weddings pretty much have the same characters when it comes to shtick, so I’ll just list them here:
The girls who bring seminary sweatshirts and posters with inside jokes on them that aren’t like “ha-ha” funny, but more “you had to be there” funny.
The guys who show up in animal costumes for some reason.
The guy who is obsessed with fire, who swallows fire and balances fire on his head.
The person who takes nothing in life seriously, except wedding shtick, giving instructions to others like a football coach. This guy doesn’t care if three kids get kicked in the face while four guys do the spinning helicopter as long as people enjoy the shtick.
The rabbi who doesn’t have any moves and just awkwardly runs into the middle with his hands up, like his talent portion of the contest is having semicha.
The little nephews and nieces who aren’t sure what’s happening and are just thrust into this spotlight of awkwardness.
That out-of-shape uncle who does one push up and somehow gets a bigger round of applause than everyone.
There are other parts of the wedding I didn’t go into—like flash mobs, the mezinka, getting brachot, and overly long speeches—but this should cover most of it.
Hopefully, this helps make wedding season a bit more tolerable.
By Eli Lebowicz
Eli Lebowicz is a standup comedian and writer. He performs at many Jewish events all over the country. You can follow him on Twitter at @EliLebowicz, check out his website, EliComedy.com, and email him at [email protected]