Choosing a Date
One of the exciting aspects of the Jewish calendar is its colorfulness. Daily life is never monotonous when one is in tune with the unique energies which characterize the different periods which make up the Jewish calendar. The calendar rapidly moves from days of joy to days of mourning; from solemn days to festive ones. And although the Jewish calendar is dotted with holidays and auspicious days and weeks, no two share the same energy and theme; each one is completely unique.
Many dates on the Jewish calendar are not opportune for weddings. Various dates are blacklisted for different reasons. Obviously, the sadder days on the calendar are inopportune times to celebrate the great joy of a wedding. Weddings are not celebrated on the Shabbat or major biblical holidays because they are mandated days of rest when transactions are prohibited -- including the ring-giving transaction under the chupah through which man and woman become husband and wife. On certain other festive days on the calendar we are required to completely focus on the festivities of the day, and a wedding would constitute an unwelcome distraction.
Choosing the proper date is key to ensuring that the couple is the beneficiary of these important blessingsWe cannot overemphasize the importance of choosing an appropriate day to schedule a wedding. Under the chupah, the newly married couple draw upon themselves the highest and loftiest blessings; blessings which last for the duration of their marriage and then continue to benefit all future generations which result from this blessed union. Choosing the proper date is key to ensuring that the couple is the beneficiary of these important blessings.
Click here to find out whether any given day is "wedding-worthy."
Another important factor in determining the wedding date is the bride's menstrual cycle. Ideally, the wedding should be scheduled for a date when the marriage can be consummated. The bride's Family Purity instructor (see The Engagement) will help her determine which dates are appropriate; and will also advise her regarding the option of medicinally controlling her cycle.
All spiritual considerations aside, the main factor to take into account when scheduling a wedding date is expeditiousness. Weddings should be scheduled for the earliest possible date permitted and recommended by Jewish law. Bride and groom share a root soul, and from the very moment their souls were "severed" from each other prior to their birth, their respective "half souls" have been eagerly awaiting the moment when they will be rejoined through marriage. Now that the task of finding their soulmates is thankfully behind them, it is unfair to unnecessarily delay the joyous reunion.
Practically, too, it is unwise to delay the wedding any more than necessary. The engagement period is characterized by heightened emotions on the part of the couple. A prolonged engagement serves as a needless temptation for a couple committed to postponing all intimacy until after the wedding.
Preparing for the Ceremony
A wedding is a celebration of the reunification of two soulmates. A spiritually uplifting ceremony and reception is the appropriate way to celebrate this soulful event. A relatively modest affair enriched by joyous singing, dancing, and perhaps some short words of inspiration, is truly a treat for the soul. Jewish tradition frowns upon weddings which are designed to be ostentatious displays of opulence.
In times past, many Jewish communities enacted various internal ordinances which included limitations on wedding budgets and invitation lists. Nowadays very few communities have such ordinances, which places the onus of arranging a modest yet tasteful event on the shoulders of those planning the wedding.
Overly extravagant affairs also have a negative affect on the community as a wholeOverly extravagant affairs also have a negative affect on the community as a whole. Such affairs place unfair pressure on others to conform to this "higher" standard -- including individuals who lack the financial means, and will re-mortgage their homes in order to be "competitive."
Aside for the food, floral arrangements, musicians, and other items needed by every wedding, a Jewish wedding requires certain religious articles. Click here for a detailed checklist of all the items needed for a Jewish wedding.
It is customary that every piece of clothing worn by the bride and groom by the wedding should be brand new -- a new start warrants a new wardrobe...
There are conflicting customs regarding the choice of the officiating rabbi -- in some communities it is customarily the choice of the bride's family, while in other communities the groom's side chooses the rabbi. Just one more issue the sides need to work out... If the wedding is held in a city or neighborhood where there is one recognized rabbi, all weddings must be officiated by the established rabbi, unless he agrees to allow another rabbi to do the honors. It is important to make the decision regarding the officiating rabbi well in advance, as the rabbi may need documentation to verify the Jewish identity as well as the marital status of the bride and/or groom. Click here to find an officiating rabbi in just about any location in the world.
Through the course of the wedding, there are many opportunities to honor family members and/or dear friends with participating in the ceremony. These kibbudim (honors) include the recitation of the blessings beneath the chupah and at the conclusion of the wedding meal, reading the marriage contract, and more. Normally, the bride and groom evenly divide the kibbudim; giving each side ample opportunities to honor their family and friends. The list of honorees should be finalized before the wedding, and should contain possible alternates in the event that some of the honorees will not show up (or will show up late). Click here for a detailed list of all the kibbudim.
Through the course of the wedding, there are many opportunities to honor family and/or friendsThere are also certain honors which can be reserved for non-Jewish invitees to the wedding. Examples include holding the chupah poles, walking down the aisle ahead of the bride and groom, and placing the glass beneath the groom's foot.
A master of ceremonies should be designated in advance. The emcee stands beneath the chupah and calls upon the honorees to approach and carry out their chosen task. The emcee should be someone who is somewhat familiar with the proceedings of a chupah, and should be equipped with the list of honorees (and possible alternates).
The individuals who play the most important role in the legal aspect of the wedding ceremony are the witnesses. According to Jewish law, they actually effect the marriage. There are quite a few guidelines which dictate who may be chosen as a witness. Click here for an article detailing the guidelines.
The bride and groom are escorted to the chupah by two married couples. Usually these are the couple's parents. If the bride and/or groom's parents cannot perform this task, any other Jewish married couple may be honored with this task. Click here for a discussion regarding who is eligible to escort the bride and groom.
During the week following the wedding, it is customary to arrange a series of festive get-togethers, "Sheva Brachot" celebrations, in honor of the newlywed couple (see the Newlyweds section for more information on this subject). Hosts for the Sheva Brachot meals should be lined up sometime during the engagement period.
In the event that the newlywed couple is moving into a new home, click here for an article discussing recommended preparations for such a move.