10 Things Not to Do or Say at Same-Sex, Transgender, and Inter-Sex Weddings

-People who, for personal, philosophical, or religious reasons, do not agree with same-sex, transgender, or inter-sex weddings, should not be invited to such weddings—even if they are close friends or relatives. Instead, they should be sent an announcement of the wedding (in the case of close relatives and friends) or receive word of the wedding through the newspaper. And since announcements bear no obligation to give a gift, the recipient need not feel any obligation to send a gift in celebration of a union that he or she does not condone.

People who receive an invitation to a same-sex, transgender, or inter-sex wedding but cannot, for personal, philosophical, or religious reasons, support such a union, should not attend the wedding. Instead, they should decline the invitation. There is no obligation to send a gift under such circumstances since it was improper for such a person to have been sent an invitation in the first place—the way one would not send an invitation to a wine-tasting to a teetotaler or an invitation to a pig roast to a Muslim.

 -An invited guest who is allowed to bring another guest should not bring a guest who, for personal, philosophical, or religious reasons, does not support same-sex, transgender, or inter-sex weddings—even if the accompanying guest is a fiancé, a fiancée, a best friend, or a blood relative.

Do not ask, “So who’s the man, and who’s the woman?” or any other similarly offensive, uninformed, or irrelevant variation thereof, such as, “How am I to address you: ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ ?”

 -Do not give “his/her” gifts unless such is the expressed posture of the couple’s relationship.

 -Do not ask, “How did you two meet?” or “How long have both of you known each other?” Information of such a personal nature is generally already known or need not be known. The first question may lead to embarrassment if truthfully answered, and the second inquiry may be interpreted as a questioning of the long-term stability of the couple.

 -Do not ask, “So when can we expect a baby?” Such an imposing inquiry would be improper at a traditional wedding and would, likewise, be inappropriate at a non-traditional wedding.

 -Do not voice—not even in the form of a whisper—any objections; make disparaging remarks about; or indicate any lack of support for same-sex, transgender, or inter-sex marriage at such a wedding. A wedding is supposed to be an uplifting event, attended by people who love and support the couple.

 -Do not, for the sake of appearing open-minded, feign being more comfortable or knowledgeable of same-sex, transgender, or inter-sex relationships than is the case. “Oh, I have lots of gay friends” or “I really enjoy Christopher Street” are as likely to signify being “gay-friendly” as is “I have lots of Black and Latino friends” likely to make one not appear racist.

Do not inquire as to the attendance of certain relatives or friends (For example, “Where is your brother Mark? I haven’t seen him,” or “How is your father handling all of this?”). Many relatives and friends opt not to attend same-sex, transgender, and inter-sex weddings for various reasons, and their absence, oftentimes a cause for discomfort to the couple, need not be a topic of discussion at the wedding.


12 Wayne James Quotations

12 Quotations by Wayne James

  1. There are three things a gentleman never discusses:  acreage, lineage, and patronage.
  2. Life is my drug of choice:  It gives me all the highs and lows I could ever want.
  3. What women really need are bra-implants, not breast-implants.
  4. The glass is neither half-full nor half-empty; it’s simply halfway. So stop debating and start drinking!
  5. I can live anywhere with the three B’s:  Beaches, Bougainvillea, and Bidets!
  6. Be consistent! Even a dead clock gets it right twice a day….
  7. If you’re going to piss on someone’s grave, show some respect:  Do it in zigzag!
  8. Everyone is a genius–at something….
  9. I have friends in high–and low–places….
  10. Get up, dust off, straighten your tie, and  then hit them back–harder!
  11. Dry-wiping your butt is like dry-wiping a muddied windshield–but worse!
  12. The more expensive a man’s jewelry, the cheaper he looks.

