It is said in our tradition that since the creation of the world, God has been busy making successful romantic matches. In other words, when one meets the love of their life and marries them, it is a holy and godly experience. However with so many rituals and traditions, it is easy to get lost in the details of planning a Jewish wedding. This section is meant to help.
Whether you are looking for an officiant, planning an Aufruf, or designing a ceremony, there is information here for everyone.
All CBE clergy share a commitment to the ideal that a Jewish wedding is designed to establish a Jewish home with Judaism as its sole religious practice. We also understand that many families choose to establish a Jewish home even if one member of the family is of another faith background. Therefore, while we cannot co-officiate with a clergy member of another faith, we are honored to marry an interfaith couple in a Jewish ceremony if they feel they fit these criteria.
We acknowledge the sanctity of Shabbat, and understand that for some, that commitment makes it hard to get married on Saturday evenings during the summer. Therefore we are open to officiating weddings during the spring and summer months after 6 PM.
All CBE clergy also share a commitment to the equality of LGBT couples and are delighted to perform ceremonies for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender couples.
We know that there are many questions surrounding Jewish weddings. We hope this page will provide you with many answers. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have other questions.
Before the Ceremony
There are a number of traditions many couples choose to observe in the hour before the wedding. Below is a guide to a few (Same-sex couples may choose to modify the traditions to fit their needs – CBE clergy have creative ideas to help):
B’deken:The bride is seated with her closest family and friends around her. People pass in front of her and offer her private wishes and she blesses them in return. If one chooses to do this ritual, it often means the cocktail hour is before the ceremony.
Tisch:This ritual happens concurrent to the b’deken. The groom is gathered around a table with whoever wants to join. There is singing, eating, toasting, and joking. Often the groom tries to give a speech. Don’t let him finish!
Note: Although traditionally these two are separate rituals for the bride and groom, couples can mix and match having a joint tisch or b’deken or concurrent bride and groom tisches.
Eventually, those at the the tisch will dance the groom into the room of the bride. He, along with his father and his future father in law, will bless the bride with the words:
Our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of ten thousands
May God, bless you and keep you
May God cause God’s face to shine upon you and give you grace
May God smile upon you and grant you a life of peace.
He may then put her veil on her. This act has biblical origins. It is the groom’s way to assure he is marrying the correct bride. In the Bible, Jacob did not do this and accidentally married Leah rather than Rachel.
Usually at an egalitarian wedding, the ketubah is signed here (it can be signed at the groom’s Tisch in more traditional ceremonies). A ketubah is a binding legal contract that spells out the terms and ideals of a couple’s upcoming marriage. A couple can choose to either have a traditional text or a liberal one.Liberal texts spell out a couple’s spiritual and emotional commitment to one another. Jewish law requires that the ketubah is signed by two Jewish witnesses unrelated to the bride or groom.
There are many Jewish rituals that appear as part of a Jewish wedding. Here are a few essential ones:
Chuppah, Wedding Canopy
The Hebrew word chuppah means “that which covers, ﬂoats above, or protects.” It is a wedding canopy and is a symbol of a couple’s future home, open on all sides to friends and family. Often the top of chuppah will be constructed out of a tallit (prayer shawl) that is important to the family.
In traditional Jewish weddings, the bride circles the groom seven times before they enter the chuppah together. In Judaism, seven is the number of days creation and completion and the circling symbolizes the world the couple will build together. Many couples will each circle the other three times, followed by one circle together. The double circling demonstrates independent yet complementary orbits.
Birkat Erusin, Blessings of Betrothal
These two blessings are the first official liturgy in a wedding celebration. They praise God as the creator of wine and then for the sacred rite of marriage. They also mark the betrothal of the couple as they drink from one cup of wine. 2,000 years ago, the act of getting engaged and the act of getting married were separated by about a year. Today they are collapsed into one ceremony. These two blessing provide the framework for the ring ceremony which will be the act that makes the couple engaged.
In this second part of the erusin ritual, the exchange of rings marks the moment of Jewish marriage, when the couple are literally “set apart” for each other. Rings are traditionally wholly round with no stones or etching. The couple recites to one another the words, “You are hereby sanctiﬁed to me with this ring, according to the laws of Moses and Israel.” After saying these words and exchanging rings, the couple is engaged.
Sheva Brachot, Seven Blessings
The second part of the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony is the nissuin (“nuptials”), which begins with the Sheva B’rachot (“Seven Blessings”), the heart of a Jewish wedding ceremony. Here the couple celebrates the joy, love, friendship, and community that contributes to the creation of their new life together. The section is also accompanied by a second cup of wine.
Breaking of the Glass
There are many interpretations of this act, from remembering the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, to tempering our joy with the reality of life’s brokenness. More than anything, the ritual serves as an exclamation point, a release after the heightened emotion of the wedding ceremony
Reading of the Ketubah
A ketubah is a binding legal contract that spells out the terms and ideals of a couple upcoming marriage. We have written more information about the ketubah above. We reprise the text here so that the officiant can read the promises that the couple has agreed upon in front of their family and friends.
After the wedding ceremony, the newlyweds spend their ﬁrst moments as a married couple in a private space. It is a time to exhale, embrace, and let what has happened sink in. It is an island of privacy and peace, a respite before the public celebration begins.
Throughout the generations, festive dancing has become a centerpiece of Jewish weddings. Known sometimes as the Hora, this circular dance involves the whole community. The bride and groom dance in the center and as people dance around them, they pull different groups in. It is also customary to lift them up on a chair.