Jewish Wedding Ceremonies
A revered Hassidic rabbi was once asked: "What has God been doing since creating the world?"
The rabbi's response: "Arranging marriages."
Within Jewish tradition, the ceremony which unites two lives as one is considered so sacred that it is actually called Kiddushin - which comes from the Hebrew word meaning "holy." The joining together of a couple places them into a sanctified relationship, which brings them closer to each other and closer to God as well.
There are many rituals and traditions associated with Jewish wedding ceremonies that have developed and evolved over the centuries.
Some of these include:
the use of a chuppah (literally "canopy") under which the ceremony takes place. The chuppah is meant to symbolize the home that the couple will build together. The fact that it is open on all sides and fragile in design (supported only by four poles) has been interpreted many ways: as a metaphor that the home should be "open" and welcoming not just to friends and family - but to God; as a reminder of the fragility and temporal nature of life; and as a symbol that the love which occurs inside the home is much more meaningful than the home itself. Sometimes the chuppah is freestanding, while couples may also choose to have friends and/or family hold the poles which support the canopy.
a ketubah, (literally "document") which is the Jewish marriage "agreement" usually signed and witnessed prior to the ceremony, along with the state issued license. Since the text of a traditional orthodox ketubah does not reflect what I consider to be equal standing to both bride and groom, I ask couples to choose a modern, egalitarian text. There are hundreds of artists that specialize in creating beautiful ketubot and designs in every conceivable style and price range. As long as the text reflects a parity between bride and groom, couples can choose any ketubah that suits them. There are many fine websites to which I can direct you. Also, many artists and calligraphers will customize your ketubah by including your personal information. I am happy to assist you with all of this.
the exchange of rings accompanied by the recitation of the short Hebrew marriage vow. In Jewish tradition, the preference for a simple unbroken gold band reminds us that true love - like God - has no beginning and no end, while gold has always represented a precious material of great and enduring value. The Hebrew vow, which I usually invite the bride and groom to repeat after me one word at a time states, "With this ring be sanctified to me as my wife/husband according to the laws of Moses and the People of Israel." Don't worry if you have never spoken a word of Hebrew in your life. It's short and we will practice!
the sharing of two cups of wine: the first, represents everything which has led you up to this moment of standing under the chuppah to join your lives together, and the second, which looks forward to the wonderful future that you will build together as a family.
the Sheva B'rachot (literally "seven blessings") which begins with the blessing over the second cup of wine and ends with a blessing asking God to bestow joy, health, happiness and peace upon the bride and groom. When I chant the blessings in Hebrew, I follow each blessing with a translation so that your family, friends, and guests can understand and appreciate the beauty and meaning of the blessings.
the breaking of a glass at the conclusion of the ceremony. There have been many explanations and interpretations of this ritual, ranging from a remembrance of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem to frightening away evil spirits that might want to harm the newly-wedded couple. I see the glass as a metaphor of the fragility of life and love. It reminds us that one's home should be - first and foremost - a safe and protective shelter to weather the storms of life together. Couples need to look out for each other, care for each other, and support each other. Like the glass, our hearts are fragile and easily broken. I ask couples to think of the glass if they ever start to feel buffeted by any disappointments or frustrations they may experience and remember the importance of treating each other gently and with respect.
If I am blessed to be included in your special day, we can discuss incorporating these and other traditions into your ceremony - including any other creative ideas you may have.
Blending the beauty of tradition with creativity is one of the things I do best!
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