I was explaining to my friend Elena that I am writing a blog that shares the love stories of couples with different nationalities, cultures and religious backgrounds. She immediately reminded of a wedding she had been to, where the bride was Danish and the groom Israeli and how their ceremony, blending Jewish and Danish traditions had been unique and memorable. Elena hooked me up with Pernille, the bride, and we agreed to meet. We spent over two hours chatting about her wedding and only stopped because Ofir arrived and they really had to go. It was great to learn how they managed to put up a beautiful and down to Earth ceremony, integrating the two cultures and making it delightful for the ones who attended. Not to mention to know a little bit more about the interesting Jewish wedding rituals. We’ll talk about everything bellow.
It was a sunny summer day in Denmark. And if you’re well acquainted with Danish weather, you know those days are rare. Pernille was sad and negative. She was a victim of the common depression that affects master students when they are writing their thesis. But her super roommate managed to drag her out to a Bikini Barbecue Italian party.
Ofir approached her. He noticed she was down and they talked about her master thesis. They exchanged numbers and he invited her to the library, as he was also writing his phD thesis. She accepted the invitation and loved that he was so helpful and interested in her as a person.
Some days later, the same roomie managed to take her out again. It was Ofir’s phD submission party. There, they shared their first kiss. She was suddenly cured from that terrible depression. And ever since, nothing has held them apart.
The decision to get married
Pernille and Ofir are a modern and well-resolved couple. They did not fall into the old and sexist stereotype, which preaches that men should propose, while women should anxiously wait for it as the most important thing in their lives.
Pernille and Ofir set down together and jointly decided to get married. Which can be a source of inspiration for many of our readers.
For us, mixed couples, it can sometimes be necessary to make a “statement”. Ofir and I decided that we would show the world that we mean it. And also we would very much like to celebrate and throw a big and awesome party for our friends and family
Pernille and Ofir spent 9 months planning their wedding. The most important thing for them was to have a meaningful ceremony where Scandinavian and Jewish wedding traditions were naturally blended. Music should also play a big part of it, as Pernille went to music school and was part of a choir.
It was also important for them not to start their married life in debt. So the couple counted with the help of friends and did many things themselves. A friend arranged the flowers for the church, Pernille’s sisters helped as “waitresses” for the evening. They made a playlist, instead of hiring a DJ or band.
As for the venue decor, Pernille just wanted it to be pretty, summer-ish and relaxed. So she bought white flowers and and big cream candles. They made some bouquets and spread the rest of the flowers loosely on all tables. They also bought purple fabric on a budget and used it as tablecloth.
As Pernille was not going to convert to Judaism, they could not get married in an orthodox synagogue. So, the ceremony was held at the chapel of the Danish Unitarian Church House, and officiated by Arne, a prominent member of Shir Hatzafon, the Progressive Jewish community in Denmark, who has legal power to wed couples.
A day that balanced fascinating Jewish rituals and fun Danish traditions
The big day started with Pernille going to the hairdresser. She got back home to put on her wedding dress with the help of her sister. They went to the church on a vintage Beettle Limo, that a friend keeps for special occasions. The brother-in-law-to-be was the chauffeur and drove them to church.
Arriving there were a couple of musicians performing in Hebrew. And skilled friends also sang some Danish and Swedish songs during the ceremony.
The Jewish wedding ceremony takes place under the chuppah (canopy), that symbolizes the home the newly weds will build together. A talented friend of the couple made a beautiful circle of flowers, to represent the chuppah. All the men who attended wore kippahthe traditional platter-shaped cap, worn by male Jews.
Two cups of wine are used in the Jewish wedding ceremony. The first cup accompanies the betrothal blessings, recited by the rabbi. After these are recited, the couple drinks from the cup. Wine is a symbol of joy in Jewish tradition. It is associated with Kiddush, the sanctification prayer recited on Shabbat and festivals. Marriage, called Kiddushin, is the sanctification of a man and woman to each other.
The ceremony was held mainly in English. Pernille and Ofir read parts of the Song of Solomon for each other. Detail: they did it in Hebrew, and although she does not speak the language, she practiced for the day.
After the rings are exchanged, The Seven Blessings (Sheva Brachot) are recited over the second cup of wine. The blessings are traditionally recited by the rabbi or other people that the families wish to honor. In Pernille and Ofir’s wedding, it was recited by seven of their friends, in their native languages: Hebrew, Danish, Chinese, German, Czech, Hindu and Italian. They chose to do this to embrace the fact that so many languages were represented.
At the conclusion of the seven blessings, the bride and groom again drink some of the wine and then the famous ritual of the breaking glasses takes place. The groom stomps on a glass wrapped in a napkin or cloth. Besides being a fun and unique way to end the ceremony, breaking the glass is extremely symbolic. It echoes the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and reminds the newlyweds and all the guests of the commandment in Psalms 137:6 to “set Jerusalem above my highest joy,” even in the happiest of times. And everybody shouts Mazel Tov!
A funny detail: we used a light bulb. You cannot be sure if a real glass will actually break in the first try, and if it doesn’t it is considered bad luck. The light bulb “pops” immediately
After the ceremony, Pernille and Ofir went to the National Gallery of Denmak for a photo shooting. Later, they had their family and closest friends for dinner. But they invited all their friends to the dance and drinks the rest of the night. And we can tell for the pictures how fun the party was, not to mention the beautiful view!