(January 5, 2016 / JNS) By Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman/JNS.org
“Im eshkachech Yerushalayim, tishkach yemini.” If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
Boom. Crush. Crackle. The final step of a Jewish wedding’s chuppah ceremony is the moment that the groom steps on the glass to shouts of “Mazal Tov!”
There are countless interpretations for the tradition of breaking a glass. Some see it as a reminder of the destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem. Others say it is meant to remind us that marriage is as fragile as glass. It also has been interpreted to demonstrate how life is so fragile that the couple should enjoy every day as if it were their last together.
“Can you imagine—you can take a perfectly formed object and smash it.…We are so perfectly formed as we stand under the chuppah. It is true that life is fragile and sometimes fragmented, but Hashem [God] responds to a broken heart,” says Chana Perelman, director of Judaica.com.
Whether progressive or traditional, religious or secular, Jewish weddings almost always include the breaking of a glass. At some weddings, and certainly historically, people used light bulbs or wine goblets wrapped in cloth napkins. Today, however, there are many artists designing vibrant, trendy, and often hand-blown Jewish wedding breaking glasses, and ultimately imaginative keepsakes in which to keep their shards.
Perelman says it was artist Gary Rosenthal who popularized selling beautiful breaking glasses. She highlights the breaking glasses of artist Sara Beames, who produces two different lines of glasses to smash—eight colors in hand-blown glass and five that come in an embroidered “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li” (Hebrew for “I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine”) silk organza bag.
Yet Perelman says the real joy comes not necessarily during the moment of the breaking, but when the couple decides to keepthe glass.
“Assign a reliable person—family member or friend—to take care of getting the glass from under the chuppah. The last thing you want is for it to get swept away by the hall,” says Perelman.
What can you do with those shards? Here are seven ideas:
Box it up
If you choose a dynamic breaking glass in a vibrant color, simply boxing the shards in a Lucite or glass box can be a real attraction. The box can sit on a bookshelf or be displayed on a countertop. The box can be purchased at a craft or jewelry store. Keeping such a box around, says Perelman, reminds the couple of that happy “Mazal Tov moment.”
Ketubah Store offers a Lucite box that comes with the engraving of the couple’s first names and the date of wedding in color choices of black, blue, red, gold, silver, or frosted. Glass shards are shipped to the company, which then returns the gift ready and made.
Shari Klein created a keepsake to help engage her to-be step-children in the wedding ceremony. Today, it beautifies her new home. It was a do-it-yourself project. She purchased an off-white muslin bag with a drawstring and fabric crayons. The children—two boys, ages 6 and 8—were asked to draw what they felt depicted the special day on which their dad would marry his new wife.
“When we brought it to the chuppah, the rabbi was able to acknowledge it, and it made the boys feel good and included,” says Klein, explaining that now they are planning to frame the drawing with the glass and put it up in their house.
Use it for a mitzvah
Artist Faye Miller tells JNS.org that among her most popular keepsakes are mezuzahs and Kiddush cups. Beames says tzedakah boxes are among her hottest buys. Broken glass from a wedding can be incorporated into any of these items.
“My personal favorites are keepsakes that help you perform a mitzvah,” notes Perelman, who says these types of wedding keepsakes sell well on Judaica.com. She says a couple can place the tzedakah box by their candlesticks and give tzedakah as a family every Friday evening, collecting from their children as the family grows.
Make a wedding memory
Broken glass wedding albums, photo frames, and ketubah (marriage contract) frames are also popular. Gary Rosenthal’s Ahava wedding glass keepsake photo frame, made with the glass shards, is a large round frame that holds an eight-inch circular photo in a brass ring. It features a laser-cut version of the word “ahava,” meaning love in Hebrew. The shards are displayed in an attached tube. The couple purchases the frame and receives step-by-step instructions for how to assemble it.
Chana Perelman warns that if couples pick out a keepsake, they should check to see if the artist requires them to use one of his or her breaking glasses before moving forward.
Design a piece of jewelry
The bride can take a piece of glass and commission a keepsake piece of jewelry. A search on Etsy.com reveals a lamp-work necklace from the broken glass of a Jewish wedding, created by Sari Glassman, who explains on the product page that she melted the pieces from the broken glass in the flame and added to them 22k gold leaf.
“Do you know a woman who wants to get married? This necklace will bring her luck,” writes Glassman—though it will also be a piece to cherish for a woman who has already married her soulmate.
Perelman recommends embedding wedding glass shards in a piece of pottery. One can visit a paint-and-glaze store and ask to use the glass as part of a mosaic pottery project, or commission an artist to create their ideal piece.
Search for another craft idea—or come up with your own!
Pinterest is an excellent platform for finding creative ideas for what to do with your broken wedding glass shards. Put “broken glass art” in the search bar and you’ll find everything from mirrors, to mosaics, to glass bottle collectibles, to garden stepping stones.
Faye Miller says it’s a joy to work on breaking glass keepsakes.
“I think the glass shards themselves are beautiful, and the fact that they harken back to the earliest days of the Jewish people is very meaningful,” says Miller. “How wonderful to have a piece in your home that evokes memories of our people as well as the special moment when you became husband and wife. I love my job and consider it an honor when brides and grooms select my art for their wedding glass.”