Couples grapple with Sept. 11 weddings, but most Jews say no

trenton, n.j. | Sept. 11 conjures varied memories for Yolanda Coleman. For most of her life, she knew the date as her father’s birthday.

Three years ago, the businesswoman was working in lower Manhattan and watched firsthand as the World Trade Center towers crashed down.

Now, Coleman and fiancé Carlos Gamboa plan to put their own stamp on the date — by getting married.

“At first I was a little mixed,” said Coleman, 35, of Piscataway, N.J. “I think three years later there’s a bit of distance. We want to replace those negative memories with something that’s positive.”

Sept. 11 is unlikely to be chosen for Jewish weddings this year for two reasons: The daytime hours fall on Shabbat and Saturday night marks Selichot, the late-night service of repentance that ushers in the High Holy Days.

But among couples choosing secular celebrations, as well as those of other faiths, there are different concerns. In New Jersey, couples-to-be and wedding facilities find themselves conflicted this year — the first time that Sept. 11 has fallen on a Saturday since before the terrorist attacks. The state’s proximity to New York, with its many commuters who head into the city, still finds many grieving for loved ones and colleagues. Nevertheless, steep discounts and the wedding season’s limited number of choice dates are expected to help draw couples to the altar.

“It really does strike people as, ‘Boy, that’s a hard anniversary’ and not enough time has gone by and, especially in our area, many of us know people who were killed,” said Sharon Naylor, a Madison, N.J., author of 23 books on wedding planning.

On the other hand, said Naylor, “It is a Saturday in September and those days are not so easy to find.”

In California, Kyle Brown, head of the Bakersfield-based Bridal Association of America, said his informal research shows that nearly three times the number of brides are registered for Sept. 18 compared with Sept. 11.

Based on the work done by his invitation-printing business, Brown said the date appears to be eschewed by all but some military couples who have told him they want to “honor” the day by being married.

Meanwhile in the Bay Area Jewish community, some synagogues report that couples have inquired about the possibility of a Sept. 11 evening wedding, but neither the synagogues nor most rabbis are available. The hours between the end of Shabbat (8 p.m.) and the start of Selichot are not sufficient for most celebrations. In addition, congregational rabbis are busy with pre-Selichot activities.

Regardless of Selichot, Livermore independent Rabbi David Roller will not officiate at a Sept. 11 wedding — even next year, when it falls on a Sunday. “I lost too many people that day,” he said. “Seventy-five people. … It’s a sensitive wound.”

Roller, who was a New York state employee before he became a rabbi, spent 1973 to 1978 working on the 78th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. He was helping to unionize service employees on his own time and was in the building five days a week, working closely with the cleaning staff.

“Those guys were here for years and years. … And poof, the building is gone.

“I doubt very highly if I’d want to do a wedding on that date. I’d almost put it on the sensitivity level of not doing weddings on Tisha B’Av. Certain dates become days that you want to leave alone,” he emphasized. “To me, 9/11 is extremely sacred. It’s a very sensitive area.”

Erik Kent, who runs a wedding planning site,, said some of the couples he assists are getting married on Sept. 11. But more are choosing the Saturday before or after, he said.

Coleman said she expects to save as much as $6,000 on her 200-person wedding at a West Orange banquet hall that features what she called “Old World charm” and French doors opening to gardens. There, guests will hear the bride and groom’s African American and Guatemalan backgrounds reflected by a band playing R&B and Latin music, and by watching Coleman and Gamboa, of East Orange, “jump the broom” — an African American ritual created by slaves who could not legally marry. She’s also planning a moment of silence.

Nancy Androsky, who hails from New Jersey but lives in Ellicott City, Md., said Sept. 11 worked out for a variety of reasons. Considerations included her fiancé’s brother heading to college in August and family members who will be observing the High Holy Days, which begin at sundown, Sept. 15.

“Once we say it, everyone kind of just pauses for a second and some people react, ‘Why did you choose that day?’ But it doesn’t bother us,” said Androsky, 24. “We get it from everybody. It’s the day we chose and we’re happy with it, and if they’re not, it is their problem.”

By now, Androsky’s initial worries about the date have taken a back seat to preoccupation with more typical details, such as her reception site’s three serving stations — pasta, salad and carving, with turkey and roast beef — and the purple and white rose bouquet she will carry.

“It is a sad day and we’re going to make a happy memory of the day,” said Androsky.

Couples who do choose Sept. 11 for their weddings should try to be sensitive to invitees who may be offended “because there is no right way to feel,” said Millie Martini Bratten, editor-in-chief of Bride’s magazine.

Bratten said the date is more an issue on the East Coast, especially in the regions where the four planes crashed.

She said people who got married in the days and weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, had to make similar emotional decisions.

“Life goes on and there is great happiness and weddings are all about hope and the future,” Bratten said. “There’s no need to be ashamed of happiness.”

J. staffer Janet Silver Ghent contributed to this report.