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Every religion and culture has its unique ritual objects and garments that are part of wedding ceremonies. When planning for your Jewish interfaith wedding you will want to consider which to include. You may choose to include ritual objects and garments from multiple traditions or just Jewish ones.Â We willÂ explain some of the Jewish ones here.
The Chuppah (Jewish Wedding Canopy)
AÂ chuppah (sometimes spelled âhuppahâ) is a Jewish wedding canopy with four open sides. Jewish wedding ceremonies typically occur under a chuppah, and this tradition offers great opportunities for interfaith couples to integrate elements from multiple traditions.
A basic chuppah looks like a square piece of fabric supported by four poles. The poles stand on the ground and are often held upright by friends of the couple. The poles can also be free-standing and decorated with flowers. Couples can make their own chuppah, use aÂ synagogue’s or rent one. There should be enough space under the chuppah for the couple, clergy and a small table for ritual items like wine glasses.
The chuppah symbolizes the coupleâs home. The ancient rabbis compared it to the tent of the biblical Abraham, who was famed for his hospitality; his tent had entrances on all four sides to signal a message of welcome to travelers coming from any direction.
Making or decorating a chuppah offers opportunities to include various traditions in the wedding. Partners who are not Jewish can include materials and patterns representing their heritage in the chuppah cloth cover. Some couples use a family heirloom, such as a grandfather’sÂ tallitÂ (prayer shawl; more on this below) or a prized family tablecloth (from Irish culture), as the chuppah covering.
The costs of making your own chuppah can be modest, especially if you keep things simple. You can get everything you need in one trip to a building supplies store for $100 or less (www.apracticalwedding.com has a great DIY page called How to build a chuppah). Prefab kits available online run from about $130 to $250. Rental costs vary but are often under $100. The website huppahs.com rents different styles of chuppot (plural of chuppah) as well as canopies and poles if you only need one or the other.
Two Cups of Wine/Grape Juice
A typical Jewish wedding ceremony includes two cups of wine (or grape juice). Wine is a Jewish symbol of joy. (Learn more about how these two cups fit into the wedding ceremony.) You can use any cups or glasses for this purpose; however, these cups offer an opportunity to include elements from both familiesâ histories or traditions. Also, try using white wine or juice just in case of spills during the ceremony.
Some couples use only kosher certified wine or grape juice. Most rabbis who officiate at interfaith weddings donât require kosher wine. The rationale behind what makes wine kosher goes back to very ancient times when Jews were concerned that wine they might buy in the marketplace could have been ritually dedicated to the polytheistic gods of their neighbors. Today, most liberal Jews donât check whether wine is kosher, but some choose to buy kosher wine for weddings in order to support the industry, or in case they have guests who only drink kosher wine.
A Glass to Break
Most Jewish and interfaith weddings end with one (or sometimes both) partners smashing a glass (for an explanation of the meanings, see Elements of a Jewish Wedding Ceremony from our Guide to Weddings for Interfaith Couples). You can use any glass for this purpose. Just make sure itâs thin and will break easily. Wrap the glass in a cloth or put it in a cloth drawstring bag to avoid injury from the broken shards.
Â What to Wear at a Jewish Interfaith Wedding
There really arenât any rules here. You can have a very casual wedding or a very formal one. There are some traditional ritual garments that one or both partners may want to wear including a kippah, tallit, kittel and veil.
A kippah (Jewish head covering, a.k.a. âyarmulkeâ) is traditionally worn by Jewish men, but sometimes by women too. Either or both partners can don a kippah for the wedding. You can also request that your guests wear kippot (plural of kippah)âyou donât need to be Jewish to wear oneâthough if you do youâll want to provide them with some. You can order from wholesalers like www.kippot.com and spend anywhere from $50 to a few hundred dollars (for personalized embossed kippot). You can also support fair trade by ordering kippot through Jewish United for Justice.
Jewish partners, particularly men, sometimes like to wear a tallit (ritual fringed prayer shawl) during their wedding. In traditional Judaism, the tallit symbolizes the commandments of the Torah and the enveloping and protective presence of the Divine, though not all Jews who wear a tallit practice traditional Jewish lives. Wearing a tallit that belonged to a deceased relative, for instance, can add meaning. Some people take the opportunity of getting married to buy themselves a new tallit that they plan to use in the future, perhaps in the hope of passing it down to future generations.
A kittel is a ritual garment that is typically worn by more traditional grooms. A kittel is a belted white robe, usually made of linen, symbolizing purity. The kittel, which is worn by married men on Yom Kippur, is also used as a burial shroud.
Finally, some brides wear a bridal veil (and at same-sex weddings, sometimes both partners do). In a traditional Jewish wedding, before the ceremony, there is a ritual that takes place called Bedecken, which means âchecking to be certain.â In heterosexual weddings, this involves the groom putting a wedding veil on the bride shortly before the ceremony. The groom gets to âverifyâ that the bride is in fact the person he means to marry. Thereâs a lovely version of this ritual for lesbian weddings here.
Note: All comments on InterfaithFamily are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed.
One of the first decisions a couple has to make in planning for their wedding ceremony is who will officiate.Â When planning a Jewish wedding incorporating multiple faith backgrounds, you have a number of options as to who can be your officiant. You may choose to have solely Jewish clergy (a rabbi or cantorâfor the sake of simplicity, we will just refer to ârabbisâ from now on, but note that most cantors can officiate just as a rabbi can); to have Jewish clergy co-officiate with a clergy member of a different faith; or not to have clergy at all.
