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From Rabbi Caine

Yes, I do weddings!  Please feel free to reach out to me to find out if I would be a good fit as an officiant for your wedding.  I would be honored to be included in this special moment in your lives.  I will make every effort to present a meaningful and dignified wedding ceremony that is truly personal to who you are. 

I'd like you to meet with me to discuss your wedding ceremony and to spend some time talking about married life, its joys and its challenges.

I realize that arranging a wedding is never easy.  I'm sharing some thoughts on this page to help, and look forward to discussing more in person.  Please read down this page for all sorts of helpful information to make your simchah special and unstressful! 

Wedding FAQ!

Do you officiate at LGBTQ+ ceremonies? 

Absolutely!  I happily officiate at LGBTQ+ ceremonies, and I'm happy to be guided by your wishes.  Sometimes on this page, I refer to "bride" and "groom," but that language changes based on what suits you.  We can formulate the ceremony for two brides, two grooms, two spouses or partners, or take gendered language out of it.  The traditional ketubah and ceremony have been rendered in other gendered language in the formations found in the appendix here.  For example, per Rabbi Aaron Alexander's position, the 7 Blessings may be modified as follows:

One could recite the fourth blessing just as it is found in all ceremonies.  In the sixth blessing, the hatima (closing words) could be: barukh...m'sameah kalah v'kalah, hatan v'hatan, re'ot ha-ahuvot, or re'im ha-ahuvim.   In the seventh blessing, the opening could include kalah v'kalah, hatan v'hatan, re'ot ha-ahuvot, or re'im ha-ahuvim. Near the end, after kol sasson v'kol simha, one could include the same possibilities. The last line before the hatimah, in place of hattanim (bridegrooms), one could substitute re'im ha-ahuvim or it could be left as it is found. The closing hatimah would include barukh...m'sameah [as above].

Do you officiate at marriages in which one partner is not Jewish?

As a Conservative rabbi, I am required to officiate only at ceremonies in which both persons are Jewish by matrilineal descent.  This is a policy I advocate to change, but until I am given discretion, I must abide by it.  Another limitation is that I cannot officiate during Shabbat or a Jewish holiday, or during the three weeks leading up to Tisha B'Av during the summer.

Where do I get a Ketubah?  Is there special language I should be getting?  Are you flexible about the text?

Many today find their ketubot on Etsy or Ketubah.com -- it is up to you.  I will honor most any ketubah language or version that you choose.  Should you be drawn to "Orthodox," I recommend you choose instead "Conservative" since the latter adds a short clause that a Beit Din (tribunal of rabbis) may grant a Jewish divorce in the case when an acrimonious husband refuses to do so as leverage in divorce proceedings.  This is an important modern statement for gender equality.  

Also, the Jewishly binding language is the Hebrew part, not the English translation.  For this reasons, most ketubot don't use direct translations from the Hebrew, but use more spiritual (rather than legal) language.  This is thoroughly appropriate.  Feel free to match a traditional Hebrew text with an English text that speaks to you.

Is there anything you need from me, rabbi, in order to help you personalize our ceremony?

Yes.  Please provide me a list of siblings, parents, friends (and their email addresses), so I can reach out to them by email to offer to include a little of their advice for your future.  They often have insights that bring that personal touch, and love, into my remarks.

I also ask you to provide me a list of all the ritual objects you're using that have personal meaning to you.  Does a ring, tallit, kiddush cup, etc. have a sentimental or family meaning attached to it? 

In addition, I ask that you write me a letter – each of you—about why you’ve chosen to marry this person.  What attracted you to this person?  What told you this was “the one”?  What qualities, values personality traits, commitments, have cemented your love for this person?  Tell me anything that will help me understand your love for one another.  Don’t show it to your fiancé.   E-mail it to me.  Your letters will tell me much about you and your relationship, and that will be helpful in planning my remarks at the wedding.  If there is anything you wish me to not include in the ceremony, please indicate that.  Also, if you decide, "You know what?  We'd like to read these letters to each other during the ceremony!" then I would welcome that, and I will abbreviate my remarks accordingly. 

What is your professional fee for officiating?

If you are a member of Beth Israel, there is no fee for my services.  If not, I ask that a contribution be made to Beth Israel.

