In the Jewish tradition, both the bride and groom will go separately to the mikvah (a ritual bath that looks kind of like a mini-swimming pool) before their wedding day in order to “purify” themselves before their new union.
Ryan Selzer focused in on this tradition before her sister Casey’s wedding, with intentions of re-imagining what a modern mikvah ceremony could look like. Ryan focused on the literal meaning of the word “mikvah”– a collection. Generally, it referred to the collection of water, but Ryan also brought meaning to her ceremony in thinking about the mikvah as an opportunity to create a collection of women– in essence, a community. It became important to Ryan that rather than the mikvah being a solitary experience, that this be an experience shared between a group of women– witnesses and supporters of Casey’s new partnership as well as her ever-evolving independence.
“The mikvah is a ritual of living waters that creates the time and space to acknowledge and embrace a new stage of life. In its eternal flow, water is a symbol of birth and renewal, but also of mystery, depth, and reflection. This was especially true in our contemporary ceremony. It was nice to think of the word ‘collection’ as we each looked around the circle. Each one of us had traveled from a different place to sit in this circle, literally and metaphorically. Each one of us has our own story, but it is Casey’s role in each of our stories that created our particular collection of women.”
Walking along the river where the women would dip their feet to fulfill the mikvah ritual
The space prepared for the ritual
Ryan also found that the word “mikvah” shares the root letters with the Hebrew word for “hope.” She felt that this was a particularly important feeling when celebrating a new union, and decided that each woman should be able to offer “blessings” to Casey in whatever form they saw fit (poems, stories, songs, life lessons, etc).
Below is the final form the ritual took:
Ryan’s Mikvah Ritual, In Honor of Casey
Greeting: Each of the women introduced themselves, and shared where they traveled from to be present, how they know Casey and for how long.
Opening thoughts: One of the women read a poem to bring them all into the space of the ritual.
Chuppah Ceremony: The women held the cloth that was to be used as the chuppah at Casey’s wedding over Casey’s head. They each had a chance to offer a blessing, and Casey sat in the middle of the circle and faced each woman individually as she was imparting the blessing.
Casey receiving blessings under the chuppah
Mikvah: The women dipped their feet in the river along with Casey, in order to “immerse her in love and support, cleanse her of inhibitions, and infuse her with the life and fertility of the river.”
Kiddush/Feast: After exiting the water, the women made a kiddush (over mimosas!), in honor of Casey.