DEAR ABBY: When did weddings cease being joyous religious and family celebrations and become media events? A clergyman recently wrote to you asking, "Can you imagine what it's like to officiate at a wedding with a baby screaming at the top of its lungs? Have you ever watched and listened to a video of a wedding with two or three babies crying while the parents make no attempt to quiet them?"
Babies are a part of the family, Abby. I have been in synagogues where babies began crying -- not in distress, but simply because babies make noise -- and I have been embarrassed. Not embarrassed by the babies, but embarrassed by their mothers, who felt it was necessary to take them out so as not to "disturb" the other worshipers. I have followed mothers out of the sanctuary of the synagogue (when I had the privilege of doing so, as a congregant rather than a rabbi) and assured them that their babies, in my opinion, enhanced the worship by their truth, their honesty and sincerity. What is a baby's cry if not a prayer?
As with regular worship services, even more is it true of weddings. Yes, I have officiated at weddings where babies were present and noisy; I have not been disturbed by them, and by acknowledging the delight of the infants, I have kept the wedding party and guests from being disturbed.
One wedding in particular comes to mind, in which a couple who had been married five years earlier in a civil ceremony asked me to preside at a religious ceremony. Their infant daughter was present, held in her grandfather's arms, and she made noise, as a baby will do. The noises of the happy baby disturbed nobody present, and she quickly quieted from the loud noises to gentle cooing when I suggested that she be transferred to her mother's arms. I acknowledged her as a part of the wedding party, and the wedding was immeasurably beautified by her presence.
Exclude babies? God forbid that I should ever do so! Peace and blessings ... RABBI ZEV-HAYYIM FEYER, ATLANTA
DEAR RABBI FEYER: As with most issues, there is more than one opinion. Thank you for stating yours.