TORONTO (JTA) – Two Israeli women who wanted to be legally married in Toronto had to depend not only on a foreign country but on the kindness of strangers.
Einav Morgenstern and Tamar Yahel had booked a City Hall wedding ceremony for 11 am Sept. 20 with the requisite witnesses and nonrefundable deposit. When the witnesses – two friends – announced at the last minute that they couldn’t make it, the betrothed hurriedly put out the word on social media that they needed help.
“If you happen to be around and free for 10-20 minutes, we would be forever thankful if you come be our witness,” Morgenstern, who moved to Toronto last year for graduate studies, wrote less than two hours before the scheduled nuptials. “In return we’ll give you our blessing for love.”
The message was posted to the Bunz Trading Zone Facebook page, where people post items for trade, such as furniture, toys and stereos. Within minutes, the couple received more than 100 “likes” and at least eight offers to be witnesses. In the end, four strangers ended up saving their big day.
The strangers – an actor, an administrator, a photographer and a stay-at-home mom who is an LGBTQ activist – all made it to City Hall in the nick of time. One real-life friend was already there. So was the couple’s daughter, bringing the wedding party to six. The marriage licence and other documents were duly signed, and the couple exchanged vows in English and Hebrew.
“We didn’t think we would be touched by this ceremony,” Morgenstern told the Toronto Star in an article published Tuesday. “I think mainly what made it special for us was the fact that we got the warmest welcome to Canada that we could have asked for.”
The couple already had a wedding ceremony in Israel, where the government began registering same-sex unions in 2006. But the state has yet to legalize civil marriage – in Israel those who choose to wed must have their nuptials sanctified by a religious court, none of which perform same-sex ceremonies.
However, Israel does recognize same-sex marriages performed outside the country. Canada legalized same-sex marriage in 2005.
By 11:40 am, the ceremony was complete, hugs were exchanged and the photographer offered his services for free.
“People we don’t know dropping everything they were doing and coming,” Morgenstern said. “That was what made it so special.”