Jewish Clergy Only
If you want to have Jewish clergy officiate your wedding ceremony, there are someÂ things you should know. While Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal rabbis are permitted to officiate interfaith wedding ceremonies, not all do so, and some who do have certain conditions that must be met in order for them to officiate. Conservative and Orthodox rabbis, on the other hand, are not permitted to officiate interfaith weddings. This means that you or your partner may have a rabbi you grew up with that you had always dreamed would officiate your wedding ceremony and they may not be allowed to officiate interfaith weddings, may choose not to do so or may not be comfortable officiating the type of wedding you are planning.
The best way to find out if a rabbi is able and willing to officiate your wedding ceremony is to inform them of your plans and to ask if they can and will officiate. If a rabbi you know isnât able to officiate, or if you donât have a relationship with a rabbi, then InterfaithFamilyâs Jewish clergy referral service is a resource that can help. Just visit www.interfaithfamily.com/findarabbi and fill out the officiation request form, and we’ll email you, free of charge, a curated list of rabbis and cantors in your area who are likely to be a good fit for the type of wedding youâre planning. We also refer Jewish clergy that may be willing to travel.
Jewish Clergy Co-officiate with Clergy of Another Faith
Most rabbis and cantors who officiate interfaith weddings are not willing to co-officiate with clergy of another faith, though the number who will do so is growing. If you’re using InterfaithFamilyâs clergy referral service and you’re looking for a rabbi to co-officiate, please check the appropriate box on the online form.
Good, clear communication is essential when working with two officiants. Many clergy (of any faith) who are willing to co-officiate may have conditions for doing so, and some will want to make case-specific decisions about what they are comfortable doing. Good communication between the officiants, and between you and both officiants, is crucial so that no one feels blindsided or misunderstood. Some rabbis who co-officiate will recommend specific local clergy of other faiths with whom they enjoy working.
Wedding Ceremonies Without Clergy
You can choose to get married without having a rabbi or cantor, or any other clergy for that matter. Hiring a justice of the peace, judge or non-denominational officiant are all options. You can also arrange to have a friend deputized by the state to act as your officiant. Good communication is key when working with officiants who may be unfamiliar with the family dynamics or other issues sometimes in play in interfaith weddings.
If you decide to go this route, there are many resources you can consult to incorporate Jewish ritual and cultural elements into your ceremony. See the Sample ceremonies and definitions for wedding programsÂ section of IFFâs Jewish Wedding Guide for Interfaith CouplesÂ for some good ideas.
Questions to Ask Clergy and Clergy Fees
You should feel free to ask any questions of the clergy you contact, including questions about fees. It is important to feel comfortable with someone before you make the commitment to have them join in your special day.
Your first conversation with a prospective officiant is your âinterview,â and itâs your main opportunity to discern whether this person is a good fit for you and your partner. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
As for fees, Jewish clergy fees vary greatly (and are often greater than the fees of clergy of other faiths) though generally they fall somewhere between $500 – $1,500, depending on many variables. Fees may include travel costs, or reflect the amount of necessary pre-marital work. They also vary by region. Many rabbis and cantors offer a sliding scale if finances are an obstacleâdonât be afraid to ask for a fee reduction if this is a factor.
Hereâs whatâs going into the fee: Rabbis bring years of seminary training into their work with couples, and often spend considerable time preparing the wedding ceremony according to the specific needs of each couple. In interfaith weddings, rabbis work with each unique couple to craft a sensitive, respectful and meaningful ceremony that strives to balance the aesthetics of Jewish ritual with the need for some cultural translation for family members and guests of other faiths.
When they hire a rabbi, couples are choosing to pay for a professional to create a sacred moment that they will remember forever. Itâs useful to think about the clergy fee alongside the other costs associated with weddings today. The expertise and care couples look for in a wedding cake, a DJ or a photographer all come with fees, and clergy also need to make a living.
Finally, for co-officiated weddings, remember to include clergy fees for both officiants in your budget.
Note: All comments on InterfaithFamily are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed.
A Jewish wedding has two major sections: erusin (betrothal) and nissuin (marriage). The central part of erusin is the exchange of rings. The central part of nissuin is the seven wedding blessings. Though erusin and nissuin were originally two separate ceremonies, they now take place one immediately after the other, and together they make up the Jewish wedding ceremony. There are many ways to personalize your wedding ceremony and include elements from other religious traditions. As with all aspects of your wedding ceremony, you should discuss with your officiant what you do and donât want to include in your ceremony.
There are no set Jewish rules regarding the processional, just customs, so the processional offers interfaith couples a great opportunity to weave in traditions from other faiths or include other cultural elements.
In traditional Jewish weddings the entire wedding party processes down the aisle, with the rabbi going first or simply starting the ceremony waiting at the chuppah (wedding canopyâyou can read more about the chuppah here). In heterosexual weddings, the processional typically continues with the groomsmen walking single file, followed by the best man, and then the groom with parents on either side of him. Then the bridesmaids walk single file, followed by the maid or matron of honor, and then any other members of the wedding party (flower girls, ring bearer, etc.). Finally, the bride processes with parents on either side. It is traditional for the bride and her parents to stop before arriving at the chuppah and for the groom to walk to the bride, and then walk together with her under the chuppah. Under the chuppah, the bride stands to the groomâs right (which is the reverse of traditional Christian or American weddings).