Handkerchiefs and Pocket Squares: The History and the Etiquette

For the purist, the only legitimate pocket square is one of white linen; and a white linen pocket square is only properly worn with a white shirt (or a shirt with significant embellishments in the color white). For the purist, only between ¼- and ½-inch of the white pocket square should be exposed, and the upper edge of the exposed portion should be parallel to the opening of the jacket pocket into which the square is placed. The objective is to create a visual and proportional balance between the portion of white shirt-cuff that extends beyond the jacket sleeve of a properly fitted jacket and the white pocket accessory. The “puff,” “points,” and “butterfly” pocket square formations that some men wear, then, even when of white linen, are regarded by the purist as “distractions.” And even more distracting are those colorful pocket squares—usually made of silk—that are color-coordinated with ties, shirts, or jackets. Wearing colorful pocket squares is a popular practice that, according to purists, should be abandoned posthaste. As far as the purist is concerned, if a man wants to wear a “flower” on his jacket, he should be bold and wear a real flower! After all, that is the precise purpose for the placement of a buttonhole—also called a “boutonnière”—on the left lapel of a jacket.  Yes, a man is entitled to display panache, but it must be done with good taste.  (It should also be noted that with black tie wear, the pocket square is always white to complement the shirt—never black to match or compliment the tie or the tuxedo. Likewise, with white tie wear, the pocket square is always white—to complement the shirt, the complement to the tie being coincidental). But what the purist finds especially egregious is the wearing of tie-and-pocket square sets! That, in his way of thinking, is the fashion equivalent of painting-by-numbers. Unless a man wants to look like a dodo, he should regard tie/pocket square sets as a definite no-no—according to the purist.

The decorative pocket square’s affiliation with modern-day menswear begins in ancient times as a ceremonial, and then practical, handkerchief. It would not be until the 1950s that the pocket square would assume a purely decorative role.

The earliest records of handkerchiefs date back to 4th millennium B.C.E., Egypt, as evidenced by the red-dyed linen squares found at Nekhen [Hierakonpolis]. By 2000 B.C.E., wealthy Egyptians were carrying bleached-white linen handkerchiefs, presumably for hygienic uses:  A beautiful stela housed at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria shows Keti and Senet carrying handkerchiefs. Throughout the Ancient and Medieval Worlds, handkerchiefs—plain and elaborate, perfumed and unscented—were used for everything from absorbing perspiration to wiping the hands and nose to shielding city dwellers from urban stench. But it was in the 1920s, with the rise of the two-piece suit, that men started wearing pocket squares in the left chest pocket of their jackets.  And immediately, it became unthinkable for a gentleman to wear a jacket without a pocket square.  Before the 1950s, when, for hygienic reasons, disposable tissue became preferred over cloth handkerchiefs, gentlemen would routinely carry two handkerchiefs:  one in their pants pockets for personal use; and one in the chest pocket of their jackets in the event they needed to quickly offer a clean handkerchief to another person—especially a damoiselle in distress. Rather than reaching into a private, obscured part of the one’s garment to procure a handkerchief, a gentleman would, in plain view, simply pluck the handkerchief from his chest pocket and present it to the person in need. But in the 1950s, with the hygiene-justified preference for disposable tissue over cloth handkerchiefs, the once-practical chest handkerchief was relegated to being a purely decorative accessory.  And once the pocket square no longer served its hygienic purpose, it no longer needed to be white—except for the purists.  Over the years, pocket squares have waxed and waned in popularity. In the 1970s, for example, pocket squares had virtually fallen into oblivion; but since the 1980s, there has been a steady resurgence, especially of the colorful, patterned, silk varieties.


How to Establish a Receiving Line at a Same-Sex Wedding with Two Grooms

The Receiving Line

When there is no reception, or when many guests are invited to the ceremony but not the reception, the receiving line should be established immediately after the ceremony at the ceremony venue. If, under those circumstances, the ceremony takes place in a church, the receiving line should be established just outside the main entrance. (Permission to use the vestibule in the event of inclement weather should be obtained in advance of the date of the ceremony. Establishing a reception line inside the church proper would be inappropriate since a receiving line primarily serves a secular function). Otherwise, a  receiving line should be established at the reception venue. Receiving lines are best established on the left side of the reception area, thereby allowing each person proceeding down the line to be led by his right hand, the hand he will extend as he is introduced to or greets each person in the line.

The receiving line at a wedding serves two major purposes:  to allow all guests to personally congratulate the couple and thank the hosts for the invitation; and for introductions to be exchanged. The receiving line at a traditional wedding consists of the mother-of-the-bride; followed by the mother-of-the-groom, then the father-of-the-groom (if he is from out of town and is unknown to the bride’s family and friends); the groom, with the bride to his right; followed by the maid- /matron-of-honor; and, finally, the best man. The bridesmaids and groomsmen are only included in the receiving line if there are only a few of each. When they are included in the line, the bridesmaids precede the groomsmen, in keeping with the custom that the last person in a receiving line should be a man.  The bride’s father is not typically included in the traditional receiving line, though some fathers insist on inclusion. In either case, the line is always headed by the mother-of-the-bride or whichever lady is the official hostess of the wedding.

