For the sake of privacy, I'm going to quote, rather than link to, J's account of how the wedding got split into two:
So why is this wedding so unusual? Well, we're dividing it into two parts, that's what. In the old days Jewish weddings used to be done in two parts, with up to a year between them. During this year, the groom would be frantically scraping together cash, trying to make good on his promises to the father, bride, mother, etc. However, this custom fell out of favour in the Middle Ages, when it became quite likely that in the intervening time, the groom would be killed in a pogrom or something. This left the bride in a bit of a pickle, as we will see below. However, owing to our peculiar circumstances, we're going to do it the old way, and just hope there won't be any pogroms in the intervening week.
So, the first part: The first part of the wedding (extending far enough into the ceremony that splitting up afterwards would have required a full divorce) was a sort of distillation of everything that is wonderful about Oxford, the university, the town, the location, and the Jewish community. Present were J's close family (which is rather larger than the 'average' nuclear set-up, but without being swollen to unwieldly proportions with pointless cousins), some of the best people from what is a wonderful community, and about two dozen of J's closest friends (who happen to include a good twenty of my favourite people too!)
The ceremony itself was truly moving; J had really put thought and effort into every detail and come up with something that was both wholly personal and wholly traditional. She'd also made her own wedding dress, and the chupah1, and calligraphed the witness document herself, and these things were all fantastically stylish even by the standards of J. J happens to be very well suited indeed by a veil, but her lovely outfit was quite eclipsed by the radiance of her expression; I know it's a cliché, but it was quite apt in this case. Watching her circle her about-to-be-husband I really felt I understood why the Hebrew word for marriage is connected to the word holy.
The wedding was conducted by AM, someone whom I admire very much indeed; she is one of those rare people who are truly religious, able to bring holiness to everything, and full of real, sincere, practical love for the people around her. She's also a semi-professional storyteller, and embellished the ceremony with breathtakingly beautiful nigun2 singing and a rather sweet story. The witnesses were her teenage son and our friend New A; the latter's presence was really quite amazing, for reasons I shall not explain in public. And a sweet fluffy rabbi led the mincha3 service afterwards.
The whole thing was very much in the OJC style; everybody, from every sort of background, was made welcome. We scattered knowledgeable Jewish people among the non-Jewish guests, and, as ever in Oxford, the Jewish participants were happy to embrace customs different from their own particular traditions.
Then after the service we repaired to the Mitre for the one of the most pleasant social occasions I've ever attended. This had a lot to do with the fact that many delightful people whom I see all too rarely were present, but it also had a lot to do with the fact that J had planned things beautifully. Just to give it an 'English' flavour, there were several varieties of tea, as well as scones (made by J) with jam and cream. But also bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese, as a concession to Mr J (technically, I should call her 'Mrs W', but hey).
It was so exciting to catch up with such people as new A, GM, JK, NZ, EF and many other cool people. JK has completed his probationary year as a deacon and is about to be ordained as a full priest. He invited me to the occasion of his first Eucharist as a priest; although I sadly shan't be able to make it, it seems rather funky to be invited to such an event! And GM was in fine form, making devastatingly witty remarks that no-one could quite believe issued from the mouth of our own sweet innocent G!
I was also pleased to be able to introduce Michael to quite a lot of my friends at once. At one point I managed to leave him trapped in a corner by a whole crowd of my more fascinating female friends, many of whom just happen to be single and attractive. I shall be quite astounded if anything comes of this scheme, but Michael and my eligible friends appreciating eachothers' company is no bad thing for its own sake. Sadly Screwy wasn't able to make it in the end; he is the only one of the sibs who hasn't yet met Michael.
Oh, and my sister was absolutely brilliant: this 19-year-old kid shoved into a big party where she knew essentially nobody, and she was witty and charming and sociable and full of this amazing confidence and poise. Yay my sister.
I also had fun playing Jewish geography. It turns out that someone I've known for years from the Oxford community is actually my überboss' sister-in-law. And the new boyfriend of J's friend RB turns out to have connections in my part of the Jewish community, as well as knowing the sibs through youth movement stuff.
1. Wedding canopy
2. Tune without words or with a very few simple words, sung repeatedly as a sort of meditation
3. Afternoon prayers
So all in all, a super, super (half) wedding. I think I'd better move the second half to a second post, otherwise this is going to be too long to post at all!
Addendum 14.9.03: neonchameleon also wrote about it.