God’s Promise

Izzy is the most precious gift, says mom Susan. And after such a challenging journey, Susan and her husband Edgar knew they wanted to celebrate the birth and naming of their daughter in a very special way that would stay with them always.

“We wanted Rabbi David Gellman to perform the baby-naming ceremony because we knew he would make the occasion unique and memorable,” says Susan. “And he did.  A traditional baby-naming service for girls in a synagogue is generally fairly brief and quick. We wanted to celebrate and welcome Izzy with a ceremony that would have a lot of meaning for us and be truly out of the ordinary.”

Susan and Edgar, who call the beautiful area of north Toronto near Avenue Road home, knew Rabbi Gellman would
create a ceremony to remember. He had officiated at their wedding on August 18, 2019, in the lovely surroundings of Sunnybrook Estates off Toronto’s Bayview Avenue. The beautiful ceremony fulfilled all expectations. “Everyone had a wonderful time, and the Rabbi’s attention and approach made it especially memorable.” The wedding was pre-pandemic before most people had any cause to even think about Covid health regulations, so there were no constraints, and the bridal couple could celebrate with loved ones and friends exactly as they’d hoped.

They were able to do the same at the baby naming for Izzy, which was held in the delightful surroundings on the farm of a family friend in Uxbridge. The ceremony was in June when the weather was terrific, and their friend set up a tented area in the woods on the property that was shaded, comfortable, and big enough for all the family and friends.

The ceremony and celebrations with family and friends took place in the afternoon from 12-3 with refreshments and a little party atmosphere. Not that Izzy noticed, said her mom. She was only seven-months old, so she slept for half the time, but it was truly special and a lovely memory to treasure.

Izzy: a name of Hebrew origin, meaning God’s Promise.

Susan and Edgar’s wedding at Sunnybrook Estates.

Relationship/Pastoral Counseling

Everyone seems ready to get back to full speed ASAP as soon as things really open up—but new stresses may have been highlighted from working in isolation, too much Zoom instead of relationship-time, or even staying home more often.

Extended family or relationships may have felt the strain, or there may be interfaith questions that  impact family life to discuss before you get going with what’s next.Relationship/Pastoral Counselling GTA interfaith

As well as providing  guidance and support to individuals and groups, congregation members, and couples through ongoing counseling, webinars (and possibly workshops) are under consideration. Please connect for more information/questions or contact and arrange a personal session.

The Ketubah Story

More and more marriages are putting it in writing—and it’s not only Jewish wedding couples who are adopting the Ketubah as part of their wedding ceremony, a tradition that dates back thousands of years.

One of the largest suppliers is Ketubah.com—a trendsetter in design and online service well-known internationally for museum quality work, was founded originally here in Toronto by Michael Shapiro and reports that Ketubahs are being ordered for all faith weddings as well as to mark significant days. Ketubahs also commemorate milestone occasions such as anniversaries.

Wedding couples are able to order from hundreds of unique designs from classic to modern to suit every budget and timeline. Many parents also like to purchase the Ketubah as a gift. Since it is often viewed as a precious family heirloom and passed between generations, the style, look, and wording are significant decisions.

Choose from an extensive range of limited-edition artist creations that can be personalized and customized—from wording to colors to the craftwork involved. This may be beaded, canvas, gold or silver leaf, crystal work, luminous—the variety is limitless.

Lovely paper cut Ketubahs, considered a traditional Jewish fine art since the Middle Ages, are also a specialty.  Fine art archival paper cut Ketubahs can include your personal details incorporated into the design—which can involve 18 layers of paper cuts!

Once you’ve found your style, you’ll need to decide colors, theme, language, and the amount of personalization. This is when you’ll choose whether to include names, wedding date, and location, which are integrated (seamlessly!) in the calligraphy—or the rabbi can write in the names in blank spaces.

You may need to check with your rabbi before you order —you’ll be asked to specify text and the company offers many options including Reform/Orthodox/Conservative or Humanistic —also ‘Canadian Reform” and LBGTQ.

