This is a guest post by Julia Rebecca and Jamie Rose, of Rebecca and Rose, a gorgeous blog that celebrates beautiful Jewish living through stylish decor, food, art and more.
Image by Hales Studio taken from Sarah & Mike’s Jewish DIY Wedding
How to produce the perfect Jewish (or Jew-ish) Wedding Program
When it comes to Jewish weddings there are a few highly recognisable traditions that many of us look forward to seeing, like, as this blog’s name suggests, the smashing of the glass. However, as any bride well knows, there are a myriad of other customs that a couple may or may not include depending on their preference and level of observance. Most choose to spend their big day with their closest family and friends and in today’s modern world, this typically includes individuals from a diverse set of backgrounds with varying understanding of a Jewish wedding ceremony.
Consequently, the wedding program has become an increasingly important tool as it both enables wedding guests to navigate the marriage ceremony and allows them to feel included by providing the appropriate context. Despite the wedding program’s growing importance, we were surprised to learn firsthand how difficult it can be to write one. For those facing a similar predicament, please read on to hear our tips for putting together a ceremony program perfect for your special day!
Image by W2 Photography taken from Sydney & William’s handmade Jewish DIY Barn Wedding
Know your guests
Without having a sense for your guest’s familiarity with relevant Jewish traditions it can be difficult to approach the program writing process. For a guest list that includes people who may be attending their first Jewish wedding, we suggest keeping your program more high level and focused on sharing the appropriate context, without being overwhelming. For one that has a largely Jewish audience, you may include less information on the ceremony basics and more time on specific custom details or interpretations. It’s also important to ask yourself how familiar your guests may be with the traditions you choose to incorporate into your ceremony. After all, the non-observant Jewish guest may not be familiar with a highly orthodox ceremony. Similarly, the highly observant may not follow egalitarian interpretations of tradition.
Determine your ceremony details
This may go without saying, but before writing your wedding program it’s best to have a clear understanding of what your ceremony will look like. Are you doing a badeken and tisch? Are you inviting all of your guests to your ketubah signing? Will your ceremony be more modern or traditional? A more formal or casual affair? Are you including a flower girl? These are just a handful of examples of things that need to be finalised prior to beginning your program.
Think about tone
As you want to the voice of the program to reiterate the tone of the event overall, it’s important to think about what this is prior to beginning the writing process. A black tie wedding will call for a more formal and restrained voice. In contrast, a more casual ceremony will be amenable to a lighter and playful narrative.
Writing your program
Image by Corey Torpie taken from Sarit & Ari’s Jewish DIY Wedding
To help get you started, we’ve compiled a list of Jewish wedding custom explanations appropriate to include in a program. To help illustrate how this information can be brought to life, we’ve included programs from two different weddings – one reform just below (from Julia’s own wedding) and the other traditional egalitarian, which can be viewed here.
Kabbalat Panim: The Kabbalat Panim (hebrew for “receiving the faces”) ceremony is a reception for the bride and groom, held in separate rooms. On the wedding day, Jewish custom likens the bride and groom to a king and queen.The bride sits in a throne-like chair during this time, where she is greeted and wished well by her female guests. At the groom’s tisch, male guests enjoy refreshments and are tasked with helping the groom calm his nerves.
Badeken: The badeken takes place as the groom lifts and replaces the bride’s veil to both confirm her identity and that she is his heart’s desire. This custom is inspired by the biblical story of Jacob, who did not see his bride’s face beforehand and mistakenly married his betrothed’s sister, Leah. One interpretation of the veil’s significance in this context is that it represents modesty and symbolises that the beauty of the soul is paramount to the physical.
Ketubah: The ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract with ancient roots. It is written not in Hebrew, but in the ancient language of Aramaic. Our ketubah highlights our commitment to building a home based on love, Jewish tradition and mutual respect for one another. It was signed before our wedding ceremony by two witnesses.
Chuppah: Our ceremony takes place under a wedding canopy on four posts, known as a chuppah. The chuppah symbolises the home that we will create together in our married life. It’s open walls signify that family and friends, old and new, will always be welcome.
Circling: As we enter the chuppah, the bride will circle the groom seven times. The circling is a physical enactment of the wedding ring, conveying unity and completeness. There is also a mystical teaching that suggests that the bride, in circling seven times, enters seven spheres of her husband’s innermost being.
Kiddushin: Two cups of wine are used during the kiddushin, one symbolising the marriage proposal and the other the nuptials. Each is a special occasion with each deserving its own attention and cup. We share both cups, symbolising the life commitment that we make to our shared future, including its joys and sorrows.
Ring Exchange: We exchange wedding bands as a sign of our commitment to one another. In accordance with Jewish tradition, these rings are unembellished and placed on our right index finger, which is believed to be connected by a special line directly to the heart.
