Blogger and author Meg Keene tackles the messy reality of wedding planning, from dealing with toxic relatives to facing terminal illness
That willingness to play with the possibilities of “tradition” have made A Practical Wedding a home for earnest confessionals about designing Jewish ceremonies, or about bringing other faith elements into Jewish weddings. A recent “wedding graduate” post detailed how one woman, an atheist whose Mexican Catholic mother had converted to marry her unobservant but Jewishly identified father, chose to have her maternal grandfather drape her and her groom with the family’s lazo rosary beads, complete with a golden crucifix, under the chuppah. Another reader wrote about banning wedding talk on Shabbat with her fiancé in the midst of debating the text of their ketubah.
Nevertheless, it was a post Keene—who grew up in an church-going Protestant household but told me she converted so that she and her husband, David, could raise their children in a single faith—wrote about what her chuppah meant to her that provoked what she says has been the site’s most contentious debate. “ ‘The chuppah does not promise that love or hope or pledges will keep out weather or catastrophe, but its few lines are a sketch for what that might be,’ ” Keene wrote, quoting her wedding program. “Married life is wonderful, but complicated, and in the midst of those twists and turns, I need that moment in the sun to look back on, to have those public sketches of hope, that moment of choosing.” In response, non-Jewish readers said they were inspired to include chuppahs in their own wedding ceremonies—prompting Keene to respond, fiercely, that it was “borderline offensive” for non-Jews to adopt some cultural and religious symbols for their own weddings. “We had people saying there are elements of our religion that are not open to appropriation, and there was a reaction of people saying, ‘How can you tell me no?’ ” Keene said. “But this is what happens in the wedding industry—people start to say, ‘Aren’t these all cute things to do at a wedding?’ ”
It’s precisely the blunt nature of the discussions that draws a loyal audience to the site: about 120,000 visitors a month, almost exclusively women, including many who have no immediate plans to get married and women whose weddings have long since passed. It is not a place where anything gets sugarcoated. So, there are heartbreaking posts from people who have called off weddings at the last minute—including one by a woman who discovered she had a brain tumor immediately after telling her fiancé she was having doubts—and there are emotional horror stories, like one from a reader who wrote in for advice about dealing with her fiancé’s nightmarish twin sister: “She stormed out of the room and then later declared that if she wanted to she could sabotage the wedding and make our lives a living hell.”
Other stories are less dramatic but nevertheless resonate with readers stressed about their own banal wedding stress—people who can’t believe they’re worrying about such little things. Last year, a woman named Morgan wrote about trying to contain her narcissistic mother. “So there I am, all dressed up, tiara and veil on, feeling pretty and bridal, waiting for some maternal approval,” Morgan wrote. “Her only comment? ‘Your elbows are too brown, you should moisturize more.’ ” Someone named Claire responded, “As I’ve been prowling blogs and message boards for ideas and information about planning my wedding, I’ve felt like all the ‘normal’ people have had a smooth, easy time with this, and all those who have difficulty with family are somehow low class or trashy. I’m so relieved.”
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