You can also choose an “Interfaith” selection or write unique words to reflect your beliefs, vows, or that are meaningful to you both.

Regardless of which you choose, the Ketubah is often the heart of a Jewish or interfaith wedding. The Ketubah has profound history behind it and is seen as a symbol of the couple’s devotion to each other and the marriage.

Traditionally, the Ketubah catalogs the husband’s obligations to his wife and establishes provisions for her protection. The traditionaltext closely resembles the one codified 2000 years ago.

Two witnesses sign the Ketubah—friends or distant relatives/close relatives do not sign—and generally consider it an honor to be asked. (The bride and groom don’t sign traditionally/it’s not the same as signing the register or license in a church wedding. However, there are choices that have lines for the bridal couple to sign if they so choose.

The rabbi may read out the Ketubah under the Chuppah—Jewish tradition is that it is a significant part of the ceremony.

Costs for the Ketubah range from budget friendly—as low as the $150 range—to $1000 and everywhere in between. However, if it involves a lot of artisan work, such as for crystal creations, gold leaf, or a complex paper cut Ketubah—for example, an 18-layer piece of archival art with all your personal details incorporated—this may set you back even more.

But the finished piece is likely to become of historical importance to your family—and be viewed as a truly unique and original piece of fine art that also happens to commemorate your wonderful marriage!

To see more examples, see www.Ketubah.com

 

 

 

 

Flowers

Are Zoom Weddings Legal?

Recent reports on how a few Israeli couples were getting married remotely in Utah to bypass local regulations made headlines and prompted questions about whether Zoom or Facetime weddings are legal.

That depends. Weddings where the officiant or at least two witnesses are not present in person “on location” may not stand the legality test. To comply with Ontario laws, it’s not yet feasible to conduct entirely virtual ceremonies without the officiant present.  It may be different in your province or state.

Instead, many couples decide to hold a small virtual-ish wedding—connecting everyone who would have been on the guest list via Zoom or Facebook or sharing the video after.

So a number of weddings are proceeding almost to plan. It’s merely that the plan now includes delaying the celebration until everything opens up or their first anniversary, whichever comes first.

This isn’t ideal, and it may not be exactly the wedding of your dreams. But it gives a way forward for couples who don’t want to wait to tie the knot until the pandemic is in the rearview mirror.

The Rabbi has conducted a number of smaller weddings (Jewish -Interfaith and non-denominational) in a variety of locations and venues during the slowdowns and lockdowns.

Couples have chosen smaller groups to meet regulations for both outside and inside ceremonies. Outside, with such spectacular surroundings available, it’s added a certain specialness to the ceremony. The Rabbi has officiated at ceremonies in the lovely gardens at Sunnybrook Estates in Toronto, for example, where the scenery and the behind the scene effort at the venue ensures that the wedding is perfect.

Stacey and Gianni married in a beautiful spot in Muskoka where the landscape almost felt like a guest at the wedding.

Karianne and Adam enjoyed a lovely fall wedding in their backyard with as many friends and family as were allowed to celebrate.

Holding a wedding outdoors doesn’t mean masks and social distancing won’t be necessary —and smaller weddings inside may have special protective measures in place, subject to venue size and regulations at the time.

But even if it’s a small intimate group, the Rabbi (and Alex) work closely with the couple and family to be sure that all wishes are met and that the ceremony is a memory to treasure.

Since nobody knows when the current situation will end, and with travel and quarantine restrictions subject to change moment by moment, many couples are deciding to go ahead and hold a smaller wedding.

Sometimes it’s family expectations that are the roadblock—parents may have envisaged a large amazing wedding for their child, perhaps with guests flying in from around the world or across the country.

However, the intimacy of the smaller ceremony can make for a warm and memorable experience.

With pandemic restrictions and requirements on gathering sizes likely to last a while longer, and if you’re not ready to put your married life on hold, it’s a good idea to start planning ASAP. Popular venues (inside and out) get booked up fast. And if you’re going to connect via Zoom or otherwise, asking a wedding planner to help will simplify the day and make sure you’re not distracted by technology. (Wedding planner/Melissa Baum)

Check the Ontario website here or your local municipality—or your state/province for numbers and requirements, or contact us.

