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Ritual Wedding Objects and Clothing

Return to the Guide to Wedding Ceremonies for Interfaith Couples

Ritual Objects and Clothing

 

(For more on what a ketubah is and how it fits into a wedding, see Elements of a Jewish Wedding Ceremony.)

Modern Ketubah Lindsey
Credit: Lauren Methia Photography

Modern ketubot (the plural of ketubah) are personalized works of art, including both text and artwork. Today ketubot are typically spiritual, not legal, covenants between both partners. In the liberal Jewish world, couples can consider a wide range of ketubah texts, including interfaith ketubot, LGBT ketubot, secular humanist ketubot and more. 

Ideas for ketubah texts can be found here, or at sites like www.ketubah.com, www.modernketubah.com and www.ketubah-gallery.com, as well as in books like The New Jewish Wedding, Revised, by Anita Diamant. In most modern Jewish/interfaith weddings, the couple signs the ketubah about 30 minutes before the ceremony in the presence of witnesses, family and the wedding party.

After the wedding, couples usually frame their ketubot and hang them proudly in their home.  Costs for ordering a ketubah vary widely, but typically fall somewhere within the $250 - $500 range, depending on the degree of customization the couple wants, the materials used and the shipping time. Framing is a separate cost. Some couples write and design their own ketubot.

 

Chuppah (Jewish Wedding Canopy)

chuppah (sometimes spelled “huppah”) 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 a synagogue's or rent one. There should be enough space inside a chuppah for the couple, clergy and a small table for ritual items like wine glasses. 

The chuppah symbolizes the couple’s 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's tallit (prayer shawl) 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.

 

A Glass to Smash 

Breaking glass

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). You can use any glass for this purpose. Just make sure it’s 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. Some couples use shops like Mazel Tov Glass or Traditions Jewish Gifts that provide kits which allow you to send them the broken glass shards, which they then make into artistic keepsakes.

 

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. (Click here for a description of 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 families’ 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 don’t 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 don’t 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.  

 

What to Wear at a Jewish/Interfaith Wedding

There really aren’t any rules here. You can get married on a beach with everyone in swimwear, or you can tie the knot in the finest formalwear. There are some traditional ritual garments that one or both partners may want to wear, and we recommend discussing your options with a rabbi or cantor. Some of these items include:

KippahKippah (Jewish head covering, a.k.a. “yarmulke”). 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), though if you do you’ll 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.

Finally, some brides wear a bridal veil (and at same-sex weddings, sometimes both partners do). For info about a fun Jewish wedding veiling tradition, click here

Read the next section: Invitations, Programs and Food

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." Yiddish for "skullcap," also known in Hebrew as a "kippah," the small, circular headcovering worn by male Jews in most synagogues, and female Jews in more liberal congregations. Traditional Jews were kippot (plural of kippah) all the time. 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 "document," a legal document that is both a prenuptial agreement and a certification that a Jewish marriage has taken place. Plural form of the Hebrew word "ketubah," meaning "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.) Plural of "kippah," Hebrew for "skullcap," also known in Yiddish as a "yarmulke," the small, circular headcovering worn by male Jews in most synagogues, and female Jews in more liberal congregations. Traditional Jews were kippot (plural of kippah) all the time. Hebrew for "fit" (as in, "fit for consumption"), the Jewish dietary laws. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or the scroll that contains them.
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