In same-sex weddings, and in many Jewish heterosexual weddings, couples use various processional configurations.
Music for the processional usually includes pre-processional music, to which the grandparents process, a piece chosen for all the attendants including ringbearer and flowergirl. The bride and her parents usually come in to another piece of music. Traditional wedding marches including Wagnerâs “Here Comes the Bride” are not typically used in weddings with Jewish families/guests due to the musicians’ association with anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. Like all details of the wedding, be sure to clear music choices with your officiant(s) and family members.
Most liberal rabbis offer couples the choice of whether or not to include circling in their wedding ceremony. Many modern couples adapt this ritual to make it egalitarian, with each partner circling the other. A typical mutual-circling ritual would see one partner circle the other three times in a clockwise manner, followed by the other circling the first one three times in a counter-clockwise manner. They then complete one last circle together. Some modern couples view circling as a symbol of the way they’ll define the home space for the couple, each seeing themselves responsible for protecting and supporting the other.
The circling is usually done while music is playing, before the couple enter under the chuppah together.
After a brief welcome, the ceremony typically begins with a blessing of the first of twoÂ cups of wine (or grape juice). In Judaism, wine is a symbol of joy. In a traditional Jewish wedding, a second blessing is also recited before the couple sips the wine. This blessing is called birkat erusin. To learn about birkat erusin, click here.
After reciting the blessing(s) the rabbi invites the couple to sip from the cup. Traditionally, in a heterosexual wedding, the rabbi gives the cup of wine to the groom, who sips from it, and then the cup is presented to the bride, who sips from it.
The Ring Ceremony
In liberal Jewish communities, both partners give each other a wedding ring to symbolize their love and commitment. When exchanging rings, each partner recites a verse expressing their commitment to one another. The exchange of rings completes the first part of the wedding ceremony.
The ring ceremony is a good time for couples to exchange vows with each otherâsomething that isnât part of a traditional Jewish ceremony, but which many couples like to include. Additionally, some couples like to write something personal that they can each say to the other when exchanging rings.
Traditionally, there are no âI Doâsâ in a Jewish wedding ceremony. However, if you want to have your officiant ask, for example, if you âpromise to love, honor and cherishâ your partner, and then respond âI Do,â you should ask your officiant if this is something they are comfortable with. To read a blog about one couple who wanted to say âI Doâ in their wedding ceremony, click here.
See sample ring ceremonies here.
The Seven Blessings and the Second Cup of Wine
The second part of the ceremony typically begins with the seven wedding blessings, which includes the second blessing of the wine. The seven blessings give thanks for the joys of love, intimacy and marriage, for the creation of humanity and for the communityâs happiness.
Most Jewish officiants sing the blessings in the original Hebrew and translate each blessing into English. These blessings are ancient, and a lot of contemporary couples prefer to use modern creative translations. Also, the original wording of the blessings refers only to heterosexual weddings. Creative Jewish liturgists have written modified versions of these blessings, in Hebrew and in English, which honor same-sex weddings.
The first of the seven blessings is the blessing over a second cup of wine, and after all of the blessings are recited the couple is invited to take a sip.
After the seven blessings, some rabbis will recite another set of traditional blessings. These words, known as the âpriestly blessings,â ask God to bless and protect, enlighten and give peace to the couple. Some rabbis will ask if the couple want to have a tallit (prayer shawl) draped over their shoulders while this blessing is recited. If this is something you would like to do, you should speak to your officiant about it.
Read more about the seven blessings and sample programs here.
Breaking the Glass
Jewish weddings end with the breaking of a glass. In heterosexual weddings, itâs usually the groom who stomps his foot down on a thin glass (wrapped in a cloth for safety), though some couples (heterosexual or same-sex couples) will do it together or break two glasses. Many couples also want to have a kiss at the conclusion of their ceremony, which can fit nicely right before or after the breaking the glass. Here you can see a fun short video taken from a same-sex wedding in which we see both grooms breaking a glass. And in this blog post, a groom tests out breaking a glass before the big day.
Progressive or traditional, religious or secular, Jewish weddings almost always include a breaking of glass at the end of the ceremony. The glass-breaking is typically followed by a communal “Mazel tov!,” which means “good fortune” in Yiddish and is the equivalent of “Congratulations!” In addition to the communal congratulations, Siman Tov u’Mazel Tov is sometimes sung after the breaking of the glass. Watch this video to learn the words.
There are countless interpretations for the tradition of breaking a glass. Some see it as a reminder of the destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem. Others say it is meant to remind us that marriage is as fragile as glass. It also has been interpreted to demonstrate how life is so fragile that the couple should enjoy every day as if it were their last together.
Read more about breaking the glass here.
Recessional and Alone Time
At the end of the ceremony, couples typically walk back down the aisle, accompanied by music. The recessional can be deliberately âmessy,â with the couple heading off down the aisle and then everyone else simply mixing and mingling with the guests, or it can be structured and more formal.
