Category Archives: Tales from the Veil

Tales From The Veil: Los Angeles Couple Goes Modern Orthodox Even With Reform Upbringing

Growing up in a small town in Maine, my Jewish identity was defined by cultural Jewish experiences like visiting my grandparents in Long Island where I enjoyed bagel, lox, and cream cheese, knishes and other culturally Jewish delicacies; it was a small taste of what living a Jewish life could mean. It was not until I participated in a Birthright trip during my sophomore year in college that I experienced and became intrigued by Judaism and was eager to learn more.

As a curious teenager, I had a lot of questions about life and I was unable to find satisfying answers. So, I embarked on a journey of Jewish learning that included studying at an all-women’s seminary in Jerusalem, one-on-one learning back in the United States, and slowly adopting practices such as keeping Kosher and attempting to keep Shabbat. When I met my husband, AJ, it was the first time I found someone who came from a similar background, yet was moving in a similar direction. AJ grew up in a Reform synagogue in San Francisco, and became more observant during business school. Together, we are currently paving our path and still figuring out what kind of Jewish home we will keep.

Jewish Weddings

We decided that although we are still growing in our observance and haven’t committed to all observant traditions and practices, it was very important to us to have an Orthodox wedding. There were several reasons to this, but a few included: We wanted all of our guests to feel comfortable. Some of our closest friends are Orthodox and will only eat Kosher food that is under the supervision of a Rabbi. Additionally, many men will only dance with men and women with women. Also, the meaning behind a traditional Jewish ceremony was extremely intriguing to us. It was important that our wedding was a spiritual and elevating experience, not just a party. And lastly, the few Orthodox weddings I had been to in the past were the most moving, exciting, and meaningful.

Obviously, this added a level of complexity when the planning process began because neither my mother nor future mother-in-law had ever been to an Orthodox wedding. The first challenge we faced was deciding where to have the wedding. If we decided to have the wedding in Maine, we would have had to bring Kosher food up from Boston. This just seemed crazy. So, we decided to have the wedding in San Francisco, where we could find Kosher food and had AJ’s mom on the ground to help with the planning. Next, we could only serve Kosher Mevushal wine. This made ordering and selecting alcohol much more complicated and expensive. In the end, we separately ordered the wine from the rest of the alcohol from a distributor in Chicago.

Choosing a band was also hard. We wanted a band that could play “simcha” music (Hora style music), but a band that could also play American music as well. We ended up bringing a band from Los Angeles. Also, we decided that the first 25 minutes would be separate dancing and the rest of the wedding would be mixed. One of the only pre-wedding nightmares I had was about this particular part of the wedding. I worried guests would not want to participate in the separate dancing or that nobody would know what was going on! Fortunately, the separation occurred organically and it seemed as though most of our guests really enjoyed and appreciated this part.

AJ and I decided to not see each other the week before the wedding. However, our parents felt very strongly about having a dinner the night before the wedding with our immediate and extended families. We wanted to respect their request, especially since they were so supportive of our choice to have an Orthodox wedding, so we did not see each other for the entire week up until the wedding, and sat at different tables during the dinner and did everything we could to avoid eye contact. We wanted the moment at the Bedeken (veiling ceremony) to be as special as possible. Many argue the Bedeken goes back to biblical times when Jacob married Leah by accident because her face was veiled, when he really wanted to marry Rachel. Others say it is the groom publicly demonstrating that his love and affection for his new bride goes beyond physical beauty; he loves her for what he cannot see. The Bedeken added a complexity to the photography schedule. Our photographer wanted to take group and family photos before the wedding, which is commonly done. However, we decided we would hold out for the Bedeken and do group pictures during cocktail hour. We wanted our first interaction to be at the veiling.

