In my opinion the important part of any wedding is the actual ceremony itself. Many people can get lost in the details of the party that comes after and the ceremony just happens through the guidance of a rabbi, priest or registrar. However when you are getting married to someone of a different faith (or no faith at all) then there are some significant choices to be made.
This was something John and I discussed before we were even engaged and knew there was one non-negotiable element to our wedding day. We wanted a chuppah. I had discussed the Jewish wedding ceremony with John who is atheist (unless football is considered a religion??) and we both loved the chuppah’s representation of our first home together, supported by our family and friends. It is universal and whilst it comes from a practice of my Jewish heritage, it also will represent the joining of our two families.
Missy & Yoni’s Jew-ish wedding ceremony. Click here to read their wedding story
Jew-ish wedding ceremony options
One thing we weren’t certain of was what the ceremony itself would comprise of. I knew that there wouldn’t be an affiliated rabbi (someone connected to a synagogue organisation) in the UK who would be able to conduct a ceremony or a blessing under a chuppah. Initially I was very frustrated by this. I felt that it was ridiculous that a non-Jewish couple could choose to get married under a canopy after seeing it at a Jewish wedding and liking the symbolism, but I was not able to have a legal wedding or blessing conducted by a rabbi under the same symbolic chuppah.
We could easily have had a civil wedding and then a Jewish blessing straight away, but I didn’t want a long meaningless ceremony followed by a Jewish blessing AND not under a chuppah. Our guests would get bored and so would I for that matter! Many options were bandied about. A civil ceremony earlier on in the day with close family and a blessing that we would invite our guests to? Just a civil ceremony with some sort of Jewish readings? But we didn’t like any of these ideas, they didn’t mean anything to us and I felt like me, my bridesmaids and my mum might need that extra time earlier in the day to put on our war paint! We wanted our wedding to mean something special to us and represent who we are. We said no to the two ceremonies in one day and no to the rabbis.
We decided that we were going to get married legally a few days before our wedding day in a registry office near where we live, just with our close family, and then have a ceremony that truly represents us. This meant that we would be able to get married under a chuppah, with whatever elements we choose and get our family and friends fully involved.
We decided that we wanted to have sheva brachot (seven blessings) written and given to us during the ceremony by seven members of our family and friends, so they will be truly personal to us, a chuppah that we will make ourselves that will showcase the family and friends that have helped to shape us individually until now and John will smash that glass at the end of the ceremony.
Other than that we were excited about all the extra details we would be able to add to our ceremony. But who could we get to ‘officiate’ this ceremony? So along came my charismatic brother Josh who we felt would be a perfect ‘officiant’ for a wedding with his witty banter and strong understanding of Jewish practice and ease of speech that would ensure that all our guests would understand what was going on. Josh has been instrumental in creating this ceremony, yet he still wants to keep a few secrets from John and I. Initially this scared the controlling me, but once I gave him a list of the basic bits we want included and the people we wanted involved, I realised my brother wouldn’t mess up such an important part of the day and let him carry on with his scheming.