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Jewish Journal

It’s about the marriage, not the wedding

by Leisah Woldoff

December 13, 2007 | 7:00 pm

It's the marriage that's important, not the wedding.

When planning my wedding, I repeated that mantra each time wedding details began to overwhelm me. Hors d'oeuvres, centerpieces, flowers, music, cake -- the to-do list kept growing.

A few days after Ron proposed, I told him I wanted to avoid the inevitable stress involved with planning a big wedding.

"I just want something simple," I said.

"Great, me too," he replied, cautiously eyeing the big stack of wedding planning books I had just checked out of the library.

After skimming through a number of these books, I learned that even planning a simple wedding can be complicated.

In order to make the process as simple as possible, I spent an hour at Borders selecting the most appropriate wedding organizer. On Page 14 is a wedding planning checklist and the first heading is "Nine months and earlier." The only thing on the list we'd accomplished so far was selecting a date -- six months away. I hadn't yet reserved the ceremony or reception sites, booked a photographer, ordered my dress or selected a color scheme.

All that to do and I haven't even gotten to the second heading: "Six to nine months before wedding." We were already behind in booking the caterer, musicians, videographer and florist.

But a conversation with Lori Palatnik, an author and Jewish educator, reminded me that I shouldn't let details like flowers and wedding cake distract me from the real purpose of the wedding.

"You should spend as much time planning your marriage as you do your wedding," she advised.

So that means that in between choosing invitations and centerpieces we should also focus on what happens after the glass is broken under the chuppah? Hmm, good idea. But how?

First of all, Palatnik says that engaged couples must throw away misconceptions fed by the movies.

Marriage is "not like the movies," she said. "You're not going to feel 'wow' every day."

In fact, if a person thinks their fianceé is "perfect," it may be a case of infatuation rather than love, since of course nobody is perfect. Love is both eyes open, she said. You see the virtues and acknowledge the challenges, then decide if you still want to go through with it.

"Infatuation feels like love and looks like love, but it's counterfeit," she said.

However, infatuation after marriage is ideal, she added. Then it's OK to put on the "rose-colored glasses" and see only the positive qualities of your spouse.

"Love is the emotion that you feel when you focus in on the virtues of another person and you identify them with those virtues," she said. "Unfortunately, what people end up doing a few years into a marriage is you start focusing on the negative qualities and you forget the positive qualities. They're still there, but you made a choice not to focus in on them."

The second aspect of marriage that Palatnik mentioned was a person must make what's important to his or her spouse important to them.

Her third piece of advice is: The more you give, the more you love.

"Giving leads to loving," she says, and compares it to the love mothers have for their babies. "For the first few months, what do you get back? Sleepless nights and throw-up down your front. And yet you love this thing more than life itself."

However, most people make a mistake with his or her spouse and move away from this attitude.

"If you focus on giving in your marriage, you will have a loving marriage," except in abusive situations, she said.

Palatnik has been married for nearly 20 years and has divulged the "10 Secrets to a Great Jewish Marriage" across the United States, as well as Canada, South Africa, England and Israel, for six of those years.

"It took me over a decade of marriage to really get it," she said. "And I'm still working on it."

Palatnik, former host of the Toronto television show "The Jewish Journal," offers one last bit of advice.

"The No. 1 piece of advice I would give anybody -- I don't care if you're about to get married, if you're thinking about getting married or you've been married for 20 years -- learn the wisdom that the Torah has about how to have a good marriage."

In the first 18 months Ron and I knew each other, we went to seven weddings (two of those couples also met on JDate). Whether held in a formal ballroom or in an informal intimate garden setting, each wedding was beautiful. And they all ended the same way -- with two people ready to begin their new life together.

And that's what's really important.

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