Jewish Wedding Bedeken

In the end, it all paid off despite the added challenges of planning a wedding that nobody in our family had experienced before. The minute AJ was ushered out of the Tisch escorted by his father and my father, our friends, and family he approached me and pulled my veil over my face, and leaned in and whispered loving words in my ear. I was flooded with emotion and gratitude that not only was I marrying my beshert, but I was participating in a tradition that goes back thousands of years and I have the privilege of living in a time where I can be Jewish and openly, and proudly live a Jewish life.

annabioAfter growing up in non-observant Reform Jewish households, Anna & AJ Prager now live in the Pico Robertson community in Los Angeles, which is typically very traditional. They recently moved from Chicago where Anna was attending graduate school at the University of Chicago. Anna loves to cook, bake challah, host Shabbos meals, and enjoys her daily fitness classes at Equinox with AJ! AJ works in the entertainment industry and is a San Francisco Giants fan. They both love to travel and are enjoying being newlyweds together! You can also see their entire wedding collection and story that was featured on The Wedding Yentas.

La Noche de Novia: A Moroccan Jewish Wedding Ceremony

Today, Keren shares a special tradition based on the Sephardic heritage of her husband, Michael.

La Noche de Novia, also referred to as a Berberisca, Soirée du Henné, Noche de Paños or Lilat el Henna, is a traditional Moroccan Jewish ceremony that takes place during the week that precedes a wedding. The bride makes her entrance, magnificently made up and dressed in the Berberisca gown called ‘Traje de paños’, “Vestido de Berberisca” (Spanish), or “Keswa Elkibra” (Great Dress in Arabic). The costume is made of velvet, richly ornate and embroidered in gold thread. The family of the groom and bride, accompanied by close friends, gather to sing and to praise the bride. The tradition is 2,000 years old.

The ceremony has been famously depicted by many artists including Jean Bescancenot, Charles-Emile Vernet-Lecomte, Alfred Dehodencq, Camille Corot, and Fernand Georges Ducatillion. Most notably, the dress was recorded in several paintings and sketches by Eugene Delacroix, the master of the French Romantic school.

My husband’s family was expelled from Spain in 1492. After the expulsion, following the inquisition, the family traveled to Safed, Israel; Thessaloniki, Greece; and Meknes, Morocco. They finally arrived in Fez, Morocco, during the 16th century and in the mid-19th century, they moved to Tangier.

Jewish Moroccan Ceremony

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I was lucky enough to have a Noche de Novia of my own. The special day was filled with joy, singing and laughter – not to mention alcohol and delicious food. Getting dressed for the reception took over an hour and gave me insight into the preparations such a special day must of taken in antiquity. There are dozens of pieces of the costume, each with a specific meaning, order and purpose – a belt (golel), headpiece (jemar), the jacket, the bodice, the laced sleeves (kmam) and more. Some of the items even have a superstitious and mystical connection to luck, fertility, and love.

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My dress came from overseas in Madrid, Spain. It had previously been worn by my husband’s mother and many of his cousins. I felt deeply honored to continue this tradition; especially to follow in the footsteps of many women who I respect. The beautiful ritual originates in the Sephardi Jewish Communities of Northern Morocco and its surroundings; in cities such as Tangiers, Gibraltar and especially Tetuán, which was also called “Yerushalayim Haketana”, the “Little Jerusalem”.

Aunts, cousins, friends, and other females related to the bride help her to get ready for her presentation. Each detail is just so – every pin, bobby pin and tassle is fussed with. More than anything, this time was for the bride to get to know her new family without her husband-to-be. This was a private time just for women.

The Puntaktel is worn under the Gonbaiz and as a close fitting breastplate made of heavily embroidered velvet. The Hezam is a velvet and silk sash with ornate golden embroidered. It is wrapped around the bride’s waist several times.

The necklaces are from an aunt in Paris, France, and the Moroccan earrings are from a family friend. The bracelet I am wearing is from my husband’s mom. In this way, I wear pieces of important women in the family. The international family, and the continuation of such “seemingly-antiquated” traditions is beautiful.