The receiving line of a same-sex, gender-neutral wedding should consist of the parents of the groom who is from the town in which the wedding is taking place, followed by the parents of the other groom, the mother preceding the father in each case; both grooms, the older preceding the younger; and the best men, in the order corresponding with the respective grooms.  (If a groom has a maid- /matron-of-honor rather than a best man, that female attendant should stand in the place that would otherwise have been occupied by the best man. And if that placement corresponds with the end of the line, then an extra man should be added to the receiving line so that the last person in the line is male). “Groomsmaids” and groomsmen are included in the line only if there are few of each. If neither groom is from the place where the wedding is taking place, the parents of the older groom should stand at the head of the line, followed by the parents of the younger groom, etc.

When the wedding his being hosted by the couple, the receiving line should be headed by the couple, with the older groom at the head of the line; followed by the best men, in the order that corresponds with the respective groom, etc.

As impressive as they may appear, and as practical as they may be, long receiving lines are cumbersome. Therefore, only persons whose presence in the line is absolutely essential should be included.

Maneuvering through a receiving line can be most intimidating for a young gentleman. (For a discussion on the etiquette of receiving lines, See chapter, “Out and About—Manners in Public Places” or Google  “Manly Manners the Etiquette of Receiving Lines”).



The History of “Jumping the Broom”

Special Customs and Traditions

Brooms have been associated with weddings in various cultures of the world from time immemorial:  peoples of the southern regions of the continent of Africa; the Romanichal Gypsies of Great Britain; ethnic groups in Hungary; and Africans displaced to the southern regions of North America during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, for example. The significance of the broom in the wedding ceremony varies from culture to culture. In the southern regions of the African continent, the broom is symbolic of the bride’s willingness or commitment to sweep clean the courtyard of her new home, a cultural metaphor for her becoming a part of her new family. “Jumping the broom” is a tradition with roots in Black America and is believed to be at least as old as pre-Emancipation 19th century, where the enslaved were prohibited from legal marriage since enslaved persons could not enter legally binding contracts and because the rights of marriage oftentimes conflicted with the rights of slave ownership. So just as African-Brazilians would mask martial arts in the dance form capoeira, or Afro-Cubans would merge their African religions with Catholicism, Afro-Americans “jumped the broom” to publicly declare their commitments to each other—in a manner that would go unnoticed by the authorities. With the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, “jumping the broom” fell into rapid decline. But in the 1970s, with the publication of Alex Haley’s Roots and the television miniseries that it spawned, the tradition saw a resurgence in the African-American community. Generally, the “jumping the broom” ritual takes place immediately after the the ceremony, typically on the front steps of the church. But in Afro-centric ceremonies, the jumping of the broom is oftentimes incorporated in the ceremony itself. The couple hold hands and jump the broom together, symbolizing a “crossing over” from single life into married life.

The History–and the Etiquette–of the Wedding Registry

The Wedding Registry

There was a time when newlyweds, upon returning from their honeymoon, would sit together over their morning coffee and enthusiastically open wedding presents—only to find gifts that they did not need, did not like, and/or did not want, sometimes in duplicates or triplicates. So in 1924, Marshall Field’s, the Chicago-based department store, introduced the concept of the wedding registry (also called the “gift registry”), where couples could select items, from within the store, which they wished to receive as wedding presents from their invited guests. (In those days, silver, china, crystal, and linens were the popular wedding-gift items, and when the concept of the gift registry spread nationally and internationally, registries were most often established at fine stores that sold such items). The registry, once established, would be monitored by store clerks who would delete items from the list as they were purchased, thereby reducing the chances of redundancy.  And in cases where all the items in the registry were not purchased as gifts, the couple, in order to have the complete compliment of registry items, could then purchase any remaining items.