When the situation improves, and life feels like it can get back to normal will be a good time to hold the party of the century —whether you’re celebrating your wedding or simply with your friends and loved ones. What a party that will be!

 

Link to Israeli couples and virtual weddings in Utah

 

Planning Ceremonies in Ontario 2021—Weddings 101

OUTDOOR WEDDING CEREMONIES

As the pace of reopening heats up across Ontario and Canada, couples with marriage on their minds are perking up.

Check your local regulations for any specific restrictions in your area. You may prefer to wait until you can accommodate the large gathering and reception of your dreams.

But if you’d like to be married and are happy with moving on with your ceremony and can’t wait for the remaining restrictions (such as travel or gathering numbers) to end, it’s an excellent idea to talk with a local wedding planner ASAP.

Suppliers of wedding-related services from photographers to venues are running out of dates and you may have to plan farther into the future than you’d intended, or perhaps assess whether a more-intimate ceremony will suit you better with videos or live-streaming. Either way, it’s often helpful to talk to a wedding planner—either to plan and manage everything, provide guidance, or a day service to make sure your plans meet all the requirements and that everything goes well at your ceremony—indoors or outdoors.

(Toronto regulations.)

(Ontario regulations.)

What can you do to make the ceremony as picture-perfect as you’ve always dreamed—of what areas will you need to consider, even with a wedding planner—to make things go as smoothly as possible?Jewishinterfaithweddings-Ontario

REOPENING ONTARIO FOR WEDDINGS

Even with Ontario opening up and relaxed gathering limits, holding your wedding outside may remain a popular choice for many couples with ceremonies in 2021/summer 2022 and beyond. Physical distancing is easier to practice, for one thing. Without crystal balls some couples are being pragmatic and anticipating changing circumstances.

Most wedding planners seem to agree that outdoor weddings will likely remain more popular going forward. Outdoor ceremonies come with their own set of circumstances and watch-out-for items.

Melissa Baum of Baum Event says, “it’s good to keep in mind that weddings are booked a season ahead usually. Popular dates fill up quickly for venues and all types of suppliers and services.” And this hasn’t changed during recent times. Even for smaller ceremonies with fewer guests, Melissa suggests scheduling your ceremony ASAP—inside or outside.

Even if the ceremony is going to be outside on a beach or in a park, for example, you will need to check if licenses or permits are required—and if your time and date of choice are available.

Rabbi David Gellman suggests booking early also. “We try to be as flexible as we can, but reserving your ceremony date and time as early as possible are probably among the first items you should arrange.”

Here are some collected tips to make sure your ceremony lives up to expectations and that your guests are comfortable and enjoy themselves.

PLANNING OUTDOOR WEDDINGS

  1. You can’t ensure the weather—so anticipate. Have canopies or umbrellas at the ready. If your venue is used to holding outdoor ceremonies, as many are, such as vineyards, they will likely have this in hand. Be sure to double-check.
  2. You might need fans, blankets, sunshades, bug spray, towels, collapsible chairs, or stools for emergency seating, water, juice, and snack supplies.
  3. Is it at a commercial venue or a park? If the latter, check into restroom facilities.
  4. Will seating be available for guests who need to sit for a while, or will you need to provide it?
  5. Permits for the location (and parking?).
  6. Depending on local regulations, ensure that mask, social distancing, and other policies are communicated in advance to be managed effectively at the time.
  7. Also check what else is going on, such as other events that may be scheduled near your time—so you will know how long you have and to avoid over-booking or confusion re guests/parking/directions, etc.
  8. Dress code? If the ceremony is in a paved or patio-type setting with a hard surface, what your guests wear won’t be a worry. If the ceremony is in a country field or on a beach… it may be. Specify on the invite any dress-code suggestions.
  9. If it’s a windy day, this could be a problem—make sure things are secured and that someone will look after all these little issues, besides you, in the wedding group.
  10. Pet area? If the wedding is outside, guests may bring their four-legged friends. Are they invited? Make this clear. Have scoop bags available, rubbish receptacles, and a fenced off area for pets to relax away from any crowd in case of over-excitement.
  11. And if smaller children will be in attendance—perhaps have some distractions like toys in case of over-excitement or boredom. Juice boxes and snacks are handy here, too!
  12. It’s likely you’ll be a lot more relaxed and comfortable on the day if a wedding planner is overseeing and coordinating.

