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Thursday, March 12, 2009 | return to: supplement, celebrations


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Jewish kilt: Oakland couple gives rise to a new term

by stacey palevsky, staff writer

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Mark MacVicar walked down the aisle in a kilt.

Then his bride, Kimberlee Garfinkle, followed as the bagpipes blared through the sanctuary.

Under the chuppah, the soon-to-be-wed couple stood as the rabbi joined them in marriage.

“She had insisted that we not see each other before the wedding, so I never got to see how beautiful she looked until she came down the aisle,” Mark recalled. “It brought a little tear to my eye to see her so happy and looking so beautiful.

“The bagpiper heightened that moment.”

The combination of Jewish and Scottish customs might be unlikely in American synagogues, but it was an appropriate and natural fusion for Oakland’s Mark and Kimberlee MacVicar, who celebrated two years of marriage in February.

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Mark and Kimberlee MacVicar take their first stroll as a married couple, up the aisle at Temple Israel in Alameda.
“I definitely wanted a Jewish wedding — I love the symbolism,” Kimberlee said. “I knew I wanted that. But if the wedding was 100 percent Jewish, it wouldn’t be fair to Mark or to his family. And I wanted to make [the ceremony] as comfortable as possible for them.”

Before they married Feb. 17, 2007, they designed a ceremony infused with Jewish and Scottish customs. Both felt was the best way to honor their heritage (Kimberlee is Scottish and Jewish, and Mark is Scottish).

During the ceremony at Temple Israel in Alameda — where Kimberlee is a fourth-generation member — they had their friends hold the chuppah poles and emphasized their role by giving them an original name: “chupparistas.”

“We didn’t want to have umpty-ump bridesmaids and groomsmen, so we decided to let some important members of our community carry the chuppah into the sanctuary,” Mark said.

Though they didn’t tweak the Hebrew in the ceremony, they did scour the Internet for an English translation that conveyed the power and meaning behind the Hebrew.

Traditionally, it is translated as: “By this ring you are consecrated to me, as my wife.”

Instead, they had Rabbi Allen Bennett translate it as: “With this ring you are set apart as special and unique to me as my [wife, husband] with unconditional and enduring love.”

“We wanted to find a translation that did justice to the meaning of the ritual,” Mark said.

Mark had never been to a Jewish wedding before his own, and learning about the customs “made me want to share that knowledge with those who weren’t familiar,” Mark said. “So I had the rabbi add a few explanatory sections to the ceremony.”

Yet the wedding was also steeped in Scottish culture.

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Mark and Kimberlee MacVicar complete their Jewish-Scottish wedding in front of Rabbi Allen Bennett.

Mark wore a kilt made by a Scottish weaver in the tartan of his family. The weaver also made a triangle shawl for Kimberlee, which she put on after ceremony, “as a symbolic gesture that I’m now a part of Mark’s family, the Clan MacNaughton,” she said.

They hired a bagpiper to play before and during the ceremony, and for the reception, they organized a traditional Scottish Bonny Knee competition, a game usually played at Scottish Highland Games.

In the game, judges are blindfolded while contestants let the judges touch their knees. Judges then choose the “bonniest,” or nicest, knees. The winner got a fancy bottle of Scotch.

“It’s a hilarious icebreaker and very silly,” Kimberlee said. “And the place just erupted during the competition. It was just a scream.”

Mark, who brews his own beer at home, also made a chocolate stout especially for the big day.

The wedding was not only a cultural hybrid. It was also very much a do-it-yourself affair.

Mark designed their wedding rings, and he and a friend toiled over an iTunes playlist instead of hiring a DJ. The couple made their own wedding invitations, and instead of including a reply card, encouraged people to reply via their Web site.

Some of that DIY ethos translated into zero-waste efforts. 

They made a decorative bulletin board in lieu of buying placecards for the table assignments.

They didn’t give out party favors, and they didn’t buy elaborate centerpieces. Instead, they filled glass bowls with water and floating candles. Rose petals were sprinkled around the bowls, and those were taken to a friend’s compost bin after the wedding.

“The wedding industry tries to tell you that you need all these things, but they’re so expensive, so cost prohibitive,” Kimberlee said. “We asked ourselves, ‘Do we really need to create all that stuff?’ It seemed like such a waste. It was nice we could marry without all the paraphernalia.”

Kimberlee and Mark MacVicar are now the proud parents of a 10-month-old daughter, Kira Cady. As a family, they light Shabbat candles every Friday evening, and celebrate Jewish holidays.

“We also attend Scottish festivals together,” Mark added. “Dunsmuir is our favorite.”


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