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This ceremony is known in most Jewish communities as the “Hina”, a name that symbolizes the three Mitzvot specific to the Jewish woman: Halla, Nida, VeHadlakat HaNerot. Briefly, these actions mean lighting the candles, separating portions of dough for the creation of Challah (bread), and ritual bathing and cleanliness.

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Tales From The Veil: Saying Yes To The Dress

Remember real bride Jordan? She’s back to share her moment when she said “yes!”… to the dress!

After visiting Kleinfelds and Gabriella Bridal Salon in New York, I came home and started visiting places here in LA. I went to Saks Bridal Salon and a famous boutique in the valley, and at each place, I found beautiful dresses that looked really, really nice on me. I loved a Reem Acra strapless ballgown at one shop, a beautiful embroidered Kenneth Pool at Saks, and a lace trumpet gown at another shop… but they weren’t The One, and deep down I knew it. So I kept looking!

Jordan and her mom and sister at Kleinfeld in New York. Fun experience, but no luck with saying "Yes."

Jordan and her mom and sister at Kleinfeld in New York. Fun experience, but no luck with saying “Yes.”

Literally the day after we got engaged, my sister was so overwhelmed with excitement she started sending me a million different links to a million different web sites. I clicked one of them, which was an article about wedding cakes, and after reading it through, I randomly clicked on the tab marked “Wedding Gowns” and there in front of me was a gorgeous dress. It was seriously stunning. I pinned it to my secret “I DO!” Pinterest board and went about my day.

From then on, every time I went to a bridal salon, I’d show them the picture of this dress and try on similar ones, but none of them were it. Finally, I realized I was being an idiot; why hadn’t I tried on that exact dress yet? I started calling around and by some miracle, the designer was having a trunk show at a nearby dress salon two weeks from my phone call. I made an appointment for this past weekend and enlisted my friend, Greene Bean, and my mother to come with me.

The moment I walked into the store I saw the dress hanging on the rack in front of me and I gasped. It was even more beautiful in person. I asked to have it added to my dressing room, and spent a couple more minutes looking around the store and adding other dresses to try on, but I kept thinking about that first dress! Then I went into the dressing room with the consultant. I had planned on trying on some others and was going to lead up to it, but she said “This one is the prettiest. Try this on first!”

She put it on over my head and as soon as I saw it on me in the mirror, I gasped and turned bright red. It was STUNNING. I wiggled around impatiently while she zipped and buttoned me up and then after a billion minutes, she opened the door so I could go out and show my mom. I took two steps out of the dressing room and my mom started CRYING!!!!! She knew it just like I knew it. It was The One!!!!!

But I couldn’t say yes without showing my sister, so I posed for a billion photos from all angles and my mom texted them to Bailey, off in NYC. A few minutes passed — with me prancing around staring at myself in the mirror — and then Bailey called back. “It’s amazing and you look beautiful,” she said.

“Are you saying yes?” asked the consultant. “YES!!!!” I said. DONE AND DONE. They brought out a bottle of Champagne and everyone clapped and toasted. It was seriously like out of a movie!

A rack of beauties.

A rack of beauties.

If I could have imagined my dream dress, it would have included an illusion neckline, some lace, an unusual shape, a sparkly belt, and a LOT of shimmer and sparkle… and by some miracle of God my dress has ALL OF IT. And the best part: since it was at a trunk show, we got it for 10% off PLUS you know the consultant was a sassy gay who fell in love with me, so he GAVE me the matching VEIL as a gift!!! Every time I think about it I start smiling.

I wish I had some fun pictures to put in this post but you know I can’t ruin the surprise. Suffice it to say, on October 25, 2014, I’ll be wearing the most beautiful dress in the world and marrying the cutest guy I know. I CANNOT WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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IMG_0675_2Jordan Silverman is a newly engaged bride-to-be who works in nonprofit marketing & communications by day and blogs at Queen of LA by night. A native of Los Angeles and a proud Arizona Wildcat for life, Jordan has always loved to write and host fun events, so it goes without saying that she is very excited for wedding planning! Jordan lives with her fiancee, Rami, in Brentwood, California. When they are not watching reruns of Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives, attending alt-comedy shows, cooking, traveling, or watching movies, they’re dreaming about their future purchase of a French bulldog puppy.

