Mazel tov! You’re engaged! What better time could there be to celebrate your wedding than on Hanukkah, the festival of lights? Even if you and your partner are interfaith or not very religious, the holiday of Hanukkah offers something for everyone. Its position near the secular year’s end makes it the perfect choice for couples who want a festive holiday wedding theme. You have a whole year before it rolls around again, so grab a few latkes and start planning a wedding filled with joy and light!
Festival of Lights
Since Hanukkah is the “festival of lights,” it’s only fair that your wedding get some stellar lighting. If you don’t have professional event lighting equipment yourself, hire someone who does. It doesn’t matter if you use the most elegant venue in town or if you’re getting hitched in your aunt’s living room; the lighting is what will create the atmosphere you want. If you’re working with a limited budget, call a local theater or film school and hire a lighting student. Pay special attention to lighting where the bride will enter, where the vows will take place, and in the reception venue, where the first dance will happen.
No night of Hanukkah would be complete without a menorah, so display yours proudly where all the guests will see. The longer you wait to have your wedding, the more candles will be lit–so plan accordingly if you want a dazzling centerpiece! Even if your wedding venue usually doesn’t allow open flame, you may be able to have them make a religious exception for your menorah.
Chocolate gelt is a staple of Hanukkah because it satisfies a sweet tooth as well as tradition. Include bags of chocolate Hanukkah coins with your party favors as a tasty reminder of your holiday wedding. You may also want to use the shiny, edible coins to decorate your wedding cake! Unwrapped, the coins also make excellent toppers to insert into wedding cupcakes.
Are you expecting kids at your wedding? Keep them occupied during the reception with an ongoing game of dreidel. You can also include adults by altering the rules a little bit for your wedding. In addition to the usual transfer of coins in the game, include an extra action for each side the dreidel lands on. Extra actions could be: “You have to tell a story about how you met the newlyweds.” “The newlyweds have to kiss.” “You knew it was true love when…” and “Give the newlyweds some marriage advice.”
Don’t forget all of the delicious food that comes with a Hanukkah celebration! The holiday brings a traditional menu that works equally well as a reception banquet or, in smaller portions, as hors d’oeuvres. From noodle kugel to beef brisket, your wedding reception table will be groaning under its scrumptious burden.
Serve golden-fried potato latkes as large as dinner plates for full servings, or make each one the size of a silver dollar for bite-sized snacks. Don’t forget all the dipping options! Saucers of applesauce and sour cream are traditional. Honey mustard, curry yogurt, and chipotle cream are popular variations. If you want to stretch tradition even further, make latkes from sweet potatoes, pumpkins, or even acorn squash. Since the story of Hanukkah celebrates a miraculous abundance of oil, you can make a good argument for frying nearly anything.
Looking for something sweeter? Sufganiyot, or jelly donuts, are deep-fried and often topped with powdered sugar. Stack them high on a platter to partner your wedding cake, or make them into tiny morsels as sweet bites during cocktail hour. Fill the donuts with a variety of jelly flavors from strawberry to chocolate so your guests have an excuse to sample more than one.
Don’t forget the kosher wine! Hanukkah celebrations and weddings have a lot in common when it comes to beverages. Pour liberally and toast often to keep your guests in a celebratory mood. (Offer kosher grape juice as a non-alcoholic alternative.)
Double the Celebration
Although planning a wedding on a holiday can be challenging for planning reasons (guests often have competing occasions with their own families, for one), Hanukkah does offer an advantage over many other major holidays. Since it is celebrated on a lunar calendar, it sometimes falls outside of the winter holiday travel rush. This means that you get the best of both worlds–you can have your wedding on a special date, and your guests don’t have to pay increased travel fares to attend. Best of all, when you finalize your marriage on a night of Hanukkah, you give yourself extra reason to celebrate for all the years to come.