When I became a full time florist in 2002 the last thing I thought I would have to figure out, would be constructing temporary mini-tents in which people could get married under. The chuppah is used traditionally in Jewish weddings and symbolizes the home a couple will make together. Chuppahs can be free standing constructions or can be held by symbolic/significant participants of the wedding party. John and I were married under a chuppah held by our brothers, Kenan and Alexander as well as two dear friends Derrick and Melvin. Although part of the Jewish tradition, I am seeing chuppahs used in many non-religious ceremonies. For example I am Jewish and John is not and since we were not religious we were free to appropriate the symbolism and content from wherever felt good–we used a chuppah, broke a glass and were married by a dear friend and long time family astrologer, Sandra ( also a minister recognized by the state of Maryland).
However in my floral practice the free standing chuppah has been a challenge for me. I am not very handy with power tools. I can put anything together using pins, string, tape or even the occasional staple gun but sawing, drilling and bolting always seemed daunting.
In June I had a wedding on top of the Newseum downtown, the couple wanted a sparse simple elegant chuppah to match the construction of this ultra contemporary building. After multiple trips to Home Depot to scout out material just to see if this was possible for me to build, I decided I needed to finally get professional help–put an end to the free standing chuppah angst.
I called my friend Darrell a former professional skateboarder turned carpenter. He was excited about the project although he had just had a co-worker put a nail through the bottom of his foot. Darrell explained that being a former skateboarder he had broken more bones in his body than he could count and that a nail through the foot was not much more than a good excuse to enjoy pain killers. Darrell started making drawings and within two days we had this structure of a cube, a cube without walls in our backyard. He had designed it with metal slats running from post to post to insure stability and piece of mind that our temp tent would not fly off the top of the Newseum and onto the intersection of Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues. He also created a system of easy take apart and put together bolts for multiple uses in various places. This was like magic to me, in that unless I can hold sticks together by sinking them in a vase with rocks it is not going to happen!
The painter Francis Bacon created geometrical cube-like structures in his paintings. This gesture created a psychological space and framed his abstract portraits. The chuppah does just this as a symbolism of the home a couple will create and a temporary structure. The Jews were originally a nomadic people, malleable in that they could pick up and put down almost anywhere. This symbolism implies an open ended concrete union, abstract in a very real manifestation of home and that home implies nothing more than a shared perspective–a psychological space.
We love this structure in our backyard in the between weddings.