Planning an interfaith wedding: Jewish wedding traditions

dancing the horah - the jewish wedding dance - the chair dance - jewish wedding traditions

When we were planning our wedding, it was important for Mike and me to have a wedding that truly reflected us. Neither of us are particularly religious, but we both wanted to include traditions that were meaningful to us and our families. I’m Jewish and Mike is Christian but neither of us wanted to be married in a church or synagogue. Just to keep things simple logistically, we decided early on that we wanted to find a venue that could accommodate both the ceremony and reception (which we did at The Rosehill, Toronto).

I was out to brunch with a couple girlfriends when I mentioned that we were still looking for an officiant. One of my friends then told me that her father actually had started officiating weddings when her older sister, also a Jew marrying a non-Jew, was having trouble finding someone to marry them. How perfect is that? He specializes in ceremonies for interfaith couples just like us. It turned out to be great because he was really familiar with all the Jewish wedding traditions and he spoke Hebrew, but he also understood how to create a nice balance. When we met with him, he took us through many of the Jewish traditions we could consider and we just picked and chose the ones we liked. Drinking wine? Yes, please. Walking around in circles? No, thanks.  7 blessings? We’ll take it. Breaking the glass? Mazel Tov!Wedding bands and ketubah from JessyJudaica.com

Once I started researching, I realized that so many Jewish wedding traditions are already part of the traditional Christian wedding…the veil, the white dress, the rings. So that made it easy enough to plan an interfaith ceremony that felt right for us.

Since there were many guests who weren’t Jewish, I was excited about being able to share some unique traditions. Our officiant did a great job of explaining everything, so no one was left wondering what the heck was going on.

walking down the aisle | Jewish wedding traditions

The Chuppah

One of the most obvious characteristics of a Jewish ceremony is the Chuppah. This canopy represents the home that the couple is establishing together. Nowadays people have the most elaborate and gorgeous Chuppahs decorated with flowers and silks and ribbons and whatever else the couple likes (seriously, so gorgeous!).

traditional chuppah jewish wedding

For our ceremony, we went ultra simple. Chuppahs are commonly free-standing, but we loved the idea of using the traditional Chuppah poles, which Mike’s Best Man and groomsmen held.

Holding a traditional chuppah in a jewish wedding

The canopy can be made of any type of material, but we used a tallit (prayer shawl). My dad brought his beautiful tallit from France, but it ended up being too small so our officiant provided his.

The Kiddushin

This is where the wine comes in. The officiant recited a blessing over the wine and then we each took a sip from the same cup.

Jewish wedding ceremony traditions | An interfaith wedding | Wine ceremony

“All the sweetness life’s cup may hold for you should be sweeter because you drink it together; whatever drops of bitterness it may contain should be less bitter because you share them.”

The 7 Blessings

During this part of the ceremony, 7 blessings are recited. Our officiant recited some contemporary blessings in English, which included wishes and hopes for us as a couple.

“May you respect each other’s individual personality and perspective, and give each other room to grow in fulfilling your dreams. May you find happiness together in adventures big and small, and something to celebrate each day of your lives.”

Signing of the Ketubah

Traditionally the Ketubah is signed before the ceremony, but we chose to sign it during the ceremony along with the marriage license.

groom signing the ketubah - jewish wedding traditions

For more, I described the whole Ketubah thing, a Jewish marriage contract, in a previous post.

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I’m really glad I decided to splurge on a stunning paper cut and gold leaf Ketubah from Jessyjudaica.com because we’ve recently hung it up just at the entrance of our bedroom and I love to see it every day.

paper cut ketubah from jessyjudaica.com

Breaking of the Glass

This is the most fun part of the ceremony for sure. All the formalities are over, the couple is married, and it’s time to break the glass. There are a few different explanations, but the groom stomps on a glass which signals the end of the ceremony, the beginning of a marriage and the start of the party.

breaking of the glass | jewish wedding at the Rosehill Venue Lounge, Toronto

After the glass is broken, everyone shouts Mazel Tov and the couple kisses. (Top secret: instead of a glass we used a light bulb, placed in a pouch to avoid shards of glass all over the place. The light bulb is easier to break and has a better pop!)

“We are reminded of the fragility of life and how good it is to share moments of joy and connection.”

Wedding kiss | Jewish wedding traditions | The Rosehill Venue Lounge, Toronto

The Yihud

This is a great tradition. After the ceremony, the couple is supposed to go into seclusion. It was so nice to escape downstairs for a little while as everyone was enjoying cocktails upstairs. We nibbled on hors d’oeuvres, finished off the little bottle of wine from the ceremony and just had a moment to chill on a whirlwind of a day.

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 The Horah

And no Jewish wedding is complete without one of the best Jewish wedding traditions – dancing the Horah! We had to hold on for our lives as we were hoisted up in the chairs, so that was a little terrifying but the energy was so high and we loved sharing these moments with our friends and families.

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4 Comments

  1. That was serendipitous that your friend’s dad was an officiant! It sounds like he did a wonderful job.

    I feel like weddings have changed so much for our generation. They’re a lot less religion-focused than they used to be and more about the love between two people. 🙂

  2. This was such an interesting read and I learnt a lot, I loved how you were able to combined both faiths without any stress or families being upset. I would be so scared doing the Horah! I love the seven blessings tradition. Thank you for sharing some photos from the day with us, you look absolutely beautiful, I love the photo of you from the back walking up the aisle. Your dress was beautiful, you look stunning and good for you for not feeling pressure to hide your tattoos! XxxX

  3. Does your friend’s father still do interfaith weddings in TO? I’m having that same problem.

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