Outdoor events sometimes come with different concerns depending on the location—if not using a wedding planner, tap members of your wedding party, family, or friends to help out with some of these areas if you can—then you can relax and enjoy your wonderful wedding.

A little extra planning may be required during this time. But it’s worth the effort as your ceremony will be a precious memory to everyone present long after the worries of Covid have been almost forgotten.

 

 

  • Photograph by Dmitry Zvolskly from Pexels

Wedding Licenses Extended Due to Stay-at-Home Orders in Ontario

Due to the province-wide stay-at-home orders, validity periods have been extended for wedding licenses issued in Ontario.

  • Licenses issued between December 1, 2019 and July 24, 2020 are still valid and can by used until July, 24, 2022.

  • Licenses issued between October 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020 are still valid and can by used until February 10, 2023, and

  • Licenses issued between January 1, 2021 and the end of the third province-wide emergency due to Covid-19, (which was declared on April 7 and has been extended to June 2, 2021) will be valid from the date they are issued until 24 months past the end of the third province-wide emergency.

Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to schedule a date for your wedding ceremony.

 

 

 

  • Thank you Dimitri Kuliuk/Pexels.

 

Backgrounder on Purim

Purim in 2021 starts on Thursday, February 25th and ends on the evening of Friday, February 26th. As you probably know, this is not a public holiday but a Jewish holiday that commemorates the delivery of the Jewish people from oppression and tyranny in the Persian Empire, which then spread over “127 lands” and is recounted in the Book of Esther (4thcentury BCE).

Esther rose to be Queen of Persia but failed to disclose to the King that she was Jewish. Her mentor was Mordecai, leader of the Jews and Esther’s cousin. Haman, the King’s Prime Minister, is determined to destroy the Jewish community in Persia because Mordecai refuses to bow down to him. He picks a date by lottery. However, his plans are foiled by Esther. With Mordecai’s counsel, she reveals to the King that she’s Jewish and exposes and denounces Haman’s intent. This turns the tables on the oppressor and, instead of being the focus of Haman’s decree, the Jews are able to “destroy their enemies by royal proclamation.” Mordecai is appointed Prime Minister.

Go to our YouTube channel–the Rabbi David Gellman Show–for a reading of the Book of Esther and an explanation of the holiday.

Celebrating Purim

The day before Purim is often a day of fasting, but Purim is considered a joyous community celebration and usually marked by reading from the book of Esther in the evening and the following morning.  It is also celebrated by giving mutual gifts of food and drink to friends (two gifts is the tradition), plus two gifts of food, money, or clothing to the poor. It’s also traditional to enjoy a festive joyous meal with family and friends of meat and wine (and other intoxicating beverages!)— and children and adults often dress up in masks and costumes—usually from the Purim story.

This year we can’t dress up and party as usual due to the pandemic and restrictions on social gatherings.

 

But if you’re keeping a file of what you’ll do next year… there’s a great shop in the east end of the GTA that covers everything you need to wear for parties—(weddings as well—especially if you’re a fan of vintage!). Reflections (Vintage) have some amazing masks.

You can check out their wares online (Dominique and Karen are the proprietors) or in person at the store—here’s the link:  to view vintage and new theatrical costumes, clothing, and accessories.

Apply Online for Wedding Licenses in Toronto

State of Emergency/Stay at Home Orders and Wedding Licenses—2021

The City of Toronto has announced that while the state of emergency and stay at home orders are in effect: “As part of Toronto’s COVID-19 response, Registry Services counters at the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall and the North York, Etobicoke and Scarborough Civic Centres are closed for walk-in services. Marriage licences will be issued by appointment only.” You must first submit an online application; you will receive an application number; and this must be submitted when applying for your license.

