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The Ring Ceremony

Return to the Guide to Wedding Ceremonies for Interfaith Couples.

Explanation

Traditional Judaism dictates the giving of a ring by the groom to the bride in the presence of two witnesses formalizing the marriage. Jewish law requires the ring to be precious metal, have some value, be unadorned by stones and not have any decorations cut out of it. The traditional ring ceremony is simple: the groom places the ring on the index finger of the bride's right hand and says:

Behold, by this ring you are consecrated to me as my wife according to the laws of Moses and Israel.

Phonetic Hebrew transliteration:
Haray at m'kudeshet li b'taba'at zo k'dat Moshe v'Yisrael.

Progressive Jewish movements, couples typically adapt the ceremony to provide a role for both members of the couple. In some communities, each will quote a Biblical verse that speaks of love when they place the ring on the other's finger:

I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine. (from Song of Songs)

Phonetic Hebrew transliteration:
Anee L'Dohdee V'Dohdee Lee

(Note: In some ceremonies the wedding couple will use the traditional groom's declaration with both parties speaking the words with gender appropriate variations: "at" becomes "atah" and "m'kudeshet" becomes "m'kudash" when the one being given the ring is a man.)


Sample Program Definition

For many Jews, the giving of the ring has come to represent the groom's offering of the kinyan, something of nominal value made exchange for the bride. The double-ring ceremony that is the custom in modern times has come to symbolize for some the endless love between two people. Others see the circle as representing a link to the past and a commitment to the future.


Examples

The groom's giving and the bride's acceptance of a ring is the central act of the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony. The Hebrew declaration that they'll say in English--called "ha-ray aht"--"With this ring you are sanctified to me as my (spouse)"--contains 32 letters. In Hebrew, the number 32 is written with letters that spell the word "heart." The couple are thus giving their heart to each other as they recite these words.
[Editor's Note: The traditional formulation of the "ha-ray aht" begins with "Ha-ray aht m'ku-de-shet lee, b'ta-ba-at zo," which means "By this ring, you are consecrated to me," and ends with "k'dat Moshe v'Yisrael," which means "in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel." Formulations of the "ha-ray aht" used by rabbis who officiate at intermarriages include the following alternative endings:

  • l'fee emunataynu ("in the eyes of God")
  • be-aynyi Elohim v'adam ("in the eyes of God and humankind")
  • k'dat Elohim oo-v'nay adam ("in accordance with Divine and human law")
  • k'dat yisrael v'ahava ("in love and equality"; literally "in accordance with the religion of Israel and in love")
  • k'derech no-ha-gey yisrael b'a-ha-va u-v'ka-vod ("according to the traditions of the people of Israel in love and in respect")

Some rabbis who officiate at intermarriages, instead of using the "ha-ray aht," use "Ani L'dodi v'dodi lee," which means "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine."


I promise to love you, to respect you, to laugh with you, and to soothe your tears. I promise to share my life openly and honestly with you and to encourage and nurture your growth. Together, we continue this journey of exploration, trust and communication. I promise to savor each day, reveling in our loving relationship and in pursuit of our happiness.

OFFICIANT: These rings in their unbroken wholeness are tokens of your union and of your love. They represent the enduring trust and affection that you bring to one another, and are the outward and visible symbols of an inner spiritual bond.

OFFICIANT: [A] and [B], please repeat after me:
With this ring, I join my life with yours in loving kindness, compassion and faithfulness.
[Place the ring]
You are my beloved and you are my friend.


A: Garlands of unity
B: and all our closest and dearest surround us
A: blessings like these come once in life
B: good fortune smiles upon us
A: we are honored by the presence
B: of family, friends and the divine spirit
A: let all your smiling eyes bear witness
B: I present to you my heart and soul as your lover and friend
A: I present to you my heart and soul as your lover and friend


As by these rings you symbolize your marriage bond, may their meaning sink into your hearts and bind your lives together by dedication and faithfulness to each other. Truly, then, will these rings celebrate the words of the Song of Songs (8:6-7):

Wear me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
passion fierce as the grave.
(For love is infinitely strong ?)
Many waters cannot quench love;
No flood can sweep it away ?

GROOM: I give you this ring as a sign for all to see of the commitment I have made to you.

Ha-ray aht m'ku-de-shet lee, b'ta-ba-at zo, l'fee emunataynu.

Be consecrated to me as my wife in the eyes of God.
With this ring I join my life with yours.

BRIDE: I give you this ring as a sign for all to see of the commitment I have made to you.

Ha-ray Atah m'ku-de-shet lee, b'ta-ba-at zo, l'fee emunataynu.

Be consecrated to me as my husband in the eyes of God.
With this ring I join my life with yours.


BRIDE: I, [Bride], take you, [Groom], to be my loving husband.
And I promise you, before God and these witnesses, that I will be to you a true and loving wife;
true to you in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, in prosperity and adversity;
and that forsaking all others I will keep myself for you, and to you only, all the days of my life.

GROOM: I, [Groom], take you, [Bride], to be my loving wife.
And I promise you, before God and these witnesses, that I will be to you a true and loving husband;
true to you in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, in prosperity and adversity;
and that forsaking all others I will keep myself for you, and to you only, all the days of my life.

The wedding rings are symbols of attachment and fidelity in Jewish tradition. The ring represents the cycle of life and a link in the chain of generations.

These rings are tokens of your union and of your love. Wedding rings are regarded as fitting symbols of marriage because they are fashioned to have neither a beginning nor an end. They represent the enduring trust and affection that you bring to one another and are the outward and visible symbols of your inner spiritual bond.


