A St Andrews wedding just made history as the first legal same-sex Jewish wedding in Scotland.
While their love story took them across the Atlantic, Jennifer Andreacchi, age 25, and Han Smith, age 26, are both originally from New Jersey in the U.S. The couple first met at an admitted students day in Montclair, New Jersey for their undergraduate university, the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Although that first interaction was brief, they recall running into each-other again on a train from New Jersey to Virginia, quickly becoming friends, and shortly after the couple began dating.
While their undergraduate years were spent together in Williamsburg, Virginia, it was a semester study abroad in St. Andrews in spring 2018 that set the stage for the next phase of their lives together, which ultimately culminated in their historic wedding in St Andrews.
“I just fell in love with Scotland immediately”, Han said of the study abroad experience, “There’s just something about the way the air feels and the way it feels to be in a slower-paced environment. There’s something beautiful, calm, and grounding about Scotland”.
Jennifer said, “Everything that could’ve gone wrong with our arrival in St Andrews went wrong, but still we were so enchanted by the place. It was just such a magical time, and we experienced a lot of growth. We were so heartbroken in May when we had to go home, and we knew we wanted to come back”.
Although it would be years before they would return, Han and Jennifer always knew that they wanted to get married in St Andrews.
“It was just such a romantic place for us,” Jennifer explained. “It was the first time we actually properly lived together in our own flat after two to three years of dating. We also wanted our guests to have a nice location to visit, and I feel like St. Andrews captures so much of what is lovely about Scotland- the nature, the architecture, the history”.
After graduating from William and Mary, and then working for a year in Dublin, the couple was finally able to return to Scotland. Han enrolled in a doctorate program at the University of Edinburgh, where they are studying counseling and psychotherapy. Jennifer returned to St. Andrews, where she enrolled in the MLitt in Women, Writing, and Gender.
After being separated while Jennifer completed her MLitt, the couple has now settled in Edinburgh. It was in Edinburgh that Han and Jennifer started to reconnect with their Jewish heritage.
Han expanded on their experience of Judaism. “We both have Jewish ancestry, but neither of us were raised religiously Jewish. I identified as Jewish my entire life, but about two years ago I connected with this feeling of loss that I had around not really being raised as being immersed in the culture and the religion. So I decided to convert through the liberal Jewish community in Edinburgh. We got engaged and started conversion around the same time, but at the time we weren’t sure that we wanted to have a Jewish wedding. But we felt so involved in the process and the community has been so lovely- there are so many queer and trans people in our community- that it just felt like something we wanted to have in our lives in a more meaningful way”.
Jennifer said, “Our rabbi is part of the LGBTQ community, which just made it even more special. And we were so involved in structuring our marriage ceremony — designing it, incorporating traditions and changing traditions — that it was really special”.
Around three weeks before their wedding, the couple found out that they would be having the first legal Jewish same-sex wedding in Scotland.
“The community that we’re a part of, Sukkat Shalom in Edinburgh, helped us find out. One of the members pointed it out to us,” said Han.
Jennifer affirmed that Scotland provided a welcoming landscape for such a historic ceremony.
“You hear these stories in the U.S. where, based on religious freedom, people will refuse a gay couple — to make them a cake or host their wedding — we never experienced that. I do want to add that there is an element of privilege in that, in that we were looking in Edinburgh and St Andrews, and there could be places that would be less accepting. But it is a testament to the growth that Scotland has experienced in the last couple of decades”.
“We were treated just like anyone else”.
Han added, “As people coming from another country, it feels really special to have even a small part of the country’s history. Just the idea that we’re doing something to help other people or something to be remembered makes me really happy. I hope that there are more weddings like ours too. I hope that it is the first but not the only”.
Image: Fern Photography