Can you invite you to our reception?

I am greatly honored by your thought, but don't save a spot for me.   I will stay after the ceremony to greet your family and guests, and then gracefully depart.

The Ceremony

A Common Order of the Jewish Marriage Ceremony:

Procession
Circling
Rabbi's Welcome
Betrothal Blessings (with wine)
Exchange of Rings
[Optional Reading]
Presentation of the Ketubah
Rabbi's Message
Marriage Blessings (Sheva Berakhot) (with wine)
[Optional Reading]
Priestly Blessing
Couple's Remarks
Kissing Each Other
Breaking the Glass(es)
Recessional 

Customizing the Wedding Ceremony

Before Wedding Day:  Do you want to make a Mikvah visit?  Have an Aufruf at Beth Israel?  (We can talk about these.)

Before the Ceremony:  Ketubah and Marriage License Signing.  There are 2 witnesses for each. Ketubah signers must be Jewish and not blood-related to you, and must be able to copy their names in Hebrew (even sloppily - it's a signature!).  Civil signers can be anyone.

Will the couple see each other at the ketubah signing [this is normal], or would you prefer to sign at different times?

Processional and Ceremony:

Procession:  There are no Jewish rules about who processes, or even that one must have one.  Still, when there is a procession with a "groom" and a "bride," the bride enters last.

Circling:   Traditionally, in a bride/groom wedding, the bride circles the groom seven times as a way of becoming his “second skin” in a holy enchantment.  (Similarly, those who lay tefillin wrap the leather straps seven times around the arm and then say the words of the prophet Hosea: "I betroth you to me forever.  I betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, with goodness and mercy.  I betroth you to me with deepest trust.")  An egalitarian approach would have each can circle the other 3.5 times, or 7 times each, or it can be skipped.  Please keep in mind that if the bride has a train, circling must be practiced -- probably with the bride holding it-- so it does not drag.

Memorial (“Zikaron”):  This is not a traditional part of the ceremony, but I add it.  Are there any souls you want invited in to our gathering? (We'll discuss this.)  If so, tell me their names and relationship(s) to you.

Cup(s) for wine:  Do you have one that is sentimental you'd like to use, or should the rabbi provide?  (If you're registering for one, I suggest getting it in time to use at the wedding.)

Rings:  The wedding rings should primarily be a "band" and if there are decorative stones, they should be decorative around the band, and not a single set stone.  Please decide who holds the rings (rabbi or groom or another or just on table). 

Ring Declarations:  Normally the groom says to the bride:  Harei At mekudeshet li b'taba'at zo k'dat Moshe v'Yisrael -- By this ring you are designated exclusively to me according to the laws of Moses and Israel.  The bride may say the same thing [Harei Ata mekudash li b'taba'at zo k'dat Moshe v'Yisrael] or say "Ani L'dodi v'dodi li" ("I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.") 

Couple's Remarks to Each Other: (or could be thought of as “Additional Vows”): Will the couple address each other during the ceremony?  Please do!

Do you want the rabbi to say, “Do you take this ... to be your lawfully wedded...etc.?  (It is not part of the Jewish ceremony but I can add it.)

7 Blessings (“Sheva Berakhot”):  Would you prefer I use a literal translation or a more accessible translation?  See below here.

Kippah and tallit:  A groom wears a kippah.  For tallit, in most cases no one wears a tallit.  In some cases,  a groom chooses to wear a tallit that he will also be buried in, symbolizing the commitment of his adulthood, and in other cases, the couple asks the rabbi to wrap them in a tallit together just for the 7 blessings or just for the priestly blessing.  Would you like any of these options?

Breaking the Glass:  One glass/bulb or two to break?  The universe, according to Jewish mysticism, is the product of a Great Shattering (repeated in the destruction of the Second Temple) and the breaking the glass reminds us that we wish this union contribute to Tikkun Olam, the healing of the shattered hearts and fragments of this world.

How will you be addressed as a married couple?  (Any name changes?)  At the end of the ceremony I will say, “I now present to you....” and you tell me what to say.

Additional Readings or Songs?  Some of my favorites are:  Adrienne Rich's "An Honorable Human Relationship."  William Stafford's "A Ritual to Read to Each Other."   e.e. cummings' "I Carry Your Heart With Me."  Yehuda Amichai's "Advice for Good Love."  

