Chaya Milchtein’s dream wedding would have hundreds of guests. Her fiancée JodyAnn Morgan’s dream wedding would be just her, her partner and their officiant. In Morgan’s ideal world, she said, “I would just go to Vegas and call it a day.”
Now, thanks to the coronavirus, they are both getting their dream wedding.
This weekend, their Facebook Live wedding will be intimate but feature a guest list in the thousands, rather than the hundreds. And you, yes, you, Forward reader, or anyone, really, who may be happening to read this, along with any of your friends, are invited to tune in, too, on Facebook live, on Saturday, Aug. 29, at 1 pm Eastern time.
The Facebook invite says: “You’re invited to the Biggest, Queerest Wedding of the Year.”
Why invite the entire world to witness something so sacred and so personal?
Because, said Milchtein, their queer, interfaith, interracial wedding between two plus-sized women is just the right antidote to the blues we’re collectively experiencing right now.
“We’ve all been through so much the past five months,” said Milchtein. “2020 has been such a difficult rollercoaster, and I want to give people a small break to disconnect from everything going on and see some beauty.”
Her fianceé Morgan admits she wouldn’t do it this way on her own. But being with Milchtein she’s gotten used to such things—though the in-person guest count will remain what she wanted.
“In these online bridal groups I’m in, there’s so much sadness about canceled weddings,” said Milchtein. “But there’s another way. We can have a beautiful, meaningful moment in a virtual way and show the world that we couldn’t be more different from each other and yet we’ve found love together.”
Milchtein, 25, is an influencer —though she hates certain connotations of the word—with a unique resume. The daughter of Russian immigrant parents to Milwaukee, she is the oldest of 15 children. Her parents were affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement but aren’t any longer, she said.
She spent two years in foster care as a teenager and no longer has a relationship with her parents. She later came out, and found a career as a plus-size model, while also learning auto repair as another way to support herself.
Three years ago, she began offering auto repair classes online, as well as working in an auto shop. With her position recently eliminated due to Covid, she ramped up her online teaching schedule. She has over 17,000 followers on Instagram and frequently has sponsored content.
Many publications will be covering her wedding. A major publication is sending a photographer to shoot it— Milchtein wouldn’t confirm or deny that it was the Vows feature of The New York Times.
But negative connotations of being an influencer aside, Milchstein uses her platform to promote radical acceptance, especially to those, like herself, whose identities are outside the mainstream. But she hopes that her message reaches anyone who needs it, really.
“If I can use my life and struggles as an example for others to better their lives, then it’s worth it,” she said. For example, she said, she recently posted about the fact that unlike most brides, she didn’t spend the countdown to the wedding obsessing over her weight.
“You sounded like a motivational speaker just then,” Morgan told her.
Milchtein’s fiancée Morgan, 33, who goes by her last name, couldn’t be more different, both in background and in temperament. Originally from Jamaica, she is introverted and private. Yet she fell in love with someone who is anything but.
The two met over four years ago in Brooklyn, where both were living at the time. Morgan was working security at the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Baily Circus when Milchtein came through the doors. While she was too shy to say anything that night, when she saw Milchtein post something in a queer Facebook group a few weeks later, she messaged her, feeling they were fated to meet. Morgan brought her to a friend’s birthday party on their first date, where everyone thought they had been together for a while.
Given that Milchtein has shared a lot about her struggles – she has both been written about in many publications and has contributed a few pieces herself to the online Jewish web site, Hey Alma, she said, “this is a way to be surrounded by people who care about us and our journey and the space I’ve created,” with Morgan adding, “The whole world has gone virtual now, so why not?”
While both acutely feel the absence of their parents in their lives, they feel the more people cheering them on, the better. And then there’s the fact that Milchtein is a community-builder; pre-COVID-19, she was constantly hosting potlucks, holiday meals and seders and sees the wedding as just another way to do that. If she can’t gather people together in person, at least she can do so online.
“We’ve spent our whole relationship opening up our home and lives to our community to build safe spaces for all kinds of people,” said Milchtein.
Though the pair lives in Milwaukee (with their cat Stripes and their tortoise Polka Dot,) they’ll marry in Indianapolis because it’s “the Vegas of the Midwest,” said Morgan, with Milchtein adding it’s a popular state for elopements because just like with Nevada, no witnesses are needed and licenses can be obtained the same day.
While they’re not having a specifically Jewish wedding, they are incorporating Jewish elements that speak to them into their nuptials. Milchtein found an Airbnb that they’ll stay in on a river, in which she’ll do a mikvah. They will break a glass, and seven friends of the couple are writing their own interpretations of the traditional seven wedding blessings, based on pre-assigned themes like community and humor.
Nearly every bridal accessory is by a queer designer, a Black designer, or both.
Milchtein still speaks with most of her siblings. Some of them live abroad, so she planned the wedding at a time so it won’t be in the middle of the night where they are, and can tune in. (Those she’s still in contact with, like her, are no longer observant).
When asked if she had a particular goal in mind for viewers, Milchtein said numbers were not the point, noting, “I just hope whoever needs to see it will see it.”
It’s the ‘biggest, queerest Jewish wedding’—and you’re invited