My very dear friend got married yesterday. I hadn't participated in a wedding since 2009, and that was playing flute for a couple I wasn't well acquainted with. It's been even longer since I participated in nuptial festivities. I'm jaded; I don't have a lot of faith in marriage and I generally despise weddings, having played for brides since I was 12 and watching them get divorced time after time. I knew that Meg's wedding would be different, simple, right. I was thrilled and honored when she asked me to play the music for her ceremony. And, over the course of events leading up to yesterday, Meg and Bruce's wedding showed me a whole new perspective on Judaism.
When a girl is young, weddings are romantic, expected, fantastic, and fun. In Western society she grows up planning her dress, her perfect groom, how the day will look, and evaluating friendships for potential bridesmaids. After a few friends get married, one realizes how much work, stress, and drama is often involved and the planning gets real, whether or not one has a significant other. Let's not kid ourselves: from childhood most girls believe their wedding will be the greatest day of their lives. It's all about them. But it's ONE DAY! How much thought is given to their spouse, their marriage, or the lifetime of days that will follow? Over half of marriages end in divorce. Today people are waiting longer to get married, or not marrying at all. Costs are rising - the last time I looked the average wedding ran $20,000! So for two people to choose to make this commitment to one another is a very big deal, and to be invited into the precious congregation of witnesses, supporters, and family is no small thing. In Judaism, it's considered a great mitzvah to celebrate with a bride and groom. Truly it's an honor!
Because wedding music is so specific, it is a special privilege to be asked to perform. Meg's cousin, who had inspired her to study music, sang The Rainbow Connection. In Jewish tradition a wedding must have live music, it is the obligation of musicians to make weddings festive so that the guests can celebrate. The music that this couple chose was sweet not only for its individuality but for its upbeat, festive nature.Meg had all her music chosen and printed months ago; there was no need to chase her down or make last minute changes. The music she chose was absolutely, perfectly Meg and Bruce - Rainbow Connection for the bridesmaids, Zelda's Theme for her entrance, Holst's Jupiter for the recessional.
I was unable to go to her shower because of school commitments. I did, however, attend the bachelorette party. Meg is a classy lady and a supremely talented musician. Naturally she had her party at a dueling piano bar where she unleashed her mighty, soulful voice on the crowd. What a joy, after accompanying her senior recital, to see her rock at the height of her powers with the club cheering her on!
What struck me most was how inclusive Meg's friends and family were, and how perfect that was, because after all we all love Meg and Bruce. In listening to the various anecdotes recounted by her childhood friends, cousin, and co-worker, it occurred to me that our participation was vital to the wedding. We as guests stood as a live, cohesive picture of the bride and groom's individual growth and experiences. We were all characters in their individual stories and would be present as they wrote the first chapter in the book called Us. What could be more beautiful than that?
My heart was gladdened yet again when I walked into the sanctuary of the 200 year old church and saw people from both sides and of every age decorating before the rehearsal. People coming together to beautify the hallowed place where Meg and Bruce had chosen to stand and pledge themselves to one another. Simchat Chatan V'Kalah indeed (gladdening the groom and bride). Bruce hugged me, Meg looked radiant, the wedding party rehearsed in high spirits.
I entered the church yesterday to find Meg looking like an absolute fairy princess. I fanned her in between photos. Her friend Alex, who had flown in from San Francisco, played music that the women sang and danced to. Meg was absolutely serene. She was marrying the right man, her best friend, after long and genuine preparation. I saw so many principles come together: the word love in Hebrew, ahava, contains the root "to give". When we love someone, we give of ourselves. All assembled were there to give to Meg and Bruce in intangible and very palpable ways. By rejoicing with the bride and groom, we fulfilled the commandment to love another as ourselves. I don't think I've ever been to a more beautiful wedding than yesterday's. The couple chose a reading from Ruth that so perfectly described them, and the pastor's homily served as further tribute to the strength of their relationship. The reception was a wonderful party marked by touches of the couple's generosity and sincerity: mix CDs as favors, crocheted centerpieces I've seen Meg working on for over a year. The couple gave me a thank you card. This is what an outpouring of love looks like, what a true union of souls who are focused on God, others, and one another can produce. I am so proud of the strong, compassionate, beautiful, incredible woman Meg is and of the man she has chosen to be her partner in life.
I have no doubt that Meg and Bruce will "make it". They did everything right - they didn't rush, they know each other inside and out, and the wedding was simply a day marking a transition in the way they are together. Since I've known her, Meg has always looked ahead. Bruce balances her so perfectly; he turns off her analytical, critical mind and brings out the fun. As Meg has journied through school I've heard her speak of Bruce's constant support, embrace, and faith. The way he looks at her - not just on their wedding day but every time he looks at her - is enough to make me rejoice. She is his treasure, and he is her rock. May they have a long life filled with meaningful days and every blessing. Mazel tov!