Who would have thought that after 25 years of civil marriage, and five kids, I’d choose to celebrate my silver anniversary by having a chuppah, a Jewish marriage ceremony?

It all started one year ago, as my husband Felix and I were celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary at a restaurant in Las Vegas. As we were enjoying our dessert of rich chocolate cake, my phone rang. “Happy Anniversary! Best of everything for many years to come,” my mom’s voice exclaimed. “So, what are you going to do next year for your 25th?” she asked before hanging up.I’ve always wanted to see Paris

“Let’s just go somewhere,” Felix suggested, answering the question. “Just the two of us. How about Paris?”

My eyes lit up. I’ve always wanted to see Paris, and celebrating our big day at the top of the Eiffel Tower, watching the sun set over the sparkling lights of the city, would be a dream come true.

But I surprised both myself and my husband by responding with something completely different—the opposite of what he’d suggested!

“What I’d really like to do is celebrate our day with people who matter to us, whom we love, cherish and adore. People who have been there for us for the past 25 years, guiding us, supporting us, and sharing our journey . . . Oh!” I exclaimed, as I realized what I wanted. “I’d like for us to have a chuppah and invite our rabbis from Chabad of Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita and San Clemente. After all, they’ve contributed greatly to our religious unfolding and spiritual awakening, and I would like to acknowledge them for that.”

I don’t know what came over me at that moment, but suddenly there was this inner need—a deep craving that was definitely not coming from my socialist, atheistic, preprogrammed mind.

“A chuppah?” Felix glanced at me suspiciously. “Rabbis? Why? Besides, do you realize that if we invite all the rabbis, we have to serve kosher food? And we could care less about eating kosher, so why pay extra for that on top of everything else?”

The happy bride
The happy bride

I had to admit that my logical and practical husband was right. Even though our family is, in many ways, spiritual (I meditate, eat organic, read New Age self-help books and occasionally attend High Holiday services at our local Chabad), in no way are we observant.

However, in my heart I already knew that what I was proposing had to be. There was this profound sense of surety and knowing, a sign that my inspiration was coming directly from my neshamah, my eternal soul. I just needed to convey to my husband’s I don’t know what came over me at that momentintellect—and my own—that when there is this deep sense of certainty, it is G‑d’s way of telling us what to do. And that it would be wise to listen.

You see, when we originally got married 25 years ago, back in Soviet Russia, there were no religious weddings of any sort, especially for Jews. Judaism was considered a nationality, marked on the fifth line of your passport, something to be ashamed of and persecuted for. Our ceremony had been a civil one, like everyone else’s, conducted by a stern and serious Communist Party official at city hall. The marriage license proved we were legally married, but it had nothing to do with spirituality.

And now, so many years later, flourishing in America, we were free to make a conscious choice about how we wanted our wedding ceremony to be. And it felt more right than ever to invite G‑d into our celebration—and into our marriage. This chuppah ceremony would mean to us, Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union, so much more than just fulfilling another commandment in the Torah. It would symbolize our freedom in this country, where we are allowed to be who we really are, to be freely and fully self-expressed—not just as people and citizens, but as G‑dlike, Jewish-soul-pulsing human beings.

It’s been a year since that day in Vegas, and finally, on Sunday, January 5, 2014, following G‑d’s inspiration, and after much fun and joy, imagining, planning, creating and praying, He has made it happen in the most perfect way possible.

My heart is pounding with excitement as I walk down the aisle toward my chuppah, which stands gracefully, like a glorious crown, rising majestically against a backdrop of topaz-blue sky and glistening, aquamarine ocean. The chuppah canopy is made of shimmery white tulle with gold Hebrew lettering, maroon-red roses entwining its poles.

With each step, my heart fills with such joy, as My heart fills with such joyif G‑d Himself is walking next to me, guiding, supporting and loving me, guarding my every step. And as I continue to walk toward my glowing husband waiting beneath our chuppah, my precious Mama and Papa, parents-in-law, five children, dear friends and sweet, greatly adored rabbis all beam with pride and joy. At some point I burst into blissful laughter, realizing that life, indeed, is worth celebrating. And that just as I’m using this event as an opportunity to consciously surrender to Him and to let Him in, I can choose to do the same in every moment, turning toward Him and allowing Him into every nuance of my life.

And nothing feels greater, or more profoundly right, than walking down my human path, immersed in the brilliant light of my Creator.

Thank you, Batsheva, and thank you, Pedouth, for making this experience magical and unforgettable, forever embedded in our hearts and the hearts of our guests.