We could never have imagined how things would ultimately turn out when we first started planning our daughter’s wedding.
The kallah would be the first child we were marrying off, so we obviously had a lot to learn. Being from out of town, we had limited time to accomplish the myriad tasks necessary for the wedding, which would take place in New York. We flew in the day before the lechaim and drove to Brooklyn that night. I was astonished and grateful that I managed to find a dress in the first place I went to, and I even had my first fitting!
The chasan and kallah wanted to make the wedding as soon as possible. “How about right before Pesach?” they asked. “Impossible,” I replied. How could I ask people to make sheva brachos right before Pesach? Little did I know that the couple wouldn’t have any sheva brachos at all!
The day after the lechaim, we gave a deposit on a beautiful hall; the wedding was to be held during the week right after Pesach. We also rushed to book a makeup artist and hair stylist, as everyone had warned us to do so as quickly as possible.
The next step was estimating the number of guests. With almost 20 siblings between them, the mechutanim needed a lot of seats at the wedding. Doing their best to trim their list, they eventually got it down to about 250 people. My super-social daughter wanted to invite 150 friends, although perhaps not all of them for the full meal. Alas, none of these things ended up happening, and the kallah was permitted to have only one friend at her wedding.
My good friend Aliza married off her daughter soon after my daughter got engaged. Being at that wedding was a very emotional experience for me, as I tried to put myself in her shoes. As an introvert, I was nervous about having to greet and interact with hundreds of people; I wondered how I would navigate that role. But as it turned out, I needn’t have worried.
Then suddenly the world began to change and restrictions were imposed. Our rav was the first to verbalize the idea that had already crossed my mind: “What are you waiting for?” he asked. “Why not make the wedding before Pesach, since things will probably only get worse before they get better?”
Where? When? How? The questions flew back and forth between both families and our rabbanim. The guidelines kept changing: first to weddings with a maximum of 250 people, then 50, and then only outdoors with a minyan. Soon even that was brought into question.
We finally agreed on a week and a half before Pesach. Everyone was concerned that if the kallah went back to her out-of-town home, given the rapidly changing travel restrictions, who knew if and when she’d be able to return to New York?
When we shared our thoughts with our rav, he told us what had happened to his grandson. His grandson, who was from Chicago, was married to a girl from Switzerland, and they had been living with their young children in Israel. At the start of bein hazemanim, they flew to Switzerland to be with her family for Pesach. Unbeknownst to them, however, Switzerland had just closed its borders, and only Swiss citizens were allowed to enter. This meant that only the wife and kids would be allowed in, but not the rav’s grandson. So they decided to go back to Israel—only to discover that Israel had also closed its borders to non-Israeli citizens.
It appeared that the only country the grandson could go to was the United States, but the wife wouldn’t be let in because she wasn’t an American citizen and was displaying symptoms. With no other choice, she stayed in Switzerland with the children while he flew back to the US, with no idea when the family would be reunited. Hearing this story gave us another push to try to make the wedding early.