Everybody says their wedding was a rollercoaster, but mine really was, what with a blackout, a flood and a fire.
It was sometimes hard not to wonder – were all the complications bad omens? In the end, we realized that these challenges were gifts. But before we got there, we experienced a ridiculous number of highs and lows.
Nine days before the wedding, which was near Chicago, we got this call from our planner: “We just learned that the local electrical company will need to perform emergency repairs on the hotel the night before your wedding. There will be no electricity in the hotel. Therefore, your guests will need to stay at another hotel that night. We’ve been assured that the power will be back on by 9 a.m. on the day of your wedding.” The wedding was scheduled to start at 1 p.m.
Um, okay. We took deep breaths, and tried to figure out how to best proceed. We alerted our out-of-town guests and had them all move their reservations to a different hotel. Sure, it was a minor inconvenience, but it wasn’t a huge deal. Then, over the next 24 hours, Seth and I began to have more questions. “How could they ensure that the power would be back on in time? “How will they prepare the food?” “How will there be ice and adequate refrigeration?” “What about air conditioning?” “What if THERE WAS NO ELECTRICITY FOR OUR WEDDING?”
We contacted our hotel, but didn’t hear anything back for a number of hours, which was out of character for the wonderful staff there. I decided to call the local electrical company, who told me that they couldn’t actually guarantee an “end-time” for repairs.
And to make matters worse, when we finally reached someone at the hotel, we heard the next bombshell: there was a terrible storm, and the hotel had seriously flooded. There was no power already. Most staff were not even in the office. There were street closures all over the area.
Now we were panicking.
The staff did their best to reassure us that everything would be okay, and they agreed that it was time to move the venue.
Nothing like planning an entirely new wedding only one week before the big day! They took very good care of us, helping us move the affair to a sister-hotel in the same suburban area.
We contacted every guest and gave them yet more new information. Our friends and family were supportive, encouraging,and loving. Many people stepped up and really helped in many ways, with phone calls, arrangements and more.
Seth and I tried to breathe along the way, and we did our best to freak out at different times. It truly tested us, yet I believe that we passed with flying colors. When I fell apart under the stress and worry, Seth lifted me up with care and tenderness. When it was his turn to collapse from a growing sense of tzuris, I could hold his hand and just let him feel his feelings.
Then, when we were finally hitting our stride and calming down, we had one more challenge – a 1 a.m. fire at another hotel that we were staying at a few days before the wedding. We were woken up by the siren, hearts racing; then we got ourselves outside into the 45 degree Chicago spring in the middle of the night. This was when we really started to ask why were we having such a difficult stretch before our big day, and experienced something of an epiphany.
These difficult events were strengthening us, and our relationship. They proved to us how resilient we could be, and how much we could depend on each other to get through the roller coasters of life. We didn’t need to wait until a future crisis hit us to see how we would handle it. Instead, life presented us a number of hardships over a few days, at one of the most wonderful yet stressful times of our lives, and we survived.
All the stress reminded us that, in the end, all that mattered was that we would be husband and wife. It didn’t matter where or how it happened (we were even ready to move it all to a McDonald’s if we had to). We still smiled, and we still had an incredible time. And, most of all, The wedding turned out to be the most beautiful, perfect day, as if it was always meant to be at the new location.
Judaism, as a tradition, has never shied away from recognizing that the bitter and the sweet always reside together. During every happy event, we take time to remember our loved ones who have died, or the tragedies that our ancestors have endured in the past. We treasure our simchas, while recognizing that we may suffer along the way to each milestone. God is the God of light and dark, day and night, good and bad. We are survivors, we are strong and we go on.
Naomi Shemer, an Israeli songwriter, captured this beautifully in “Al Kol Eleh:”
Over all these, over all these,
God please watch over them for me,
Over the honey and the stinger
Over the bitter and the sweet.
God watches the honey and the stinger. I trust that God knew that Seth and I would not only get through the trials before the wedding, but that we would soon look back with a smile and be heartened by how well we solved each problem and coped with each step along the way. We feel more confident that we will be fine, no matter what life brings us, because we will approach it all together.
Rabbi Marci Bellows is a spiritual leader at Temple B’nai Torah community in Wantagh, Long Island. A native of Skokie, Illinois, she earned a B.A. in Psychology from Brandeis University and a Masters in Hebrew Literature in 2003 from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She was ordained in 2004.