September 20, 2018

Booking your destination wedding or honeymoon

If you recently got engaged and started the very exciting and challenging process of planning your wedding; one of the first things on the “to do” list will be to decide where you will have your wedding and honeymoon. There are couples who know exactly what they want and then there are those who have no idea and are feverishly discussing all their options. Will you get married locally or do you have an exotic destination wedding in mind? You could have your wedding in Italy and honeymoon in France! So many options and if you follow us, I will be posting about some dreamy and exciting destinations for any occasion.

Destination weddings have become increasingly popular, especially for those couples who don’t want to go through the “father of the bride” situation! Seriously though, having a destination wedding could mean that it can involve just the two of you, a select handful of family and friends or enough guests to constitute a bona fide week-long family reunion or vacation. They can be much simpler and depending on what you envision, also faster than planning a traditional wedding and reception for two main reasons; Most resorts and cruise lines have made it really easy to have weddings on site and many have experienced wedding coordinators to help you with all your requirements. They are familiar with the Country’s marriage license requirements and offer wedding packages that take care of all your ceremony essentials. All you do is spend time with your loved ones, while the coordinator takes care of the rest and follows your direction.

If you are considering getting married in another country, it may have crossed your mind to book everything yourself online to “save money” … You know the deal – you type “cheap tickets/accommodation” in a browser and then you have to go through twenty websites all offering some deal or another, only to discover in the end, that you didn’t quite get what you expected or hoped for. When asked whether I recommend booking a wedding or honeymoon online, my answer has always been a resounding NO! Not unless you want to spend your time dealing with one issue after another and trying to find resources, instead of enjoying your time together. I have literally not heard of one successful wedding or honeymoon booking that was done online by the couple on their own.

People, this is your wedding and/or honeymoon! This is a trip where you want to spend as much of your precious time enjoying each other’s company before you start your life together and have a fabulously romantic, relaxing experience. This is the one trip where you let the professionals deal with the details, or the drama if something should not quite go smoothly during your trip. If dressmaking is not your expertise, would you try to make your own wedding dress? Of course not!

If you are going to travel for your wedding and/or honeymoon, I suggest you work with a travel advisor; a professional travel consultant with the resources, connections and expertise to add great value to your travel plans. They are your advocate, they negotiate on your behalf, they have relationships with suppliers and can get you into places that you possibly could not and they curate the noise for you. This is their expertise, let them handle the details.

You will be busy with decisions such as the timing of your wedding and honeymoon, deciding whether you will buy the dress locally and take it with you or buy it where you are getting married, who will be in your bridal party, who will be invited to come along, what food you would like and what you will pack. Depending on your religious observance or lack thereof, you will need to find a Rabbi or officiant of your choice to perform the ceremony. When you have a travel advisor all you have to tell them is your vision for your special day, where you want to go for your honeymoon, what your budget is and they do the research for you. You just plan on having the time of your life. They can suggest what time of year will be best for your preferred destination and give you tips on the area to ensure a memorable (and insta-worthy) experience.

If you are planning to invite a group of family and friends, everyone might not be travelling together to the destination or back home. Some guests may want to remain after the wedding is over, or go earlier to enjoy some leisure time on their own prior to the wedding. Someone needs to keep everyone’s itineraries straight and ensure they all arrive in time for the wedding! All you need to handle once you are at your destination should be the details with the wedding coordinator. Not worry about your loved ones arriving on time. One thing I do recommend, is to have a scouting trip with your significant other to make sure the venue can fulfill your vision. Once you have confirmed your destination, ask your advisor if she can connect you with the wedding coordinator and go for a scouting trip at least a few months out.

We all know that we plan for the perfect wedding or honeymoon, but we also know that the flight or location details sometimes get muddled up, or the weather doesn’t play along. As I was writing this post, I had a discussion with a really helpful lady who is a travel advisor, Sharon Bame from Valerie Wilson Travel, who came highly recommended. She said when you are thinking about a destination wedding and/or honeymoon, she recommends you start planning as far out as you can; preferably a year or more. This is particularly important if you have a specific place in mind that is exclusive and also wildly popular. Other important factors are of course the size of your group and how flexible you are. If you do your bookings last minute, you might have to settle for the group to be spread out over several hotels and you might not find that spot you have been dreaming about. Last minute arrangements, especially if you have your heart set on a specific location, might also mean additional cost, so it is always best to book your destination wedding or honeymoon as far out as possible.