Couples often take time for yichud (seclusion) after the ceremony. This gives couples an opportunity to have a little time to be alone together in a private space immediately following the ceremony. The rabbi may mention, just before the breaking of the glass, that the couple is going to do this, and may offer any other short practical instructions to guests at this point as well. Taking a little time to be alone together before returning to your celebrating guests can be rewarding and grounding.
Including Elements from Other Religious Traditions
Sometimes couples want to include elements of other religious traditions in their Jewish interfaith wedding. There are many options for doing so as well as sensitive issues that may arise. Some couples decide to have separate wedding ceremonies in order to allow both of their traditions to be fully expressed.
For issues specific to Jewish-Christian weddings, click here.
For issues specific to Jewish-Muslim, Jewish-Hindu and Jewish-Buddhist weddings, click here.
Note: All comments on InterfaithFamily are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed.
A ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract. In ancient times, a ketubah was a legally binding document, written in Aramaic (the vernacular of the time), describing a groomâs âacquiringâ of a bride, and stating the amount that the groom would have to pay the bride in case of a divorce. Thereâs no mention of God, love or romance in a traditional ketubah. Modern liberal ketubot (plural) are typically spiritual, not legal, covenants between both partners, and ketubot for interfaith and same-sex couples abound. For example, ketubah.com has four different interfaith text options for couples to choose from.
In past generations, the ketubah was a simple document supplied by the rabbi, signed before the ceremony and filed away with the secular marriage certificate. Today, many couples choose Â ketubot that have modern texts that they find meaningful and that are also works of art and a visual testament to the love and commitment of the couple. Many interfaith couples choose to have a ketubah and even make it a focal point of their wedding, reading it as part of the ceremony and displaying it on an easel for all their guests to view.
The ketubah text may detail how both partners will share responsibilities and resolve conflicts, the ways they will support and encourage each other throughout life, and/or the values they want to guide their marriage. Some interfaith couples even choose to mention their different religious heritages in their ketubah.
As Aliyah from Ketubah.com notes in her blog post: âThe beauty of the modern ketubah is that it can have a text that means something to you personally and as a couple. The original purpose of the ketubah is still there but is elevated to mean more to you as a couple through your modern text.â
Aliyah and Rabbi Robyn Frisch, Director of InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia joined for a Facebook Live about ketubot, which you can watch here.
Where do I find a Ketubah?
Ketubot are usually written in Hebrew and English (though they could be in just one or the other). Some couples choose to customize a ketubah with other languages that are personally meaningful to them. Beautiful customized ketubot have been created with three languages, adding to the Hebrew and English a language such as Chinese, Russian or Spanish.
You may choose to create your own personal ketubah, either because you have in mind a special design for your ketubah or because youâd like to write your own ketubah textâor perhaps both. There are ketubah artists who will work with you if a customized ketubah is your choice. You will need to commit to this process months before your wedding date to give due time to this process.
If you are artistic, you may decide that you want to make your own Ketubahâor you may want to ask an artistic family member or friend to make one for you. To read about how Hannah created her own DIY Ketubah, click here.
For sample language you can use in creating your own ketubah click here.
Regardless of if you are purchasing a ketubah or making one on your own, before you commit to any version of text, you should make sure that it is acceptable to your officiant.
When is the Ketubah Signed?
In most modern Jewish interfaith weddings, the ketubah signing takes place about a half hour before the wedding ceremony in the presence of the two witnesses, the couplesâ immediate family members and the wedding party.
Today, many couples have a âfirst lookâ before their wedding ceremony thatâs photographed so that they can take pictures together before the wedding ceremony. If thatâs the case, then the couple can be together for the ketubah signing. If the couple doesnât want to see each other before the ceremony, there are different options for how they can sign their ketubah â for example, they can each sign the ketubah in a different location (thereâs no requirement that they be in the same room when signing the ketubah) or they can have the ketubah signing at the beginning of the wedding ceremony. If you do not plan to see each other before your wedding ceremony, be sure to discuss with your officiant how and when the ketubah will be signed.
Some couples like to display their ketubot during their wedding reception. One way to do this is to have your ketubah mounted, but not framed (or framed without the glass), or placed in a temporary plastic frame to keep it from getting soiled, before your wedding. The ketubah can then be displayed on an easel during your reception.
After your wedding you can have your ketubah framed and hang it on a wall in your home. This is a great way to remember your special wedding day as well as the commitment youâve made to one another.
Who signs a Ketubah?
Some couples want to have more than two witnesses sign their ketubah. If you want to do this, you should check with the company you are ordering from or the artist making your ketubah to see if this is possible. You should also get the OK from your officiant.
Â Do You Still Need a Marriage License?
A ketubah is not a substitute for a civil marriage license. In order to be married, a couple must have a civil marriage license from the state in which theyâre being married. Some states require that civil marriage documents be signed by witnesses, while other states only require marriage documents to be signed by the officiant. In states that require civil marriage documents to be signed by witnesses, this can be done at the same time that the ketubah is signed, by either the same witnesses or different witnesses.
To learn about obtaining a marriage license in any of the 50 United States, including how much a marriage license costs, which states require a blood test to get married, certified documents you need to bring with you and what you need to know about the United States marriage license laws before applying for your stateâs marriage license application, click here.
As a fourth generation Japanese-American, Iâve often felt my heritage was slipping away from me. I grew up feeling in between the two: not quite Japanese enough or American enough, not really belonging in either category. There have been phases of my life when Iâve embraced being just American or just Japanese. It wasnât until my conversion and our wedding that I came to realize that there is space for both.