Tales From The Veil: You’re Engaged? Mazel Tov! Now Take A Deep Breath.

I am a newly engaged woman! I have entered the ranks of ladies who have found their one and only, ladies who are committing themselves to one person and one person only, and yes, ladies who wear sparkly diamond rings on their left hand! It’s surreal!

When it became clear to me that my boyfriend – I mean FIANCE! – was the one and we started having discussions about making it official in the near future, I did what any normal, self-respecting future bride would do: got on the Internet and started doing research! I started scouring wedding blogs (including our dear Wedding Yentas), casually made mental notes at every wedding we attended, and of course, made my secret “I Do!” Pinterest board. I was ready! Bring on the rock!

My boyfriend – I mean FIANCE! #oy – proposed two weeks ago onstage at our regular monthly comedy show in front of 200 people (if you are so inclined, you are welcome to view the video here)! He loves the spotlight and I love being the center of attention so it was perfect. After the ring was safely on my finger and I had said “Yes!” it was time to start letting everyone know the good news. We started calling and texting people immediately, as I had known we would. And in came the “congrats!” and the “woo-hoos!” and the “mazel tovs!” We posted a picture of us up on Facebook and within 24 hours, it had more than 500 likes. #kindacrazy

Queen of L.A.

For months, I had thought about and dreamed about how I would feel after we got engaged. Happy? Joyful? Over the moon excited? Of course! I love my boyfriend – FIANCE! #imtheworst – more than anything. He is truly the yin to my yang, the frosting to my cupcake, and the absolute best guy I know. The fact that I get to marry him and have him as my husband for the rest of my life fills me with happiness.

But here’s what I wasn’t prepared for. I wasn’t prepared for the massive feeling of “overwhelmed-ness” that settled in a couple of days later. The phone calls kept coming! The emails poured in! Everyone was asking if we had chosen a date yet – and we hadn’t even been engaged for 28 hours! Cue the anxiety…

I’m a girl who loves hosting get-togethers and parties and grew up in a home where I refer to my mama as “Martha Jew-art” because of her amazing abilities as a hostess, but I knew nothing – nothing! – about throwing a wedding. The thought and preparation and attention to detail that go into planning a wedding are extraordinary, and I didn’t even know where to begin. For someone like me who prides herself on her planning abilities and lives and breathes by her day planner, this feeling was disconcerting and quite frankly, uncomfortable. I had a crazy, goody, huge smile plastered on my face, but inside my thoughts were swirling like a crazy person.

And then, I happened to bump into a friend and former colleague in the elevator at work. She squealed, I squealed, we hugged, she grabbed my finger and oohed and ahhed over the ring. And then she said something that instantly made me feel better:

“You doing okay? Two days after I got engaged I had a massive panic attack. It’s totally normal.”

Queen of L.A.

I can’t even begin to tell you all the feeling of relief that coursed through my body. None of the blogs mention this. No wedding magazine covers it. I had been feeling like I was the only one who ever felt this way!

After work that day I went home and kissed my FIANCE – there, I did it! – and we snuggled on the couch. We ordered in dinner from our favorite takeout place and watched a rerun on the Food Network. I felt better not only knowing that I wasn’t alone in my nervousness, but also just better knowing that no matter what, I had my partner by my side. Anxiety about picking a date? Trouble finding the perfect venue? We are going to get through it and we’re going to do it together.

So my advice to brides-to-be – though I have only been engaged for two weeks and therefore have no real business doling out tips – is to take a deep breath. The phone calls and the emails and the texts might seem overwhelming, but it’s because you and your fiancée are loved beyond measure. The thought of planning a wedding celebration might be daunting, but it’s the best kind of hard work. And no matter what, as long as the two of you have each other, everything is going to be fine.