If you have any questions, Sharon is clearly experienced, creative and on top of it. The colleague who referred me to her for destination travel tips, said she has amazing attention to detail, was extremely focused and is passionate about her work and that is the perfect combination. Sharon specializes in Italy and France; particularly, Paris, South of France, Rome, Florence, Venice, Positano, and the Amalfi Coast. She is also into exquisite food and wine experiences, yoga, and hiking which means she can help you with any additional activities you might want to experience whether you are travelling locally, or outside of the US. In addition to her own travel experience she also has resources through their partners throughout the world and the cherry on the top is they are a member of Virtuoso: an organization with access to resources not available to the general public. You literally cannot go wrong when you have experience and almost endless resources at your disposal and while Sharon may specialize in the above areas, she can help you with just about any location. Sharon’s info is below. Do contact her if you have questions.

Sharon Bame Associate Advisor sharon.bame@vwti.com  | O 650.485.4545 | D  415.215.1079

Last but definitely not least; congratulations on your engagement – we wish you every happiness in the world!

Thank you for spending this time with me! More info on weddings and event planning, wine and food pairings and much more coming on this blog.

Batyah

 

Croatia: The Trending Wedding Destination

Whenever destination weddings come up in conversations with my wedding clients, the countries that usually pop up first are Paris or Italy which are known as the most romantic places for lovers and are the usual Countries that inspire romantic visions. Lately though, couples have been asking more about off the beaten track destinations which got me doing some research about the latest trends that are NOT France or Italy of course, and Croatia kept popping up as trending. In case you were wondering… The country is situated just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. It’s no wonder that it has the perfect climate for making wine and olive oil! Well there is no better way to get the down low about a country, than from a dynamo travel agent with many years of experience and hails from Croatia!

I have followed Julia’s travel pictures for a while now on FB and seen her posts about a variety of exotic Countries, but her pictures of Croatia really got my attention. I am just a pushover for blue waters and bluer skies! She told me about the stunning beauty of Croatia’s coastal areas and judging by the pictures I saw online and on her website, I could not agree more!

Apparently Croatia is fast becoming a leading wedding and honeymoon destination, which is no surprise considering its historical cities, vibrant culture, breathtaking scenery and fairytale islands, which all combine to make it a gorgeous location for a wedding abroad.

An ideal wedding needs at least ideal weather and Croatia has an abundance of sunny days. The Adriatic coast has a Mediterranean climate with cool, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. Kind of like Los Angeles. This means that Croatia gives you beautiful weather on the coast throughout the whole year.

Additional points in Croatia’s favor are excellent value for money, safe cities, the tourist resorts are extremely clean, it definitely has the WOW factor effect every bride wants at her wedding and English is widely spoken in the cities which is always helpful. In addition the destination wedding industry there has a proven track record. Beautiful, clean and stylish are all adjectives that describe Croatia.

If you are a foodie you are in luck.  You cannot go wrong with Croatia’s gastronomic delights. Fresh Adriatic fish and seafood combined with homegrown vegetables and fruits; not to mention perfectly balanced spices, will reassure  you that the food for your wedding will leave your guests very pleased!

With all this amazing food you will also expect good wine to accompany those scrumptious dishes! Whether you prefer white, red or rosé – Croatian wines are some of the best in the world! Istria’s signature wine varieties are Malvazija and Teran. Malvazija, an easy-drinking white wine with good minerality and apricot and apple notes, pairs well with seafood dishes. Teran, a robust red, goes well with meat dishes including boškarin and pršut. Your wedding venue management will provide a connoisseur to help you choose the perfect wines for your meals.

This gorgeous country has become quite a festival destination over the years. Ultra festival, Hideout, Electric elephant, Fresh island, Soundwave, Sonus, Dimensions, Outlook…  some of these could be a fun start to your wedding celebrations, or…. be the ideal bachelorette party or girls night out!

With all the festivals, film events, music events, folklore events and carnivals, yacht parties and cocktails, your wedding could be one continuous celebration and become an adventure your guests will never forget. Just imagine the photos on Insta showing a gallery of breathtaking locations with crystal clear turquoise water surrounding them? Imagine the envy from everyone who didn’t join you!

As it would anywhere, your budget will depend on many variable factors; the region you would like to get married in, the time of year, the number of guests attending, your personal tastes … and on and on. Although Croatia is still less expensive than many other European countries such as the UK, France or Italy, do not expect to have a full wedding for pennies.