When Bryan and I started dating, I became interested in his Jewish heritage. As things started getting serious, I felt that if we were to spend our lives together I had a responsibility to learn about his heritage too. In many ways, in Judaism I found the sense of belonging, spirituality and sense of community I had been searching for my whole life.
As we embarked on the wedding planning process together, we did what we had just learned to do in my Intro to Judaism class: QuestionÂ everything! We had decided to marry in the main sanctuary in our synagogue: Did we really need florals in such a grand space? Did we really want to have the traditional bridal party? How did we want to honor the side of my family who grew up in Hawaii? If we were having a Jewish ceremony, how could we incorporate parts of my Japanese heritage in ways that actually felt relevant and authentic to who we are?
Many, many hours were spent on the internet searching for âJapanese and Jewish weddingâ ideas. What I discovered was that there were very few examples out there. The other challenge was that no one in my family had ever had a traditional Japanese wedding, so all of the âtraditionalâ elements felt totally foreign to me. When we committed to having a Japanese and Jewish wedding, I donât think we realized what we were about to take on.
Weâve been married for over a year now, and I cry tears of gratitude every time I look through our wedding album. Though it was at times a laborious process that required a lot more soul-searching than I had expected, it forced us to define our narrative as a Japanese and Jewish American couple. Unintentionally, it helped us create a solid foundation and made our bond even stronger than I could have ever imagined.
One thing I greatly admire about Bryan is his courage to be vulnerable and share his experience with others, especially if it means it will help them. Itâs something that inspires me every day, since I usually prefer to keep things (especially private and sacred moments like our wedding) within my community. I have spent the last year working up the courage to add our wedding to those search results on the internet. My hope is that other mixed race couples might be inspired to incorporate elements of their heritages into their wedding day in ways that may not necessarily be âtraditionalâ, yet feel authentic and true to who they are as a couple.
By OlufemiÂ Sowemimo
OK, Iâll come clean:Â I wasnât expecting to meet my wife on Tinder.
Iâm not some app-phobic, anti-technology fuddy duddy who assumed that real relationships could only happen through friendly set-ups and Katherine Heigl-worthy meet-cutes. I knew fully well that swiping right could possibly lead to a relationship. Given the appâs reputation, though, I expected that any such relationship would prove to be…well,Â temporary.
I donât mean what-was-your-name-again-next-morning-walk-of-shameÂ temporary… justÂ this-will-be-rewarding-and-fun-for-while-it-lastsÂ temporary.
But something special happened on my first date with my bride-to-be. After a wonderful night filled with laughter, singing and scintillating conversation, Rebecca Lenore Herring farted in my car.
In her defense, I wasnât actually in the car when she did it. It happened after I opened the passenger door to let her in (you know, like a gentleman who doesnât talk about a ladyâs farts), during my walk to the driverâs side. In case youâre wondering, the five seconds it takes to make that journey is, in fact, not enough time to allow a fart to dissipate.
Iâm not about to pretend that I fell in love with my fiancĂ©e because of a fart. Becky is not Katherine Heigl, and even if she was, I donât think this would qualify as a very strong rom-com inciting incident. Now that Iâm far enough away from it, I can look back at that night and laugh, but that night? It wasnât charming trying to inconspicuously hold my breath and hide the tears in my eyes as I rolled my window down, finally sucking down giant gulps of fresh air.
The moment wasnât charming, but it was representative. Because that night, like every day of her life before it and every one since it, Becky was astoundingly, undeniably, unapologeticallyÂ Becky. Iâve told her this many times, and it still holds truethat Becky is the absolute Beckiest person Iâve ever met. And thereâs no escaping itâto meet Becky is to be assaulted with her Beckiness. I know for certain that I could live a dozen lifetimes and never meet anyone Beckier.
What this means is that from the outset of our relationship, for better or worse, all of our differences were immediately on the table. Some of those differences have been pretty minor: I donât like the show Friends and Becky thinks pumpkin pie is better than sweet potato (which is plainly, objectively wrong). But some of those differences have been more major: one of them being that of faith.
I grew up a member of the Church of God: a sort of cross between Pentecostalism and Nondenominational Christianity. While Iâve mostly fallen away from the religion of my upbringing, being with Becky has meant learning about how central faith is to her culture, and how central that culture is to her sense of self. Getting to know her has meant getting to know Judaism, which has been a journey in itself.
Because I am, in many ways, Beckyâs oppositeâmore introverted and privateâI didnât call her out on the fart that night (in fact, it wasnât until months after our first date that I revealed to Becky thatÂ yeah, I know you FARTED IN MY CAR ON OUR FIRST DATE). Sheâs confessed to me that if I had, she likely would have leapt from the moving car in embarrassment and we probably would never have seen each other again. I guess itâs part of why we work so well together.
In a time when itâs so easy to represent ourselves as someone other than who we really areâbe it through everyday social interactions, or even a dating appâbeing with someone who is so overwhelmingly, genuinely herself that she couldnât stop it if she tried is as welcome and refreshing as those lungfulâs of air on that fateful night.
Iâm looking forward to this new journey that weâre embarking on and taking our first steps into forever. I donât know exactly what to expect of our future, but I know for certain that sheâll ever remain as Becky as she has always been.
