The second half of the wedding definitely stood in contrast to the first. J and I were really quite over-awed by the synagogue, which is after a model that really doesn't exist in England. Apart from anything else, it's a medium sized synagogue by American standards, which makes it as big as the biggest synagogues in England. It has its own ballroom (and apparently also its own swimming pool, but we didn't investigate that).
OK, so I feel a leetle uncomfortable in a synagogue where there are not only wooden pews, vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and a pulpit, but an American flag with a big statue of an eagle right in front of what looks strangely like an altar rail. But aside from that, the ceremony was thoroughly lovely. Again, J and W had put loads of thought into every detail of it. The officiating rabbi started his speech praising the couple saying, "Ever the iconoclasts..." and he was obviously absolutely glowing with pride at the way that they'd done such serious research into the relevant halacha and applied it in a way that's personal to them, but treating the tradition with the utmost respect. Very much in line with the best of what Conservative Judaism should be (J and W don't really identify as Conservative, mainly because most real-life Conservative Jews don't live up to this sort of standard).
Before the ceremony began, the bride and groom each led a shiur1. J's (attended by the female guests) was absolutely brilliant; incredibly thought-provoking and educational, but also she had such an engaging style, she really got the group on her side, and this was a couple of dozen total strangers, some of whom are intimidatingly knowledgeable. She's a natural teacher, as well as her many other talents; I was so proud of her!
The party was amazing fun, in a very American Jewish way. The food was kosher Chinese, and there was lots of it. Oh, and there was the most enormous chocolate cake ever for the wedding cake. And Mr J's friends were very sweet and welcoming to J and the three of us (me, darcydodo and sampiano).
The music was a rather annoying band playing generic sub-klezmer wedding music. J professes to hate klezmer, which I think unfortunate, but this band really wasn't going to be the one to alter that opinion. However, the totally spontaneous enthusiasm of the guests made the band very nearly superfluous; we ended up dancing in the foyer, before we'd even had a chance to move into the ballroom, and singing with enough gusto to force the band up to a decent tempo if not actually drown them out. J complained that she doesn't really know any of the dances, but she quickly worked out that most of what was going on was mayim (grapevine) round in circles, when it wasn't completely random bouncing. We ended up getting the couple up on chairs and various other bits straight out of Fiddler on the Roof. But it was spontaneous and sincere and genuine, which made it not at all corny. There was a real sense of joy, rather than people trying too hard to be 'authentically' folksy.
And J was so, so happy. She said at one point that she thought her face would break from smiling so much. I am incredibly glad that I was able to go to this utterly memorable wedding and celebrate with my dear J.
1. Guided session for studying Jewish texts.
Oh, and here is darcydodo's version, and here is sampiano's account, which includes photos.