Seven Blessings (Sheva Brachot): Seven blessing are recited over our second cup of wine. These blessings include praise for G-d, a prayer for peace in Jerusalem and ask that our married life be filled with joy.
Breaking of the glass: At the conclusion of the ceremony, the groom will break a glass under his foot in memory of the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The broken glass also reminds us of the delicate nature of marriage, which must always be nurtured. As the glass breaks, it is customary for the wedding guests to shout “mazal tov”, a wish of congratulations and good luck.
Yichud (Seclusion): Immediately following the ceremony we will share the first few moments of married life in seclusion. This privacy is important in our tradition as it marks the one time during the wedding that that we will be alone together. We will then return to our guests to continue our celebration
Seudat Mitzvah: Guests at a Jewish wedding are commanded to share in the joy of the bride and groom. The seudat mitzvah is a celebratory feast, so please join us as we continue to celebrate our marriage into the evening.
Image by Photo Pink taken from Madalyn & Aaron’s ultra-creative and chic Jewish wedding
Most Jewish customs have multiple explanations. Did you alter or include anything in your ceremony to make it more personal to you as a couple? For example, did you use your late grandparent’s kiddush cup or have an artist friend design your ketubah? If so, the wedding program provides a great opportunity to share this with your guests.
Image by Newman Photography taken from Meline & Damon’s DIY Jewish beach wedding
Typically, the bride and groom include a personal note at the beginning of their program. This is your opportunity to share whatever you want to communicate to your guests before your ceremony begins, whether it’s the story of how you met, a thank you or both. Simply write whatever you think you will want to say to them that day. At weddings where many of the guests have travelled it is customary (and considerate) to thank them for doing so.
Many couples choose to thank their families on their wedding day and incorporate this message into their thank you. If you have a handful of people you want to thank for helping you make it down the aisle, a nice idea is to break out your acknowledgements in a “special thanks” portion of your program. You may simply list the name of the person you’re thanking along with their relationship to you, or you can choose to write a brief explanation for why you are thanking them specifically. This is a particularly nice touch for DIY weddings, where the couple has enlisted the artistic talents of their friends to help craft goods for their ceremony and reception.
Wedding party description
As you will see in our sample programs, it is typical to outline your wedding party by name and role. It’s also a nice touch to include their relationship to you. This is helpful to your guests, who are likely eager to understand who exactly is walking down the aisle.
If there is somebody important to you as a couple or your family who is unable to be there, whether it is a late grandparent or a friend, recognising them in your wedding program is a nice way to acknowledge their absence. You may consider going a step farther by sharing a special memory you have of them, particularly if it is one that relates to weddings. This is also a good opportunity to let your guests know if you incorporated them into your ceremony by using their kiddush cup, tallit, wedding band, or other item.
Many couples incorporate a quote that is meaningful to them for an additional layer of personalisation. This may be from a poem that resonates with them, a description of how they feel about one another or a few lyrics from “their” song.
Designing your program
Image by Photo Pink taken from Madalyn & Aaron’s ultra-creative and chic Jewish wedding
Play on your overall wedding aesthetic
Don’t get so focused on the content of your wedding program that you neglect its design. Tie it to your wedding’s aesthetic by printing it in your wedding colors and/or using the same font as your invitation. If you are utilizing a specific image, crest or monogram in other parts of your wedding, this is a nice place to include it. If you are looking for an image and are unsure what to use, consider incorporating a picture of the local city’s skyline, or of your favorite piece of art.
Binding your program
Unless your program is one sheet only, you will likely need something to bind it. For a cocktail or more formal affair, a ribbon, either in the same color as your print or a complimentary one, can be a nice touch. For a rustic event, we love the look of twine on a heavy cardboard-like paper.
Image by Becca Heuer taken from Jamie & John’s garden loft Jewish wedding
Proof for spelling and grammar
In the midst of tying up all of your wedding loose ends, do not forget to proof your program! This is when you want to review what you have written with a fine tooth comb, ensuring that no major misspellings were made.
Image by Miki Vargas taken from Abby & Elliot’s woodland Jewish wedding
Finally, put your project to bed and focus on what’s really important: that you’re marrying the love of your life!
Julia Rebecca and Jamie Rose are childhood friends who met during their Religious School years at Temple Beth Israel in Portland, Oregon. Now both residing in Los Angeles after years of living in different cities, the two reconnected over their love of interior design, décor, food and art. After commiserating over how difficult it was to incorporate Jewish meaning into their homes that was both personal and stylish, Rebecca and Rose was born. Rebecca and Rose celebrates beautiful Jewish living through stylish decor, food, art and more.