In many ways, our wedding day wasn't ours. And while that was something I sometimes resented during the planning process, the act of sharing and opening our wedding was ultimately the richest part of the experience. Non-elopement weddings are inherently about the public act of sharing your commitment and our wedding was so much bigger than something shared between me and Jason. Even, and perhaps especially, the ceremony. Regardless of how fully I was present inside our ceremony joy, it was something that we shared with (and was therefore expanded by) everyone in attendance.
In Jewish tradition, immediately following the ceremony, the couple goes into seclusion in a private room or space. In biblical times, this yichud was when the physical consummation of the marriage took place. In modern times, it's when the emotional consummation takes place, providing a few completely private moments to reflect on the ceremony and bask in each others' glow.
For us, our yichud ended up being one of only two private moments we had on our wedding day, both of which were infused with a deeply personal magic. Our quiet breakfast overlooking the Topanga hills was the first. Our fifteen minute yichud was the second. It was the only time during the wedding itself that was gloriously, selfishly, ours, making it more personal and intimate than any other experience during the day, including our ceremony.
For us, that yichud time was imperative. Our yichud was the pause, tearing space in our day for the gaping raw emotions to rush in. It left me physically shaking. I needed those fifteen minutes. In that time we created the emotional space necessary to start making sense of what had just happened. During the ceremony, I was almost too present, too immersed in the joy, for the hugeness of the shift to hit. Because make no mistake, a wedding is a huge thing. In our day to day life, I don't feel like much has changed. But when I pause and think about it, there has been a nearly-imperceptible-yet-vital shift. Our foundations were shaken that day and have never been quite the same. The resulting geography is familiar, but something happened to change things as we lurched forward during the upheaval of it all.
If I learned one thing from our wedding day experience, it's that everyone, Jewish or not, needs fifteen minutes of post-ceremony alone time with their new husband or wife. Maybe the hugeness will strike you during your ceremony, and the fifteen minutes will allow you to recover from it all. Maybe, like me, it won't hit until you're in the space itself. And maybe it won't ever hit during your wedding day, or the realizations will subtly dawn over time. But making space to experience your just-born marriage together is worth every moment stolen from the cocktail hour, portraits, or receiving line. Weddings and the sudden transition into brand-new marriage are powerful things, and the yichud gave me space to honor that.