You’re busy. You’re tired. You’re planning a wedding, or perhaps recovering from one. You’re in that netherworld stage of dreamy romance and “please pick up your dirty socks off the floor.”

Here’s a way to keep things romantic, or at least harmonious, for even longer: Sign up for Mayyim Hayyim’s Beyond the Huppah. Think of it as your insider’s guide to navigating the murky waters of a relationship’s thorniest topics, from raising kids to money to holiday rituals. In five sessions, you’ll learn how to strengthen your partnership and explore the many ways to create a Jewish home. The sessions are open to married, engaged and, now, to non-married couples in committed relationships.

Mimi Lewis and her husband, Daniel Wolf, are recent Beyond the Huppah alums. They were married in 2017 and wanted to formalize their union even more deeply after a big Arkansas wedding.

The pair met in graduate school in Philadelphia: He focused on urban design, and she was in a social work program. They met at a Limmud event, and Mimi was initially struck by Daniel’s willingness to show up without knowing anyone.

“It’s kind of embarrassing. He’s very handsome. When he walked in, I was like, ‘Who is this very attractive person?” she says, laughing. “He was all by himself, which I thought was really brave.”

The pair became good old-fashioned Facebook friends and later reconnected at another Hillel-style program for graduate students. They began dating in 2015 and married two years later.

The long-distance planning for a 200-person wedding was stressful.

“We felt like there was still more coming together that we wanted to do. We wanted it to feel more like a union and less like we had a big party,” she says.

As a social worker, Mimi was drawn to the collaborative sessions at Beyond the Huppah.

“I’m always interested in facilitated group discussions, one-on-one discussions. I find it really helpful and interesting. I think it helps when you’re able to have a discussion in a calm and planned way; it brings out more than this heated, ‘What are we going to do about X?'” she says.

Each session focused on a different topic, with some light homework in advance: mainly thinking about a subject, such as approaches to finances, Mimi says. Then classmates would talk during a facilitated discussion for a bit and then split into pairs.


“A big thing we hadn’t come to a good plan together on was money. We were able to talk about how we feel about money, how we think about money and what we wanted to use our money for together. We had different approaches to it and that was becoming hard to manage now that our money was all together,” she says. “This group opened up the conversation around money to be about our experiences with it, how we felt about it and what concepts like ‘enough’ or ‘not enough’  really felt like to us.”

The group also talked about Jewish rituals, thoughts about having children and the meaning of family.

It wasn’t all deep thinking; the group also played a “Newlyweds”-style game with trivia questions about their partners.

Most of all, it helped that the sessions were led by a seasoned facilitator who kept things on track and relatable.

“She really set the stage for how we would navigate being open with the other couples while keeping things private. There was a fair amount of sharing. But for more sensitive topics, we’d split into our partnerships and come back and share how it felt and how we grew and what we learned, without sharing the particulars,” she says.

At the same time, it was interesting to hear how other couples would approach things like money or family, things you’d never find out during a dinner party or over brunch.

“It was helpful to see how some couples approached things from a very analytical and almost facts-driven place; some couples approached things with humor for tough topics. Some couples had done a lot of the work around the conversations, and others were totally new but open to one another’s perspectives. You don’t get to see how other couples usually work inside of a relationship; you’re in your own. Maybe you hear one person’s perspective on their fights or tough conversations. I felt like I learned about us by seeing how other couples worked,” Mimi says.

Most of all, the group gave her a framework for approaching difficult conversations down the road and opened her up to asking for help when necessary.

“One concept I really liked that I took away was this idea of before a tough conversation, talking about what do we want to get out of it. And, when this conversation falls apart, when it gets to us fighting, how will we table it or push through or pick it up later?” she says. “More than anything, whether from a therapist or a group setting like this, this can be really fruitful and fun for our marriage. It’s not a judgment or it doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with our relationship. It brought so much comfort to us to see other couples [grappling] with the same issues. I feel better equipped to have tough conversations. I have more self-awareness.”

The group also helped them institute new family rituals. Now, at Shabbat dinners, the pair take off their wedding rings to wash their hands. Afterward, they put their rings back on each other.

“It sort of harkens back to that moment under the huppah,” Mimi says.

Most of all, she hopes other couples take advantage of the chance to pause, reflect and frame their relationship before life gets in the way, regardless of their level of commitment to Jewish life.

“There’s no judgment about what you’re doing Jewishly in your relationship, and it’s about so much more than that. I don’t think their goal is to have these very observant Jewish couples. I think the goal is to help people build stronger relationships. And though it might seem like a lot of time, it’s quality time with your partner that’s an investment in your relationship,” she says.