Apply for your marriage license here in the General Toronto Area; otherwise, please check with and apply for your license in your local municipality.

After you apply and receive your license, you will need an officiant and to set the date for your wedding ceremony! Please contact for more information.

Our Backyard Wedding—

Celebrating with Love and Laughter—

Fun and lots of laughs were what they hoped for, asked for, and how they celebrated at their fall wedding, says Karianne Marten-Spagnuolo, who married  her husband Adam on September 29,, 2020, in Etobicoke, a suburb of Toronto.

The fact that the ceremony took place at home had not been part of the original plan, says Karianne (usually known as Kari).  They had scheduled a big destination wedding in the beautiful resort area of Cabo San Lucas, in Baja California (Mexico).

But they had no idea that a pandemic would intervene to change their plans. Faced with uncertainty and delay, Kari said they decided to go with a different plan. “We wanted to be married!”

“We wanted to hold a special wedding ceremony to celebrate our love with as many friends and family as we could. The numbers were restricted due to the pandemic, but the ceremony at home was wonderful.”

The ceremony took place  in the backyard on a lovely sunny Tuesday that turned into a perfect evening for a wedding.

When the bridal couple booked their destination wedding, they had planned to tie the knot with about 50 guests present  “So it was hard that we had to limit our guests and to downsize the guest list to meet Covid regulations,  We were very sorry that we couldn’t include everyone we had hoped to celebrate with us.

“After much hard work, we’d managed to include 30 close family and friends, although it was supposed to be 25. But as it turned out, five guests were unable to make it for scheduling or other reasons, so we ended up with just the right number. 25! We were so glad to see everyone come to the ceremony.”

The wedding was quite unique. “We actually wanted a service that was based on love, happiness, and energy,” says Kari, “and David, who is my husband’s best man’s neighbor, was able to create the perfect ceremony for us.”

“We had requested and talked about our ideas for a fun and memorable ceremony, and David absolutely made this a reality,” says Kari. “He had us in stitches.”

Everything about the wedding was unique—including the dress code. Adam is a big fan of DC and Marvel comics, so while the bride went traditional and wore a lovely white short dress for the at home ceremony, the groom wore a T-shirt —and so did the officiant. David stuck to the dress code and wore a Batman T-shirt.”

Many of the guests dressed with this in mind, too, showing their superhero or character favorites… although Kari said the female guests tended to dress up (as you love to do for a wedding!), while most of the guys went for the casual or comic theme, in character-full T’s.

Kari says that David gave a lot of thought to the ceremony and was able to incorporate not only the humor they had asked for, but key family members, including Adam’s grandparents, in the ceremony.  “And it was very nice that we were also able to give a nod to our lost loved ones, whose presence was very absent and missed by everyone.”

Adam and Kari celebrated the nuptials with a party at home following the ceremony and then a short honeymoon in Ottawa.

The bridal couple, who have known each other for about 15 years, also plan to celebrate their five-year ‘dating’ anniversary this coming New Year, says Kari. (Kari and Adam’s sister were friends first, growing up in Etobicoke.)

In the meantime, says Kari, “Things are pretty good. While wedding plans were affected by the pandemic, our work lives haven’t changed too much.” Kari works in early childhood education/child care and this has continued and Adam keeps busy with his work as a plumber.

On the horizon, especially with possible vaccines coming and looking ahead to when life opens up again for travellers, Kari says they might be able to dust off their plans and make that delayed visit to Cabo. “We had already booked, but it was all put on hold. Like most in this situation, we could reschedule but not obtain refunds. Once things are go again, we’ll probably be off to Mexico.” Guests who had pre-booked have the same options to reschedule. “So there’s a good chance we’ll hold another big wedding celebration—in the beautiful surroundings of Baja California.”

“But we’re so glad we tied the knot here and got married officially. Despite all that we’ve faced this year, it was a wonderful wedding ceremony full of good times, lots of laughs, and great memories—and we’ll remember it always.” —