Someone Else's Simcha / Nadav and Noa's wedding – Don't be careful what you wish for
Lifelong acquaintances overcome the awkwardness of adolescence, the complexities of adulthood and a girlfriend to make an improbable love story come true.
Location: "White" reception hall and garden
Time: 11:30 A.M.
In the neighborhood: The old-school workshops and sweeping fields that make up the surroundings of Pardes Hannah, situated halfway between Tel Aviv and Haifa, and near the coastal city of Hadera. Slender cypresses and majestic eucalyptus trees sway in the calm before Shabbat, with the odd bougainvillea bush splashing hot pink tones on the otherwise green and brown scenery.
Venue: A wide cloth canopy shades a small garden, peppered with casual seating and surrounded by appetizer stands. Moving into the hall, autumn sunshine morphs into the dim coolness of the modern room, with stylish chandeliers illuminating the hip young crowd lining a polished wooden bar. About a dozen square tables are fitted near a temporarily vacant dance floor, soberly awaiting the first onslaught of happy feet.
Simcha: Noa and Nadav's wedding
Number of guests: 260
Home: Noa, 29 ("and a half"), a community theater director and enterprising blogger, is the eldest daughter of Gadi and Shlomit Ben-Ari, raised in a secular yet "respectful to tradition" home, along with sisters Michal, 28, and Dafi, 21. A gypsy of sorts, she was born in Minnesota during her father's stint as a Jewish Agency emissary, growing up in Jerusalem ("my dad's sixth generation there"), New York, and Maccabim – not necessarily in that order. Nadav, 29, an electronics engineer, is Yuval and Tali Kaddar's eldest son, raised in a slightly more secular home ("if it's tasty, I'll eat it") in Ramot Hashavim, alongside brothers Noam, 27, and Matan, 22. The pair has been living together for nearly two years in a Tel Aviv apartment. Nadav: "I gave up a yard and a mango tree for her" Noa: "And a girlfriend." Oh yeah, that too.
A brief history of time: Nadav and Noa have, literally, known each other their entire lives, as a result of their parents' longtime friendship. However, despite the impressive history, romance was late to bloom, with an awkward adolescence standing in the way (Nadav: "You can tell by the pictures we developed a distaste for one another"; Noa: "He was so ugly when he was 15. Goodness"). But a chance encounter via Facebook brought the dormant bond alive, with the two quickly becoming friendly, chance encounter via Facebook brought the dormant bond alive, with the two quickly becoming friendly, with the specter of Nadav's then-girlfriend looming overhead. Eventually, Noa decided to break things off ("I was sick of dancing around").
In an ensuing therapy session ("fear of commitment issues"), Noa was instructed to visualize a person she would marry under the chuppah, and she chose Nadav ("I thought, 'What is this crap? But, maybe it's worth a try'"). After imagining their impossible wedding for just three weeks, Nadav made a shock Facebook comeback, came over and broke the news: He had broken up with his girlfriend (Nadav: "Noa isn't the kind of person you easily banish from your thoughts"). He spent the night, and the rest was history, mixed in with hysteria: Noa: "I woke up in the morning and told my roommate: 'Nadav slept over, I think we're an item! What do I do now?!'"
Family history: Being the eldest of both families, the two are also the first to marry in both families, a fact which generated barrels of excitement and a tad of anxiety. Deciding on a small wedding (Nadav: "I wanted it to have a homey feeling"), a cramped guest list left some parents unhappy. However, the young couple eventually elected to yield and let the folks have their fun. Noa: "They want to celebrate with their friends too."
Rites: Noa, dressed in a slender white gown and black sash, and Nadav, in a white dress shirt, slacks, suspenders, and a slender Don Draper-esque tie, sit in a stylish seating corner with Rabbi Meltzer, and the two dads to sign the ketubah (overhead in the distance: "Don't do it!"). To seal the deal, all participants join hands, as the rebbe blesses the bunch. As the hour draws nigh, the couple and their families scramble to the dressing room, with an announcer asking the crowd to assemble near the outdoor chuppah. An Eritrean maintenance worker enters the bathroom with a broom and dustpan.
Outside, a short bout of pandemonium rules the cramped dressing room, with couple and parents confused about who goes first and when (Nadav: "Does anyone here know about these things?"). After a short consult, a decision is made and all is well. Nadav, accompanied by both parents, first enters the chuppah, with The Beatles' "Here, There and Everywhere" ringing in the background. Next, a smiling Noa enters with her parents, and the crowd goes wild. Nadav comes out, places Noa's veil over her face, and the couple walks into the chuppah together.
A few rabbi's cracks later (after asking Nadav if he bought the ring with his own money: "Where'd the smile go?"), the seven blessings begin, after which Noa also elects to bestow a ring unto her freshly minted groom ("I'm so lucky to have you").
Glass smashed, and everyone rushes to hug and kiss the newlyweds, with Noa's teary-eyed sisters leading the charge (Michal to Shlomit: "Need a tissue?" "No thanks, already have one. They're packed with makeup").
Following a short break, the crowd's attention is directed toward the dance floor, where a long line of family members and friends will pay homage to the couple. First up, Shlomit, a veteran of the IDF's once-lauded singing groups, brings down the house by performing a well-known Israeli song, as Noa and Nadav look with grins. Next, Yuval and Tali give a speech in rhyme, wishing the couple to share love and "a joy for life," followed by Gadi and Shlomit's loving words.
The stakes, however, are pushed even higher as the entire Kaddar clan, dozens of people strong, gets up on the stage and sings the praises of the new couple, with a special focus on the family's newest addition ("we're crazy about Noa!"), and a subtle hint as to future expectations ("looking forward to the little ones!"). Next up are Nadav's aunt Adi, who recites a poem, and Noa's visibly emotional uncle Eitan.
The afternoon's artistic portion is capped off by a filmed skit by the Ben Ari's, in the middle of which, singer Gidi Gov, a favorite of Noa's, sends his congratulations (at which point Noa appears to be having a stroke), followed by a colorful clip featuring the friends making fun of the couple to the tune of LMFAO's "I'm Sexy and I know it." The evening's first couple takes to the floor for a tango – and it's Noa and maternal grandpa Ze'ev, 82. Dance music kicks in, and the floor is lonely no more.
Music: Reception tunes include Lenard Cohen, Pearl Jam, and some Bob Dylan. Once the party gets started, dance-pop grooves rule supreme.
Food: Appetizers: Chicken potstickers, beef carpaccio, risotto balls, gnocchi, fresh flat bread, tortillas and dim sum. Mains: Sirloin roast beef, spring chicken, mullet fillet, along with a selection of salads and assorted breads.
Drink: Summery cocktails, foamy cups of beer and the rudimentary Coca-Cola (et al).
Word in the ear: Grandpa Ze'ev, on the wedding in view of Noa's premature birth ("940 grams") 29 ("and a half") years ago: "We used to call her 'chicken piece.' To think of all of the history, my little 'chicken piece' is getting married."
In my spiritual doggy bag: That, as it were, there are many ways to skin a cat, err, relationship, and that, sometimes, to notice and reach for that which is right there can be harder than one thinks.
Random quote: Ze'ev, smiling, to granddaughter Michal: "To whom do you belong, little girl?" "Me? I came with the reception hall."
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