My Daughter's Wedding!
My daughter's wedding! Beautiful and unforgettable, filled with love and radiance.
Mazal tov, Shoshana and Ian! (No, it was not in India, but hey, Connecticut is lovely in the summer.)
Below, one particularly poignant and joyous moment before the wedding.
Since weddings have been uppermost in my mind, I decided to write a little more about wedding customs in the Baghdadi Jewish community of India.
Things have changed since my great-grandmother was married to my great-grandfather in 1887. She was 12. He was 19. Obviously it was an arranged marriage—with a professional matchmaker as the intermediary. It was common for girls as young as 10, and usually between 12 and 13, to become engaged. Boys were between 18 and 20. The matchmakers were usually women: their standard fee was a complete outfit, from head to toe. Only once a match was negotiated did the boy and girl meet for the first time. Shades of Fiddler on the Roof!
The engagement itself took place at the girl's home. The master of ceremonies was a dakaka, a woman who was an expert drummer and tambourine player. She didn't just play: she showed her skill while balancing a glass full of liquid or a candy tray on her head!
During every holiday during the engagement period, the boy's family sent trays of sweets to the girls family. Both families contributed to the couple's new home. The groom's mother gave the bride-to-be a substantial piece of jewelry. The bride's family supplied the trousseau, jewelry, furniture and gold-embroidered house shoes, and a tallit bag and kippah for the groom. The groom's family paid for the mattress, wedding gown and suit,
and wedding expenses.
A night or two before wedding the family held a henna celebration: henna was placed on tips of the bride's fingers and the small finger of the groom. The bride changed gowns after henna ceremony as many times as her trousseau would allow. In later years, even when an official matchmaker was not involved, parents or relatives usually initiated the match. Sometimes, however, it was purely a love match.
As is universal in Jewish communities worldwide, we have a huppah (wedding canopy); ketubah (marriage contract); sheba berakhot (seven wedding blessings), and breaking of the glass. At the wedding dinner and seven nights following, a large candle was lit, and there was lots of singing and ululating! The candle was preserved in case the couple had a son. Then it would be used again at the night preceding the brit milah, the circumcision.
On the first Shabbat after the marriage the groom was given special seat in front of synagogue. A special pizmon (song) was chanted in his honor. Women gathered in the bride's home to honor her.
My father and mother went on their first “date” with my mother’s older sister as a chaperone. My mother sat in the back seat, her sister sat in the front, and my father looked at my mother through the rear view mirror! They got married not long after, and here they are with their wedding cake! Sept 11, 1955.
When we travel to Calcutta on our tours, we stay at the Great Eastern Lalit Hotel, the site of my parents' wedding reception. I'm pretty sure I have found the very spot where this photo was taken!
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Rahel Musleah was born in Calcutta, India, the seventh generation of a Calcutta Jewish family that traces its roots to 17th-century Baghdad.