Bex & Cort's big queer Jewish wedding

By on Jan 19th
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Photos by Jessica Watson

The offbeat bride: Bex, School Psychologist

Her offbeat partner: Cort, Counselor and Therapist

Date and location of wedding: McMenamins, Portland, OR — July 31, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We got a lot of questions about what we were doing if it wasn't legally recognized. Why have it at all? Why not go back to New York? We wanted to have a wedding where we lived, within our faith, with our friends and family — government recognition be damned! I suppose you could count that as offbeat, but really it just fit us better.

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I wore a non-white dress and gorgeously giant, bright shoes. It was very important to us to have a gender neutral wedding ceremony: no "bride and groom" — but no "he or she" either. We had a lot of DIY. I made all the bouquets and boutonnières, all the centerpieces, my veil, chalkboard signs, the bulk of the wedding program, and all the seating "cards" (spray-painted silver cassette tapes.)

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We also had a lot of DBF (done-by-friends), like our handmade Kiddush cup (thrown and glazed by a potter friend, carved by us). A friend handmade our gorgeous chuppah and embroidered our names and the date at the center. Another friend designed the sign-in board with the two albums that most influenced us growing up to be who we each are (the hilarious match of Ani DiFranco and The Pixies). They also designed our save-the-dates, the designs for the one-inch pins we gave out as wedding favors, made our table numbers, and designed the cover of our wedding program. Yet another friend created our ring pillow.

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We walked ourselves down the aisle to our very wonderful liberal rabbi, using alternative Sheva Brachot, breaking two glasses at the end of the ceremony, and having a mix-gendered wedding party where they all wore their own outfits, within some guidelines. Our cake topper looked like us, our dog, three cats, and three chickens.

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We had a family dance instead of just a father/daughter dance, and an offbeat horah. Lesson learned: when your DJ says they are familiar with the horah, make sure they actually are familiar with the horah.

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Tell us about the ceremony: We entered to Cat Power's "Sea of Love" and left to Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." We included "circling." Traditionally the bride circles the groom seven times. Instead, we each circled each other three times, and completed the final circle together. We used "Origin Of Love" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch as one of our seven blessings. We took the traditional themes of the Sheva Brachot (seven blessings) and used our own take including social justice quotes, a Neil Gaiman quote, and a Hedwig song. We had friends and family read them.

Becca_Cort_0427Here are some of our blessings:

Fourth Blessing: On The Diversity Of Humanity

Blessed is the design of humankind. The diversity of humanity is remarkable: out of the same basic shape, infinite variations. May you find comfort in the similarities shared by all of the world's cultures and celebrate the qualities that make us different.

Fifth Blessing: On Social Justice

Blessed is the joy of this gathering. Despite its blessings, we live in a broken world. May you be blessed to live in a world where there is food for those who are hungry, homes for those who are homeless, freedom for those who are oppressed, and peace and equality for all.

Sixth Blessing: On Communal Responsibility

"By accepting responsibility, we take effective steps toward our goal: an inclusive human society on a habitable planet, a society that works for all humans and for all nonhumans. By accepting responsibility, we move closer to creating a world that works for all."
- Sharif M. Abdullah

Seventh Blessing: On New Beginnings

"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself."
- Neil Gaiman

Becca_Cort_0450B Here is the meat of our vows/ketubah:

It has been said that when the world was created, everything fit perfectly like the pieces in a puzzle. There was beauty; there was peace; there was love. Over time, the pieces were blown apart and scattered. But, every time two souls come together in love and harmony, the puzzle comes together a bit more. The light of their joining is greater than the light they cast alone.

As we set out on our journey, we know there will be pockets of darkness. May we have the courage to pass through. Let us honor our separateness, but know that together our light is a beacon to show us our way. May our light shine back upon the traditions of our ancestors and forward to illumine the way for future generations. Let our love shine a light to repair the world.

I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.