With the coming of the wedding registry came the etiquette associated therewith. Until the end of the 20th century, establishing a wedding registry was a matter of utmost delicacy since no dignified couple would want to give the impression of soliciting gifts from guests by way of the wedding invitation. Enclosing information about the existence of a gift registry with the invitation, then, was regarded as one of the most egregious wedding faux pas. But on the other hand, the argument for informing invited guests of the existence of a gift registry was beyond reproach. Within a decade after its invention, the gift registry was widely regarded as a good thing. Yet, it had to be handled with decorum. So it quickly became the custom for notice of the establishment of a gift registry to be discretely spread via word-of-mouth. Traditionally, a bride would  have her close relatives and friends release word of the registry, and invited guests would make their way to the retail store in order to purchase their selections. But those were the days when, for the most part, the overwhelming majority of invited guests would hail from the same or neighboring communities; word-of-mouth was an efficient means of spreading information; and getting to the selected “bricks-and-mortar”  retail store would not be problematic.


But today, with cutting-edge technology at one’s fingertips, and with the proliferation of online shopping, it has become the norm for couples to upload wedding websites that provide guests with up-to-date details on the planning of the wedding, including everything from links to the websites of recommended hotels (as a convenience to out-of-town guests), to details of the menu options of the rehearsal dinner. So while enclosing gift registry information with a wedding invitation is still discouraged as presumptuous, indirectly directing guests to the registry, via an enclosed “Wedding Information Card” that identifies a general wedding website, has become not only accepted, but is regarded by many guests as a much-welcomed convenience. Then once on the website, guests can navigate to the gift registry page if they so desire. No longer do out-of-town guests have to travel with gifts or hurriedly purchase them upon arriving at the wedding destination. Today, a guest from halfway around the world can visit the gift registry retail outlet via the internet, purchase his gift online, and have it shipped to the couple.


Also, long gone is the day when registry gifts were limited to the accoutrements of fine dining. Today, couples tend to get married later in life—and have typically amassed many of their household dishes long before marriage. So as society has evolved, so has the concept of the gift registry. Manually updated paper registries have been replaced by scan guns and computerized inventories. And today, couples oftentimes opt for “non-traditional” gift registries:  a honeymoon fund; house down payments; home furnishings; and home repairs, or even a favorite charity, for example. And the participating registry-hosting entities range from hardware supply stores to travel agencies to banks.


Despite the evolution of the gift registry, what remains constant, however, is that the gifts registered by the couple should be items that can be enjoyed as a couple. A pair of size 11D crocodile skin loafers is an inappropriate gift registry item, while a mahogany coffee table is. And gifts should never be brought to the wedding ceremony or reception. Instead, as a much-appreciated convenience to the couple, they should be delivered either before or after the wedding.


The Rules for Drafting Formal Invitations

Invitation Check-List:

 The most formal invitations are those that have been hand-inscribed by calligraphers onto exquisite parchment, with perhaps additional embellishments rendered by an artist. But in the 21st century, such invitations are rarely seen on account of time, economy, and advancements in print technology that can nearly simulate original artwork.

So today, even the most exclusive formal invitations are produced by the modern-day machines of high-quality engravers and printers, usually with the design input from graphic artists. What is important is that the invitation to a wedding be as special and as remarkable as creativity and budget will allow, for a special invitation is one of the key components of a special wedding.But is it best to begin the creative process with classic guidelines at its foundation. Below are the true and tested guidelines for creating formal invitations:

-Formal invitations should be professionally engraved or thermographed (raised print) by a reputable stationer. Exquisite parchment or paper should be used.

-Formal invitations should be engraved or thermographed in black ink on white or ecru-colored paper. Responses to formal invitations, likewise, should be written in black ink.

-Formal invitations are worded in third-person (“person spoken about”) and responded to in third-person.

-Wedding ceremonies held in a church or other place of worship should read, “…request the honour of your presence….” Held elsewhere, the invitations should read, “…request the pleasure of your company….” Traditionally, the word “honor” is spelled “honour,” (in the old manner/the English spelling). Today, with the prominence of American English, “honor” is also correct—in America and the parts of the world that use American English.

-Punctuation is generally to be avoided on invitations. The natural pauses, which would normally be punctuated by commas, for example, are obtained by line-layout. Periods are to be avoided, except for in the few cases where abbreviations are permitted. (e.g., “Mr. and Mrs.”). Apostrophes may be used when they are part of the word or phrase. (For example, St. Patrick’s Cathedral; o’clock). Otherwise, apostrophes, as used to show possessive, should be avoided. (“the son of Mrs. Caroline Smith” is preferred to “Caroline Smith’s son”).  Commas must be used to separate city form state or country ( Brooklyn, New York; Paris, France); “Jr.” or “Sr.” from the name that precedes it (Mr. Frank Johnson, Jr., [though the word “junior” or “senior” may be spelled out, but only with a common “j” or common “s” ].

