Planning Your Jewish Wedding... Outdoors
The mountains. The ocean. The sunset. Outdoor weddings are beautiful!
It’s almost irresistibly tempting to hold your ceremony outdoors. The beauty of the creation inspires us to connect to the Creator, and, as our breath is taken away by the spectacular scenery, we enter the ceremony with a heightened sense of awe and peace.
Jewish wedding ceremonies typically include seven blessings, one for each day of your life together. Immediately after we bless the wine, we express thanks at the way everything created glorifies the Holy One. The sixth blessing evokes the Garden of Eden, enhancing the holiness of our holiest moment by surrounding ourselves with natural beautfy.
And yet… you may also want to consider holding your ceremony indoors and simply capturing some gorgeous photos outside. You will certainly have more control over the environment!
In Arizona, where I live, we plan outdoor events with impunity. With just seven inches of rain per year, what are the chances a wedding will get rained out? On the other hand, do you want to be the one to take that chance?
Make sure to check with your venue: When will the lawn be watered? What will it be like for guests wearing high heels as they approach the chuppah and sink into the grass? What might they have to say about their muddy shoes?
As a rabbi, I speak from experience. Once, my hat blew right off my head halfway through the ceremony!
I have also seen brides shivering in their sleeveless gowns, unable to focus on their big day, just waiting for an opportunity to head indoors and warm up. (If a meal is going to be served outdoors, consider having heaters available.) I’ve seen kiddush cups blow over, wine spilled everywhere – certainly detracting from the beauty of the ceremony. I’ve heard wind so loud that the microphones ceased to function. My colleague Rabbi Julie Zupan once looked into the Kiddush cup on a stunning fall day and saw six bees inside – doing the hora, perhaps?
If you plan to enter the ceremony on horseback, which I have witnessed, it is, of course, probably best to plan an outdoor event. Beyond that unique scenario, think about possible contingencies and make sure that you love your backup plan as much as you love Plan A.
Outdoors or inside, your wedding will be a wonderful celebration of your love and commitment.
Rabbi Bonnie Koppell serves as the associate rabbi of Temple Chai in Phoenix, AZ, where she also directs the Deutsch Family Shalom Center. A graduate of the U.S. Army War College, she retired with the rank of Colonel after 38 years of service as a U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain in June 2016.