What are the tips for planning a Jewish wedding?

Between the pressures of family, the vendors and all the traditions, you want to make sure you are at the top of your game for your special day. Combining all the tradition of your Jewish wedding while still holding on to who you are as a person takes grace and preparation.

Just like you, I want your day to be unforgettable. You should enjoy every moment of preparation and time with family and friends as you celebrate the life-long commitment you will make to your partner.

Saying “I do” at Vines of the Yarra Valley is an elegant and luxurious affair.

But since you do have some planning to do and a wedding to enjoy, here you go:

REINVENT THE KETUBAH

The Ketubah is the Jewish marriage contract, written in the ancient language of Aramaic. It is typically framed and hung in the marital home after the wedding day and is often lovely to look at. The text of the traditional Ketubah hasn’t changed much over time: it is legalistic and doesn’t mention love, instead stating that the groom has “acquired” his wife. With the advent of feminism, couples have increasingly found solutions to the limitations on the woman’s role in a Ketubah.

Some choose to keep the traditional wording but choose their English text to set alongside it: words that describe the home they want to create or the bond that they share. Other couples write their own Ketubah so that the wording aligns with their shared values (sample Ketubah texts are available all over the internet).

It’s the custom for the Ketubah to be signed by two male witnesses, but some couples choose to ask two men and two women. Others ask a woman and a man to sign, and some couples ask all the guests present at the ceremony to sign the Ketubah. 

Some couples remake the notion of a Ketubah entirely, choosing instead something called a brit ahuvim, an equal agreement, which allows for each spouse to share in an equal partnership; no suggestion of “acquisition” is made at all. 

The Ketubah is more than a contract; it’s a scroll-like parchment which is a work of art in itself. It can be fun to plan artwork for it or get a custom-made Ketubah. The details of Ketubot are wide-ranging: Etsy is a great starting point for the curious.

GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR CHUPPAH

The Chuppah is the wedding canopy beneath which marriage takes place. In medieval times, the groom would place a tallit (prayer shawl) or veil over the bride, covering her as a symbol of the marriage’s consummation. But with the use of portable canopies in 16th-century Eastern Europe, the Chuppah began to refer more to the tent or structure itself and less to the act of covering the bride. It has come to symbolise the marital home that the couple will create together, and its open walls signify that family and friends will always be welcome.

Some couples choose to use fabrics which have a special significance to them, while others ask family and friends to write messages on the chuppah fabric on the day of the wedding or by mailing them fabric squares in advance. Chuppah illustrators, makers and designers abound on the internet – the world of chuppah creation is vast. 

Nature-loving couples may choose to have their Chuppah built from natural materials like sticks or rocks, a chuppah for romantics might be adorned with lots of flowers. In contrast, minimalists may choose a simple framework for their Chuppah, with only one or two simple adornments. Undoubtedly, some of the most magical moments of a wedding day will take place underneath the Chuppah: it’s crucial to make sure it’s a space that feels entirely right.

BE IN THE MOMENT

Herschel from Herschel Gutman Photography said: “Don’t spend the day getting caught up in the finer details, rather spend the day loving your family and your spouse.”

INCORPORATE THINGS THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU

Debbie from Qube Events & Productions said: “Make sure your wedding reflects you! Think about what it is that you both love, enjoy doing, things that bring you together or even quirks about your personalities and bring these to the wedding. Don’t get carried away with what people tell you should do, make sure its special for you, and what you want.”

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH!

Paul from Paul Rogers Photography said: “I’d recommend researching different styles of photography and making sure the photographer you book has lots of examples of the kind of photography you love. There’s almost too much choice out there these days, so narrow it down early with what you do and don’t like from people’s portfolios. 

Then be sure to find someone who has a good track record of high energy, dance floor action, as well as working in mixed and low-light situations – the things that most Jewish weddings have and that can be tricky to photograph.”

Pink notepad with wedding planning and rose

TAILOR THE JEWISH WEDDING TRADITIONS REFLECT YOU

Jennifer from Jennifer’s Paper said: “There are so many traditions and prayers involved with a Jewish wedding, from before the ceremony through to the reception — don’t feel like you have to do them all. Choose which make the most sense to you as a couple, and to your wedding, and then just go with those.

For example, your grandparents might have recited all seven wedding blessings, but you could just do the five that resonate most with you and your partner. However, you should ALWAYS dance the hora. Always!”

ADAPT THE CIRCLING CUSTOM

The custom of the bride walking in a circle around the groom seven times has many explanations: One is that “When a man takes a wife” appears in the Bible seven times. Another is that the circling is a physical enactment of the wedding ring, conveying wholeness. Yet another is a mystical notion that the bride, encircling seven times, enters seven spheres of her husband’s innermost being.

Many couples are choosing to adopt this custom to lend an equal approach: the bride might circle the groom three times, followed by the groom circling the bride three times, and then the couple can circle once together. Some couples even choose to do alternating circles around one another.