However, what comes as standard, are breathtaking and luxury ceremony and reception venues (near the crystal clear sea), delicious haute cuisine, amazing wine and the summer breeze!

The best dates for a wedding are between April and October (June and September are great for milder weather and less crowds). Its natural beauty however, is just one of the many reasons why so many couples are choosing to marry here.

Croatia is a truly a best kept wedding destination secret!

I am betting once there, you will also want to spend some time exploring this beautiful country as part of, if not your entire honeymoon, as it is considered one of the hottest travel destinations. From what Julia told me the country’s appeal is its unique combination of culture, history, cuisine, accessibility and affordability. To me, these are all the essentials that makes for a great wedding abroad.

Don’t hesitate to stop and ask the locals for their favourite konobas (taverns), which are casual establishments, where you’ll find some of the most authentic cuisine. Julia recommends you try simply grilled fish drizzled with piquant Istrian olive oil, garnished with parsley and paired with a glass of crisp, dry malvazija wine. Yummy food, delicious wine, summer breezes and those views! What is not to love!

Croatia might be one of the most overlooked destination wedding for the past few years, but it looks like it’s making it’s way to the top, as couples are paying more attention to this gorgeous travel destination. It offers many amazing venues and talented wedding vendors so you will have all the help you need with planning and finding all the vendors you need.

Croatia has been heralded as the “Next Riviera” and with its stunning beaches and islands it makes an affordable alternative to the pricier Mediterranean. The fairytale Medieval cities, warm friendly locals, magnificent cuisine and especially the fact that it has has not yet been “over-touristed” makes it an even more desirable destination and it has an excellent tourism infrastructure that suits both adventurous travellers and those who need a degree of comfort in their planning. Guests who are invited to a wedding in Croatia will be thanking you and their lucky stars for ever!

It is a truly magical country and will be a great choice for your wedding. There is so much more to tell about this often overlooked wedding or travel destination, so don’t hesitate to click on the link below for Julia’s blog about Croatia and contact her directly if you need more information.  http://www.juliastravels.com/croatia/my-croatia-3/

BTW – for those of you who are Games of Thrones fans… Ever since the city of Dubrovnik was selected as the filming location for the fictional city of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones, travelers and digital nomads have been flocking to this seaside country known for its rugged beauty and uniqueness.

Last but not least… if you are Jewish and want to get married in Croatia but want to have the ceremony in a synagogue… there is a small but active community in the country.

Warmly;

‘Blue Lagoon’ Honeymoon

Islands and honeymoons are a time-tested match made in heaven. Perhaps that’s why so many newlyweds flirt with Fiji, a gorgeous archipelago nation in the South Pacific. 

This country is the embodiment of romance. One of its most recognizable islands is the Turtle Island resort, made famous as the backdrop for “The Blue Lagoon,” the 1980 classic movie featuring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins as shipwrecked children on a tropical island. 

Overall, the nation of more than 330 islands is a luxurious expanse of flora, fauna, surf and sand, enlivened with a mix of British, Melanesian, Polynesian and Indian cultural influences. Most days, the skies are deep blue, and when rains do hit, the showers are short and mild. Its garden-by-the-sea feel trickles over into its towns.

Adventurous couples will discover that Nadi, on the main island of Viti Levu, has plenty to keep them busy. Architecture buffs can wander the grounds of the colorful Sri Siva Subramaniya Hindu temple, while botanists should not miss the Garden of the Sleeping Giant (home of actor Raymond Burr’s world-famous orchid collection). There are also local village tours, golfing and multi-island cruises.

Bargain hunters will be drawn to the bustling bazaar environment of Nadi’s central business district, which can be as intense as open-air markets in Thailand and India. Those with more upscale tastes can head to Port Denarau. It serves the local Sheraton and Westin outposts as well as well-to-do expats occupying nearby vacation homes.  

A visit to the Fijian capital of Suva on the opposite end of Viti Levu is a must. It has a full complement of vibrant colonial government buildings, museums and public gardens. It also happens to be home to the nation’s small Jewish community. In 1881, 20-year-old Australian Henry Mark was the first Jew to settle in Fiji, where he was joined later by Jews from India, the Middle East and other Asian countries. Today’s community of about 60 individuals is just as eclectic. 

