FaithWorld

from Photographers' Blog:

Reality of a grand Hasidic wedding

Jerusalem

By Ronen Zvulun

Coming back home at 5am sunrise, I was just beginning to digest the grand event I was lucky to witness and cover: the wedding of the grandson of one of the most influential spiritual leaders in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community.

GALLERY: ULTRA-ORTHODOX WEDDING EXTRAVAGANZA

The wedding, attended by some 25,000 people, was a massive event that was conducted like a military operation.

How do you take care of thousands of people, feed them, accommodate them, seat them and provide safety for the huge crowd? There was a 20-story stand that needed to hold thousands of dancing Hasidic men.

“One million plastic cups” bragged one of the ultra-Orthodox men who I was squeezed in next to. A team responsible for managing the event were running around, communicating through radio headsets. A control room overlooked every corner of the venue and a production company was responsible for the live coverage of the celebration, which was displayed on large screens placed throughout the neighborhood, giving people who couldn't make it into the venue itself an opportunity to witness the wedding.

The female guests sat some two kilometers (1.2 miles) away from the men in a separate hall, where they followed the men’s celebration on large screens.

High drama in India as monkeys wed despite official disapproval

(Rajesh plays with his monkey Raju, the "groom" in India's first monkey wedding, in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, July 4, 2011/Danish Siddiqui)

The tale, set in the forests of northwestern India, had all the ingredients of a perfect Bollywood love story: emotion, celebration, star-crossed lovers and a nail-biting climax. The only difference was that the lovers were monkeys, taking part in India’s first simian wedding — with the whole unfolding drama a classic clash between age-old village belief and the demands of modern life sceptical of that way of thought.

Hindu belief includes worship of animals as avatars of the gods. Monkeys have an especially significant role in Hindu mythology where they are worshipped as avatars of Hanuman, the mighty ape that aided Rama in his fight against evil. So when plans for the wedding of “Raju” and “Chinki” were laid in the small village of Talwas, deep in the forests of Rajasthan, villagers responded with excitement.

Archbishop of Canterbury praises “unpretentious” Kate and William

(Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton watch a demonstration by students, during their visit to the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA), in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011. A large crowd of well-wishers braved a downpour in northern England on Monday to cheer Prince William and Kate Middleton as they took part in their final official engagement before their wedding. REUTERS/Adrian Dennis)

(Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011/Adrian Dennis)

The Archbishop of Canterbury, who will marry Prince William and Kate Middleton next week, said on Thursday he had been struck by their wedding preparations, describing the couple as courageous and unpretentious. Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the Church of England, praised the couple’s “simplicity” and the way they had dealt with the build-up to next Friday’s wedding, which is set to be watched by an estimated two billion people worldwide.

“I’ve been very struck by the way in which William and Catherine have approached this great event,” Williams said in a short film released by his Lambeth Palace office, adding it had been a “real pleasure” to get to know the couple. “They’ve thought through what they want for themselves, but also what they want to say. They’ve had a very simple, very direct picture of what really matters about this event.”

Kate Middleton confirmed ahead of royal wedding

(Kate Middleton, fiancee of Britain's Prince William, reacts to the crowd during a visit Witton Country Park in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011. A large crowd of well-wishers braved a downpour in northern England on Monday to cheer Prince William and Kate Middleton as they took part in their final official engagement before their wedding. REUTERS/Alastair Grant/Poo)

(Kate Middleton, fiancee of Britain's Prince William, during a visit Witton Country Park in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011/Alastair Grant)

Royal bride-to-be Kate Middleton has been confirmed into the Church of England ahead of her wedding to Prince William this month, his office said on Wednesday. The ceremony, carried out by the Bishop of London Richard Chartres who will give the address at the April 29th wedding, took place on March 10 with Middleton, 29, accompanied by her future husband, a spokeswoman for St James’s Palace said.

“Catherine Middleton was confirmed by the Bishop of London at a private service at St James’s Palace attended by her family and Prince William,” the spokeswoman said. “Miss Middleton, who was already baptised, decided to be confirmed as part of her marriage preparations.”

In the U.S., marriage is for better and for worse, but with a prenup

marriageAmericans are taking a cautious approach to marriage and are seeking more prenuptial agreements before walking down the aisle. And it is not just the wealthy and famous who are looking to safeguard their assets when a marriage crumbles.

More women and middle-class couples are opting for prenups, which can also include adultery clauses, protection of retirement benefits and even custody of the dog, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), which represents more than 1600 lawyers. (Photo:  A couple at a group wedding ceremony at the Shanghai World Expo, May 11, 2010/Aly Song)

A couple participates in a group wedding ceremony hosted by the French Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo May 11, 2010.