MODERNISE THE SEVEN BLESSINGS

The seven blessings of a Jewish marriage ceremony are recited over a shared cup of wine. These blessings include a prayer for peace in Jerusalem, and an ask that married life be filled with joy.

Some choose to invite seven friends or family members to each read aloud or recite one of the blessings. In contrast, others may opt to have the traditional blessings sung in Hebrew while friends or family members read seven non-traditional blessings in English. Some may choose to write their blessings which match the themes of the traditional ones. Other couples will include the blessings in their wedding program so that wedding guests can join in the blessings as well, or at least follow along in print.

EMBRACE IMPERFECTION!

When it comes to choosing the pictures for your album (or however you plan to preserve those memories) try not to focus too much on how perfect (or not) your hair and makeup is in each image, or whether it’s your best side or your most flattering facial expression.

Sure, a lot of careful planning and effort goes into making you look you are most fabulous on the day, and any decent photographer will make sure they have plenty of photos capturing you at your most pristine earlier in the day, but when it all goes crazy during the hora, and you let loose, hair gets a little messy, and foreheads get a little sweaty. In years to come, when you, or your children or grandchildren, are reliving your love story, you’ll all love, and be impressed by, the wild abandon with which you went for it.

Embrace the moment and the feeling that each image captures and treasure those in equal measure, if not more than, the ones where you look the best

ONCE YOUR VENUE AND DATE ARE CONFIRMED, EMBARK ON YOUR STATIONERY

Scheduling a meeting between your parents (and grandparents) with your wedding officiant can create a wonderful opportunity for them to ask questions and learn about the traditions chosen for the wedding. It can also be a valuable space for families to share the traditions that they fear may be set aside and to gain insight from the officiant as to why some observances may be included and why some won’t be. Information goes a long way toward cultivating understanding, patience and compassion.

In terms of stationery, you should start this as one of the first things on your list of wedding ‘to-dos’ as the invites are sent out up to six months before your wedding day.

As soon as you have your venue and date organised, then place your order with your stationery. Bespoke stationery can take much longer than you imagine to get right, so it’s important to allow as much time as possible to get it perfect, especially if its a destination wedding. And remember to enjoy the process of creating your stationery, guided by your stationer’s advice and expertise, it’s not meant to be a chore.

When it comes to your special day, Vines of the Yarra Valley has proven itself to be an iconic wedding venue and function centre in Melbourne

THROW YOURSELF (LITERALLY!) INTO THE ISRAELI DANCING

When it comes to the Israeli dancing, just completely commit to it and have fun, it’s an amazing experience, and you don’t want to be thinking about damaging your outfits. The more you go for it, the better the photos and the better the experience for the guests! 

DON’T FEEL PRESSURED INTO MAKING DECISIONS THAT AREN’T RIGHT FOR YOU

Remember it is your wedding. Couples who want to please parents and grandparents might not speak up about the type of wedding they want and end up overwhelmed when it all starts turning into a totally different wedding to the one they imagined for themselves, especially when parents are meeting the bill. Make sure to take into account parents’ feelings, but do make sure that they understand what you do and don’t want.

On the other hand, when a couple is paying for the whole wedding themselves, of course, they are then in control, so in this case, make sure that parents also feel a little included!

ALLOW PLENTY OF TIME TO GET READY

Your wedding is only one day. Your marriage, hopefully, will last much longer. Many engaged interfaith couples will already have spent time discussing the issues of navigating a multifaith relationship. Still, as you begin to plan a wedding, theoretical ideas can become more “real” and can be thrown into greater relief. It’s helpful to engage a therapist or clergyperson who can help you envision your life together and explore the unique choices you’ll face as a multifaith couple. Learning to talk about how you might observe holidays or Shabbat, the presence of religious or cultural symbols you each want in your home, how you wish to raise children, what kind of schooling you’ll choose for them, what role religious community will play in your lives, what values and traditions will shape your family and many other important matters will not only support your relationship long-term. Still, they will provide crucial dialogue and listening skills for launching your life together.

WRITE A BOOK

Not a novel, but a booklet for the wedding day explaining all the different traditions guests will observe at the ceremony. Regardless of what the ceremony includes, there are bound to be guests for whom much of it is new — and if there’s lots of Hebrew, maybe even unintelligible. Create an outline of the formalities, explain the origins and symbolism of the rituals, translate any Hebrew, and offer whatever support you can to help people follow along. There are many templates for this type of booklet online and in print in Jewish wedding books. You’ll learn a lot from the process, too. Ask your officiant to translate any words spoken or blessings made in Hebrew (or any other language) during the ceremony.

WHAT FOOD TO SERVE – Chicken, fish or sirtaki?

