an older white couple standing together, smiling. she is wearing a white dress and holding a bouquet. he has a blue shirt with a flower pinned to it.
Linda Bernstein and Gary Stein on their wedding day. (Photo/Courtesy Bernstein)

With a little ingenuity, our wedding happened overnight 

My wedding plans with Gary Stein were set for Aug. 2, after Tisha B’Av and to coincide with a visit to the Bay Area by my daughter and family, who are spending two years in Israel. However, all plans came to an abrupt halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even the issuance of marriage licenses in San Francisco was stopped, with no resumption date in sight. So in early June I reached out to the San Mateo County Clerk’s office (Gary lives in San Mateo) and got on the waiting list for a virtual wedding ceremony. That was the only way to get a marriage license.

I was initially told we were number 24 on the list. When I checked back, we were now 34 on the waiting list! How could we have gone down, I asked? I was told there were over 300 people on the list.

Then, on June 24, I suddenly got a call that a 2 p.m. appointment was open the next day, and did I want it? Gary and I looked at each other (I was cutting his hair at the time) and we both agreed to grab the opportunity, not knowing when another appointment would become available.

The importance of the details for our originally planned wedding seemed to melt away as we focused on the essence of our love for each other and desire to be united. We scurried around to take care of the essential “to do’s” and ran to Costco to buy two rings. Gary’s didn’t even fit because they had only one in stock. We grabbed some flowers from the flower bin. We quickly mocked up an Evite with the Zoom information, and of course contacted our Rabbi Dan Ain (of San Francisco Congregation Beth Sholom), who excitedly agreed to officiate for us, his first virtual wedding.

Thanks to the generous offer of their beautiful garden and technical support from my son Dan and lovely wife, Leslie, within 24 hours and properly socially distanced, we were set up with the clerk’s virtual program online, with our rabbi officiating and our sons as witnesses. Another computer was hooked up to Zoom, with our families and a few friends from around the world watching, including daughter Julie and son-in-law Rusty, who were watching at midnight in Jerusalem. My two sweet grandchildren were dressed up for the occasion and were very excited to be a part of the festivities.

Rabbi Ain suggested limiting the Jewish portion of the ceremony to the erusin (betrothal) ritual, the exchange of rings. We would postpone the ketubah (marriage contract), sheva brachot (seven wedding blessings) and breaking of the glass until a future date when we could all dance together again.

It all worked out beautifully, and after about 20 minutes of filling out administrative forms and raising our right hands for the clerk, followed by the meaningful words and blessings of Rabbi Ain, we were virtually, and officially, married! Everyone online sang “Siman Tov U’Mazel Tov” (“Good Sign and Good Luck”) and we had our first dance on the grass.

From meeting on JDate five years ago to having a virtual wedding ceremony, this has truly been a senior cyber simcha made in heaven!

headshot of Linda Bernstein
Dr. Linda Bernstein

Dr. Linda Bernstein, a pharmacist on the UCSF volunteer faculty, is founder of Vita Media. She is also a cantorial intern and master’s of Jewish studies student at the Academy for Jewish Religion. She married Dr. Gary Stein, retired Kaiser Permanente physician of San Mateo, on June 18. They are members of S.F. Congregation Beth Sholom.