Never heard of Shavuot? Don’t feel bad! Neither had I until I worked in a Jewish congregation as the in-house wedding coordinator and creating celebrations for the Jewish holidays for the congregation was also part of the job! What to me was an unheard of holiday, has become my favorite Jewish holiday of the year–that’s right–more than Chanukah, Passover and much more than the High Holidays–I LOVE Shavuot!
There’s all kinds of significance attached to Shavuot. Let’s face it…we used to be an agricultural society. Following the on-set of spring with Passover we entered into a time of wondering about the spring agricultural season. Wheat crops, being the last to “bloom” happen about 7 weeks after Passover. Thus, the holiday Shavuot, became known as a time for travel to The Temple to bring the fruits of the harvest. (Also probably at the same time as travel to the city market to sell the grains!) Another explanation for the holiday: we received the Torah (the actual tablets) 7 weeks after the Exodus from Egypt and Shavuot celebrates the gift of Torah!
Every Jewish holiday has its food and Shavuot is no exception. Dairy is the culinary symbol of Shavuot. Who cares about the reason why? We get to eat blintzes, cheesecake and ice cream sundaes, OH MY!
Dessert bars have been a huge trend at weddings for several years and we’re not seeing it go away anytime soon. Now, we’re seeing wedding couples getting really clever with them. Like this couple who brought in an ice cream food truck for their guests to enjoy at the end of the night (makes for great pictures too).
Shavuot is the holiday we celebrate receiving the Torah. I make no secret about the fact that I am a contemporary Jew. To me, the Torah contains our commitments to living an ethical life. What better time to evaluate the essential rules we live by? Ask yourself, what are the commandments that you want to guide your marriage and by extension your work, home and social life? Those sentiments can be written into your Ketubah text and into your chuppah ceremony.
It is a Shavuot tradition in some synagogues to drape the sanctuary with flowers and greenery during Shavuot as a reminder of the celebration of fruit and grain harvests that the Israelites brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. There isn’t quite anything quite as luxurious and elegant as a chuppah, table or cake decorated with beautiful floral and greenery.
We are encouraged to experience Shavuot by embracing mitzvot—good deeds. In the spirit of the holiday, do your best to reduce your wedding’s carbon footprint, give a portion of your wedding budget to a cause like Mazon or donate to a charity in honor of your guests’ sharing your special day.
On Shavuot, we read the Book of Ruth, the story of a Moabite princess who is considered to be the first Jew by Choice. She converts to Judaism with the famous words, “Wherever you will go, I will go, where you lodge, I will lodge, your people are my people and your God is my God.” Great Jewish scholar and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin writes, “In the thousands of years since Ruth spoke these words, no one has better defined the combination of peoplehood and religion that characterizes Judaism.”
At your own Modern Jewish Wedding be respectful of everyone in attendance, Jews and non-Jews alike. Have a program that explains the Jewish wedding traditions which you are choosing to include in your ceremony and reception to all your guests.
We stood at Sinai and declared our acceptance of Torah with the words: “Na’aseh V’nishmah—We will do and we will hear.” Your wedding day, like Shavuot is the perfect time to consider your faith and commitment to one another and to Judaism. Before you get wrapped up in the energy of the day. Find a quiet space and read a letter from your intended. It’s highly personal, spiritual and sentimental. And, it will be the only time of the entire rest of the day you may be alone with your thoughts.