Though Reform Jewish weddings draw much inspiration from the history and tradition of Jewish wedding customs, they also tend to reflect a more modern, egalitarian, and flexible sensibility. Thus, one of the great pleasures in planning a Reform Jewish wedding is the individual stamp you and your fiance will be able to put on it. You may find it helpful, before beginning to plan your Reform Jewish wedding, to familiarize yourself with some traditional wedding practices. In particular, Reform Jewish weddings typically include a chuppah, a ketubah, a ring ceremony, and the breaking of the glass. In keeping with the general spirit of flexibility and modernization which characterizes Reform Judaism in general, Reform weddings tend to vary widely, and are planned - in consultation with the officiating Rabbi - around the needs and values of each individual couple.
One major difference between Reform and traditional Jewish weddings has to do with the role of women. Typically, in Reform Judaism, and thus in Reform Jewish weddings, the principle of egalitarianism prevails: women and men share in all the roles, responsibilities and priviledges of the wedding ceremony equally. Below is a list of some of the specific components of a Jewish wedding, as they often often are practiced in Reform Judaism. As always, it is vital to consult with your Rabbi - this is not a definitive guide, and customs vary widely from community to community.
THE WEEK BEFORE THE WEDDING
The aufruf takes place prior to the wedding, most often on the Shabbat beforehand. During Shabbat services there are blessings which are recited upon the reading of the Torah; those who are soon to be married traditionally receive this honor. If you choose to have an aufruf, you and your fiance will be called up together to bless the reading of the Torah and receive the good wishes of the community. Quite often, the couple and/or their families, will sponsor a congregational kiddush following Shabbat services on this day.
THE DAY OF THE WEDDING
The bedeken is the traditional veiling ceremony, during which a groom places a veil over the bride’s face just prior to the wedding. This is not required, and some couples no longer include this ceremony in their wedding day celebrations. Others choose to take inspiration from this tradition, updating to reflect modern, egalitarian principles. Typically, the ceremony takes the form of a parallel acknowledgment: the groom places a veil over his bride, while the bride cloaks the groom with a tallit, or places a kippah on his head. There are no strict rules here: the bride may choose not to wear a veil at all, in which case the bride and groom could each wrap the other in a tallit, or place a kippah on the other’s head.
The Ketubah is the traditional Jewish wedding document, marking the official agreement by the couple to wed. Reform Jewish ketubot are most often analogous to modern wedding vows, in which the bride and groom each promise to love and care for each other. The ketubah is usually written in both Hebrew and English. There is no one official Reform ketubah text, so you have a great deal of flexibility in what your ketubah says. You may choose from one of the many available pre-written texts, or compose your own. In all cases, please show the text you would like to use to your officiant or Rabbi, to ensure that it is appropriate
One of the centerpieces of a Jewish wedding is giving of a ring, accompanied by a repetition of the verse Harei aht mekudeshet li betaba’at zo k’dat Moshe v’Israel. (Thou art sanctified unto me with this ring, in the tradition of Moses and Israel.) In keeping with egalitarian considerations, most couples partake in a double ring ceremony (in traditional Jewish weddings the groom gives the bride a ring, but not vice versa), during which each partner gives the other a ring. The bride and groom may recite the same verse to each other, or they may recite different ones: most often, the groom will say Harei aht..., while the bride will use another very famous Biblical passage: Ani L’dodi V’dodi li (“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine”).
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