Planning Your Jewish Wedding

Seven simple steps.

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You may want to begin the search for your rabbi by visiting local congregations and observing how different rabbis lead services. You can also contact rabbinical schools to connect with a student rabbi, whose work will be supervised by an experienced faculty member. Students are eager to gain experience and may even give you more time than a busy congregational rabbi could. (See Academic Institutions.)

Rabbis' schedules fill up quickly, so if you have a particular rabbi in mind, be sure to clear the date with him or her as soon as possible. Interfaith couples who encounter difficulties finding a rabbi can contact organizations such as the Jewish Outreach Institute (www.joi.org), Interfaithfamily.com (Officiation Request Form), or the Rabbinic Center for Research and Counseling (www.rcrconline.org), which work with interfaith couples and can help them to find a rabbi.

When you meet with rabbis you are considering, be sure to ask them their philosophy about leading weddings, if they are open to adapting rituals, and what kind of ketubah [marriage contract] text they prefer that couples use. You want to make sure that you are on the same page about major issues from the start.

3. Planning the Ceremony

Even couples who grew up in a Jewish home with years of Jewish education may find themselves surprised when it comes to examining traditional Jewish wedding rituals. For example, in a traditional ceremony, only the groom gives the bride a ring, an act which is thought to symbolize kinyan (acquisition).

Many contemporary egalitarian couples find this ritual to be not in keeping with their values and choose to do a double-ring ceremony; some Orthodox rabbis will allow a modified form of this. While working with a rabbi can help you learn about the wedding rituals, you will probably get more out of the experience by doing a bit of research, so you can bring ideas to your meetings with the rabbi. (See Recommended Reading.)

4. Choosing a Ketubah

Just as our government issues a marriage license, Jewish law has historically used a ketubah to sanction a marriage. Ketubah means "writing" or "written" and refers to the document that is signed by witnesses before and often read during a Jewish wedding. Traditionally, a ketubah served as a kind of premarital contract, outlining a bride's ongoing rights: food, clothing, and even sex should be provided during the course of the marriage. The ketubah also specified her rights in the case of her husband's death or their divorce.

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Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is a freelance writer and educator based in Philadelphia. She is the author of two books of plays for children: The Magic Tanach and Other Short Plays and Extraordinary Jews: Staging Their Lives as well as The Creative Jewish Wedding Book.