Tales of a Huppa Holder
by Allison Kaplan
Jewish wedding tradition, so Iíve been told, considers carrying the huppa
(ritual canopy held over over bride and groom in Jewish weddings) to be a
higher honor than the more social conventions of serving as a bridesmaid
Having stood up in a wedding for the first time this past weekend -- as a
huppa holder, no less--I can understand why carrying the bridal canopy is
a position held in such high esteem. Much more can go wrong when youíre
balancing a quarter of the bride and groomís symbolic home than when youíre
just holding a bouquet and looking pretty.
I was very much aware, throughout my appointment as huppa holder, that if
I went down, the very fabric of the bride and groomís house would collapse.
I didnít fall. But thank goodness for wedding rehearsals.
It hadnít crossed my mind, prior to my cousinís wedding rehearsal, that
weddings donít just spontaneously come to order, with couples expertly
waltzing two-by-two down the aisle at precisely the right moments.
Enter: the wedding planner.
At once, my cousinís wedding planner had us quietly lined up single file,
afraid to so much as breathe until she sternly whispered "go".
But more than her orchestrating abilities, Iíve never seen someone so
prepared. Iíd like to hire a wedding planner just to follow me around so
I wouldnít have to carry a purse. If a button pops off my jacket, sheís
got thread to fix it. If I get a little hungry, she brings snacks that
wonít stain (white food, this is apparently called in the wedding world).
And if the snack leaves an aftertaste, no problem. The wedding planner
always carries mints!
No wonder wedding planners donít come cheap.
The day of the big event, we huppa holders required an extra practice
session. And itís a good thing, because our whole routine had been disrupted.
The smooth, bare bamboo poles we used in the rehearsal were now covered
with delicate leaves and flowers. I could barely find a place to grab hold.
And the stairs. There hadnít been any stairs when we practiced. Now there
were two. Having nearly lost my balance when the huppa pole stayed on the
first step as I ascended to the second, I learned the most important rule
in huppa holding: Raise that pole up high.
It must have looked good when the four of us reached the bimah (stage) and
spread out to our appointed corners without ripping the huppa. Now all I had
to do was stand quietly--glancing from time to time to make sure the huppa
wasnít resting on the over 6-foot-tall groomís head.
The rabbi offered perhaps the most important piece of wedding advice just
before we went on. I was expecting some philosophical thoughts on love,
commitment and attending Friday night services. But the rabbi came through
with these practical words I contemplated throughout the entire ceremony:
Donít lock your knees!
Just as I was feeling a little fidgety on stage, worried the muscles in my
hand could very well be permanently locked around that bamboo pole, the
bride addressed me. "Psst," she said. "Move over".
Move over? The stage was all of four feet wide. And hey, the wedding planner
never said the bride was allowed to boss me during the ceremony. So I
evaluated the huppa, certain that my pole was not properly angled, and
therefore causing the fabric to hang askew in a manner bothersome to the
Not the case. But my cousin told me again to move, this time motioning which
direction with her bouquet. The rabbi, meanwhile, was pouring wine or
Thankfully I got the message without causing her to miss an important
question. My cousin was afraid our seriously petite grandma couldnít see and
wanted me to scoot out of her sight line. Not the treatment an honorable
huppa holder might expect, but for my grandma, I can let it go.
Iíve attended a lot of weddings in the last couple of years--now that my
friends are approaching their sobering mid-to-late-twenties. But the
experience of being part of the wedding--especially for someone with whom I
used to play pretend fast food restaurant (we took the orders, our brothers
played customers)--is rather extraordinary.
I think my cousin put it best, as we were summoned from the dressing room
to pose for bridal party pictures. Looking like she had stepped out of a
fairy tale, my cousin the bride turned to me and said, "Isnít this just the
weirdest thing weíve ever done?"
That, indeed, it was.