Planning Your Jewish Wedding

Seven simple steps.

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Many contemporary couples choose to veer away from the traditional ketubah text and its implications and instead choose a text that expresses their hopes and commitments for their marriage. Some couples write their own text, while others search for a text that speaks to their vision.

Historically, the ketubah is not only a legal document, but also an artistic one. Ketubot [plural of ketubah] have long been--and continue to be--an expression of Jewish creativity. So couples not only have decisions to make about the text, but also the kind of art they want for their ketubah. Some couples shop together for a lithograph; others hire an artist to create an original design.

Couples should also think about who they want to invite to sign their ketubah. Traditionally, a witness must be a religiously observant Jewish male, unrelated to the bride or groom. Reform and Reconstructionist and some Conservative rabbis accept women as witnesses, though most still prefer that the witness be Jewish.

5. Selecting a Huppah

The huppah is the canopy that covers the bride and groom during the wedding ceremony, creating a sacred space that is both open for all to see and private and intimate for the couple beneath it. It symbolizes their new home together, and is said to be open as was the tent of Abraham and Sarah, who were always ready to receive visitors.

In planning your wedding, think about what kind of huppah would be special for you. Some are covered in flowers, others are made of fabric squares that friends and family decorate for the couple. The huppah is attached to four poles, which can be free-standing or held by four people. It is considered a great honor to hold a huppah pole, so this job should be given to people very close to the bride or groom.

6. Including Ritual Objects

Jewish weddings call for some objects that, with a little thought, can be enhanced to create special meaning for your wedding. For example, at most Jewish weddings kippot (yarmulkes) are provided for guests. Many couples have them imprinted with their name and wedding date; others knit original kippot or paint or decorate satin or felt ones to match wedding decor. Couples also need a kiddush cup for under the huppah, and some couples are creating a new tradition by using one heirloom cup from each family. And no Jewish wedding is complete without the glass for breaking at the end of the ceremony. Today's couples are sometimes saving the pieces of their broken glass to be transformed into a new piece of Judaica, such as a mezuzah or candlesticks.

7. Making Pre-wedding Choices

One of the greatest things about Jewish weddings is that the celebration is spread out over time, giving you maximum time to honor bride and groom. The celebration may begin with an aufruf, when bride and groom (in traditional circles, only groom) are called to the Torah for an aliyah. They receive a mi shebeirakh blessing, which invokes God’s blessing for the bride and groom, and then they are showered with candy, a symbol of sweetness to come in their life together. Many couples host a kiddush lunch following services. This can be an ideal time to include the entire community in your wedding joy.

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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.