Rabbi Lev Herrnson
Family Heirlooms Make Meaning at Your Wedding
One way to make your wedding celebration more memorable is to include family heirlooms and other cherished personal items. Use of your family’s prized possessions in the ceremony can both bring meaning and enhance what is already meaningful. Take, for instance, wedding rings.
Is there a family heirloom ring that you can use for the ceremony, one that belongs or belonged to a beloved family member or even the family’s matriarch? No, you won’t wear the ring after the ceremony—you’ll need to return it to its owner, but imagine if generations from your family were to all use the same ring. What a lovely family tradition! Further, you can offer a brief explanation in your wedding program/booklet about the ring used by you in the ceremony, which brings everyone present in on the special significance and nature of the ring. The same is true for each of the items to follow.
Kiddush Cup/Wine Goblets
Your wedding officiant will request that you bring two wine glasses or goblets to be used under the chuppah (wedding canopy) during the ceremony. Perhaps you and your fiancé have kiddush cups from your b’nei mitzvah, or a grandfather or some family member used a particular cup for years and years? Use of an heirloom goblet from each side of the family can further enhance the meaningfulness of your ceremony and also symbolize the merger of your two families.
Custom Chuppah (Wedding Canopy)
Planning on using a chuppah from your florist, or renting one online? (Yes, you can actually rent a chuppah from an online provider!) There’s another possibility. Are there others down the road in either of your families who will be marrying one day? Why not make a chuppah for continued use in your newly combined families! You can purchase four wooden poles at your local lumber yard and finish them nicely, and attach a simple, white fabric to the four corners. Or, ask friends to decorate white fabric napkins and then have them seamed together like a patchwork quilt. You now have a one-of-a-kind chuppah that you can use to adorn your home as a newly married couple.
A Special Kippah for Your Spouse
You’ll be distributing kippot (yarmulkes) at your wedding. Why not choose a special, distinctive kippah to wear under the chuppah and, thereafter, at Jewish celebrations at home and on the holidays? While we provided our guests with black, suede kippot (plural of kippah) at our wedding, I wore a white kippah under our chuppah and, to this day, still wear it on Shabbat and on the holidays.
A tallit (sometimes pronounced "tallis", meaning "prayer shawl") is often draped over the shoulders of the marrying couple under the chuppah. Actually a Sephardic custom, draping a tallit for a moment over both of your shoulders, as you stand side-by-side, makes a physical connection between the two of you for all to see. It’s a lovely custom that can be executed by each of your mothers, who dressed you from your first day on this earth. Why not use the tallit from your bar mitzvah or one that belonged to an esteemed member of one of your families?
And for those of you who don’t yet own any “prized” items, your wedding is the perfect opportunity to purchase one or two things that can be shared with family members at their upcoming celebrations. You might also choose to add some of these items to your registry. You can also “invite” special family members to purchase a kiddush cup or similar heirloom-to-be for you, explaining to them your intention to use it under the chuppah, and that you plan to include mention of the special purchase in your wedding program.
Announced, Printed or Undercover
None of the aforementioned items need to be pointed out by you or your officiant at your wedding. Still, you’ll know you’re using cherished items, or that you’ve purchased something special and elevated its status because of your wedding. If you choose to include mention of any of the items in your wedding booklet, everyone present will know too; your guests will be inspired by your planning nature and admire your choices.
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