Wedding Rituals for Parents

Experiencing a child's wedding from a parent's perspective.

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Rituals to Build Support

Anyone who has been involved in planning a wedding knows that even in the most open, communicative families, some stressful moments are going to occur. Couples have their own ideas about the wedding, and parents often also want to have their say. What can begin as a conversation about caterers or guests can quickly escalate into a heated argument. All the while, parents and children may be ignoring some of the true issues underlying the fighting--that even for grown, independent children, the wedding represents a degree of separation from parents. And with this separation comes loss.

Couples may wish to work with their rabbis to think about creative ways to acknowledge this aspect of marriage in their weddings. The following are several ritual ideas to honor and involve parents during this special time.

Creating Ritual Objects: Jewish weddings are full of ritual objects, from the ketubah (marriage contract) to the huppah (wedding canopy); from the Kiddush cups to the glass set aside to be broken. One way to honor and involve parents in the wedding planning process is to invite them to help make one of these ritual objects. For example, when Ron and Dr. Joellyn Zollman of San Diego, CA, married, they asked each of their mothers to embroider material to become their huppah. Ron's mother lives in California, while Joellyn's mother lives in Pennsylvania, where the wedding took place. Each mother worked independently on their section of the huppah, then sewed them together in the days preceding the wedding. Ron and Joellyn detailed this process in their wedding program, honoring their mother's efforts.

You need not have "crafty" parents to involve them in this way. For example, a Kiddush cup is needed during the ceremony for the blessings over the wine. Couples can ask their parents to share a special Kiddush cup from their family to be placed under the huppah with the couple. In some cases, couples use the cups that were used during their parents' ceremonies, linking them to that special moment in time. Other parents have taken on such tasks as cutting down branches from trees at their family homes to be used for huppah poles, donating family heirloom materials for use in making the huppah,or helping to design or do calligraphy for the ketubah. By involving parents in creating something tangible for your wedding, you give them a sense of ownership and inclusion in the ritual that is unfolding.

A Ceremonial Moment: Couples may also choose to include in their nuptials a ritual acknowledging what this occasion means for their parents. For example, Rabbi Marcia Prager, author of The Path of Blessing: Experiencing the Energy and Abundance of the Divine, includes a special ritual for parents in the weddings that she leads. During the bedecken ceremony (traditionally, the veiling of the bride), Rabbi Prager takes a moment with only the bride and groom and their parents present. She offers the parents their own blessing as a way acknowledging that the wedding is a milestone in their lives as parents. Parents then embrace their children. In the midst of what can be a hectic day, this simple moment allows parents and children to recognize the impact and significance of the occasion.

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Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is a freelance writer and educator based in Philadelphia. She is the author of two books of plays for children: The Magic Tanach and Other Short Plays and Extraordinary Jews: Staging Their Lives as well as The Creative Jewish Wedding Book.