We’re all accustomed to dinner parties accommodating carnivores, vegetarians and flexitarians, but let’s take it one step further. Kosher? Dairy? Some families might not keep kosher at home but wish for their Jewish lifecycle celebrations to abide by the tradition. To others that might seem inconsistent, and expensive, given the financial burdens of throwing a wedding, but it may represent something very important — deeper than food. It may be a way of infusing an interfaith wedding with a more Jewish flavour. If the alternative being suggested is explicitly non-kosher, either non-kosher meat and fowl or more Jewishly-provocative foods such as pork or shellfish, it can raise all kinds of emotional alarms for parents or grandparents who may feel some complicatedness about a multifaith wedding, to begin with. Showing sensitivity around these choices is a mark of respect and maturity. Again, it’s not a zero-sum decision. The budget might not allow for a kosher caterer, but serving dairy or fish could be, for some, a welcome compromise.

The choice of music at both the ceremony and the reception can also be a powerful way of acknowledging and honouring the different cultures being united by this marriage. Sirtaki, a popular Greek wedding dance, could make a Greek family feel at home at a Jewish/Greek wedding while rousing all the experienced Hora dancers from the other side. There are many different ways that families who speak different languages of faith and culture can communicate together in love and celebration.

Catering your own wedding? Let us put you in touch with the Top Melbourne Wedding Caterers.

FOCUS ON HAVING AS MUCH FUN AS POSSIBLE!

Richard from Sensation Band said: “Focus on having as much fun as possible. Book a sensational band, check your venue doesn’t have a low sound limit (under 95dB is a vibe killer), the bar as near to the dance floor as you can, and throw yourself into having the best night of your lives with your family and friends!”

BOOK AN EXPERIENCED PHOTOGRAPHER

David from David Morgan Photography said: “I would have to say that Jewish couples should know that the photographer has shot many many Jewish weddings. They don’t have to have been at the couple’s chosen venue, but I love Jewish weddings for their complexity (photographically speaking). Perhaps the bride might like to ask to see some complete wedding galleries online?”

Check out our ultimate list of Wedding Photo Location in Melbourne to capture those priceless memories of your special day.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK

Ariel from Ariel Shapiro Chazan said: “Don’t be afraid to ask”. This may sound like a strange tip, but I’ve met so many couples who, in hindsight, have wished that they had asked a vendor a simple question before the wedding, even if it’s just to put their mind at rest. These are often simple questions such as “what other colours are available?” or “can we set this up in a different way?” but are often not asked because the bride and groom feel it’s a silly question.

 

It’s your wedding, and it should be as you want it to be. If you have a certain product or service in mind, then at least ask if it’s a possibility!”

 

HIRE A PLANNER FOR A DESTINATION WEDDING

Valentina and Stefania from Italian Wedding Company: “If you’re looking for a Jewish destination wedding in Italy our suggestion is hiring a planner. We know it might sound like feathering our own nest, but we mean it.

 

Having your wedding in Italy is potentially stressful because of the language barrier, and the many different customs. Trust your planner’s suggestions, as they will do their best for you, and will recommend the most experienced professionals for your Jewish wedding in Italy.”

 

TALK OPENLY AND HONESTLY WITH YOUR FAMILIES

Liesl from Lamare London said: ” I may be biased, but hiring a wedding planner will alleviate any wedding stress and ensure you have a fun wedding planning journey, safe in the knowledge someone is delivering the wedding day of your dreams while taking care of the nitty-gritty logistics on your behalf.

 

I also find that family is often at the heart of a Jewish wedding, and more often than not, they’ll also want to be involved in your planning journey because they are so excited for you. But it’s important that your wedding is a true reflection of you as a couple, capturing your style and personality.

 

To avoid any conflicting expectations for your special day, talk openly and honestly with your families about how you imagine your wedding day from the start. Your family may inspire you to weave elements of family tradition into your day, but be sure to give it your own personal twist. This way, your family feels they are sharing and contributing to your big day while also embracing your vision.”

 

Jewish weddings are so special and full of the kind of beauty that only tradition and culture can bring. Commitment, festivities, beautiful dresses what more can a girl ask for? Enjoy planning your Jewish wedding, do your homework and remember who you are. Add a bit of yourself and the groom to every tradition. Hire a wedding planner who can appease all the awkward family situations that are bound to arise.

 

Most importantly remember your love for your future husband and are preparing to celebrate a long life partnership with the one you adore. All the details are spectacular and important, but there is nothing more important than your future happiness. So be patient, kind and flexible with your partner as you enjoy this process. It will only happen once, so relish in every precious moment!

 

There are, of course, so many more creative and modern interpretations of Jewish wedding rituals. For example, a bride may choose to forgo the badecken (veiling ceremony before the wedding) or to go ahead with it but then have the veil lifted off her face before the ceremony begins so that she feels less ‘hidden’ during the wedding. Or a couple may choose to write their own, personalised vows in English to accompany the Seven blessings. A good source of information if you’re interested in personalising and updating Jewish wedding traditions is this book: The Jewish Wedding Now by Anita Diamant. Alternatives to traditions abound!

 

Are you planning a Jewish wedding? Let us help out! If you would like to have a chat, you can email me.

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