-Abbreviations should be avoided unless traditionally accepted or required. The general preference is for the entire word to be spelled out.

-The English equivalent of “Respondez s’il vous plait,” meaning, “Respond if you please,” and abbreviated R.S.V.P. or R.s.v.p., is:  “The favour of a reply is requested.”  The “old custom” requires the British English spelling of “favor” with a “u,” but with the rising popularity and acceptability of American English and its spelling, “favor” is today as acceptable as “favour.”  Either may be used on a formal invitation. It is placed to the lower left side of the invitation. Response instructions are provided along with the response request—except in the cases where a self-addressed, stamped envelope is included with the invitation. Some hostesses deplore the use  of response cards as presumptuous on the part of the sender since, they contend, such cards may suggest that recipients of the invitation may not know how to properly respond. Other hostesses regard response cards as a convenience to the recipients, who are likely to be busy people and would gladly welcome not having to write yet another letter.

-Accepted abbreviations:  Mr.; Mrs.; Dr. (if the name that follows is long, otherwise “Doctor”); R.S.V.P.; Jr.; II, III, IV, etc., following a surname (Roman numerals following a surname are not preceded by a comma); St. (for “Saint,” but not for “street”); postal codes should be written out in number form—Washington, District of Columbia, 20007. While the year is not included in an invitation, it is generally included on wedding announcements since they are oftentimes not mailed immediately after the wedding—though they should be.  August 8, 2012 would be written out as:


on Friday, the eight of August

Two thousand and twelve.

-Unacceptable abbreviations:  No. (for number); 7:00 P.M. should read “Seven o’clock, Post Meridiem”; Kansas City, MO should read “Kansas City, Missouri”


Abbreviations should not be used in addresses:


Correct Format:                                                          Incorrect Format:

 10 Lester Lane                                                            10 Lester Ln.

Apartment Number 112                                              Apt. No. 112

Kansas City, Missouri  55512                                     Kansas City, MO  55512




Ten Lester Lane

Apartment Number 112

Kansas City, Missouri 55512


-“Road,” “Street,” “Lane,” “Boulevard,” “Avenue,” etc., should be spelled out completely. The names of cities, districts, states, and countries should not be abbreviated. The general rule regarding street numbers is that they should be written out if they are short. “Ten” is preferable to “10” or “Fifteen” to “15.” But since many buildings bear numerals on their exteriors, the trend, and quite understandably, is to use numerals when numerals are short and they appear prominently on the building. Long numbers, however, are written in numeral form:  “1112 Northwoods Drive” would never be written out as “One thousand one hundred and twelve Northwoods Drive” —and for good reason!

-The address of a church is not included in an invitation if the church is a well-known landmark. Otherwise, it is included.


St. Patrick’s Cathedral                                           Chapel of the Immaculate Conception

Fifteen River Road




-Words are not capitalized unless they normally are:  days of the week, months of the year, personal names, titles, names of places, etc.

-The date of the wedding is written out:  For example, “Saturday, the twelfth of June” or “Saturday, June twelfth,” but not “Saturday, June 12th. “ (The year is generally not included in invitations since it would be obvious. It is not, however, incorrect to include the year).

-Time is written out:  “at four o’clock, Post Meridian,” not “at 4:00 P.M.” (“Post Meridian” or “Ante Meridian” would only be used if whether the event is at night or day would not be clear; consequently, that designation is rarely seen. After all, it would be unlikely for a wedding ceremony to commence at 4:00 in the morning, even in the 21st century!). Most weddings occur on the hour or on the half hour. A wedding on the half hour would be written as “at half after four o’clock” or “half past four o’clock” rather than “at four thirty o’clock.” On the rare occasion that a wedding event would occur on the quarter hour, the invitation would read, for example, “…at quarter before four o’clock….” or “…at quarter after [or past] four o’clock….”

-Traditional Rule:  When addressing an invitation, the names of married couples are written on the same line; whereas the names of unmarried couples are written on separate lines.   Modern Rule:  The names of couples are written on the same line, regardless of marital status.

-Initials in names may be used if the person is known by the initials (e.g. “Mr. O.J. Simpson” or “Ms. K.D. Lang”) or if the initials are always used but the host does not know the actual corresponding name or if the name, if fully written out, would be too long.

