Jewish Wedding FAQs: When, Where, and Whom

For a person trying to plan a wedding, it can seem that there are as many days on which weddings are not performed in the Jewish calendar as there are days on which there are. What follows is a list of all days on which weddings are generally not performed. That said, many Reform rabbis will perform weddings on some of these days so you should double-check your plans with your rabbi.

Days on Which Weddings are not Performed

Shabbat (Friday at sundown until Saturday after night falls or even later if the rabbi or others have to travel on Saturday night to the wedding.) – It is usually impossible to have a wedding on a Saturday night in the summer months when Shabbat can end as late as 9 pm.

• Most Jewish Holidays and the Intermediate Days – to wit, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and the five festival days which follow the two days of the holiday, Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah, Passover (the 2 days of the holiday at the beginning, the 4 intermediate days, and 2 days of holiday at the end), Shavuot).

• The Days of the Omer – from Passover to Shavuot with some exceptions – Rosh Chodesh and Lag B’Omer (the 33rd day of the Omer). Some rabbis will perform weddings after Passover but before Rosh Chodesh Iyar. Some will perform weddings after Lag B’Omer, and some will perform weddings during the first five days of Sivan leading up to Shavuot.

• The Three Weeks – The days from the 17th of Tamuz until and including Tisha B’Av (both being days of fasting).

• Minor Fast Days – the Fast of Gedaliah (following Rosh Hashana), the 10th of Tevet, the Fast of Esther (preceding Purim), and the 17th of Tamuz.

Consult a website like www.hebcal.com to determine when these holidays fall out in any given year.

When Should You Get Married?

Many Jewish weddings take place on Sunday during the day. Monday night is also viewed as an auspicious time on which to get married because, in the story of Creation, God twice said that the third day (which begins on Monday evening) was good. Many Orthodox couples opt for Monday night. Rosh Chodesh is also considered an auspicious time to wed. Couples wishing to have a night wedding on a weekend in the warmer months often opt for a Sunday-night wedding. This can, however, be very inconvenient for guests who need to travel and return to work Monday morning unless, of course, there is a Monday holiday. If you want a particular rabbi to perform your wedding, be sure to consult with her before you set the date. Rabbis’ calendars fill up quickly, especially in the warmer months.

Where?

There is no special location at which a wedding should take place. Many Jewish weddings take place in synagogues but catering halls, restaurants, beautiful outdoor sites, and backyards are all suitable. A backyard wedding often has a certain intimacy which cannot be found in a more institutional setting. In choosing a spot, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Do you need kosher catering and can you have kosher catering at that location? If it is a synagogue, what rules do they impose about weddings? For an outdoor location, think about weather and also older guests – will they be able to get there? Sit comfortably? Have a restroom nearby? What kind of rentals will you have to provide? Do you need a tent? Some couples choose to hold the ceremony in one place and the party in another. The downside of this arrangement is that guests will usually have to drive from one location to the other, interrupting the flow of events, and taking what can be considerable time away from wedding festivities.

Whom to Invite?

Weddings come in all sizes. Jewish law, however, requires a minyan, a minimum of ten Jews, for a wedding to be kosher. In deciding whom to invite, you should think about what kind of events you like and about your budget. Some people invite additional guests to the ceremony but not to the meal to cut down on costs but nevertheless include these people. Some families also hold parties before or after the wedding in other cities so that friends who cannot travel can nevertheless celebrate with the bride and groom.

Special Circumstances

Divorce

If the parents of the bride or groom are divorced, a few accommodations are helpful. It is good to meet with them early on and discuss their needs and concerns so that they can be addressed—do they need to be seated far apart? Will they both walk the bride or groom down the aisle or is it better to have mothers walk the bride and fathers the groom so as not to create discomfort? What will the role of stepparents and stepchildren be? How will the invitation read—often parents names are listed separately—instead of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, or Joan and David Smith, it reads Joan Smith and David Smith.

Non-Jewish Family

In the case of intermarriage or conversion, there will often be non-Jewish family at the wedding who may never have been to a Jewish wedding and who may be uncomfortable with their child’s chosen religion. Talk to them early and often, tell them what to expect, reassure them of your love, and create opportunities for them to participate. Many couples create wedding booklets describing the details of their wedding for all guests. Assuming a clear choice has been made about the religion of the bride and groom, it is perfectly appropriate to incorporate elements from the couple’s culture of origin—a garment, a song, perhaps even a prayer.

Remarriage

If the bride or groom has children from a previous marriage, wedding issues can become more complex. Again, talk to your children, reassure them of your love for them and their primacy in your life, anticipate their concerns about the ceremony and tell them in advance what will happen, and find a role for them. In a remarriage with children, it is not only a new couple that is being created; it is a new family. This will happen in fits and starts but its success will mean everything to the success of your marriage.

 

 

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