This past weekend I went to Cleveland for my cousin Rachel’s wedding. Rachel married her boyfriend of seven years, Raffi, in a 500 person, black-tie, Jewish Orthodox wedding. Rachel and Raffi have been dating since high school, but they decided to become Orthodox Jews (the rest of my family, including Rachel’s parents, are Conservative) while spending a year in Israel before starting college. This was my first Orthodox wedding experience, and I experienced a lot of different traditions and learned a lot about a different kind of Judaism than the type I practice. The wedding was a gorgeous, energetic spectacle, and I want to share some of my photos and some of what I learned with you.
Orthodox brides and grooms do not see each other for at least a week before the wedding. Before the wedding ceremony, the bride (kallah) and groom (chattan) have separate receptions where they greet their guests. The groom’s reception was men only (you will notice a lot of gender separation in my explanations), but the bride’s reception was mixed gender. We had awhile to mingle before Rachel arrived–the reception was essentially an elaborate cocktail party with a live band, an open bar, a sushi station with sushi makers, a carving station, hummus, pasta, crudite, cut fruit, and salads.
After about half an hour, Rachel was led into the reception by her mother (my dad’s sister) and Raffi’s mother. She was followed by her sister (my cousin Sarah) and the grandmothers of the bride and groom.