Still, for many honeymooners seeking an isolated, self-sustaining paradise, it all comes back to “The Blue Lagoon.” The movie was filmed on Turtle Island, known as Nanuya Levu before cable television pioneer Richard Evanson purchased it in 1972.

More than an advertisement for Fiji, the film gave Evanson unexpected inspiration to transform his once private island dream into a resort devised almost exclusively for honeymoons and destination weddings. 

Arrangements can be made for Jewish weddings, thanks to Turtle Island’s planners based in Washington, not far from where Evanson grew up. The “Richard’s Retreat” area where Evanson, who is not Jewish, married his current wife, has its own built-in chuppah. Devil’s Beach and Honeymoon Beach, meanwhile, are great for an informal exchange of vows or a private picnic.

Although the island has a long tradition of Christian weddings, as well as a beautiful chapel, planners will also assist Jewish couples with special arrangements and with their gourmet meals. 

While Shields and Atkins had each other and a tricked-out tree house in “The Blue Lagoon,” they have nothing on what Turtle Island guests are able to enjoy. Expansive bures — wood-and-straw huts — come with hardwood interiors and their own hot tubs, top-shelf wines and spirits, dreamy bedding and delicious coconut-infused toiletries. Each couple has a “Bure Mama” or “Papa” who tends to their needs.  

Activities available include scuba diving, snorkeling, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, kayaking or just enjoying one’s bure with a glass of Moët and a good book when the occasional rains come. 

It’s little surprise, then, that a number of notables keep coming back to Turtle Island. Visitors who have made it their home-away-from-home include movie producer Andrew Tennenbaum (“The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Water for Elephants”), Sen. John McCain (14 stays and counting), Al Gore, Eddie Van Halen, John Cleese and Ringo Starr. 

From the moment his first guests arrived on Jan. 1, 1980, Evanson was determined to create an internationally acclaimed honeymoon destination that was rooted in nature and true to the Fijian way of life, and it continues to be a work in progress. Ongoing improvements include the preservation of mangroves and coconut groves, the introduction of freshwater ponds to encourage bird life and the creation of a turtle release program designed to help save endangered green and hawksbill turtles.

Fruits and vegetables from Turtle Island’s hydroponic gardens are transformed, along with fish and meats from New Zealand and Australia, into a wide assortment of globally inspired dishes under the guidance of French-Australian chef Jacques Reymond. The menu theme changes on a daily basis, with the weekly Mongolian barbecue, Indian feast, American-style barbecue with a Polynesian spin standing as culinary highlights. 

Nightly convivial group dinner begins with a nondenominational “grace” said in the Fijian language, and the staff does a choral performance every Sunday — a must for fans of world music. While the church vocals are stunning, more-religious Jewish couples can inform general manager Alex Weiss about their preferences if they are uncomfortable.

A handful of couples keep to themselves, but most visitors take advantage of these dinners, sometimes forming friendships that could last a lifetime. And so, while Evanson himself will insist the Turtle Island experience is a couple’s-only affair, it is the sort of thing that ideally should be shared. Isn’t that kind of warmth a big part of what romance is all about? 

 

For more information, visit ” target=”_blank”>turtlefiji.com.

Honeymooning Zuckerberg reportedly stiffs Italian wait staff

Honeymooning Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his bride, Priscilla Chan, paid $40 for lunch at a kosher restaurant in Rome’s historic ghetto but did not leave a tip, according to Italian media.

Newspapers ran pictures of what they said was the billionaire couple’s bill at the Nonna Betta kosher restaurant—Jewish style artichokes and fried zucchini flowers (both Roman Jewish specialties) as starters; one order between them of ravioli stuffed with artichokes and sea bass; tea and water.

The total came to just 32 euro – about $40—including the cover charge for bread that is normal for restaurants in Italy.

Staff at the restaurant were quoted in newspapers as saying the couple did not leave any further gratuity.

“I asked him ‘how was it?,’ and he said ‘very good,’ ” Nonna Betta’s owner was quoted as telling the Corriere della Sera newspaper. “I had gone up to him and said, ‘Are you …?’ and he said, ‘Yes.’ “

Media reports said the couple went on to Capri after Rome.

Pre-Honeymoon Blues

When my boyfriend popped the question five months after we met, I thought it was extremely fast. It turns out he was too late. By the time we started to book our honeymoon to Italy for the middle of summer, departing a year to the day after he proposed, it seemed like we were out of luck if we wanted to use frequent flier miles.