Zach and I were married on September 16! We were away having a blast on our honeymoon in Portugal, but before we had time to post our honeymoon pics to Facebook or look through our wedding photos, Yom Kippur was upon us.
I had decided a few days before we got back that I would be joining Zach in the fast for Yom Kippur. For most of the other years weâve been together, Yom Kippur has fallen on a weekday and Iâve been working. I would usually meet him for the evening service, but I had never joined him for the whole day fast. I decided that now that we were married, it was important for me to join him in this observance, so that we could begin our faith life as a family, not just two individuals.
You may say, well, Catholics fast, right? And my answer would be, sort of. For example, Catholics are supposed to fast on Good Friday, the day that Jesus died, but this âfastingâ means one full meal and two smaller meals, as long as they do not add up to a single normal meal. Needless to say, the undisciplined can go downhill quickly, myself included. My Good Friday fast usually includes a meatless lunch, but I convince myself that I need to eat enough to continue working at my job. Therefore, the prospect of going all day without food on Yom Kippur seemed daunting.
Let me tell you, friends–my first Yom Kippur went surprisingly well. First of all, I was worried that my âhangerâ (anger resulting from hungriness) would get the best of me. I saw that, throughout the day, I was able to take strength in my weakness, and knowing that others were experiencing the same weakness filled me with patience and love for the community. Zach and I attended a morning service with Interfaith Families Project of DC, and I was able to see for the first time how this Jewish and Christian community worked (Zach had attended another service of theirs before). I was inspired by the inclusivity and friendliness of the community, as well as the different backgrounds or spiritual paths of the community members. It was a wonderful and welcoming experience.
Second, I learned that napping can be key to a successful Yom Kippur. We came back from the morning service, and about an hour or so after we had been quietly unpacking from the wedding and the honeymoon, the hunger set in, and I felt more and more tired. Instead of pushing past it, which is my normal tendency, I let my body be tired. I stopped working, even though there was still plenty to do, and read through our wedding guestbook, and then took a nap. Friends, I never nap. I need earplugs and a facemask to fall asleep on a normal night, but I was asleep in 10 minutes. Thankfully we set an alarm to alert us to get ready for the evening service.
We went to Sixth & I Synagogue in Chinatown for the neilah evening service. I had attended this service at this location last year with Zach on Yom Kippur, but as I mentioned, this was my first year doing the fast, and I was nervous about not only staying focused but standing up and not getting sick.
The collective strength of that community kept me on my feet and singing for the whole hour plus of the service. What a beautiful, urgent way to plead with God for mercy and forgiveness! It was a prayer for which we had emptied ourselves all day, which actually sharpened my focus rather than dulled it.
All in all, for me it was a Yom Kippur in which I not only successfully fasted, but I gained meaning, prayed intensely, practiced patience, surveyed my faults and mistakes and grew closer to my spouse. Yom Kippur presented a beautiful opportunity after we had returned from our honeymoon to reflect on the past year and prepare for the next year, the first in our married lives. Iâm so thankful for that opportunity–and my next post will fill you in on our actual wedding! Spoiler alert: Multiple friends and family members told us it was one of the most beautiful wedding ceremonies they had attended. So stay tuned.
Recently, an amazing Jewish wedding program infographic was posted in our Facebook group for Jewish interfaith weddings (planning a wedding? Join us!), and we all flipped over how pretty and easy to follow it was. What a perfect way to help guests who arenât familiar with Jewish weddings to understand whatâs going on. Jewish weddings have many beautiful rituals, and I wanted to connect with the artist behind the program (Lingâs Design Studio) to see where she got the idea and how she helps couples create inclusive wedding ceremonies. Spoiler: Sheâs never been to a Jewish wedding! Whoâs going to invite her so she can see it firsthand?
And for those of you who have a wedding coming up and want to purchase these beautiful programs from Ling? Youâre in luck because sheâs offering InterfaithFamily readers 10 percent off during the month of October with the code INTERFAITH10OFF. Check out this interfaith-friendly, egalitarian, customizable design we love. Happy planning!
Why is it important for couples to have a wedding programâin particular couples who come from two different faith backgrounds?
Ling:Â Having a wedding program for a couple is more than just about what youâd like to inform your guestsÂ with in regards to the order of your wedding ceremony; itâs all about getting the âpersonal touchâ to makeÂ it more fun nowadays. I have not been to a Jewish wedding before, but Iâve learned so much fromÂ creating the program from my clients. With two people coming from different faith backgrounds, itâsÂ definitely helpful to have it to show your guests who are not Jewish what Jewish wedding customs are all about.
In this particular program, your guests will be learning Jewish wedding customs through the funÂ infographic. Itâs a fun way to break away from the traditional wedding programs we used to have!
How did you start creating programs for weddings?
As I began to accept custom orders, I was asked to design a Jewish infographic design for a buyer. ThisÂ particular Jewish program was how it all started. Since then, the item became very popular in the JewishÂ community.
Are there any other customs or traditions that couples can include in their program aside from whatâsÂ listed in the sample Jewish program?
Absolutely! Every wedding is different. Couple âAâ may not have the same customs from their weddingÂ as Couple âBâ. I often have buyers ask to add or omit some items from the program. If the coupleÂ provides me the info, Iâd be happy to modify the program. (Please note that there will be additionalÂ charges depending on the complexity of the requests.)
