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Key Differences Between a Jewish Wedding and Christian Wedding

Return to the Guide to Wedding Ceremonies for Interfaith Couples.

 

While interfaith weddings include many traditions and variations, the most common are between Jews and Christians. It is helpful to know some of the differences in Jewish and Christian weddings to better understand your partner's possible expectations around wedding.

The Procession

In most Christian weddings, the groom does not walk down the aisle, but waits at the front with the clergy and the groomsmen. After the bridesmaids enter, the woman is brought to her new husband by her father, signifying the handing over of possession of the woman from one man to another. Mothers are traditionally walked down the aisle just before the formal procession begins.

The traditional Jewish wedding procession, on the other hand, generally starts with the huppah bearers, followed by the rabbi or cantor, the groomsmen, the groom and both of his parents, the bridesmaids, and finally the bride and both of her parents.

Vows

In many Christian ceremonies, both parties recite vows or say "I do" in response to a clergy-led recitation of the vows.

In a traditional Jewish ceremony, the vows are recorded in the ketubah and not recited out loud by the couple. The ketubah is read to the congregation by a guest or the Jewish clergy. In a very traditional Jewish wedding only the groom will recite an additional statement of marriage as the bride stands silent.

Location

A typical Christian wedding is often held inside a church or chapel. Jewish weddings may be held in a synagogue, outdoors or other wedding location.

Source: Seid, Judith. God-Optional Judaism. (Citadel, 2001)

The Guide to Wedding Ceremonies for Interfaith Couples is also available in PDF and Word formats.

Derived from the Greek word for "assembly," a Jewish house of prayer. Synagogue refers to both the room where prayer services are held and the building where it occurs. In Yiddish, "shul." Reform synagogues are often called "temple." Hebrew for "document," a legal document that is both a prenuptial agreement and a certification that a Jewish marriage has taken place. A member of the Jewish clergy who leads a congregation in songful prayer. ("Hazzan" in Hebrew.) Hebrew for "canopy" or "covering," the structure (open on all four sides) under which a Jewish wedding ceremony takes place. In its simplest for, it consists of a cloth, sheet, or tallit stretched or supported over four poles. Hebrew for "my master," the term refers to a spiritual leader and teacher of Torah. Often, but not always, a rabbi is the leader of a synagogue congregation.
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