The Shtick Delights at Orthodox Weddings

Estee Ellis dances in a costume
Estee Ellis performs a wedding shtick (Courtesy of CJ Studios)

Abrielle Fuerst’s good friends, to her delight, were married just a few months ago. Leading up to the wedding, they asked her if she might be interested in putting on a little performance during the reception, something to entertain them and to jazz up the crowd.

Fuerst knew right away what she would do.

“I could do a weapons demo, if y’all think that’s cool,” she told them.

And so, at the wedding of her two friends, Fuerst, a martial arts and self-defense trainer, combined a nunchuck demonstration with an impromptu dance routine.

Though the content of the performance was certainly unusual, there’s nothing out of the ordinary in the practice itself. The wedding shtick, as its known, is a staple of Orthodox Jewish weddings.

“It was really fun,” Fuerst said.

This shtick is distinct from the typical use of the Yiddish word, meaning a comedic sketch. The wedding shtick is derived from a Talmudic source, as these things tend to be. From

“The shtick custom, it seems, derives from the Talmud’s mandate to dance and rejoice for a bride on her wedding night. Just what does this entail? The Talmud gives some examples, including Rabbi Shmuel b. Rav (Yitzhak) who juggled myrtle branches at weddings, and Rabbi Acha, who would hoist the bride up onto his shoulders and carry her around.”

Rena Asher wearing a mascot head
Rena Asher’s recent wedding shtick (Courtesy of Rena Asher)

For Estee Ellis, performing the wedding shtick is a way to transcend buttoned-up strictures of a formal wedding party, and to express something ineffable about the relationship between the bride and groom and the performer.

“It’s a really exciting way to celebrate and perform aspects that are more personal,” Ellis said.

At a typical shtick, Ellis said, the couple will appear beneath an arch of arms made by guests, just as a warmup. For her own performance for close friends and family, she’ll repurpose college T-shirts from the bride and groom’s alma maters, a practice that she said is fairly typical.

If you’re looking for atypical, you might have wanted to see Ellis and her friend do a medley from “Fiddler on the Roof” as they danced with felt bottles velcroed to their heads, in reference to the now-married couple’s love of sitting on the roof.

Back when she was a student at Torah Academy, Ellis often performed comic roles in the musical productions, which has prepared her for the spectacle she makes of herself as part of the shtick. But it’s all worth it for the newlyweds’ enjoyment, she said. And if performing the shtick on your own sounds daunting, have no fear.

“The best kind of shtick,” Ellis said, “is the kind where you can invite other people to create it also.”

Melissa Meyers in a play as a wedding shtick
Melissa Meyers (center) taking part in a wedding shtick (Courtesy of Melissa Meyers)

Melissa Meyers first heard about wedding shtick after she became more religious in college. She’s come to love the tailor-made fun of it, the joy it brings to a wedding party.

She’s seen friends who do more or less the same performance at every wedding, and as fun as that is — who doesn’t want to see someone eat fire in a hotel ballroom? — she tries to personalize her own performances.

When a medical school friend was married, she and other classmates dressed up like other friends and co-workers, and acted out the frenzy of a hospital when a patient has a heart attack.

Wedding shtick was always a part of Rena Asher’s Jewish world. But now that she’s reached the age when friends are getting married, her connection to the practice has deepened. Rowdy dancing and costumes are typical of her experience of the shtick, but she recently had the opportunity to do something new.

Asher had seen former Akiba Hebrew Academy classmates don the school’s cougar mascot costume, but only recently got to put on the costume herself. Though she only put on the head, there are more weddings, and perhaps more of the costume, to come. ❤; 215-832-0740


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here