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My favorite moment: I was surprised at how emotional the private ceremony of reading and signing the ketubah was right before we walked down the aisle. In that same vein, we had requested not to do a parent blessing during the ceremony (Cort's parents are not Jewish, and we didn't want to have totally blatant inequities) but my parents were really hurt. Our rabbi decided to do a parent blessing right after the ketubah signing "for them." It was surprisingly emotional for me, in a great way.

But the most meaningful part was having my hands completely crushed by Cort squeezing them throughout the ceremony, and getting to share our love in a public way in front of friends and family and having it reflected back. I didn't expect the ceremony to feel so huge in our bond (it's 20 minutes out of five years) but it felt big — magical.

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My funniest moment: My dad. My dad was hilarious. During the cocktail hour, he decided things were going too slowly and people might be getting bored, so he grabbed the mic and started emceeing. He instructed people to look at the sign-in board, the cake-toppers, letting them know there was going to be a photo booth, and saying things like "we're gonna do stuff," which has now become our catch phrase whenever we have something fun planned. It was hilarious (and, might I add, not in the schedule I had created).

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When it was time to give toasts, my dad whipped out a poster board and started pinning pictures to it. He gave a presentation! Watching my dad and Cort dance together during the family dance was also amazing. He complained afterward that Cort kept trying to lead. Hello? That's why it was amazing!

Also, in the photo booth, we had a scrapbook in which guests could post pictures or write notes. Cort and I looked through it in bed that night crying with laughter!

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Our first dance was also funny. Cort and I could not agree on a song. We finally went with "Eternal Flame" since Cort's first concert was The Bangles. I love the '80s, and we both love Susannah Hoffs. I kept asking if we could practice (I may or may not be a control freak), but we never did. We started singing it to each other (isn't that what you do with '80s songs?) and I was crying and laughing. Before you knew it, we were twirling like music boxes and general being silly. I die.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? My family and Cort's family are very different, and they had never met. My family is really involved in our lives (as much as possible from the opposite coast) and were really involved in the wedding. I had a lot of anxiety about the parental meet-up. I worried their feelings might be hurt about inequities in parental involvement in ceremony parts and reception pieces. Cort's a steady, non-freak-out kind of person. I kept getting reminders that you cannot manage other people's emotional reactions, and that other people are fully responsible for their own behaviors.

But it was all fine! Cort's brother gave me a hug and welcomed me to the family, and Cort's mom loved all the handmade touches and took a centerpiece (or two). The following night both families went out to an unplanned dinner.

I was also worried I would face-plant walking in heels down the grassy aisle, but I didn't!

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My advice for offbeat brides: There is a post on Offbeat Bride which is a letter from a DIY bride to herself. READ IT! It's so good, so true. Also, DIY is not always cheap. Do you have teacher friends? Use their Michael's and JoAnne Fabrics discounts with coupons if you need to buy new materials — and give yourself time!

We also got a joint credit card that earned miles and charged everything wedding-related to it that we could to use the miles for a honeymoon (or maybe a first-year anniversary jaunt!).

Finally, one of the most helpful things on the day of the ceremony was appointing one trusted friend who was not in the wedding party to the role of "Cruise Director." Our friend, J, was given a binder with maps of the reception, table placements, seating charts, set-up instructions, a list of items to pack up when it was all said and done, the day's schedule, contact info for all our vendors, and copies of all the readings just in case there was one forgetful participant. Having someone review the details of the day and confirm everything was ready to go helped to relieve a lot of stress and anxiety on me and Cort.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Make a list for your photographer! I did that, but I focused more on people. I made the bouquets for the wedding party and I was really proud of them. I had made mine first, using a kit from Princess Lasertron. I was hooked, and made all of the wedding party's bouquets. They were made with pins and buttons to specifically match their personality: one had flower centers of cupcakes, bikes, and books, and one had mostly rock and Star Wars flower centers.

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On a less materialistic note, I also learned that all the anxiety I had worrying what my parents would think about this bucked tradition or that bucked tradition was totally unnecessary. The wedding was so authentic to us that all the little things on their own that seemed wild or weird to my parents all really made sense put together — kind of like me and Cort.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!