One of the pieces that felt really personal at our wedding was our ceremony. I felt strongly that I didn’t want someone random officiating our ceremony just because we needed someone legally qualified to do it and, because we weren’t having a bridal party, we wanted to find a way to incorporate our family in other ways. So, we chose to have Adam’s brother officiate the wedding ceremony (while we contemplated the $25 prophet status available online, we eventually decided we were better off being legally married in DC by our rabbi after the wedding) and had our sisters do readings.
Later in this post, I’m going to walk through the specifics of our ceremony and our wording around the program and the seven blessings because those were things that I found a lack of resources for while I was planning.
HOW WE PLANNED OUR WEDDING CEREMONY
Adam’s brother, Tommy, is someone who we knew would do his research and come up with a well-rehearsed and prepared ceremony, and that’s my first piece of advice in choosing an officiant. Should you decide to go with a non-clergy person, choose someone who you’re confident is going to take it seriously and do a great job speaking in front of a crowd.
Since I converted to Judaism, it was important that we plan a Jewish wedding. We weren’t going to do a non-religious wedding or an interfaith wedding, it was going to be a Jewish wedding, and so we met with our rabbi several times to discuss the parts of a Jewish wedding and those parts that were meaningful to us to include.
We synced up with Tommy, who had done his own extensive research, to figure out how the script that he had pulled together would work with the elements that we wanted to incorporate and the flow of the ceremony that we had developed with our rabbi. The result was a ceremony that felt traditional, yet personal to us.
All photos by the lovely Lauren of Lauren Louise Collective.
PLANNING A JEWISH WEDDING
Meeting with our rabbi was such an important part of planning our wedding. While there are certainly resources to be found online, sitting down with her made a huge difference in planning a wedding that felt religious and meaningful, without being too long or feeling too stuffy.
When you’re incorporating traditions that date back hundreds, if not thousands of years, there’s always the fear that it’ll seem a little irrelevant, and meeting with the rabbi let us work in those pieces while seeing how and why they’re still applicable today in planning a Jewish wedding.
As you’ll read below in our program, the elements that we brought into our wedding ceremony were the ketubah ceremony (more on that in another post!), the chuppah (more on this gorgeous chuppah and the flowers in another post!), circling 7 times, the blessings over wine, the ring ceremony, sheva b’rachot, and breaking the glass. A note that we didn’t do the wedding vows you likely hear at every wedding, as those aren’t in a traditional Jewish wedding and I wanted to go with that.
Also, a little tip for anyone else who forgoes the traditional bridal party: a couple weeks before my wedding, I was talking to a woman who had been married this past summer and also did not have a bridal party. She told me, “I didn’t think about this until I was up there, but not having bridesmaids means there’s no one to take your bouquet or straighten your train. Make sure someone knows to do those things!”
OUR WEDDING PROGRAM
Because all of my family and most of our friends are not Jewish and hadn’t attended many, if any, Jewish weddings before, I wanted to make sure we walked our guests through each of the steps of the ceremony in detail. It made for a word heavy program, but, hey, I’m a copywriter, so this is what I do! And, again, I’m sharing this in full because I wished I’d been able to find more examples of Jewish wedding programs when I was looking for inspiration for ours.
Also, if there was one thing I would have added to our program, it would have been the processional and recessional music. Adam chose Canon in D for the processional and I chose Bright Side of the Road by Van Morrison for our recessional. Since those were songs that we put thought into, it would have been nice to include it, particularly since Bright Side of the Road may not have been totally obvious on harp (and our harpist was so kind to learn it!).
Welcome to the Marriage Ceremony of Heather Marie Bien and Adam Clay Shapiro
December 2, 2018
Marriage Officiant: Thomas Shapiro
BEFORE THE CEREMONY
SIGNING THE KETUBAH: Prior to the ceremony, Heather and Adam gathered with family and witnesses to sign their ketubah. A ketubah is the Jewish marriage contract outlining their commitment to building a home based on love, tradition and respect for one another.
CIRCLING: As we enter the chuppah, Heather will circle Adam seven times. Circling is a physical enactment of the wedding ring representing unity.
CHUPPAH: The chuppah is a wedding canopy on four posts symbolizing the home that they will build together as husband and wife. Its open walls represent that loved ones are always welcomed in.
BLESSING OVER THE WINE: Two cups of wine are used during the kiddushin. The first symbolizes the joy of this celebratory time, and the second represents the sanctity of marriage.
RING CEREMONY: Heather and Adam will exchange wedding bands as a sign of their commitment to each other. In accordance with Jewish tradition, these rings are unembellished, with no beginning and no end.
SHEVA B’RACHOT: The seven blessings are recited over the second cup of wine wishing Heather and Adam joy, wisdom, and compassion in their married life.
BREAKING THE GLASS: At the conclusion of the ceremony, Adam 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!”
We are so thankful for our friends and family who have traveled from near and far to join us in celebration of our marriage! Each and every one of you has supported us, listened to us, and laughed with us throughout the years, and we look forward to many more memories to be made in the decades to come.
AN UPDATED TAKE ON THE SEVEN BLESSINGS
The seven blessings are where we were able to incorporate our family into the ceremony. Our rabbi suggested that we have siblings each read a blessing, we had our sisters come up to do so.
Below is the text that I landed on. I used a modern interpretation of the blessings, then rewrote pieces to better reflect us and our beliefs around a marriage.
May you be blessed with love. May your admiration, appreciation and understanding of each other foster a love that is passionate, tranquil and real. May this love between you be strong and enduring, and bring peace into your lives.
A LOVING HOME
May you be blessed with a loving home filled with warmth, humor and compassion. May you create a family together that honors traditions old and new.
HUMOR AND PLAY
May you work together to build a relationship of substance and quality. May your sense of humor and playful spirit continue to enliven your relationship. May you respect each other’s individual personality and perspective, and give each other room to grow in fulfilling your dreams.
May you be blessed with wisdom. May you continually learn from one another and from the world. Together, may you grow, deepening your knowledge and understanding of each other and of your journey through life.
May you be blessed with health. May life bring you wholeness of mind, body and spirit. May you keep each other well-balanced and grounded, and live long that you may share many happy years together.
ART, BEAUTY, AND CREATIVITY
May your life be blessed with the art and beauty of this world. May your creative aspirations and experiences find expression, inspire you and bring you joy and fulfillment. May you find happiness together in adventures big and small, and something to celebrate each day of your lives.
May you be blessed with community. May you always be blessed with the awareness that you are an essential part of a circle of family and friends. May there always be within this group love, trust, support and laughter, and may there be many future occasions for rejoicing in their company.
Just a note: the light at this point in our ceremony became insane – it was like the dark clouds behind us and bright sunlight in front of us all rolled in at just the same time!
A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS ON DEVELOPING YOUR WEDDING CEREMONY
Now that I’ve planned a wedding ceremony, my biggest advice would be to work in personal pieces, be it the music or reworking the traditional words, while also keeping it short and sweet. If you want a super traditional wedding to tie you to generations and generations that have said the same words before you, do it. If you want to write the entire ceremony yourself, go for it. It’s totally up to you.
Also, letting people go to the bar before the ceremony is never a bad idea.