It's time to give the time-honored tradition of the krenzel — the crowning of a mother upon her last child's marriage — its due.
If there is a good way to acknowledge your mother at your wedding, why wouldn’t you do it?” With that sentiment, Adam Weitz, executive director of A# Sharp Production, embraces the krenzel, the crowning ceremony in which a wreath is placed on the head of the mother during the wedding reception of her last child to be married. “It used to be done just when the last daughter was married, but now we do it for the last child, whether that is a daughter or son.”
While acknowledging that some traditions from previous generations — like removing the bride’s garter — are no longer done at most weddings, Weitz feels that crownings are in a different category. “It is one of our customs, and it defines a wedding as a distinctly Jewish one,” Weitz says. “Is there anything religious about it? No. Is it written in the Bible that you have to do it? No. It originated in Eastern Europe and was brought to America by our ancestors. Is it a lovely moment in the reception that people remember with happiness? Absolutely.”
But Steve Meranus, managing partner of EBE Events & Entertainment, says that few of his bridal couples want to do crownings. “I find that if the parents are older and steeped in tradition, they want it,” he says. “But for younger people, their parents are not involved in their dating — unless it’s telling them to go on JDate. So the bride and groom don’t want to stop the party for it. There’s nothing wrong with the krenzel ceremony — and we still do them sometimes — but many people in their 20s think it’s odd and antiquated to congratulate a mother on marrying off her children.”
“Bull,” responds Sally Mitlas, owner of Sally Mitlas Productions. She agrees with Weitz that crownings are wonderful, Jewlicious ways to honor mothers. In fact, Mitlas has expanded crownings to include fathers. “The krenzel ceremony is a lovely way to say to Mom and Dad, ‘Thank you for your love and support and for helping me reach this point in my life.’ ”
While Weitz reserves the krenzel just for mothers, all three entertainers do multiple crownings if both the bride and groom are the last children to be married from each family.
However, parental politics may come into play, just as they do when the bride dances with her father. What if the bridal couple has a closer relationship with their stepparents than their birth parents? Who should get crowned? “All or any of them,” is Weitz’s answer. “It’s up to the bride and groom to select who they dance with and who they crown. We figure that out well in advance, during the planning consultations. We ask specific questions about that so the bridal couple can discuss it at length before they make decisions.”
Weitz also points out that, from the bandleader’s point of view, the krenzel ceremony provides a good segue from dinner into dancing. “I do the crowning after dessert to transition back into the party,” he says. “It’s a great way to get something going on the dance floor that involves all of the guests.”
What exactly is the krenzel ceremony? “I come out to the middle of the dance floor where we have placed chairs in the right places for the photographer, videographer and audience to see,” Weitz explains. “I say, ‘We have a very special custom to share with you. Please rise to join us.’ I announce the mother and father, and the in-laws, too, even if that mother is not being crowned. They are seated in the chairs. Then, I ask the court — the bride, groom and all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen — to stand behind the mom being crowned. If it’s a small bridal party, I ask them to bring their spouses.”
Mitlas conducts the krenzel a bit differently. “I bring up the immediate family to stand behind the parents being honored,” she explains. “The parents are seated in two chairs in the middle of the dance floor. Their children stand behind them. I invite the rest of the room to join us.”
Then comes the actual crown. A wreath of freshly cut, small, usually white flowers, the crown is created by the florist and delivered to the emcee or DJ before the reception begins. To be extra cautious, most entertainers pack a spare crown made of dried flowers.
“While I’m holding the crown, the band starts to play ‘Di Mezinkeh Oysgegeben’ [“I Gave Away My Youngest Daughter”] — slowly — and I start to tell the story behind the krenzel ceremony,” Weitz says. “ ‘Many moons ago, there was a tradition created to celebrate the mother of the bride, because all of her life she was treated like daddy’s little girl and like a … what?’ And the audience answers, ‘A princess.’ I keep going and say, ‘Then the princess got married to Sam — or Joe, or whatever the dad’s name is — and he took care of her and made sure that she was still treated like a princess. Tonight, in giving away her last child, she goes from being a princess to being a queen.’ At that point, the band starts to play the music a little faster.”
Both bandleaders explain that the crowd will circle the parents three times. For Mitlas, those three times symbolize mazel tov, simcha raba and the circle of life. Weitz has a different take. “The first time is to recognize the past and Mom’s dedication and sacrifice in raising her children,” he says. “The second time symbolizes the present and this celebration we are sharing. The third time represents the future when mom will become a bubbe-bubba-nana-grandma — I rattle off a bunch of names that grandmothers use. Then, the bride and groom place the crown gently on her hair, and then we go into a hora.”
Mitlas says that family and friends — Jewish and otherwise — get very emotional during crownings. “A Jewish wedding is a perfect expression of Jewish values, and chief among them is marriage,” Mitlas says. “Marriage is a mitzvah and a strong part of our culture. We are taught that our children’s match in life — their bashert — is chosen at birth. So when your child has found his or her bashert — and all of your children have done so — it is time for celebrating. When your child steps into a life role as a wife or husband and eventual parent, this is their moment of happiness. In Jewish weddings, it’s not just about partying and favors and food and time to go home. It is about passing on our values.”
Melissa Jacobs is the senior writer for Inside. This article originally appeared in Simchas, a Jewish Exponent supplement.