The latest celebrity engagement to set tongues wagging is that of Prince William and Kate Middleton. From reports about the ring (the late Princess Di’s, in case you haven’t heard) to speculation about nuptial plans, this royal love story is making headlines across the globe.
While the media interest in the Royal Family is no surprise, the fixation on engagements and weddings is an interesting one, considering that, these days, fewer and fewer couples are making the decision to walk down the aisle. In fact, a recent study by the Pew Research Center showed that the percentage of American families passing on marriage is steeply rising, so much so that the institution of marriage may be at risk of becoming obsolete.
So what’s all the hoopla about?
Simply put, no one can resist a storybook ending, especially one with a gin-u-wine Prince. People are looking for the high of glitz and glamour, so they can experience, even for a moment, a real-life fairy tale.
While certainly entertaining, the problem with the media’s obsession with engagements and weddings is that people are actually buying the illusion they’re selling. When a couple becomes engaged, the focus automatically shifts to the wedding details—the venue, the honeymoon, and of course, The Dress. This may explain why so many celebrity engagements end in divorce: everyone is so busy planning a fabulous wedding, they forget about what comes after—Marriage.
According to the Talmud, Adam and Eve were one soul, split into two bodies (hence the term “soul mates”). Their reunion represents the Jewish ideal of marriage: two halves coming together to form a complete, unified whole. In Jewish tradition, the wedding is the holiest day of a bride and groom’s lives, a day when all of their previous sins are forgiven and they begin a new life together with a clean slate.
A Jewish wedding, therefore, requires significant preparation, and we’re not talking deejays and place cards. In order to truly prepare for marriage, both bride and groom are encouraged to spend their time of engagement doing mitzvot, learning Torah and praying to G‑d to make them ready for this lifelong commitment. To ensure optimal time for personal reflection, the bride and groom do not see each other or speak directly to each other for the week before the wedding. Even at the wedding itself, the bride and groom receive their guests separately, in different rooms, and do not see each other until right before the ceremony itself.
In the Jewish world, weddings are most definitely a big deal, and can be as beautiful as any of you would see in a magazine. Unlike celebrity nuptials, however, a Jewish wedding is the vehicle for two halves of one soul to reunite, where the foundation for a Jewish home is laid.
So for those blessed brides-and grooms-to-be out there who are striving to recreate the “perfect” celebrity nuptials, just remember that the most beautiful wedding pales to nothing compared to the beautiful marriage that comes after.