The state park arises out of nowhere. The countryside around it is quite built-up, highways and office parks and car dealerships, but then the road enters a new town, and the trees grow thicker, and suddenly there's an entryway to a state park. I drive in and up and around to the picnic pavillion at the end of the road.
A handful of actors and a musician are moving picnic tables to create the sacred space in which the ceremony will take place. We ponder which direction the sun will be coming from on the morning of the wedding, check weather forecasts on our phones, decide to set things up beneath the pavilion instead of in the field. We practice with the chuppah. I talk through the ceremony: this, then that, then a musical number, then another reading, then this next part...
In some ways this is one of the most informal weddings I've ever done. The brides will simply walk from the campfire circle to the chuppah once everyone is seated; there will be little pomp or circumstance. In other ways, this is among the most complex. There will be guerrilla theatre, performed by a group of friends who do this routinely at weddings in their circle. The brides don't know what exactly they will do, nor when they will do it, but they know an interruption is coming. Every time I think about it, it makes me smile.
Friends who are musicians will provide processional and recessional music, plus three musical numbers during the ceremony itself. In the late afternoon light, as we relax at the picnic tables after our very laissez-faire rehearsal, groups of singers gather with guitar and portable keyboard to practice the music. Even though they start and stop a few times, and they're still working out the details of how their voices will play off of one another, it is surprisingly glorious. I wonder what it will be like when they are singing for the hushed and anticipatory crowd.
In traditional circles where the Three Weeks are considered a period of mourning, weddings are not performed during this time. In Reform circles, as this Ask the Reform Rabbi column notes, some rabbis abstain from weddings at this time, but others don't. I've come to think of the Three Weeks as a time when we are particularly attuned to suffering, and a time for discernment and teshuvah, but for me this isn't a period of mourning per se. I grieve for what is broken, but I also recognize that without the Temple's fall, rabbinic Judaism might never have arisen.
I find that I'm happy to be doing a wedding during this first week of Av. There's been so much sorrow already during these Three Weeks -- the bus bombing which killed Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, the shooting at the movie theatre in Aurora, various personal sorrows among people I know and love -- that this feels like an antidote, a tikkun: a healing. When I sing "soon may we hear, in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of joy and the voice of cheer, the voices of beloveds rejoicing in one another" it will be an extra-fervent prayer this year.
May our sorrow turn to joy, speedily and soon.