Return to the Guide to Wedding Ceremonies for Interfaith Couples.
There are many answers to this question. In its most basic form, a Jewish wedding simply codifies a contract between two individuals. From the standpoint of Jewish law, all that is required for a Jewish wedding to occur is either the signing of a ketubah in the presence of two witnesses, or the groom giving the bride a simple metal ring, with words of promise of a life together, in the presence of two witnesses. The rest of the rituals people commonly associate with Jewish weddings--the huppah, the breaking of the glass, the presence of a rabbi or cantor--are all traditions, and are lovely, but not required for a wedding to be a "Jewish" wedding. It should also be noted that a cantor, the one who mainly leads prayer through music, is as qualified--and legitimate-a wedding officiant as a rabbi. Many rabbis are also singers and many cantors are also orators.
Modern progressive and secular Jews may have a more elaborate conception of what a Jewish wedding entails. For modern Jews, a Jewish wedding usually includes, at minimum, the presence of a rabbi or cantor, a huppah, a ketubah, breaking of the glass, a ring ceremony and recitation or chanting of the seven blessings.
Modern-day Orthodox Jews may have a different view of a Jewish wedding. While a rabbi's or cantor's presence is not required, many Orthodox weddings include a rabbi or cantor.
There are also a whole series of Jewish rituals available proceeding and following the actual wedding ceremony. Ketubah signing in a private space, immersion in water (as a way of signifying a life transition) and making donations to a charity of choice in response to the upcoming gift of marriage are some of those available. Some of these rituals have been adopted and adapted by interfaith couples.
The Guide to Wedding Ceremonies for Interfaith Couples is also available in PDF and Word formats.