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Jewish Journal

Re-imagining and recycling traditional wedding objects

Cora Markowitz

June 25, 2014 | 1:08 pm

Artists and creative newlyweds are finding new ways to make the trappings and ceremonial elements of Jewish weddings their own — and then to have these mementos live on and remain useful long after the actual ceremony.

The evidence? Broken shards of glass turned into art, chuppahs repurposed and more.

Cigall Goldman, founder and CEO of mazelmoments.com, a Jewish event-planning site in New York, said there are opposing influences on couples approaching their wedding.

“There are only so many trends with the ceremony, since it’s based on traditions and rituals that go way back,” Goldman told the Journal. But, she continued, “Modern Jewish couples want the wedding to be a reflection of the couple.” 

One place to start is with the chuppah. The centerpiece of any Jewish wedding, it has gone from a traditional tallit to a statement piece, with personalized themes, colors and creative touches. 

Today, the rustic-chic theme is popular, with an “organic, earthy vibe” with perhaps a grape vine or birch poles providing an all-natural feel, said Goldman, who in April led a webinar on nationwide Jewish wedding trends. “A more modern chuppah with a sleek, rectangular design has gained popularity too.”

Karina Rabin, owner of Happy Chuppah of Orange County, said, “Lately, birch is extremely popular because it’s natural. Flowers are also popular — roses, hydrangea, peonies. We also include crystals as an added decoration, and they’re complimentary, so they’re good if someone’s on a budget. A lot of fabric is also popular, chiffon fabric in white or ivory. People like to make a statement and go all out.”

After the wedding ceremony, couples often find a new purpose for their chuppah, which represents the home they are building together. Goldman said it could be used for decor at the reception or set up over the sweetheart table for the just-marrieds. 

Its uses can go far beyond the wedding day, too.

“People often purchase the top, which is the actual chuppah, and use the fabric for a baby naming or a bris,” Rabin said. “They decorate a table and cover it with the chuppah as the linen and put pictures on the table of family members who have passed away. Couples also pass on the chuppah to their children for their wedding; that happens a lot.”

When it comes to the traditional marriage contract, the ketubah, papercut versions have become very popular, according to Andrew Fish of Gallery Judaica in Los Angeles. 

“Papercut ketubot are our biggest sellers,” he said. “Two artists in particular, Danny Azoulay and Enya Keshet, have created amazing selections of exquisite, meticulously detailed designs, which are cut by laser. We think that one reason these pieces have become so widespread is that the majority of them offer a stunning way to display your wedding vows while maintaining a neutral color. This way, if you change your decor, you don’t have to worry about color matching.”

Keshet, who lives in Israel and also offers custom-made ketubot that are hand-painted, said in an email that she offers both a traditional text and alternative options that she composed herself: “The ‘Pledge of Love,’ which leans on tradition and stresses the long-term mutual responsibilities, and the ‘Vision of the House,’ which sets the house as a metaphor to marriage … special versions of the vows are adapted to same-sex weddings and even to interfaith ones.”

The traditional broken wedding glass, once stomped on and forgotten, can now live on as a part of anything from a Kiddush cup to a picture frame. In its new form, the couple can keep the glass pieces to remind them of their special day. Fay Miller of Los Angeles conceived the idea of reusing the broken glass pieces some 20 years ago, crafting unique designs including the pieces through her company, Shardz.

“I came up with the idea at the wedding of my husband’s cousin’s daughter. He said no one does anything with the broken glass, and I said, ‘We should.’ That began a journey of apprenticeship at my studio with another glass artist. I built my own furnace and piped it except for the electrical. I learned how to work with high-temperature cement. I think that’s not bad for an old Jewish lady,” she said. 

“Working with the broken glass puts me in touch with the joy and ritual they represent. … I feel I’m a part of so many Jewish lives, and I’m honored they choose me to preserve such important memories.”

Other well-known artists, such as Gary Rosenthal of Maryland, have been inspired by the practice. Rosenthal said the mezuzah he makes for broken wedding glasses is his most popular item with couples.

“You lift up the top of the mezuzah and put the shards in front, and then you have it in your home as a permanent memento,” he said.

Rosenthal integrates shards with other Jewish ritual objects as well, such as Kiddush cups and menorahs. He also creates picture frames, heart-shaped pieces and other designs. 

“They’re like little treasure boxes,” he said.

Today, long after the Jewish wedding ceremony has ended, artists like Rosenthal help the promises a married couple have made to each other on their wedding day live on — and live on in style.

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