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Is a "Double Ring" Wedding Ceremony Kosher?

Is a "Double Ring" Wedding Ceremony Kosher?

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A wedding ring is symbolic of many spiritual concepts and truths, and there are many laws and customs pertaining to it. It is interesting to note that although it is universally accepted Jewish custom to use a ring to affect the marriage, from a purely technical standpoint, the ring itself is merely a custom; the Talmud contains no actual reference to it.

Technically, the groom needs only to give the bride a gift of value (worth at least a perutah, a small coin used in Talmudic times). He could instead give her a cell phone or a blender and... mazel tov, they're married!

We won't delve into all the mystical symbolism of the wedding ring. However, in order to answer the question, let's examine what the ring given at a Jewish wedding represents legally, in terms of the validity of the wedding.

According to Jewish law, there are different ways to purchase something. One method is by giving cash, kesef. When a groom gives something of value (a ring or blender) to the bride, he is obviously not buying her. She is a human being, not a piece of property. So this is not a perfect analogy. However, he is acquiring exclusive rights to her hand in marriage. From this moment onwards no other man can be intimate with her. Thus the ring isn't merely a sentimental gift given to the beloved; it actually effects the "transaction."

When a woman gives a man a ring in return, they are simply exchanging articles of value. They could exchange blenders, too...When a woman gives a man a ring in return, they are simply exchanging articles of value. They could exchange blenders, too. Now they have just made a trade, and not effected a change of her status, to a married woman. The legal transaction implied by the groom giving the bride a ring has now been matched one for one, and thereby cancelled. Her status remains unchanged. It is as if the bride has not received anything at all, or as if she has given back the gift.

One may ask, but what about the feelings and intentions of the groom and/or bride as they give their rings? Don't the feelings and intentions count for something? What if the bride has in mind that she is giving a ring simply to express her profound love for her groom, and not for any legal purpose?

Nevertheless, a) the external factor is quite compelling. While one couple may have this intention, another may not. b) When dealing with a ceremony as sensitive and important as marriage – a ceremony whose ramifications will (hopefully) affect all future generations, we want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

Under the chupah, the groom recites the words "You are betrothed to me...according to the laws of Moses and Israel." It is important, especially in matters with long-lasting ramifications such as a wedding, that we put aside our own desires and ask ourselves, what is the Torah really asking of me, and what is the law?

Jewish marriage is known as "kiddushin," which means holiness and separation. A Jewish bride and groom elevate themselves to new heights of holiness by going through a proper Jewish wedding ceremony. When it comes to such momentous occasions in life, it is important to respect halachah, so as to avoid creating any doubt.

If the bride feels that she must give a ring to your groom, it may possibly be done after the chupah is over, in private.

Getting married in a manner that is fully in keeping with Jewish law is the best way to start out your life together with blessings and happiness!1

For a different approach to this issue, please see this question and answer as well.

Footnotes
1.

Sources: Made in Heaven, by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Moznaim Publishers, 1983. The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage, by Rabbi Maurice Lamm. Jonathan David Publishers, 1991. The Laws and Customs of the Jewish Wedding, by Rabbi Gavriel Zinner. CIS Publishers, 1993.

Rabbi Yosef Resnick is a certified scribe, Torah educator, professional musician, and writer. His column on chassidut and parenting appears regularly in Natural Jewish Parenting magazine. He resides in Sharon, Massachusetts, with his wife and four children.
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David C. Purcellville, VA March 15, 2016

@anon: That's the key to your misunderstanding. The giving of the ring is not a gift. It is a legal formality that is a key part of making the union binding according to Jewish Law.

When you're buying a house, you and the seller must sign many contracts and forms. You wouldn't suddenly decide to go sign a bunch of unnecessary forms in order to demonstrate how much you really love the house, would you? It's the same thing here.