Do you ever have couples ask for a program that describes multiple religions or cultures?
I havenât had that request yet but I do take any custom orders.
What are some other customizations people have asked for?
Some couples would ask to include âHakafot,â âKiddush Cupâ and âYichud.â One buyer also asked meÂ to list out each blessing of âSheva Brachot.â I also made a timeline, and added a thank you note.
What has been most interesting or surprising to you to learn aboutÂ Jewish weddings while creating these programs?
I learned that Jewish weddings are very cultural with many beautiful meanings for a couple.Â Most of the customs are about the couple and their family. It really emphasizes the connection andÂ union between the bride and groom. One of the interesting things is that I never knew that the rightÂ index finger has the closest bloodline to the heart before I created this program. I thought this was very special.
I tried incredibly hard to make the wedding planning process as organized as I could. I had spreadsheets upon spreadsheets of guest lists and vendors that I shared with my fiancĂ©, Andy. I had folders with links saved and an extensive private Pinterest board of DIY wedding planning ideas that required far more creativity than anything I would ever be capable of and which, closer to the main event, I had completely forgotten about.
As our wedding date loomed ever closer, as our work lives became more hectic, and as we closed on our first home two weeks prior to the wedding, I realized that we were still missing vital last minute details and items.
It was two weeks before the wedding and I had forgotten to buy my shoes, to create the wedding programs, to give the music requests for the ceremony and reception to the DJ, and to top it off, the kiddush cup we had ordered still hadnât arrived.
But somehow, despite a few last-minute glitches, it all came together to be one of the most unforgettable, special, and happiest day of our lives.
As mentioned in my first InterfaithFamily blog post, we started our wedding planning journey with the book A New Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant. Together, we carefully selected Jewish wedding traditions that were meaningful to us:
Tenaim:Â Tenaim is the pre-wedding ceremony where the families of the bride and groom decide on the financial and logistical arrangements of the marriage. Our rabbi drew up a progressive tenaim document which we and our ketubah witnesses, our two sisters, signed. The document stipulated that we would bring a physical reminder of our love and our spiritual gifts for one another (in lieu of a traditional object of value/dowry) which in our case, was a kiddush cup from our wine fountain set. We had originally ordered a new kiddush cup but soon realized it was not going to arrive in time so we ended up using the cup that we regularly use for Shabbat.
Tenaim includes the pre-wedding tradition of the mother-in-laws breaking a plate together. Two nights prior to the wedding, Andy and I trudged to Pier One to buy the cheapest, most breakable looking plate we could find. The rabbi had warned us to break the plate beforehand and glue it back together but we figured the plate would break easily. Lo and behold, as our mothers, the rabbi and then Andy desperately tried to break the plate in various ways, it was clear that we should have followed instructions. No matter what we did, the plate would not break. I will never underestimate the strength of Pier One plates ever again. We all laughed, the rabbi called it a âsymbolic breakingâ of the plate and we agreed that our mothers would break it at our house warming in two months.
Ketubah:Â A ketubah is the Jewish wedding contract which conveyed our commitment to each other and to building a loving and supportive home together. It requires the signature of the bride and groom, the officiant and witnesses. We each have one sister and while traditionally, witnesses should not be related to the bride and groom, we decided that we truly wanted to honor them in this way. We had purchased the ketubah off of Ketubah.com and made some adjustments to the Hebrew spelling thanks in part to a rabbi friend’s review of the text. The ketubah.com team was more than willing to correct the text. It was a great experience and I highly recommend them. Our ketubah is beautiful and we look forward to putting it up in our new home.
Chuppah:Â A chuppah is the wedding canopy which represents the home that the couple will create together that will be open to family and friends. To create ours, we purchased four 7-foot birch poles off of Amazon for around 60 dollars and large eye hooks for 10 dollars. Andy drilled a hole at the top of the birch poles and screwed in the eye hooks. Our rabbi brought in his large tallit, tied the corner fringes to the hooks at the top and voila! A chuppah was constructed cheaply and easily. We had also wanted to include and honor our friends and family and had decided to have chuppah bearers. Our chuppah was held up by my best friend, my sister, Andyâs brother-in-law and one of his best friends.
One of the most special moments for me was when my parents walked me to the chuppah. It was great being able to have that time with them before the ceremony.
Circling:Â Circling is the tradition where the bride circles the groom seven times (or the partners both circle each other). Seven is an auspicious number in Judaism and circling seven times can represent the seven days of creation, the seven blessings and other instances where something happens seven times in the Torah/Talmud. However, for us, the circling meant that we would make each other central to each otherâs lives. We decided to keep it equal and circled each other three times.
Birkat Erusin:Â The Birkat Erusin is the betrothal blessing recited by the rabbi over a kiddush cup of wine. We then drank from the same kiddush cup that we had used in our tenaim ceremony to symbolize our commitment to sharing our lives with each other.
Ring Exchange:Â Traditionally, the ring ceremony in a Jewish wedding is where the groom gives the bride a ring, constituting the act of gifting an artifact of value to the bride and therefore making the marriage official. However, we decided to do a double ring ceremony where we used my maternal grandmotherâs ring for my wedding band and Andy had his paternal grandfatherâs ring for his. Neither of us have any living grandparents left so it felt like they were able to participate in our celebration in a way, making it even more special for us.