“You can book up to 331 days in advance,” one mournful Delta customer service agent told me over the phone, when I called at 1:03 a.m., hoping to snag one of those reservations that time out at midnight Central Time and get put back in the system.

“He hadn’t even proposed 331 days ago,” I said wearily, not just because of the hour, but because it was the third week of my middle-of-the-night calls.

With fares to prime destinations in Europe for the summer nearing $1,000 a ticket, the Euro at an all-time high against the dollar and frequent flier seats at a big low, we were going to end up driving to Niagara Falls if we had to pay cash for our airfare. So I got busy on the phone trying to find us flights during my fiancé’s two-week school vacation that started at the end of June.

To complicate matters, he had 50,000 miles on Delta, good for one basic ticket to Europe, but I had only 3,000. I did have 49,250 miles on Continental, and lucky for us, Delta and Continental are air-mile partners, so I could fly on Delta or we could fly together on any of the partners they share in common, like Northwest and KLM.

If we each had 100,000 miles we would have had more options for dates. If we both had Delta miles, we could have flown on Alitalia, which has more flights to Italy than most other carriers. But this was what we had: his Delta miles, my Continental miles, fixed dates at the height of the summer travel season, five months to plan and very little budget.

My first two calls yielded nothing. A Delta agent told me I was too late and should give up. Continental told me I was too early.

On my third try in five days, I struck out on Delta, and then dialed up Continental. Much to my surprise, the agent found something. She came up with a flight on Delta from Newark to Atlanta to Milan on one of the dates we wanted to leave.

“So we can get to Italy, we just can’t get back?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

My fiancé was thrilled, but my mother preferred that we return to this country eventually.

I called and called and called. A week went by. Then another. We got on a wait list for two flights direct from Milan to JFK. We found one flight on Alitalia for my fiancé that went from Milan to Washington, D.C., but I would have had to pay for a full ticket to join him.

“We can come back from anywhere,” I told all the agents.

I figured that we could fly from Rome to Frankfurt on a discount carrier to get a flight home if it came to that.

The agents checked every city in Italy, then all of Western Europe, and then some in Eastern Europe, too. Venice, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, London, even Split in Croatia. Nothing at all.

One agent with a thick accent put me on hold and then came back on the line breathless.

“I think I found something,” she said, then flipped me on hold again. “Belize City,” she said, coming in for a second, then going out again.

She came back on the line.

“Do you mean the Belize City in Central America?” I asked. “I know I said anything, but I don’t think that’s actually going to work for us.”

About a month into the process, we found a flight home from London-Gatwick to Atlanta to Newark. It cut our trip short a few days, but we’d still have nine full days in Italy. We were able to book my fiancé on Alitalia from Rome to London-Heathrow for miles, but I had to buy my segment for $196. We’d have to sweat a two-hour transfer between London airports, but our reservations were going to run out if we didn’t book something.

With taxes, fees, my Alitalia ticket and the 1,000 additional miles I needed to buy from Continental, our grand total was $346. The same tickets would have cost us $2,965 in cash.

Some Hints on Snagging Hard-to-Get Tickets With Your Airline Miles

•Plan Ahead — You can book up to 331 days in advance, and you should. The earlier, the better.

•Call Often — People make reservations and then change their travel plans, especially with frequent flier miles, so seats open up sporadically. If you call enough and get lucky, you might be able to get the seats you want.

•Travel anywhere — Flights to prime locations fill up fast, but there are cheap ways to get from a secondary airport to a major one on either end of your journey.

•Get more miles — Higher reward levels have fewer restrictions and the set-aside seats tend to fill up less quickly.

•Give up and go another time — If you just can’t get a flight when you want, go a different time when seats are available.

Beth Pinsker writes about film for The New York Daily News and The Boston Globe, among other publications.

Enjoy Wedded Bliss in Lotus Position

Not every couple’s notion of the ideal honeymoon entails a hedonistic beach resort and lots of fruity drinks garnished with umbrellas. Some want to begin married life with yoga.

Some couples pursue tantric yoga, a form that includes a tranquil sexuality, in hopes of creating a powerful union of mind, body and spirit. The Institute for Ecstatic Living — (877) 982-6872; www.ecstaticliving.com — organizes tantric vacations to Costa Rica, Hawaii and cruise getaways.