GROOM: In the presence of God and before our family and friends I, [Groom] choose you, [Bride] to be my wife, to have and hold from this day forward, secure in the knowledge that you will be my constant friend, my faithful partner in life, and my one true love. I promise to share with you in times of joy as in times of trouble; to talk and to listen; to honor and appreciate you; to promise for and support you in trust and in love.

BRIDE: In the presence of God and before our family and friends I, [Bride] choose you, [Groom] to be my husband, to have and hold from this day forward, secure in the knowledge that you will be my constant friend, my faithful partner in life, and my one true love. I promise to share with you in times of joy as in times of trouble; to talk and to listen; to honor and appreciate you; to promise for and support you in trust and in love.

OFFICIANT: We have all witnessed your exchange of vows. Now is the time to affirm your love and commitment by exchanging your rings. Wedding rings are enduring symbols of affection and trust that you share for one another. The wedding rings are the outward and visible symbols of an inward and spiritual bond, signifying the uniting of this man and this woman in marriage. The rings are made of precious metals, indicating the preciousness and abiding value of the love, which they symbolize. They are made in the form of a circle; they have neither beginning nor end, signifying the eternal and infinite nature of the bride and groom's love for each other. In wearing these rings, you proclaim your intent to reflect this loving relationship with one another.

(Officiant with bride and groom repeating short phrases after him)

As you, [Groom], place this ring on [Bride]'s finger, say to her these words:

GROOM: With this ring, I thee wed. I take you to be my wife, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, to honor and respect, forsaking all others. I promise to love you and care for you, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, from this day forward.

OFFICIANT: As you, [Bride], place this ring on [Groom]'s finger, say to him these words:

BRIDE: With this ring, I thee wed. I take you to be my husband, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, to honor and respect, forsaking all others. I promise to love you and care for you, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, from this day forward.

In keeping with the declaration you have made, you have given and received these rings. They are a token of your union, a symbol of enduring love. May they remind you that your lives are to be bound together by devotion and faithfulness.



(To the Groom)
The woman who stands by your side is about to become your wife. She will look to you for gentleness, for support, for understanding, for encouragement, and for protection. You must never take [Bride] for granted, but be continually sensitive to her needs. Your life and love will be [Bride]'s greatest source of joy.

[Groom], will you take [Bride] to be your wife? Will you love and respect her? Will you be honest with her always? Will you stand by her through whatever may come? Will you make whatever adjustments are necessary so that you can genuinely share your life with her?

(To the Bride)
The man who stands by your side is about to become your husband. He will look to you for gentleness, for support, for understanding, for encouragement, and for protection. You must never take [Groom] for granted, but be continually sensitive to his needs. Your life and love will be [Groom]'s greatest source of joy.

[Bride], will you take [Groom] to be your husband? Will you love and respect him? Will you be honest with him always? Will you stand by him through whatever may come? Will you make whatever adjustments are necessary so that you can genuinely share your life with him?

Marriage Vows
I, [Groom], take you, [Bride], to be my wife, my friend, my love, and my lifelong companion; to share my life with yours. To build our dreams together, while allowing you to grow with your dreams; to support you through times of trouble, and rejoice with you in times of happiness; to treat you with respect, love, and loyalty through all the trials and triumphs of our lives together: and to give you all the love I can give my whole life long.

I, [Bride], take you, [Groom], to be my husband, my friend, my love, and my lifelong companion; to share my life with yours. To build our dreams together, while allowing you to grow with your dreams; to support you through times of trouble, and rejoice with you in times of happiness; to treat you with respect, love, and loyalty through all the trials and triumphs of our lives together: and to give you all the love I can give my whole life long.


OFFICIANT/FAMILY MEMBER: Do you, ___, welcome ___ as your wife, offering her your love and encouragement, your trust and respect, as together you create your future? If so, say "I do".

OFFICIANT/FAMILY MEMBER: Do you, ___, welcome ___ as your husband, offering him your love and encouragement, your trust and respect, as together you create your future? If so, say "I do".

(The officiant requests the rings)
OFFICIANT: The wearing of a wedding ring is the outer sign of your inner commitment. It says to all  the world that "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." We place the wedding band on our hands in two stages: first it is placed on the right forefinger and then it is moved to the traditional ring finger on the left hand. We do this for two reasons.
The first is that marriage is a free will act of commitment. You freely choose to be each with the other. To place your ring on your own ring finger (as you will do in a moment) is a symbolic way of making the commitment public. The second reason is that the forefinger of the right hand is called the Heart Finger, for a vein runs from that finger directly to the heart. When your vows are exchanged you are, in fact, speaking heart to heart and thus it is appropriate that the ring touch the Heart Finger.
As a token of this love and devotion for each other, and of this covenant of marriage which you are entering into, I ask each of you to recite the words of the prophet Hosea, and to place a ring onto the finger of your betrothed as you do so:

COUPLE (together): With this ring, I betroth you to me forever; I betroth you to me, in righteousness and justice; in love and compassion; I betroth you to me in everlasting faithfulness.

(The officiant asks the bride or groom to repeat the following)

BRIDE: I choose you this day to love and confide in, to hold on to and to reach out from.
(The officiant asks the bride or groom to repeat the following)
GROOM: I choose you this day to believe in and share with, to learn from and to grow with.
(The officiant asks the bride and groom to repeat the next line together and, as they do so, move their own rings from the Heart Finger of the right hand to the ring finger of the left hand)
COUPLE (together): I choose you this day to give you my heart.

-by Rabbi David Roller 

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

A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.
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