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After the multitude of portraits have been finished it is time for the wedding to get underway. Orthodox weddings have so many parts and ceremonies it is what I love about them. Each part is a chapter in a story and the story’s energy level increases as we progress through this book. And each page of this chapter is rich with meaning.

To the newcomer it will all seem a bit chaotic. To you I say, “welcome to an orthodox wedding!” You have your head table with a bunch of people doing things that you can barely see, let alone hear. A whole bunch of people singing, dancing, and perhaps having a l’chaim or two. The fathers lift something, a piece of paper gets signed, the chosson (groom) lifts something and we all dance. Oh, and a broken plate. What’s going on here?

First up is the tena’im, the engagement contract. It used be that this document was signed, or more accurately accepted, by the fathers at the time of the engagement not at the wedding itself. These days, it is a formality taken care of during the tish. Now instead of a tena’im they have a vort which is an engagement party.

Next is the ketubah. An honored guest reads it aloud, the chosson accepts the terms, and the rabbi offers an item for the chosson to lift as a physical affirmation of his intention of marrying his kallah (bride). This action is witnessed by two people who then sign the ketubah. The amazing thing to me, as a photographer, is the mundane nature of the object lifted. It could be a napkin, a pen, a kippah, or even an iPhone. The object doesn’t matter, the action of acceptance does.

Now the mothers break a plate (for many reasons similar to the broken glass under the chuppah) and off we go to the bedeken, my favorite part of the whole day.

For all intents and purposes the couple are married at this point. Some chossonim attempt to deliver a dvar torah, a teaching or lesson, just to be interrupted by their friends, and others forgo this tradition. What always is, is dancing and singing.

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