Orthodox Jewish weddings versus Conservative and Reform

An orthodox Jewish wedding is a ceremony between a competent male and female Jew, who are allowed to be married according to the Jewish Law (halachah). Before the ceremony can take place, the local Jewish law court (Beth Din) request evidence, such as the Jewish marriage certificates (Ketubut) of the parents of the engaged couple and may further receive witnesses to certify that they are single. Additionally, divorcees will have to prove that they are not only civilly divorced, but also fully after a Jewish divorce (Girushin) and the women received a proper bill of divorce (Get) from her husband.

The local Beth Din or (male) Rabbi will meet the couple and set a suitable date, before which the bride undergoes purity coaching and has a pre-nuptial visit to a Mikveh (purity pool). According to some traditions, the bride and groom fast on their wedding day.

The wedding ceremony is an enactment of an agreement, set out on a wedding agreement (Ketubah- in Aramaic) in which the groom commits himself to provide the bride with sustenance, clothing and her other needs. This agreement is witnessed by two Jewish Law-keeping male witnesses (Edim).

The actual ceremony has two Jewish legal major parts: betrothal/sanctification (Erusin/Kiddushin) and marriage (nissuin). The former prohibits the bride to all other men and the latter allows the couple to each other.

First, the groom checks that the bride is his intended and covers her with her veil (bedekken- Yiddish) and the wedding ceremony starts by the groom being brought to stand under a nuptial canopy (chuppah). Thereafter, the veiled bride is brought to the canopy, and according to some traditions, she circles around the groom seven times.

The Rabbi blesses over a first cup of wine and makes the betrothal blessings. The bride and groom drink some of the wine. The groom then places the wedding ring on the bride’s right index finger and recites “Behold, you are betrothed unto me with this ring, according to the Law of Moses and Israel”. The Jewish law requires that the groom gives the bride an object of value, though it need not be a ring. The witnesses bear witness to this act and say “Betrothed she is (mekudeshet)!”

The wedding agreement (Ketubah) is then read out and signed by the two witnesses.

Seven blessings of marriage (nissuin) are then read out by the Rabbi and/other religious male attendees (often Rabbis and grandfathers of the bride/groom). A second cup of wine is drunk and the groom and bride partake thereof.

The groom then stamps on a glass to break it in memory of the shattered Temple of Jerusalem. The crowd typically shouts “Mazal tov” (congratulations) and the couple are led with music to a secluded room, where they are a couple for the first time and can break their fast.

Female Rabbis may officiate at Conservative and Reform weddings. The Ketubah may be in English or other foreign (non-Aramaic) languages.

In many reform weddings, the Ketubah is replaced with a marriage certificate. The text of the Ketubah/certificate may be quite different from the standard Orthodox version. Moreover, the bride and/or groom may be unfit for Jewish marriage in accordance with the Jewish Law (halachically). For example, they may not be Jewish, may have undergone a Conservative/Reform conversion, not recognized by Orthodox Jewish Law, may be illegitimate (Mamzer- born of an improper union), or may even be single-sex marriages.

The witnesses in some Conservative and Reform weddings may be non-observant, female and/or non-Jewish, meaning that the ceremony is not accepted as valid in Orthodox terms.

In some Conservative/Reform ceremonies, the bride gives the groom a ring and makes a similar statement to “”Behold, you are betrothed unto me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel”. However, this is not part of, and negates, the Orthodox ceremony. In some Reform inter-faith ceremonies, a Vicar/Priest of second faith may also ordain over part of the service. Many shortcuts, permutations and combinations have been developed in the various streams of Judaism.

Basically, so long as the groom gives an item of value to the bride and says the recitation as above, and there are two Jewish orthodox Male witnesses to witness the event, the marriage may possibly be deemed “Kosher”.

 

 

 

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