If that sounds a bit too New Age, there are other benefits to learning yoga as a couple. First, one partner can help the other get into the asanas, or poses, sort of like using a spotter in weight lifting. Second, yoga helps with the pursuit of other sports and activities. Finally, it’s fun.

When planning a yoga honeymoon, consider how much yoga each of you is likely to want to practice. Most spa resorts include some yoga as part of their overall fitness program, while some retreats offer more intensive yoga instruction. Unless both of you are experienced yogis, you’ll likely want a getaway that combines quality yoga instruction with other activities. In many cases, a resort with a high-quality destination spa will keep both partners happy. Here are some getaways to get you started:

Pura Vida Spa — (888) 767-7375; www.puravidaspa.com — in Costa Rica has special yoga weeks with guest instructors throughout the year, including a tantric week for couples. You can book its "Mind/Body/Spirit Adventure Week" any time. It includes seven nights’ lodging, daily yoga classes, hiking and a rain-forest excursion from $1,100-$2,000 per person, double occupancy.

New Age Health Spa — (800) 682-4348; www.newagehealthspa.com — in New York’s Catskill Mountains has rates starting at $174 per person, per night, double occupancy, two-night minimum. That rate includes daily yoga classes. The spa also hosts weekend-long yoga programs for more intensive instruction.

In nearby Big Sur, Post Ranch Inn — (800) 527-2200; www.postranchinn.com — overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is decidedly deluxe. Accommodations start at $485 per night. Guests can join daily yoga classes in The Yurt, as well as sample tai chi and qigong. The inn is surrounded by scenic hiking trails.

Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa — (800) 422-2736; www.nemacolin.com — in Farmington, Pa., offers a "Couples Vacation." Accommodations range from lodge rooms to luxurious townhouse suites. Rates start at $185 per night.

Shambhala Spa at Parrot Cay — (877) 754-0726; www.parrot-cay.com — in Turks and Caicos, British West Indies, has special "Healing Weeks" scheduled throughout the year. Many feature guest yoga instructors. Prices vary, depending on the program, but one six-night yoga retreat is $4,610, double occupancy. That includes accommodations, three meals daily, five hours of yoga and meditation instruction each day, plus two hours of massage therapy during the week.

The new Mii amo Spa at Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Ariz. — (888) 749-2137; www.miiamo.com — is located right next to one of the seven "spiritual vortices" that make the area a mecca for New Age travelers. In addition to spa treatments, Mii amo hosts four-day yoga retreats that teach guests how to incorporate yoga into their daily lives. Four-night spa getaways start at $1,750.

Finally, one way to support Israel at this time is to honeymoon at a spa in the Jewish State, which offer yoga and exercise along with spa treatments. The Carmel Forest Spa Resort in the Carmel Mountains — www.inisrael.com/isrotel/hotels/carmel_forest_spa_resort — has Internet rates that range from $270 single on weekdays (Saturday to Wednesday) to $570 double on weekends for a deluxe suite.

Mizpe Hayamim, above the Sea of Galilee, offers a variety of treatments and massages. Internet rates at www.mizpe-hayamim.com — range from $179 single during the regular season (which is now) to $367 double for a two-person executive suite during the peak season, which includes the High Holidays and Passover.

Article courtesy Copley News Service.


Alison Ashton is a San Diego-based freelance travel and health writer.

Communal Joy for Seven Days

May there soon be heard, Lord our G-d, in the cities of
Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of
celebration, the voice of a bridegroom and the voice of a bride, the happy
shouting of bridegrooms from their weddings and of young men from their feasts
of song. — From the Sheva Brachot, the Jewish wedding blessings, “>www.torah.org/advanced/weekly-halacha/5760/mikeitz.html   — notes that the first week of marriage is considered a “private Yom Tov” during which there is an obligation of simcha.

Couples who decide to observe the traditional week of
“Sheva Brachot” should expect to see plenty of family, friends, meals and public
celebrations. It also means postponing thoughts of escaping to a private
honeymoon on some isolated beach. And that’s a good thing, says author Michael
Medved in his article titled “Banish the Honeymoon,” “>www.kerem.com/journals/journal3.htm . Wine is poured from two cups into a third and then back into the original cups. “The newlyweds sip from the wine and share the third cup with their guests. The “Sheva Brachot” ritual thus extends the sense of blessing expressed in the words just recited. Along with the wine, the couple’s joy reverberates through the community.”


