Performing a Jewish wedding ceremony on a cruise boat in the East River is no easy task. Carrying a portable Chuppah on my shoulders while juggling a heavy bag filled with my Kiddush cup, a bottle of kosher wine, my Tallit, and a large Ketubah rolled in a long tube I inched my way up the gangplank which was swaying in the late summer breeze.
I reminded the crewmen that I was there only to perform a wedding ceremony and would have to disembark before the boat was to leave the dock. Our wedding cruiser which was near Manhattan’s fashionable east 60s, was packed with family and friends of the bride and groom. After receiving their warm greeting it appeared to me that they hadn’t decided where to have me perform their ceremony, much less providing and setting up a table on which to place 0ther items I had brought on board.
After filling out and obtaining the witness’s signatures for their marriage license and instructing the photographer not to crowd the bride and groom, we lined up for the ceremony.
As the boat rocked in the late afternoon breeze, the wine cup spilled, the canopy slipped off the poles holding the Chuppah and the Ketubah blew off the table. As the groom’s foot smashed the glass amidst shouts of Mazel Tov, I scrambled to collect my equipment and make a hasty exit onto dry land and back to New Jersey for a memorial service I had to officiate. When I tried to find the gangplank all I could see was the Triboro Bridge ( a.k.a RFK Bridge) towering overhead as we veered up the East River toward the Long Island Sound .
” Help ” I shrieked. ” I have to get off. I have another service to perform in an hour. We have to go back right now. “
The newlyweds graciously invited me to continue on with them for their dinner cruise and even suggested that I lead them in the “Motze” over the Challah , and perhaps offer a toast later on. After all, hadn’t I prepared the bride for her Bat Mitzvah 12 years earlier ?
I was now one of the family.
But, duty called and I insisted that they return to port and to my car which was parked nearby.
I have shared many more joyous occasions with this family and we always recount the story of their wedding day and of how the boat set sail with me on it.
Rabbi Nat Benjamin