Still dazed, speaking only for myself who was uninitiated in all matters Chareidi, from the solemnity of the Chupa just past, we moved back to the wedding hall via elevators, one for males and one for females. Ari and Menuha, by themselves alone for the first time retired to the privacy of a small room where they broke their fast and presumably consummated their marriage...whoa! symbolically only. They joined the festivities after a space of "Hi and Hello" or so it seemed to me and probably to them too.
In the meanwhile, the hall was keenly bursting with party atmosphere and the guests were eager to fulfill the mitzvah of making sure the bride and groom enjoy themselves to the hilt albeit separated anew - Ari with their male guests on one side of the divider and Menuha with their female guests on the other side. The guests were big families which included their children of all ages and their babies in prams. There was a band of men who located themselves on one corner of the male side of the hall, also wearing the traditional garb of black-and-white with beards and payes, who played the vivacious Hebrew party music that lent itself to exuberant and highly spirited group dancing. There was none of the de rigueur first dances typical of secular weddings. As it follows, there were no close physical encounters between any male and any female. There were few stragglers from the men's side to the women's side and notorious of whom right from the start were the twin brothers of Menuha, the strikingly handsome Tobiah and Meir, who sat by their lovely wife and fiancee respectively and even then, there were no dancing and no overt forms of touching. Four-sixths of Menuha's family as are four-fifths of Ari's family are not as tradition-bound as Menuha and Ari but both families applied themselves devotedly to all the Orthodox rituals required of them. This loyal and loving familial support made every aspect of the celebration nice and beautiful and complete.
How, you ask, is the fun factor under such seemingly strict constraints? It was amazingly off the chart. It was FUN as in F-U-N, as in FUN!FUN!FUN! Unexpectedly so, incredibly so, but true. At first it seemed unlikely but shortly into it, I found the wisdom in this unisexual, sometimes chorus-line like group dances. Since there were no pheromones distracting the sweet abandon to the guileless movements, the joy in the doing was focused and pure. It was like an unprogrammed child-play of a sort since the ladies, most of whom were young and energetic, were very creative in innovating line dances using arched embellished rounded poles under which the guests danced through led by Menuha, a decorated umbrella as a prop for prancing here and there, and such. We danced in big circles becoming smaller, in trains serpenting around the room, and sometimes in big and in small groups. The main event was when the ladies were gathered around a huge, rectangular plywood, holding it up, carrying it around with Menuha at the center of it, throwing treats in small pouches over the divider to the men's side of the hall. Can you imagine how strong these ladies were and how fit Menuha was to remain poised on top of the wide undulating thin board? Dancing went on and on; I got pulled to the dance floor whenever Orit's daughters saw me sitting; they made me feel so warmly welcomed and an integral part of the celebration. One cannot not dance, both young and old. Orit's children were gorgeously dressed to the nines as Noya predicted they would be and their individual personalities sparkled brightly. Sometime during all of this, there were confettis showered on Menuha which the children, boys and girls alike (yes! the boys can cross the great divide freely) enjoyed doing, rendering everything boisterous and festive.
From time to time, I peeped through the slotted upper border of the divider to the men's side and they too were dancing in groups and in circles and were as loose-limbed and as bouncy as we were on our side. I saw the brothers Yochanan, Barukh and Ari arm-in-arm and I was moved by the sight of them together.
The food was an abundant banquet served in multiple courses in a sit-down style dining with servers, who also went around with an offering of choices. The first course was bread, salt and mezes already set on the table. The second was a choice amongst moussaka, spicy fish, or minced chicken in puff pastry. The third was an offering of chicken and steak and I chose the steak which was so perfectly cooked I thought I'd gone to Heaven prematurely! This course was accompanied by rice pilaf and fresh green beans. The fourth was a dessert course, first a square piece of cake with whipped cream on the side followed by a wide platter of fresh fruits left for noshing in the middle of the table. There were soft beverages, water, and I can't remember if there was a light wine to accompany the meals. So much delicious food to sustain the aerobic nature of the non-stop dancing which went deep into the night. What a party!
Just prior to bidding the last of the guests, the service staff and the hall farewell, we took our places for group photographs as well. I am certain that there were a lot of impromptu pictures too since the camera and video crew were all over both sides of the hall.