-It is improper to print “No children, please” or “Adults only” or “Adult reception” on an invitation. The manner in which the mailing and invitation envelopes of a wedding invitation are addressed should clearly state who is and who is not invited to the wedding. Names specifically inscribed—or not inscribed—on the invitation envelope should indicate the intended message.

-All things being equal, the name of a male invitee precedes that of his female counterpart when addressing formal invitations. “Mr.” precedes “Mrs.” for example. But the name of a female with a professional title such as “Dr.” or a title of respect such as “The Reverend” or “The Honorable” would precede her male counterpart whose name is preceded by the honorific title of “Mr.”



The History of the Honeymoon

The Honeymoon

If the wedding ceremony is primarily the province of the bride, then the honeymoon is the domain of the groom. It is unclear whence the term “honeymoon” derives, though its first documented usage in the English language, “hony moone,” occurs in 1546.  But the term as used today to describe a blissful vacation taken by the bride and groom immediately after the wedding ceremony, is believed to be rooted in the ancient belief  that drinking honeyed mead for the first month of marriage would enhance fertility. And though there are references in ancient Nordic culture, dating from around the 5th century C.E., to men abducting women from neighboring villages and hiding out with them until they became pregnant, thereafter presenting them to the men’s families, fait accompli, as de facto brides, the modern day concept of newlyweds heading off on a romantic vacation derives from the early 1800s’ England “bridal tour,” a concept borrowed from East Indian culture, where newlyweds, sometimes accompanied by family and friends, would tour the land to visit relatives and dear friends who were unable to attend the wedding. Eventually, during the Belle Époque (1890-1914), the honeymoon assumed a posture of romantic tourism, the popular destinations of the time being the ancient towns, cities, and seaside resorts of Italy.


Traditionally, all the expenses associated with the honeymoon are paid by the groom and his family. And while budget should be a factor, romance should not. A creative gentleman can plan a glorious honeymoon anywhere. His primary goal should be to ensure that he and his bride are in a “honeymood” while together on their first, official vacation as newlyweds.

The Etiquette for Attending a Jewish Funeral

-There is no explicit afterlife in Judaism, but many Jews believe that after death, the soul of the deceased is judged:  Good souls are allowed entry into “The World to Come”; and bad souls must wait one year before being granted admittance into “The World to Come.”  Some Jews believe that with the coming of the Messiah, every person will be resurrected.

-Immediately upon the death of a Jew, those who will mourn the dead should recite the prayer, “Dayan HaEmet,” which acknowledges God’s power as “true judge.” According to Jewish law, a body must be interred as soon as practical from the moment of death, so a rabbi, funeral home, and/or the local burial society, called the “chevra kadisha,” should be contacted immediately after the death occurs. (A funeral may be delayed if there are legal issues surrounding the death, if the body must be transported from one country to another, if family members must travel from far distances in order to attend the funeral, or to avoid burial on a Saturday or another holy day).  Organ donation is viewed as “mitzvah” (a good deed); donating a body for medical research is also permissible. Routine autopsies are not permissible as they are seen as a desecration of the body. Where an autopsy is required for legal purposes, a rabbi familiar with the procedure may request permission to be present. Unless required by law, embalming and cosmetology are not typically employed at Jewish funerals.

-Per Jewish tradition, from the moment of death to the interment, the body should not be left unattended. A “shomer”(guardian), typically a family member, a close friend, or a member of the chevra kadisha, remains with the body. Though a shomer is allowed to simply sit with the body, it is tradition for the shomer to recite “tehillim” (psalms). One shomer may be relieved by another.

-In preparation for burial, in a process called “tahara,” the body is washed, purified, and dressed. The body is washed in a process called “rechitzah” by members of the chevra kadisha. Men wash the body of a man, and women wash the body of a woman. Once the body has been washed, it must be purified with water in an act called “tahara,” where the body is either fully submerged in a “mikvah” (ritural bath) or by pouring a continuous stream of water over the body. The body is then completely dried and dressed in a simple white shroud, called a “tachrichim,”  made of simple linen or muslin fabric. Men may also be buried in a “kippah,” the religious skull cap also known as a “yarmulke” and prayer shawl, called a “tallit” or “tallis.”

