Jewish Weddings 101

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The marriage ceremony, conducted under a huppah (marriage canopy), has two parts--the betrothal, known as erusin or kiddushin, and the actual marriage, nissuin. The Ketubah is generally read between these two parts. The betrothal traditionally includes:

1)      two blessings, one over wine and one reserving the couple for each other;

2)      the ring ceremony;

3)      and the groom's recitation of the formula, "Behold, by this ring you are consecrated to me as my wife according to the laws of Moses and Israel."

breaking glass

The nissuin ceremony involves the recitation of seven blessings, called the sheva berakhot, that reflect themes of Jewish marriage. The ceremony ends when the groom (or sometimes groom and bride together) shatters a glass in memory of the Temple's destruction.

The rituals don't end with the recessional. The newly married couple spends a short time alone together in yihud, or seclusion, and then proceeds to the wedding feast. The sheva berakhot are repeated after dinner and optionally each night for a week at celebratory dinners with family and friends.

Contemporary Issues in Marriage

In the contemporary social climate of egalitarianism and inclusion, Jewish marriage is confronting a host of issues: whether the Jewish marriage contract and ceremony can be made more egalitarian; whether to accept same-sex marriage (given the biblical prohibition against homosexuality); and whether prenuptial agreements will be effective in alleviating the plight of the agunah, a woman whose husband will not or cannot grant her a get, or Jewish bill of divorce. With the rise of intermarriages, Jewish clergy are confronted with questions around creating inclusive weddings that honor Jewish and non-Jewish faith traditions.

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