Weddings & Commitment Ceremonies
Judaism can be a generous and welcoming host to widely diverse cultures and spiritual styles. Within a wedding informed by Jewish spirituality, you will find room for your own spiritual approaches and personalities, your roots as individuals, and your dreams as a couple.
A Jewish wedding is a multi-dimensional spiritual experience. It offers a couple an opportunity to covenant with each other in sacred space and dedicate themselves to sacred purpose. The wedding ceremony is a dynamic, inclusive, and flexible tradition, yours to explore and make your own.
At Judaism Your Way, we’re delighted and honored to officiate at the wedding, covenant and commitment ceremonies of Jewish and interfaith heterosexual and same-sex couples. Both Rabbi Brian Field and Dr. Caryn Aviv are available for ceremony planning and officiation. For more information and questions about a Jewish wedding or commitment ceremony, please contact Rabbi Brian at email@example.com ; Caryn Aviv at firstname.lastname@example.org ; or call 303-320-6185.
Overview of the Jewish wedding ceremony
Mazel tov, congratulations and blessings on your upcoming wedding.
This overview of the Jewish ceremony is intended as a preliminary guide. Couples may choose to have all or some of these rituals. We can also discuss the inclusion of rituals and readings from outside of Jewish tradition.
A note about terminology for same-sex couples: Some couples prefer to have a "commitment or covenant ceremony," rather than a "wedding," to emphasize that in most states, alas, same-sex couples are not granted the same rights of marriage as heterosexual couples. Other couples prefer to have a "wedding ceremony," to emphasize that the spiritual and emotional commitment made by same-gender couples is equal to the commitment between heterosexuals.
A note for interfaith couples: My goal is offer a ceremony that reflects the integrity of both individuals and is accessible to and inclusive of people who are not Jewish. During the ceremony all rituals are introduced and explained and all Hebrew is translated. The details of the ceremony will vary from couple to couple and will be worked out in conversation with Rabbi Field.
For more information, I recommend The New Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant and The Creative Jewish Wedding Book by Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer.
I look forward to exploring these traditions and practices with you towards the creation of your own special ceremony.
Before the Ceremony
Ketubah (wedding contract)
A ketubah defines the rights and responsibilities, as well as expresses the hopes and dreams of both partners. A wide variety of ketubot are available. Couples can purchase a ketubah or create their own.
The ketubah is traditionally signed before the ceremony, though some couples prefer to sign it during the ceremony. Or, if the couple prefers, the ketubah can be signed during the public ceremony, after the exchange of rings. Two witnesses are chosen. Before the ketubah is signed, I read it out loud, and ask the couple if they are willing to assume the obligations stated in it. The witnesses sign the ketubah, followed by the couple.
Bedeken: Seeing One Another
Bedeken is the traditional ceremony of "veiling." Bedeken originated because the wedding couple need to truly see each other before walking to the huppah regardless of whether a veil is worn.
Blessings from Parents
Parents may appreciate the opportunity to send their children to the huppah with their personal blessings.
Part 1: Welcoming
Raising the Huppah
In common Jewish practice, a couple is married underneath a huppah, which represents the couple’s first covenantal space. A huppah is a canopy consisting of 4 poles with a cloth cover. If the huppah is not a free-standing structure, it can be walked forward during the processional.
Processional & Welcome
When the couple arrives at the huppah, I greet them and welcome the guests. It may be that there are beloveds who cannot attend the wedding in person because of infirmity, prior commitments, or reasons beyond their control. There also may be beloveds, deeply significant to the couple, who are no longer alive. These individuals can be named, remembered, and included as witnesses to the ceremony.
Part 2: Covenanting
The following rituals express the transformation of the couple from two individuals into a covenanted couple:
Birkat Erusin: Blessings of Betrothal
The blessing over the first cup of wine is followed by a blessing of the couple's intention to sanctify their relationship. The couple then drinks the first cup. Many couples adapt this blessing to acknowledge and welcome each other’s parents or others who have been crucial in making the wedding possible.
Each person individually circles around the other seven times in a ritual that evokes the Biblical story of creation and symbolically places each person at the sacred center of the other.
Exchange of Rings
Facing each other, each recites a vow and then places the ring on the other’s forefinger. The recipient then moves the ring from his/her own forefinger to their ring finger symbolizing acceptance of the betrothal. Couples can also elect to place the ring directly on the other’s ring finger.
Reading the Ketubah
The ketubah is read and/or signed if it hasn’t been signed already.
Part 3: Sanctifying and Celebrating
Sheva Brachot: The Seven Blessings
The sheva brachot invoke the blessings of creation as Judaism imagines they were enjoyed by the first couple in the Garden of Eden. I sing these blessings in Hebrew and read them in an English translation of the couple’s choosing. Alternatively, guests may offer one or several of these blessings. Several translations are available. The Hebrew can be modified to reflect the genders of the couple. The sheva brachot concludes with the couple sharing a second cup of wine.
Between the seven blessings and the smashing of the glass, some couples elect to have the Shehecheyanu blessing (for celebrating a sacred moment or experience) and/or the priestly blessing (from Numbers 6:24-26). This blessing is one of those few passages sacred in both Judaism and Christianity.
Breaking the Glass
The ceremony ends with the smashing of a cloth-wrapped glass. There are many popular interpretations of this dramatic act. Among them, this act
- dedicates the marriage to tikkun olam (repairing the world);
- symbolizes the irrevocability of the marriage covenant;
- demonstrates the fragility of human relationships; and
- evokes an explosion of joy and love, echoing the very creation of the universe. At the moment the glass shatters everyone shouts Mazal Tov (Congratulations)!
The couple recesses to a private room before re-joining the guests. Yichud offers the couple a precious gift: their first solitude as a covenanted couple, allowing them to begin their married life alone and together.
What People Say About Weddings and Commitment Ceremonies with JYW
"We wanted to express our gratitude for the role you played in making our wedding such a moving experience. [Rabbi Brian's] wisdom and openness of heart and willingness to help tailor the ceremony around our personal identities were primary factors in channeling the special energy that helped make it such a moving experience not just for us, but also for all our guests. We enjoyed learning from you, both as a searching Jew and one who is still learning what Judaism is and can mean. Your fresh perspective has left a lasting impact on our relationship to the tradition."
"The most memorable and special part of our wedding day was our ceremony... Our family and friends felt so welcomed and invited into our ceremony and loved all the Jewish traditions [Rabbi Brian] shared. [His] warmth and welcoming energy really made our ceremony special."
"After contacting numerous rabbis in the area, and being told "no" repeatedly, we were so relieved to find Judaism Your Way. Rabbi Brian was very understanding, gracious and willing to do our ceremony. He met with me and my Christian family to ensure that our values, culture, and family history were an integral part of the ceremony. All of our wedding guests commented on the beautiful and meaningful service."
"Rabbi Brian helped us plan a wedding that fulfilled both of our spiritual needs, and helped both our families feel included in the ceremony. We were so happy with his message, that we had him also do a welcoming ceremony for our children. At Judaism Your Way, my non-jewish spouse doesn't just feel tolerated, but completely accepted as part of the community
"Caryn is a dream to work with. We cant say enough nice things about her. We are truly honored to have her as our officiant."
"Rabbi Field creates an atmosphere where Jews and non-Jews feel comfortable exploring the vast richness of the Jewish traditions, history, and beliefs."
"I am very appreciative of Caryn and Judaism Your Way's work. My son and his fiance have been very enthusiastic about working with Caryn and, as we all are, excited about the wedding. You provide a very valuable and important service. Making all feel welcomed is no easy task."
Click here to view photos of weddings with JYW.