-Once the body has been fully prepared for burial, it is placed into a simple casket, typically made of pine. The casket, called an “aron,” should have no metal in its construction, thereby allowing for both casket and body to be fully biodegradable, in keeping with the Biblical principle of dust to dust, ashes to ashes. (Some Jewish caskets are even constructed with holes in the bottom so as to accelerate the decomposition process). Once the body is placed into the casket, it remains closed (except for official identification purposes).

-There is no viewing, visitation, or wake in Jewish tradition; but before the funeral service, the family of the deceased will gather to perform the rite known as “keriah,” in which a visible part of a mourner’s garment—such as a collar, pocket, or lapel is torn as a outward symbol of mourning. In modern tradition, rather than mourners tearing their garments, they instead attach a torn black ribbon to some visible part of their garment such as a lapel, a pocket, or a collar. (When mourning the death of a parent, the left side of the garment is torn or the torn black ribbon is affixed to the garment over the mourner’s heart. When mourning a family member who is not a parent, the mourning symbols are done to/placed onto the right side of the garment. The torn garment or torn ribbon is worn throughout the seven-day mourning period).

-Men and women mourners should wear dark-colored or black conservative clothing. Men should wear suits and ties, and women should wear dresses with hemlines that fall below the knee. In Orthodox Jewish sects, men and women are required to wear head-coverings:  plain scarves for women, and yarmulkes (a skullcap) for men. In certain sects, only men are required to wear head-coverings, which are usually available at the synagogue or ceremony where the service is being held.

-A Jewish funeral may take place in a synagogue, at a funeral home, or at the grave site.  When in a synagogue, pallbearers carry the coffin into the sanctuary for the service, then carry it out at the conclusion of the service. The Jewish funeral service consists of prayers (traditionally, the Memorial Prayer, called the “El Maleh Rachamim,” and the Mourner’s Blessing, called the “Mourner’s Kaddis,” among others), a eulogy, and the reading of psalms.  One or more eulogies may be delivered at a Jewish funeral, typically by family members and/or the rabbi. Jewish eulogies venerate the life of the deceased and express grief over the death.

-After the funeral service, all mourners should follow the hearse to the cemetery or place of interment. There, the rabbi will recite a few prayers, including, again, the Mourner’s Kiddish. Thereafter, the casket or urn will be interred. If the body is being buried in the ground, it is traditional for mourners to cast a handful of dirt into the grave.

-After the funeral, there is typically a reception at the family’s home. Friends or the synagogue community should prepare the consolation meal, at least one dish consisting of eggs, which in Jewish culture symbolize the cyclical nature of life.

-There are two mourning periods in Judaism: “shiva,” meaning “seven”; and “shloshim,” meaning “thirty.”   Shiva takes place over the seven days immediately following the funeral. On the first day of shiva, a shiva candle is lit and allowed to burn all week long. During shiva, the family gathers each day in a home to mourn and pray; family members do not work nor do they engage in the normal routine of their lives. Guests are received at the home of mourning.

Shloshim lasts until the thirtieth day after the funeral. Mourners resume their daily lives but recite the Mourner’s Kaddish daily. The end of Shloshim marks the end of formal mourning, except in the case of the death of a parent, where the formal mourning period lasts an entire year.

-There are two events for memorializing death in Judaism:  “yahrzeit” and “yizkor.” Yahrzeit is observed on the anniversary of the death (according to the Jewish calendar). Each year, on the night before the anniversary of the death, a yahrzeit candle is lit and allowed to burn for 24 hours, during which time the Mourner’s Kaddish is recited. Yizkor is a memorial prayer service, and mourners go to synagogue for communal mourning. Yizkor takes place on Yom Kipur, the Day of Atonement, as well as on the holiday of Shemini Atzeret, and on the last days of the holidays Passover and Shavout.



Why Visible Tattoos are Taboo in Japanese Culture

-Tattoos (“irezami” is the Japanese word for tattoo) are taboo in most of Japan.  Persons (even foreigners) with visible tattoos are typically banned from certain public places, especially swimming pools, gymnasiums, hot springs, resorts, etc. People with visible tattoos are also banned from or may be asked to leave places such as restaurants and retail establishments. In Japan, tattoos are associated with “yakuza”:  hoodlums and the criminal underworld. The negative connotations associated with tattoos in Japanese culture seem to date from around 300-600 C.E. (the Kofun period), when tattoos were placed upon criminals as a means of punishment. However, prior to the Kofun period, for example in the Yayoi period (ca. 300 B.C.E.-300 C.E.), tattoos were acquired for ritual or status purposes.