On the very cold night of January 25 at 9pm, outside the Planetarium overlooking an unobstructed view of the Chicago skyline, a sweet, handsome young man got down on one knee and proposed to his shocked and freezing girlfriend.
And she said yes.
By 10pm most of their friends and half of greater Chicago had heard the good news. First thing the next morning, they made it official by changing their Facebook status from “in a relationship” to “engaged.” And 30 seconds later, they had booked the wedding date, venue, band and photographer (okay maybe that’s an exaggeration, but my mom may be the world’s most efficient amateur wedding planner.)
If you haven’t caught on, this modern-day Jewish fairytale is about me and my now fiancé, Mike. I mean, I’m pretty sure every Jewish fairytale begins with “They first locked eyes across a crowded conference room at the JUF building” and ends with “and they lived happily ever after” right? (True story—we met while Mike was also working for JUF!) Even though our wedding is over a year away, the past few months have been a whirlwind of mazel tovs and celebrations, and talk of guest lists, bridesmaid dresses, flowers and my “vision” for my wedding day (that one always cracks me up).
And while my relationship with Mike may seem like a fairytale, trust me, I’m not a princess kind of gal. I’m not that girl who has dreamt of her wedding day since she was five—truthfully, I’d never really even thought about it until now. My only “vision” for my wedding day is of a room full of windows so the sun will shine in during the ceremony. My parents want a great band, where all of our closest friends will dance the night away. And as for Mike, all he cares about is that we serve baby lamb chops during the cocktail hour.
What I have been struggling with the most throughout this process is how to make our wedding feel meaningful, unique, and personal to us. With so much to do surrounding an engagement, it’s easy to understand how people get swept away in planning the big party and don’t really have time to digest what getting married really means. Every once and awhile, though, it hits me: “So,” I turned to Mike one day, “you’re gonna like be my husband?” And when our families came together for seder this year and my grandma referred to Mike’s parents as my in-laws, I suddenly realized that what was now two families would soon become one.
Getting married is also about carrying on traditions, and not just traditions like registering for things like oven mitts and ice cream makers (I totally want one of these, by the way) and then acting surprised when someone buys them for you, or tearing up when you’ve found the dress you will wear on that special day (I’m just not a crier). It’s about really meaningful traditions—like getting married by the rabbi and cantor from my family’s synagogue, having my sister and my closest friends stand up with me, dancing the hora and the cha cha slide with my friends and family and walking down the aisle toward the greatest guy I know while trying not to trip on the train of my gown.
And then there are the kinds of traditions that go on long past your wedding day—like breaking the fast at my parents’ house on Yom Kippur with bagels, lox and tuna salad, or bringing back the Friday night dinners Mike had with his family as a kid. When Mike and I go from single to married, does that mean we also go from children to grownups? It seems to me that soon it will be up to us to figure out how to meld our families’ traditions together and make new ones of our own. And if we’re the ones to host the seder, does that mean we can’t sit at the kids table anymore?
Lucky for me, I have a great guy, amazing parents, and wonderful in-laws-to-be to help navigate the path from Miss to Mrs. And lucky for Mike, he has me!
Oh, and if we’re really lucky, we’ll get to carry on in the great fairytale tradition and live happily ever after.