BALTIMORE — From arranged marriages to same-sex marriages, the Jewish wedding has evolved, but with many of its traditions intact.
It’s that evolution that is at the center of an upcoming Jewish Museum of Maryland exhibit — and its curator wants the help of the community.
Along with the exhibit, “Just Married! Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland,” the museum in Baltimore has an initiative called “Marrying Maryland,” which seeks photos, invitations and other memorabilia.
Joanna Church, the exhibit curator, said the museum has had a good response so far from people sending in artifacts from their weddings or those of their parents, grandparents, relatives or friends. This memorabilia will be featured on the museum blog as submissions come in.
They’re taking pieces from all kinds of weddings, Church said, provided they have a Maryland connection.
“It has been a topic and area that has been of concern to the Jewish community for a long time,” Church said.
The exhibit will open on June 18. Both Church and exhibit project manager Tracie Guy-Decker talked of the layers within it.
Along with being an exhibit with beautiful dresses and wedding artifacts, Church and Guy-Decker see it as a rumination on the competing forces Jews face when planning their weddings.
“For me, much bigger and deeper than just ‘Oh, pretty dresses!’ is the idea of how American Jews are Jewish — and American,” Guy-Decker said.
From the turn of the 20th century to now, American Jews have had to balance these forces. What traditions do they include? Do they want to be married by a rabbi? Which parts of their identity do they represent?
“It’s complicated to have multiple identities,” Guy-Decker said, “which we all do, and there are moments in our lives when we have to decide which elements of our identities to highlight, and the wedding is one of them.”
That’s not to say the dresses aren’t fantastic — they definitely are, Church said.
“I must admit, I am a big fan of dresses, and we have them all throughout the exhibit, so that’s great for me,” she said.
The exhibit is nearly complete (though Church says they’re always willing to take in more dresses and artifacts if people have them to donate).
Ideally, Church wants this exhibit and accompanying initiative to be fun for all who attend, donate or view it.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be a really cheerful, optimistic exhibit,” she said.
For information or to submit memorabilia, visit jewishmuseummd.org/exhibits/marrying-maryland.
Hannah Monicken is senior reporter for the Baltimore Jewish Times.