The Traveling Chuppah

Eighteen years ago in spring 2001, as our wedding date approached, Eric and I were slowly crossing things off our wedding to-do list: book venue (check), book band (check), book photographer (check), make guest list (check), send invitations (check), gather ceremony items, including chuppah…uhhhh. “What are we going to use as our chuppah?”

At a Jewish wedding, the couple stands under a chuppah, or marriage canopy. It symbolizes the home that will be made by the bride and groom. Its open sides show that the couple’s home will remain open to all those who enter.

So, what could we use as our chuppah? Maybe the venue had one, or the florist. Weeks went by, and more things were crossed off our to-do list: favors (check), song selection (check), chuppah…uhhhh.

Then one morning, as I lay semi-awake, it came to me. The tablecloth! Eric’s grandmother, Ruth Myers (nee Solomon), was embroidering a tablecloth during her final months. Just before she passed in 1998, she told Eric’s mother that she wanted me to have the tablecloth since she knew I could embroider and there were just a few more rows to finish. For the next few years, the tablecloth was safely stored away at my future in-laws as we lived in small apartments in various cities. Or at least I hoped it was safely stored away. I called my future mother-in-law to check, and, thankfully it was. After she shipped it up to me, I got working on completing the final rows.

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As the date approached, we then had to figure out how to hold the chuppah up. My dad got busy working on cutting appropriate-length poles. My mom devised a way to use heavy clay vases filled with rocks to hold the poles.

The morning of the wedding we all erected the chuppah together and decorated the wooden poles with silk flowers. It was beautiful. And a perfect symbol of our families joining together. My mom fondly remembers watching wedding guests enter the room. Eric’s grandmother’s sister, Maxine, took a few silent minutes under the chuppah, and the sun suddenly poured in through the windows, illuminating her as she looked up at the chuppah her sister made—the Solomon chuppah.

After the wedding, we safely packed it away, unaware of its traveling future. A year later, one of Maxine’s granddaughters asked to use it as the chuppah at her wedding, so, off it went. A few years after that, we used it as a tablecloth at our son’s bris. It was a tablecloth on the wine table at my brother-in-law’s wedding. It was the chuppah for another of Maxine’s granddaughter’s beach wedding. It was a tablecloth at my daughter’s baby naming ceremony. It was a tablecloth at another cousin’s wedding. Our son brought it in for his Hebrew school history project and wrote about its history. And, two months ago, the Solomon chuppah covered the table that held the challah during his Bar Mitzvah. Today, I mailed it off to Pennsylvania, where it will be a part of another family ceremony, symbolizing an open home to all as two families join together under the Solomon chuppah.