No… I take it back.

Everything is not going to be fine. Everything is going to be amazing.

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IMG_0675_2Jordan Silverman is a newly engaged bride-to-be who works in nonprofit marketing & communications by day and blogs at Queen of LA by night. A native of Los Angeles and a proud Arizona Wildcat for life, Jordan has always loved to write and host fun events, so it goes without saying that she is very excited for wedding planning! Jordan lives with her fiancee, Rami, in Brentwood, California. When they are not watching reruns of Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives, attending alt-comedy shows, cooking, traveling, or watching movies, they’re dreaming about their future purchase of a French bulldog puppy.

Tales From The Veil: Chuppah Style

Excited to share Stefanie Syat’s wedding chuppah today as described by Miriam, blogger extraordinaire on the blog, Pre-Dame: A Beauty Guide for the Everyday Girl. Pre-Dame explores the beauty industry through the life of Stefanie Syat, Pre-Dame owner and professional makeup artist. Stefanie and Miriam answer beauty questions and provide solutions for blunders. Whether it’s through photos, videos, or in-depth explanations, Stefanie and Miriam teach you all you need to know to put your best face forward! And since Stefanie is now a recent bride, she has the wedding background to back up the bridal beauty analysis. Check out the Pre-Dame Facebook page for regular news and updates! Miriam narrates Stefanie’s vision for her chuppah in an excerpt from Pre-Dame below.

Vermont Jewish Wedding by Jami Saunders

The hebrew word for “covering” is chuppah, and today we’re featuring the one-of-a-kind chuppah Stefanie and Jacob were married under. On its most basic level, a chuppah symbolizes the home the couple will build together. Different customs call for different protocol. Some couples don’t wear any kinds of knots or bows at the ceremony because at that moment they’re tying the ultimate knot and it’s said that there shouldn’t be anything else binding them. Others have a custom not to wear any jewelry beneath the chuppah so that they can truly and honestly assess the value they’ve found in each other. If you notice, the sides of Chupah are open and that symbolizes a commitment from the bride and groom to always have a home that’s open to guests.

It’s beautiful, all the thought and care that goes into this special day. I’ve learned that on the day of the wedding all of the blessings that the couple will merit in their lifetime sit on top of the chuppah during the ceremony. I mentioned this to Stefanie a little while back and sat down more recently to hear what the chuppah meant to her and Jacob.

Vermont Jewish Wedding by Jami Saunders

“I think of the chuppah as the centerpiece to the whole ceremony,” Stefanie said, “It’s what houses us as we make our commitment to spend the rest of our lives together and transition from an engaged couple to a married couple.

I wanted the chuppah to represent our style, not only for the wedding day, but in life too. We love nature, hence the reason we got married in the middle of Vermont on a mountain top, and we love the grand feeling of being surrounded by trees and nature in general. When you’re on the top of a mountain, you feel humbled by all of the gorgeous surroundings and realize what life is all about. We live in NYC with the constant hustle and lack of nature so getting out of the city to relax and take in the fresh air is key in our happiness. To us, the chuppah represented our new “home” together. We told the florist to make it as “tree-focused as possible with little to no flowers,” and he did it beautifully!

Vermont Jewish Wedding by Jami Saunders

The tallis represents past generations of those married under the Jewish law. That is a family tradition of mine that we wanted to continue. The photos represent all of our ancestors who lived lives that allowed us to be there on that special day. They helped shape our families and the people we are today and we look to them as witnesses to the new family that we will create together.”

I’ve also learned that on the day of the wedding a G-dly light shines from the faces of the couple. Kabbalah says that the family members of the couple that have passed away have a presence, too. For Stefanie and Jacob, the photos they included made sure of that.

Vermont Jewish Wedding by Jami Saunders

Photographer: Jami Saunders
Florist & Chuppah: Jasper & Prudence Floral