If you want to give gifts, rings or otherwise, there's plenty of opportunity to do that after the ceremony is concluded and nobody would be bothered in the least if you did. Reply

anon Los Angeles March 15, 2016

What do you mean it's as if? It's not. Neither party nor the observers think the ring is in exchange no a return. It's a gift from the woman to the man. Why would you introduce such a problem when none exists? Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org March 14, 2016

Re: what doubt? By the woman handing the man a ring under the chupah, it is as if she is giving it to him in exchange for the ring she received from him, or worse--like she's returning it to him. That would invalidate the marriage. Reply

Anonymous March 11, 2016

what doubt? You didn't actually name a halachic problem with the girl giving the man an object under the huppa. How does that affect the transaction? what is the issur? What is the doubt? You can't say just better not to, unless you aren't qualified to answer this question. Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org July 2, 2015

To Anonymous A traditional Jewish wedding is not at all a marriage in the modern sense. Expressions of mutual dedication and love are present--and encouraged--throughout the couple's married life. But the ceremony that actually effects their union remains the same as it always was. Reply

Anonymous July 1, 2015

As I understood, the Ketubah focuses on a husband's financial responsibility. Moreover, Jewish men used to be able to marry more than one woman and I think the ceremony and the Ketubah were just the same then. So in that case the bride isn't acquiring exclusive rights to his hand. The ceremony than endorses this being a one way street instead of a mutual dedication, love and a certain sense of oneness. Even when the groom places the ring on the bride he says that now you are betrothed to me with this ring not that now you are betrothed to me and I to you with this ring.

I really wish that I'm overlooking something, but if the ceremony hasn't even been adjusted since polygamy was acceptable, how does it reflect the definition of marriage? Marriage in the modern sense where two people become one and dedicate themselves to each other for the rest of their lives - not where a woman is acquired by a man Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org June 30, 2015

The bride's rights and her husband's responsibilities to her are addressed in the ketubah. Reply

Anonymous June 30, 2015

"However, he is acquiring exclusive rights to her hand in marriage. From this moment onwards no other man can be intimate with her. Thus the ring isn't merely a sentimental gift given to the beloved; it actually effects the "transaction."

So how is the bride acquiring exclusive rights to his hand in the ceremony? Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org June 1, 2015

Re: Rings before a wedding? Ideally no rings should be exchanged before the wedding. Even the engagement ring is often only given after the chupah, so as not to confuse it with the ring that actually effects the marriage. Reply

Anonymous Oakland May 22, 2015

Rings before a wedding? Is it acceptable for a bride and groom to be to exchange rings before the wedding, with the groom giving a second ring to the bride under the chuppah? The article addresses cases where the couple exchange rings after the wedding, but not before. Reply

David C. Purcellville, VA February 19, 2015

Gifts in marriage in general No, giving gifts after the wedding has no impact whatsoever on the status of a marriage. The ring during the wedding is not a "purchase price" for the bride, but rather the act of giving it is a "kinyan" (a symbolic act of acquisition). Once the wedding is completed, the marriage can only be undone by giving a Get (a religious divorce document.)

If the wife wants to give the husband a ring to wear after the wedding (even immediately afterward - like while in Yichud or during the reception), there is no halachic problem with it. The value doesn't matter. Reply

Hannah UK February 15, 2015

So, are gifts in marriage bad in general then? So, once they are married is it ever all right for a wife to give her husband a valuable gift? Are gifts above the value of her wedding ring supposed to imply a desire to divorce, because she's no longer in a contract with him where she owes him something? You say, "He provides her a ring, thereby saying, "I have begun to become your husband" and she accepts it, thereby saying, "...and in return, I have begun to be your wife." If, however, she would return a ring to him, what would that be stating?" Is this just a problem under the chuppah? In which case, surely her giving him a love token that obviously has no/low value (a handwritten card, a plastic ring or something) would be acceptable? Something to fulfil that impulse to acknowledge the beloved's comittment by actively showing comittment and thoughtfulness in return. For modern brides it isn't enough to stand there and silently consent. Reply

Anonymous Vienna, VA February 18, 2014

As Rabbi Freeman wrote in reply to my comment back in 2009, there is always the matter of appearance. If it appears to the attendees that halacha is being violated, even if it is all technically legit, then it is a problem. Those who are observant may incorrectly conclude that the marriage is invalid. Those who know less may think that what they think they are seeing is OK when it is not.

Ultimately, you need to consult with your rabbi, discuss the issues and be prepared to abide by his decision. Reply

Tzvi Freeman February 18, 2014

questions from Anonymous Yes, you can exchange some of great value for something of little value. People do it all the time.

The couple can give each other many gifts and make all the ceremonies they like—before and after the chuppah. Under the chuppah, things should be kept as simple and transparent as possible.

