In a Jewish life there are many special moments, a bris (circumcision celebration) or baby naming when one is born, a bar or bat mitzvah when one matures, and numerous other holidays, parties, achievements, and milestones. A wedding is perhaps the most momentous occasion of them all. It is one that will define the rest of an individual's life because the person you marry strongly influences how you will live your life. Who you marry will, over time, color your view of the world, your opinions on raising children, your perception of what is valuable, and the meaning of your individual life.
The formal idea of marriage in Judaism goes back to the Torah, the Bible, given to the Jewish people more than 3,500 years ago. However, the concept of two people, a man and woman, being alone and then finding each other, becoming bound to each other forever, and raising a family together, goes back all the way to Adam and Eve. Thus, in Judaism, weddings are seen as one of the foundational concepts upon which the world is built.
Your wedding is, of course, going to be a special day to you, one into which you will put much preparation, anxiety, and forethought. From a larger Jewish perspective, though, your wedding is much more. It is a moment within which all of history is encapsulated, upon which everything hinges. Your wedding moment harkens back to the first moments of the universe — the wedding of Eve and Adam — and your wedding day is the foundation upon which the rest of the future of the humanity and your people is to be built. The Talmud in the book of Sanhedrin teaches that just as in the Torah all of humanity blossomed from one man and women, so too, “each person is equivalent to an entire universe.”
Jewish people are all very different but hopefully this book will help you, wherever you stand within Judaism, to guide you in planning your wedding, to give you a sense of the different Jewish practices associated with weddings and their beauty, and to help you shape your own wedding into one that is meaningful and spiritually inspiring. This may not be the only wedding book you will use; if your wedding is one that is more to the creative side or one that is more on the traditional side, additional books and websites will help you to fill out the complete picture of your wedding day. Some of these references can be found in Appendix D.
There will be times in the process of planning your wedding that will be anxious, other times that will be reflective, and still others that will be fun. Use this book to learn about the potential that each part of a Jewish wedding holds and to help navigate some of the more complex situations that planning a wedding can inevitably bring.
This book includes Jewish historical and theological perspectives along with, obviously, a lot of practical advice. A well-planned wedding is a good balance of all of these — practical and well choreographed, but also infused with Jewish meaning, spirituality, and history.
This book will be useful in learning the traditional Jewish perspective and practices and some ways that they can be adjusted. Depending on whom your rabbi or wedding officiate is going to be and on what part of the Jewish community you and your family identify with, you may decide to do things in the way that they are described in this book or perhaps very differently. As you read, know that you can take the basics of the tradition and tailor them to fit you and make your wedding meaningful. No matter how your Jewish wedding will look, crafting your wedding from a place of knowledge of Jewish history and tradition will be a positive approach. Best wishes for a great and inspiring Jewish wedding!