When I first got engaged, I was confident of two things: it was going to be a small wedding (for a Jewish wedding, that is) and I was not going to be a bridezilla.
I’d heard too many tales of brides who’d spent more time contemplating napkin rings than their choice of groom and, as I kept telling myself every time I plummeted down a rabbit hole of floral arrangements and seating charts, the wedding wasn’t the important part — the marriage was.
We agreed to a religious ceremony followed by a lunch reception at a nice hotel in Herzliya in order to keep our families happy, but eschewed some of the more traditional wedding customs, such as dancing, best-man speeches, and bridesmaids.
Admittedly, there was one thing even I couldn’t help conceding to: the wedding-industrial complex, which was The Dress. I picked out a voluminous ivory concoction along with what the bridal store assistant described as a “cathedral-length” veil that was, perhaps, not the ideal ensemble for a beach-adjacent ceremony performed by an Orthodox rabbi at the dawn of an Israeli summer.
Still, having refused to subscribe to the notion that my nuptials should be the Happiest Day of My Life (what about all the days to follow?), I wasn’t too concerned when little things started going wrong as the wedding drew closer.
Seventy-two hours before the ceremony, the fake tan I’d applied, to alleviate my ghostly Ashkenazi complexion, began to crack, leaving uneven white patches across my body, which meant my fiancé and I spent a less than romantic evening frantically scrubbing my torso with lemon and baking soda. The following day, the EasyJet plane carrying my brother and other guests from London was turned around mid-way through the flight and delayed for 24 hours with no guarantees it would arrive in Israel in time for the wedding. On the day itself, the wrong date was printed on the menus, our parents’ names were misspelled on the seating chart, there weren’t enough chairs for guests to sit on during the ceremony and the florist lost my bouquet. But, as each new problem arose, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that none of it mattered as long as we ended up married.
About ten minutes before the ceremony was due to start, as guests were assembling outside, I was waiting in my suite for my father to come and get me when someone started pounding frantically on the door. I gathered up my numerous skirts and shuffled over to open it.
There stood a member of hotel staff holding a walkie-talkie.“You have to evacuate your room,” he insisted breathlessly.
“We just got a call that there’s a poisonous gas coming through the water pipes in this part of the resort. It won’t affect the wedding but you need to get out of here immediately.”
I barely had time to grab my shoes and veil. In the commotion, no one bothered to tell my dad that I’d been relocated to a different suite, which meant the ceremony was delayed while he tried to find me. By the time I finally made it to the chupah where my fiancé and our parents now stood, it didn’t occur to me that anything else could go wrong.
As the rabbi started the service, I zoned out, suddenly feeling the weight of my 6am wake-up call and the intense midday heat. I absent-mindedly wondered what would happen if I were to keel over in the middle of the ceremony. Even the sea breeze provided little respite as it rippled through the chupah, which rhythmically moved backwards and forwards with each gentle gust. Although propped up by a mille feuille of organza and tulle, I was swaying slightly, too, and could feel beads of sweat running down my arms.
As the canopy shifted, I strained to feel the air current in the hope that it would cool me down. Out of the corner of my eye, though, I noticed something. The chupah had swayed forward again, but, this time, instead of reclining back into place, it continued to descend. As if in slow motion, the 13-foot structure, laden with silk and flowers, lost its battle against gravity and collapsed onto the congregation in front of us.
Chairs were knocked to the floor, vases toppled, and flowers strewn across the lawn. As members of hotel staff ran to lift the chupah off our guests I was convinced the ceremony would have to be called off. Only my fiancé’s hand tightly squeezing mine prevented me from running back to my room in floods of tears.
Miraculously, however, there were no serious injuries. After ensuring everyone was still alive, the chupah was re-erected and the rabbi raced through the rest of the service.
I was married. But the wedding had been a disaster and the sense of disappointment was acute. During the reception, I thanked guests for coming and apologised for nearly killing them.
“It’s a sign of good luck!” an uncle said kindly, patting me on the shoulder. I couldn’t agree but appreciated the Jewish art of trying to find an upside to almost any tragedy.
“It’s like that episode of Sex and the City when Charlotte gets married,” more than one friend whispered while giving me a hug.
“Ach, nobody died,” shrugged my grandmother, a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor.
Two years on, we’ve just about recovered from the comedy of errors. We’ve even come to enjoy shocking people with the tale of our disastrous nuptials. And marriage has turned out to be wonderful, which is the most important thing.
Well, that and not killing any of your guests.