Sheva Brachot:Â The Sheva Brachot are the seven blessings which are recited for the bride and groom. Our rabbi read them in both Hebrew and English. We had no strong feelings about the Sheva Brachot and allowed the rabbi to select the wording.
Breaking the Glass:Â Breaking the glass marks the conclusion of the ceremony and has many interpretations but the ones we chose to add into our wedding programs were that itâs a reminder that there is still suffering in the world and that it represents the breaking of barriers between people of different cultures and faiths. After being regaled with stories of over-confident grooms going to the ER after stomping on the glass, I made sure to put the glass into a plastic bag and cover it with multiple cloth napkins prior to the wedding. I was relieved that Andy was able to break the glass without any issues but Iâm also pretty sure our wedding pictures captured my anxiety-filled expression. We kept the broken glass and are now trying to decide what to do with it.
Yichud:Â After Andy broke the glass, and everyone yelled âMazel tov” and we shared our first kiss as husband and wife, we then left for yichud, a time of seclusion for the bride and groom at the end of the marriage ceremony. We escaped to the bridal suite where we had water, Coca Cola and appetizers waiting for us. We also had a chance to practice our wedding dance one last time. It was an ultimate must-have for us and we are both glad we had those moments to be alone and decompress before heading out to our guests again.
Our wedding ceremony was perfect for us and set the tone for not only the rest of the wedding but for the rest of our lives. It opened our hearts in a way we could never have imagined. It was a celebration of love, of unity and of starting our marriage with our nearest and dearest close by.
Most of all, it was a celebration of us.
Now a week after the wedding, weâre excited to have started our marriage adventure and have mostly stopped accidentally referring to each other as âfiancĂ©.’
Weâre counting down the daysâless than one month until the wedding! Plenty of friends and family have been askingÂ us if weâre excited (of course) and if weâre ready (which is a tougher question). In the practical sense, yes, we are ready. The caterer has our menu, the DJ has our song list and weâre finished with all of our DIY projects. In a broader sense, Iâve been thinking a lot about the question: How do you know youâre ready to make such a monumental commitment to another person?
Since weâve completed most of the wedding planning, weâve been able to spend the past few weeks making sure we stay connected and grounded. Last Saturday, we biked to Yards Park in the Navy Yard area of DC, which is where Zach proposed over a year ago! We rodeÂ past one of our favorite breweries and sat in the park with our feet in the wading pool for a while, watching the kids run around and play. I thought about this lazy summer day that we were taking advantage ofâthat we were making the time to have fun and do something that wasnât wedding-related, grocery shopping or watching TV together. I promised myself when we got engaged that we would make time for these things, and I havenât been as good about that as I would have liked, but that day, we were.
We ran into our maid of honor and her family visiting from out of town, got ice cream with them and biked home in time to host some friends for a low-key game night. Thatâs one of the many things I love about Zachâthat he gets me out of my head, and he challenges me to enjoy things like warm summer days and riverside parks without thinking about what I should be doing instead. Yards Park was a perfect reminder of that strength of his, at an exciting and busy time in our lives.
Iâve also been catching up with old friends, like my former roommate. We lived together for two years right after college and have kept in touch since both of us moved on. Last week, we met up for dinner at our favorite place in the old neighborhood. As we laughed and commiserated over wedding planning (and assured each other that the headaches would be worth it), I couldnât help but think: Am I ready to get married? To leave my single life behind?
Those years of supporting each other through good and tough times over wine, lazy weekends and taco nights seem so rosy, and Iâm a little sad to leave them behind. But then, I go home to my amazing fiancĂ©, who has already unloaded the dishwasher, or left me Reeseâs in the fridge, or asks me how my day was, and I know Iâm ready to marry Zach. I’m ready to promise to be there for him in all of those ways and more. Itâs still important, for me, to reflect on where this journey has taken me, and the other relationships I formed on the way. Iâm a firm believer in the value of friendships outside of a relationship, even outside of your marriage, and the end of my âsingle lifeâ in no way means the end of those friendships. But it does mark the beginning of a binding partnershipâa promise to work through tough times and celebrate the good ones in new ways.
This past weekend, we went home to Pennsylvania to work on our seating chart. Putting it together was beautiful because, at each table, we see different groups of people from different times in our life, who have made us into the people we are today. We have friends from childhood, friends from high school and college, family friends who weâve known since birth, current friends, work friendsâtheyâll all be there, with our loving families, to watch us commit to the rest of our lives together. We canât wait for everyone to meet and mingle, and to represent for us on this momentous day who we have been and our hopes for who we are to become.
When I read about the Jewish tradition of the ketubah, I realized it was the perfect way to create a visual representation of this commitment weâre making to each other. Rather than a contract or agreement, itâs a perfect reminder of the promise weâre makingâto constantly strive to live up to the ideal of love for each other. You can read the text we selected here. Different articles (likeÂ this one from InterfaithFamily and this one from America Magazine) and conversations with family and friends have forced me to acknowledge the uncertainty associated with marriageâthe idea that peopleâs values, personalities and desires can shift over time, and marriage is a promise to work through those. Like many people, I personally struggle with uncertainty, but in thinking about these issues, I know that Zach is the person I want to take that leap of faith with. I canât wait to see where we end up on this journey.