While holding up a table that my chosson friend was standing up waving to his kallah I couldn’t help but compare this wedding in Chicago to the one in Boro Park I went to last week. The Boro Park wedding was nice, basically extravagant by any standards. The hall was massive, the flowers were opulent and the schmorg kept going all through the wedding, serving everything you could possible want. Both the chosson and kallah at the Boro park wedding were apparently big machers in the community and the expected host of rabbinic royalty attended, dragging out the chuppah while the travelling trumpet band waited at the back to play the Siman Tov tune milliseconds after the breaking of the glass.
This Chicago wedding was far simpler. They rented a hall at the Midwest Conference Center (and apparently, retirement village) which was hosting at least two other weddings that day. His family was from Miami and there was almost no Miami turnout apart from relatives. Her family was from Chicago but had only moved there in the past three years so they weren’t too established. The overall turnout was nice but not packed, from our high school class there were only three of us. There was no schmorg and the meal was a simple salad, tomato soup, chicken and potatoes affair. But the atmosphere and dancing was unlike anything else I’ve ever been to. There were no extraneous guests, everyone there had a personal connection with the chosson and kallah and everyone therefore shared in the joy. I’ve never had such dancing in my life, and I’ve been to a lot of weddings.
There was a mechitza of course, but since everyone was close there was no need for an iron wall. We carried the chosson over to the other side where everyone stood together and watched the schtick. No one tried to outdo anyone and everyone tried to participate in something, even my friend with no dancing or juggling abilities did his but by putting on his suit backwards and trying to dance. Normally he would have been too embarrassed to do something so silly, but this wedding was a small family and close friends affair, there was no holding back for fear of looking silly. It may have been the only wedding I’ve ever been to that everyone was truly there to be mesameach the chosson and kallah.
For maybe the first time ever I’m actually at a loss of how to put my feelings about it into words. I just don’t think I can ever convey the experience of that wedding. I do know how jealous I am though. The chosson, who none of us ever knew could sing because he had always been too shy to try, had worked with the band keyboarding before and sang his own rendition of Ashes Chayil to his kallah and then utterly surprised us with a re-written version of James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful”. (I know, I know.) Where normally such a thing would have been cheesy, here it transcended that because it was so genuine.