From the bottom of the world, Ill be on top of it

To get to the venue where we’re getting married today, Dieter and I had to fly some 7,000 miles across the Pacific — and way, way down under — to Dunedin, New Zealand. That probably sounds a little crazy, even for a destination wedding. Couldn’t we have gone to St. Thomas or something?

But we picked Dunedin for one very specific reason. This university town, near the southeast corner of New Zealand’s South Island, is home to the southernmost synagogue in the world, Dunedin Jewish Congregation.

And that’s where we’ll be on this summery evening, standing in front of our officiant, Ruth, and taking our vows. Just the two of us. No wedding party, no videographer, no caterer. In fact, no guests at all, not even our parents.

Just us.

Getting married at the southernmost synagogue is particularly special for Dieter and me. We love visiting extremes, such as the southernmost point in the continental U.S. (Key West, Fla.) and the world’s largest bowling pin (Tampa).

And for me, being at the southernmost synagogue is even more appropriate, since I used to go to the world’s northernmost synagogue, Congrega-tion Or HaTzafon in Fairbanks, Alaska, while spending a semester at the University of Alaska–Fairbanks. (I’ve recently become aware that a Jewish community center in Murmansk, Russia, now claims to be the northernmost synagogue, but it’ll always be Or HaTzafon to me.)

For Dieter and me, this ceremony has been a long time coming. We’ve been engaged for almost three years now, and have endured seemingly thousands of well-meaning (but increasingly irritating) queries on when we were going to get married, already.

The problem is that I hate weddings. Oh, no, people whose weddings I’ve been to, not your weddings. They were lovely. But the thought of having my own wedding — spending tens of thousands on a single weekend, having everyone looking at me and scrutinizing every moment and the drama and tears and monogrammed thank-you cards — makes my palms sweat, my heart race and my heart, mind and soul scream “No! No! No!”

It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, my cousin and I used to talk about our weddings. She knew, at the age of 10, what color her bridesmaids would wear, what flowers they would carry, what food would be served. (And, to my surprise, her wedding in 2007 was remarkably similar to her predictions.)

I, on the other hand, never cared to think about my wedding. The best I could come up with was, “I guess the bridesmaids will wear blue.” The idea of doing all that planning bored me silly, years before I would even go out on my first date.

Which was why a wedding with just the two of us (and an officiant) seemed like the perfect plan. And given that we were going to New Zealand at year’s end, and just happened to be passing by the world’s southernmost synagogue — well, the pieces just fell into place.

While for me, this situation seems ideal, it hasn’t been easy to explain. Having a wedding without our parents, families or friends is something people don’t really understand.

Or maybe it’s me that doesn’t understand, not being a parent (yet) and not knowing what it might feel like not to be at my child’s nuptials. But despite the occasional pangs of guilt, I know I’m making the right choice. This is what will make me happy. That’s what a wedding is supposed to do, isn’t it?

So we’re getting married today. I’m wearing a lacy dress, and we have rings and a ketubah, though no one would dare call this traditional.

Tonight is also the first night of Chanukah, and for the first time Dieter and I will light Chanukah candles as husband and wife. We will eat latkes at the congregation’s latke barbecue, and celebrate our new life as the sun sets, shortly after 9 p.m.

It may be unusual. It may even be a little crazy. But it’s us. And I wouldn’t get married any other way.

Rachel Freedenberg is a copy editor at j. She can be reached at [email protected]