Preparing for Your Wedding

In the months PRECEDING the wedding, you’ll need to arrange for the following, and bring them to the wedding ceremony…

1. State Marriage License.  

2. Wedding rings (according to Jewish tradition, the bride’s ring must be whole, unbroken, with no stones). 

3. Ketubah ( If you need help filling it in, you should bring it in at least two weeks before your wedding date).  If you are looking for a Ketubah, check: Ketubah.com, Etsy, as well as other websites and Judaica stores.  We'll talk about the options.  Get a start on this early, especially if you're ordering from Etsy.  Give the designer my email so they can proof it with me.  You choose the text that speaks to you.

FOR YOUR CEREMONY, YOU WILL NEED:

4.  One Kiddush cup or wine goblet.  (Rabbi can provide if you want.)  If you register for one you'll use in your life, get it early so we can use it!

5.  A bottle of Kosher wine (I suggest white), pre-uncorked.

6. A glass or light bulb(s) to break.  (Rabbi can provide.)

7. Huppah (Wedding Canopy).

8. Head covering (kippah) for the groom.

9. Small table for all this stuff (next to the chuppah)

10.   Microphone arrangements for under the chuppah.

11.   Easel and Frame for Displaying the Ketubah after it's signed.

An Example of Content for your Program

The Chuppah
The wedding canopy is intended to create an intimate, sanctified space symbolizing the home the couple will share together. The sides are left open to signify that friends and family are welcome to enter their new life and home. 
The Circling
Just as Jewish adults daily recite the words from the prophet Hosea, "I will betroth you to me forever" before wrapping their arm seven times with the leather of the tefillin, so too does the bride become the groom's "second skin" in the holy ritual of betrothal.  The word for "seven" in Hebrew means "oath [before God]."  Hence also the 7 Blessings which cosmically seal the marriage.
Wine Blessings
The two cups of wine sanctify betrothal first and marriage second.  The betrothal blessing states that God's presence and ethical laws govern particularly in the most intimate physical moments of a married couple.  The seven marriage blessings seal the oath of marriage with a statement of it as the culmination of Creation. 

The Ketubah
Prior to the ceremony, the couple signed a traditional Jewish marriage contract, in the presence of friends and loved ones. The Ketubah outlines the couple's new commitments to create a home of values and mutual support at all times. 

The Breaking of the Glass
The ceremony concludes with the traditional act of the groom breaking the glass, which reminds us of the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.  The new union of this couple represents the hope of unifying the shattered fragments of our world and restoring a Golden Age.  It is a statement of hope. 
The Yichud
After the couple leaves the chuppah, they will spend some time alone in their new holy reality to reflect on this special occasion. They will then join their guests and re-enter the world as a covenanted couple. 

Sheva Berakhot (The Seven Blessings)

Translation by Rabbi Nadav Caine

Our God,
You fill the universe with your blessings,

You create of the fruit of the vine.
~
You created everything as a reflection of the divine.
~
You fashioned humanity.
~
You endowed humanity with a holy power and pattern forever.
~
May the Holy Land, so long, sad and barren, come alive with the rejoicing of her children.
~
May You grant great happiness to these two beloveds, giving them a taste of the contentment of the Garden of Eden. Blessed are You, Eternal, who brings a unique happiness to a groom and a bride.*
~
You created joy and happiness, bride and groom, celebration, singing, delight and cheer, love and friendship, harmony and companionship. May there ever be heard in the cities of Judah, in the streets of Jerusalem, the sounds of joy and happiness, the sounds of bride and groom, the sounds of rejoicing at weddings and wedding feasts. You, the source of all blessings, bring bride and groom together to delight in one another.


Alternative Language

For the Seven Blessings if you prefer less “Jerusalem” and more “universal:”
If the language of #5 is too specific, try: May all who are sad come alive with our celebrating these two beloveds.
If the “may the streets of Judah come alive” language of #7 is too specific, try: May all who are sad come alive with our celebrating these two beloveds.

For non "Bride and Groom":  You tell me your favorite self-description. 

Thu, September 16 2021 10 Tishrei 5782