Jessica & Emet’s queer Orthodox Jews in a Reform Temple wedding

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 | Photography by Jennifer Emerling Weddings
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The Offbeat Bride: Jessica, Grant Writer

Her offbeat partner: Emet, Technology Teacher

Date and location of wedding: Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Los Angeles, CA — August 31, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We are a queer, observant Jewish couple who met and got engaged in Jerusalem. I'm from Atlanta, and Emet is from LA, and we had no idea that we were going to have to go across the world to meet our bashert (soul-mate)! We dated very intentionally and got engaged after five months, though I knew after two weeks that I was going to marry Emet.

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When we were planning the wedding, we knew we wanted to keep it mostly traditional, but that was hard since we are also a queer couple. We did a lot things from Jewish tradition that most people who grew up in a Reform or Conservative Jewish home would not have known about.

We had a vort, which is a time traditionally that a plate is broken to signify the seriousness of the engagement — just like the plate cannot be made unbroken, our commitment to each other has reached a point of no return. Our mothers broke the plate, and Emet and I said a few words of Torah. This is typically done with gender segregation, but we decided against that because we are a same-sex couple and don't abide by the rules of gender segregation.

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We made all of the decorations and table centerpieces ourselves. Thanks to the 99cent store and IKEA, we made our own table assignments (pomegranate cut-outs on lollipop sticks), match books (we had stamped our names and faces of all 200 matchbooks), papier-mâché pomegranate card box, and a pomegranate bean bag to toss in place of a bouquet toss. We had no flowers, no bouquets, and no bouquet toss. It was important to us to have kosher food, too. We had a great DJ who helped us think of alternatives to the typical bouquet toss, and we hired my dad's friend's son who is in film school to do the videography. We wanted to make sure that each of our vendors knew us personally and understood who we were as individuals and as a couple.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
We worked with our rabbi to maintain a traditional ceremony with a queer twist. A friend of ours designed the ketubah that we signed before the ceremony, and Emet put the veil on me to signify that she will always strive to protect me.

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Our parents walked us down the aisles holding tall candles. The cantor sang a few traditional songs, such as “Mi Adir” and “Od Yishama.” We wrote our own vows and included Hebrew in them because it was important to us. We also changed the wording of the traditional Sheva Brachot (taking out references to the bride and groom and not adding in bride and bride because it didn't feel right to us due to our gender presentations). Our teams of awesome (my two sisters and Emet's sister and niece) along with Emet's dad's partner read from our Sheva Brachot, blessings for the wedding couple. We both stepped on the glass. After the ceremony, we spent 30 minutes in yichud, which means that we were alone for the first time without any chaperones after we got married. We ate a few appetizers and had a breather before we had to go up for the reception.

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Our vows:

I commit myself to you, my bashert. I will strive to love you unconditionally, care for you, support you, communicate with you, share my life's happinesses and burdens with you, and establish and maintain a Jewish household with you. I will learn with you, be honest with you, fulfill your needs, respect you, and be kind, patient, and forgiving while keeping a sense of humor and encouraging you to be the best that you can be. I will try in every way to be worthy of your love.

I will betroth you to me forever
I will betroth you to me with righteousness
and with justice and with kindness and with mercy
I will betroth you to me with faithfulness

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Our biggest challenge:
We wanted to maintain as much tradition as possible, but we also recognized that as a queer couple, our marriage would not be recognized under Jewish law. We worked with our non-denominational rabbi to navigate the expectations of what a traditional Jewish wedding looks like and what works best for us.

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My favorite moment:
In Orthodox Judaism, the couple getting married does not see each other for seven days prior to the wedding. We maintained that tradition, and since we were already living together, I stayed with my cousin's in-laws while we were both in Denver. We talked on the phone once that week, but it was too difficult, so we kept with only texting. The night before the wedding, my parents hosted a dinner in the hotel, and we were very creative so that the two of us wouldn't run into each other the halls.

Neither of us saw each other in our wedding attire prior to the wedding, even though I witnessed her fitting at the NY airport on a layover from Jerusalem.

The most emotional and meaningful moment was seeing Emet for the first time after seven days. We both cried. I was a little nervous to see her because I hadn't seen or touched the person I was marrying and going to spend my life with in seven days. The longest we had spent apart was when I had visited the US the summer before, just after we started dating. It was worth it to be separated, despite how difficult it was emotionally.

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My funniest moment:
A couple of our family members gave toasts, and Emet's sister included a part about how Kevin Bacon said that the key to a successful marriage is clean fights and dirty sex. The kids' table (kids under 17, but most under 10) lost it. They were laughing so hard, and we all thought, “Oh, no! Do they understand the joke?” We found out that they were laughing because they thought it was ridiculous that someone's name was “Bacon.”

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

Comments on Jessica & Emet’s queer Orthodox Jews in a Reform Temple wedding

  1. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and meaningful wedding! I’m also Jewish and had a relatively traditional ceremony and found it so meaningful to stick with traditions (and had to make fewer choices too, bonus!). Mazel tov to Jessica and Emet!

  2. Your wedding is wonderful!! Mazel tov to you both. I know the joy of finding my bashert in the most unexpected of places and circumstances, and was lucky enough to marry him as well. We walked the path of planning an interfaith, intercultural wedding and it was an important building block in our life together. I love reading and seeing the contemplative joy that you both took in finding the right and true road through the traditions. You both look radiant in the photos, rarely have a seen a couple with more toothy grins on here. 😀

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