Once you understand the meanings and deeper significance of everything that happens under the chuppah (as I've touched upon very briefly in comments below), you won't want to add a thing. It's like touching up a Rembrandt. Reply

Anonymous February 18, 2014

Could kiddushin be satisfied with another object under the chuppah, and then rings exchanged later in the ceremony with different words said over them? If the groom (and only the groom) says, "Harei at mikudeshet li" when presenting the bride with the first object, and both bride and groom later say something like, "Ani l'dodi v'dodi li" while exchanging rings meant to symbolize something else entirely, would this be in accordance with Jewish law? Reply

Anonymous Camarillo, CA, USA June 2, 2013

What if the rings are of unequal value? You can't cancel a payment of $10,000 by giving back $10 (can you?), so what if she gives him a ring worth less? Is he gives her a ring is worth more than the sum of the ring she gives him plus the required gift value, does that work? If I go to a store and want to buy something for $10, but I have nothing with me worth less than $20, then I give the store a piece of paper worth $20 and they give me back a different piece of paper worth $10, then I have paid $10. It does not cancel the transaction, and I do get the merchandise, even though I also got back a piece of paper. Because it is the value printed on the bank notes that matters, not just the number of pieces of paper. Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman August 28, 2009

Re: Alternatives Aside from the legalities, we are always concerned of the viewer's impression, as well as setting a precedent. All of these alternatives carry both dangers.

The best solution always is to explain matters clearly to all parties involved, in a way that they will accept. Most important is to stress that it's simply not worth it to sour a beautiful wedding over these details. Let the details pass the way they have been done for thousands of years, and let the marriage be one of harmony and joy. Reply

Anonymous Vienna, VA August 27, 2009

What about alternatives? If it is important (to satisfy less-observant family) that there be an exchange of rings on the bimah, are there alternatives?

One I've heard is that the chassan buys both rings. So the kallah isn't giving a gift, but is merely placing the ring on his finger.

Or alternatively, could kiddushin be done with another object beforehand, in front of witnesses (perhaps when the ketuba is being signed) before the ceremony? But would it then be considered a bracha l'vatala (blessing in vain) to subsequently say "harei at mikudeshet li" (a second time) with the rings on the bima? Reply

Tzvi Freeman January 7, 2008

Re: a change in status Your proposal is for the man to provide a ring to acquire the woman's dedication to him, while she would provide a ring to him to acquire his dedication to her.

Really, there's a question that should be asked prior to this: Where do we see in the marriage ceremony that the man commits himself to the woman and is "acquired" to her as her husband?

So let me explain a little further how the transaction works:

Getting married is not like buying a pair of shoes. With the shoes, you pay the cash and take the shoes and they are yours. The transaction happens once and is over and done with.

Marriage, on the other hand, is more like a service contract. It's an agreement that "as long as we are both providing our conjugal responsibilities to one another, we are married." If one partner or the other at some point stops providing---and continues refusing to provide after the court's intervention--the marriage must be dissolved.

In this sense, we can say that the marriage ceremony--unlike the transaction at the shoe store--never ends. At every moment of a couple's life together they are not just married, they are getting married, again and again.

Giving the ring, then, is not the entire transaction--it's just the beginning. You have to start somewhere. He provides her a ring, thereby saying, "I have begun to become your husband" and she accepts it, thereby saying, "...and in return, I have begun to be your wife."

If, however, she would return a ring to him, what would that be stating? She can't be "acquiring" him as a husband--he already committed to that by providing the ring. The obvious meaning of the transaction would be just, "Hey, that's a nice ring. Here's one for you too!"--thereby rendering his offer of marriage null and void.

There's also a deeper meaning to the dynamics of this transaction: You see that the man becomes a husband through an action. The woman, however, becomes a wife through a passive, quiet stance of receiving. In more abstract terms, the man is becoming, while the woman is being.

This aligns with the masculine and feminine roles as they are described in the Kabbalah. The masculine aspects are those that extend from the essence and revolve about it, while the feminine are those that manifest the essence itself. The essence, as soon as it moves, is no longer the essence. Reply

Anonymous hosuton, tx January 6, 2008

A change in status If by giving a ring to a women "he is acquiring exclusive rights" cannot the same be said of a ring being given to a man. The women is given the same exclusivity wither her husband and she gives him as his wife. Though not traditional, still it could be said that there is no harm in signifying this commitment. Both man and woman change status...single...married...for both Reply

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