I sealed away my long-sleeved, floor-length white wedding gown in one of those “save-it-forever” boxes, but the wide-brimmed, lace-trimmed white hat with veil I had worn had to sit on top of the box in the closet. Naturally, when my daughter was old enough to play dress up, she found the hat. What magic to see Mommy’s wedding-day pictures and then pose in front of the mirror wearing her wedding hat!
Dressing up and pretending to be a bride or groom is fun, but actually participating in a real wedding has many more lifetime benefits. Fortunately, Judaism has the wonderful mitzvah (good deed) of Hachnasat Kallah, or celebrating the wedding couple, which allows a wedding to become an excellent opportunity for children to experience relationships and to witness how a community loves and supports its newlywed couples. While a flower girl and ring bearer certainly complete the wedding party picture, inviting the children of family and friends to the wedding can have lasting effects for generations to come.
The following books are wonderful examples of the joy children can bring to the mitzvah of Hachnasat Kallah:
“Grandma’s Wedding Album” by Harriet Ziefert. Ages 4-7. Designed to look like a picture album, Grandma shows her grandchildren, Emily and Michael, “photos” of her wedding to Poppy, describing how they met, got engaged and were married. The photos/paintings are joyful, beautiful and colorful. The back of the book lists wedding traditions from all over the world.
- What do you think Grandma meant when she said, “My friends made me feel like a queen”?
- Where would you like to go on your honeymoon?
- Which wedding tradition did you like best?
“Nadia’s Hands” by Karen English. Ages 5-8. Nadia, a Pakistani American girl, has been chosen to be the flower girl for her Aunt Laila’s wedding. This means her hands will be painted with lovely designs and flowers using dye called henna. Nadia worries that the dye will be on her hands when she returns to school following the wedding. How will she explain the red shapes and lines on her hands to her classmates?
- Why do you think Nadia’s cousins told her all the things they did wrong when they were flower girls?
- Nadia had to sit for a long time while the henna dried on her hands. What would you do to sit as patiently as she did?
- How would you feel if you had to change your physical appearance in such a permanent way in order to participate in a wedding?
- What would you share from your family’s tradition during your school sharing time?
“Donovan’s Big Day” by Leslea Newman. Ages 4-7. Donovan has a big job to do, but he has a lot of things to remember before he can get his job done. After all, he is the ring bearer at the wedding of his two moms, so he better get up on time, eat his breakfast, stay clean and greet everyone.
- What is the biggest job you have ever had to do?
- How did you remember to take care of yourself before you got the job done?
- Who were the people who helped you get the job done?
- What are your tricks for standing or sitting quietly while others do their jobs before you?