For many Jewish couples, getting married in Israel has an understandable and irresistible appeal. Not only do many Jewish people feel a strong affinity with Israel, as the world’s only Jewish state, but as far as destination weddings go, it’s pretty unbeatable.
For such a small country, it has incredibly diverse terrain, from gorgeous, lush green forests to pristine, sandy beaches, vast deserts to stunning mountains, with indescribable views. A wedding in Israel can be pretty much whatever you want it to be – all the while bringing with its trademark ‘Israeli cool’, chilled-out vibe. Just check out our real Israeli weddings section, if you need any more proof!
So, if we’ve sold you on the idea of having your wedding in the holy land, but you’re not sure where to start, never fear – we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to planning your Israeli destination wedding.
Who can have a legally binding ceremony in Israel?
First of all, let’s get the bad news out of the way. Getting married in Israel can be a little complex. All official, legally binding marriages are religious, and there is no civil marriage in Israel, per se.
Official Jewish marriages are performed by the Orthodox rabbinate, so both partners must be Halachically Jewish. This means that if one partner converted, but it wasn’t an Orthodox conversion, then they cannot be legally married under the Orthodox rabbinate.
The same goes for people who are Jewish by patrilineal decent – it has to be via the matrilineal line, or the person in question must undergo an Orthodox conversion.
Another rule of the Orthodox rabbinate is that a male Cohen is forbidden from marrying a divorced woman or a convert. Same-sex marriages are, unfortunately, also not possible under the rule of the Orthodox rabbinate but it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a same-sex wedding in Israel – as illustrated by yesterday’s real gay wedding in Israel.
You see the good news is, if you don’t want to, or can’t, go down the Orthodox marriage route, then it’s possible to have a liberal, or other, ceremony but with the caveat that this will NOT result in a marriage certificate, at least not from Israel. So, to be clear, you can still have a beautiful Israeli ceremony, and do the official bit at home, at another time.