Weddings To Make Martha Proud

By Lisa Keys

Published January 31, 2003, issue of January 31, 2003.

As if finding that perfect Jewish soul mate wasn’t difficult enough, now comes the trickiest part of all: planning a Jewish wedding.

Fortunately, Rita Milos Brownstein, a former art director at Good Housekeeping and House Beautiful, has created “Jewish Weddings: A Guide to Creating the Wedding of Your Dreams” (Simon and Schuster), which walks hapless, would-be betrothed couples through every detail, from one-of-a-kind save-the-date cards to proper wedding processionals to the correct method for hanging mezuzot on starter homes.

The book — which Brownstein describes as “a combination of a Martha Stewart-type approach to Jewish weddings along with the basic nitty-gritties of customs, rules and traditions” — is magazine-like with its liberal use of photographs of real-life Jewish weddings, instructional sidebars and even, yes, recipes. Brownstein offers stylish tips to help couples make their weddings unique, from using baskets of wheat grass as place-card holders to asking loved ones to contribute to a hand-quilted chuppah.

Brownstein also offers innovative suggestions for incorporating Judaism into every aspect of the wedding process. For a bridal shower, for example, Brownstein suggests that guests receive a biblical commandment or Jewish saying as inspiration for an appropriate gift. “‘Remember the Shabbat day and keep it holy’ lends itself to wonderful, much appreciated shower gifts, including Sabbath candlesticks or a lovely monogrammed kiddush cup,” she writes. (For “be fruitful and multiply,” we’ll have to leave that to your imagination.)

“I just wanted to introduce brides to tradition,” said Brownstein, speaking by telephone from her job as a graphic designer for the Jewish federation in Hartford, Conn. “This is what Jewish brides have been doing for thousands of years.”

At Brownstein’s own wedding 23 years ago, she and her husband stood under the chuppah and drank from the kiddush cup, then, in the traditional grand finale, her husband, Michael, stomped on a glass to symbolize the destruction of the Temple. Nonetheless, Brownstein felt that she had missed out on a lot of Jewish traditions because, she said, “Nobody told me about it.”

One of Brownstein’s favorite Jewish wedding customs is the yichud — a brief alone time for the newly married couple, after the ceremony and before the reception begins. “It’s a beautiful, wonderful custom,” she said. “I’m sorry we missed it.”

The book is geared at couples, particularly brides, who yearn for a traditional wedding but lack the Jewish expertise to execute one. And that, apparently, is the whole concept behind “Jewish Weddings.” “I hope that maybe a couple would incorporate something [into the wedding] that, without this book, they maybe wouldn’t have thought of doing,” Brownstein said.



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