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I had to be at the wedding site (40 min away) at 9:30 am since I finally agreed to take photos before the wedding. I didn't really like the idea of seeing [livejournal.com profile] chococynic the day of without some ceremony attached. And it's a Jewish thing not to see the bride at all the week before the wedding. That would have been logistically complicated and involved burdening our friends with a couchal visitor (me), so we didn't think it was an okay thing to do, but I would have (in my head) liked to see her first only at the ketubah-signing.

Anyway, very late in the game (Tuesday maybe? Thursday?), I was convinced to arrive early to take photos all together (instead of separately) and I'm sorta glad that I did.

But before any of that....
Although it's entirely appropriate and expected for the bride to dunk in the mikvah up to the end of her last period of ritual impurity before the wedding, the custom for men is apparently more of a day-of thing.

So the week before, I called a few places around central NJ for a mikvah appointment. I eventually ended up calling a local shul whose rabbi pointed me to a Chabad yeshiva with a mikvah 10 minutes from my parents' house. I called them up, and a really generous rabbi picked up the phone. I described my situation. Apparently, their mikvahis mostly for women and therefore open at night. But, they said, "for a chosson, we'll do anything!" No one is usually around Sunday early morning, but they'd a rabbi who worked at the school and lives nearby and get him to open up at 8am just for me! Awesome! Just make sure to give him a call beforehand to remind him. Ok.

Friday I gave him a call. "Well," he said, "it'll be hard to get there so early. Can we make it 8:45?" "Uh... no, but I can try to find somewhere else." "What about 8:30? See I have to daven in the morning." "I understand, I'll be davening too, but that'd be way too tight. I'm willing to do 8:15, but that's the latest I can go. See, I have to be across the state by 9:30 and between then, I need to get showered and dressed and such." "Okay, 8:15 then. You know what? 8 o'clock is fine." "Thank you! See you there!"

So that morning I woke up at 6:15 and started the extra-long prayer service of normal Rosh Chodesh shacharit (which includes a whole bunch of extra stuff) plus the long confessional inserted into the pre-wedding silent prayer and the silent prayer before Yom Kippur (since the wedding is seen as a personal Yom Kippur). I added it into both shacharit and mussaf just in case. It took quite a while! I was done by a bit past 7:30, had breakfast. Thank G-d you get to eat before your wedding if it's Rosh Chodesh (since the normal pre-wedding day fasting is forbidden on joyous days like Rosh Chodesh) or my mom would have killed me! Then my Dad took me out to dunk. We got there at 7:58 after getting a little lost, and Rabbi 8:30 was there waiting for us. All right!

The experience wasn't particularly what I expected in that it was not at all remarkable. The mikvah was very sterile and chlorinated. Not particularly spiritual or anything, but very visceral and in that way, very interesting as a religio-spiritual experience.
While I was inside, I heard my Dad and the Chabad rabbi talking about how I grew up Conservative and went to public school and whatnot, along with general chitchat. Anyway, I'm really appreciative for the whole experience.

Afterwards, we headed back home, I took a shower, got dressed in my suit, said a few shechechiyanus for putting on new and special clothing, grabbed all my stuff and headed out the door - to never return to my parents' house as a bachelor.
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