At T minus two months, our wedding is only beginning to seem real. Deciding which traditions to incorporate into the celebration has been haphazard on my end: Inspirations include chick flicks (“Bride Wars,”) popular wedding Web sites (so many searchable photos!) and of course, Larissa, our all-knowing wedding coordinator. But it’s taken me longer to find a tradition inspired by my own family. Soviet Jews had nuptials of the more austere sort — with only hints of Judaism. Couples would go sign the documents at their local government wedding “palace,” and then return for a party. Not exactly romantic.
So given that both my fiancé and I are from the Former Soviet Union, it’s been difficult to find a Judaism-infused family tradition to incorporate into our nuptials.
But a recent conversation with my grandmother, about her wedding to my grandfather, gave me an idea. She told me that instead of a challah, they’d served a lekach. Lekach is a Jewish honey cake that her grandmother had baked for her, and that, years later, she’d baked for my mother. My great-great grandmother had this in the shtetl, and the tradition carried over into Soviet life. It was given to the couple after they returned from signing their marriage certificate to wish them a sweetness-filled life — similar to why honey cake is eaten on Rosh Hashanah.
So while I stand under the chuppah (surrounded by lots of overpriced flowers) and then later, as guests pour in to eat the meal that we’ve been meticulously planning, I am looking forward to seeing and tasting the lekach — a sly symbol of the way Jews fought to retain their identity even when most aspects of Jewish life were stripped away. It is also a symbol of how far we, emigrés from the Former Soviet Union, have come.
Alina Dizik is a New York-based journalist. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek and iVillage.com.