Mark Mietkiewiczis is a
Toronto-based Internet producer who writes, lectures and teaches about the
Jewish Internet. You can reach him via e-mail at highway@rogers.com
.

Second Honeymoon

"Are you in for another 20?" my husband, Larry, asks. We’re lounging on the beach on the Hawaiian island of Lanai, a brief

escape to relax and reconnect as a couple, to celebrate and contemplate two decades of marriage.

Exactly 20 years earlier we were standing under a chuppah at the Beverly Hills Hotel, reciting our marriage vows. It was Purim, 1983, and just as Esther had saved the Jews from Haman’s evil plot, so Larry was rescuing me from my less-than-fulfilling life as a 30-something single woman.

We had met only nine months earlier at — this wasn’t my mother’s idea — a Jewish Federation Gala Singles Dance. There, to use a phrase from the Megillah (9:1), "the unexpected happened." I knew intuitively and unquestioningly, only a few weeks later, this was the man I wanted to marry.

Larry has a different version of our early history.

"One day I was a happy-go-lucky guy," he says. "Next thing I knew, I was married and the father of four boys."

Either way, God was working miracles. Or perhaps just doing God’s job which, since completing the six days of creation, one midrash tells us, has consisted of making matches. A job that God claims is as difficult as parting the Red Sea.

Judaism commands us to marry. Genesis 2:18 states, "It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him."

But Judaism doesn’t tell us how to create a lasting marriage.

It doesn’t tell us how to deal with those character traits that are so cute during the courtship period (my sneezing, Larry’s video game playing) but become so acutely annoying after the honeymoon (my sneezing, Larry’s video game playing).

So what’s the secret?

"I know why our marriage has been successful," I say to Larry.

"Why?"

"Because I gave up doing crossword puzzles," I answer, having realized early on that a relationship can’t sustain more than one puzzle addict.

"I thought it’s because we love and respect each other," he says.

"That, too."

Yes, love and respect are essential. As are trust, understanding, kindness, loyalty and support, as well as sharing the same core values.

"All the moral virtues that are essential for the individual are essential for the couple," says Rabbi Scott Meltzer, who teaches a class on marriage, "Behold You Are Consecrated to Me: The Life and Love of Jewish Marriage," at the University of Judaism. "The couple becomes its own organic whole."

But what happens to this whole when children arrive? Especially when couples carry out the biblical injunction to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 2:18) as quickly and exuberantly as we did?

How can you function as a couple civilly — let alone romantically — when you’re terminally sleep-deprived; when your days are consumed with Pampers, strained peaches and pediatrician appointments or with working long hours to establish a career and make mortgage payments; or when the words "There was a farmer had a dog, and Bingo was his name-o" is caught in a continual loop in your brain, drowning out any coherent thoughts.

And that’s with only one kid.

Try adding three more kids. Try dealing with the physical logistics of carting them back and forth to preschool, elementary school and middle school; of making lunches, overseeing homework and coordinating extra-curricular activities. Of making sure their hair is cut, their shoes fit and they’re fed more or less regularly and nutritiously. And that’s not counting coping with the myriad psychological issues surrounding their siblings and their social circles as they forge individual identities. Or coping with serious illnesses and injuries. Or with the religious obligations of transforming them into self-assured and productive Jewish citizens.

And as they get older (our sons are now 12, 14, 16 and 19), add high school and college to the mix. Along with the fourth bar mitzvah; automobile insurance and, ever so tentatively, retirement planning. And ratchet up the worrying.

"How’d we do it?" we say to each other. "What were we thinking?"

We were thinking that the creation of a family is central. That it’s the fundamental foundation of society and the best refuge from the outside world. That nothing is more important.

"And it’s all worth it," I say, "because kids are naturally so appreciative."

Especially at the end of a particularly trying day when one of them slams a door and shouts, "I hate you. You’re the worst mother who ever lived."

But parenting has its transcendent moments, and not only at the peak life-cycle moments of bris, bar mitzvah and graduation. Or when they’re sleeping. But when Larry and I step back and see that we are not merely a motley group of six individuals living together but rather a consecrated, deeply caring and committed family unit, who would, if necessary, walk through fire or take a bullet for one another.

The Zohar tells us, "God creates new worlds constantly by causing marriages to take place."

And this is the world that we have created.

"Count me in for another 20," I tell Larry. "At least."


Jane Ulman lives in Encino and has four sons.