Jewish Wedding Ceremony Checklist
by Robin Beth Schaer
12+ Months Before
- Begin to envision your ceremony. Should it be long and symbolic? Short and sweet? Do you want to include all the rituals or just the highlights?
- Pick wedding date preferences. Depending on your religion, there may be times of the year, or even days of the week, which are off-limits. According to Orthodox Judaism, weddings cannot take place on the Sabbath (from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday), so many Jewish weddings are held on Sundays. Holy Days like Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are also off-limits, as is nearly all the days between Passover and Shavuot.
- Choose a location. Do you want the ceremony in a house of worship? Scout out local synagogues. Or would you rather raise your huppah in a secular space? Outdoors or indoors?
- Begin looking for vendors (caterer, photographer, and musicians, for example) and set appointments to review their work. Decide if you want a kosher or kosher-style meal. Make sure your band or DJ can play "Hava Nagila" and other Jewish classics.
- Start looking for an officiant who suits your style and spirit.
9-11 Months Before
- Meet with your officiant to discuss ceremony structure and marriage requirements. Discuss the different elements of Jewish weddings and decide what to include.
- Ask your officiant or synagogue if there are dress requirements, such as covering one's shoulders for the bride or wearing a kittel (ceremonial robe) for the groom.
- Make arrangements with your synagogue if you plan to have an aufruf, the honor of reciting the first blessing before the Torah reading.
6-8 Months Before
- Decide what type of ketubah you want. Begin looking for a ketubah artist if you plan on having one custom-made. Choose your text or ask your officiant to help you write your own.
3-4 Months Before
- Talk to people you'd like to do special performances or readings. Who should sign the ketubah? Who is holding the huppah? Who will make the blessing over the challah? Who will read the seven wedding blessings?
- Shop for and purchase wedding bands. Remember, Jewish law requires simple bands without piercings or precious stones.
- Consider what type of huppah you want. Does your synagogue have one you can use? Do you want a simple tallis attached to four poles or something more elaborate?
- Book a prewedding dinner site and finalize guest list. Keep in mind that many rabbis won't take part in a ceremony rehearsal and advise against the practice altogether because the moment a bride and groom enter the huppah together should be done only once. But, you can still have a fun dinner with friends and family before the big day.
2 Months Before
- Order yarmulkes. For a personal touch, have them printed with your name and Hebrew wedding date to be given to guests on your wedding day.
- If you are having an aufruf, start learning the Hebrew blessings.
- Order ceremony programs and benchers (prayer booklets) if you plan to use them. It is helpful to have programs so your non-Jewish guests will understand the rich history and symbolism of a Jewish wedding.
6 Weeks Before
- Make arrangements to visit a mikvah (ritual bath) and plan a small party to follow.
- Begin working on your lecture if you're giving a tish, the informal talk before the ceremony.
- Get a Tay-Sachs test if required by your officiant. Tay-Sachs is a genetic disease common in Jews of Eastern European descent. It is advisable to find out if either of you are carriers.
- Have a final meeting with your officiant.
- Finalize vows, readings, and other special ceremony details.
- Make sure everyone taking part in the ceremony understands what is involved (especially if you are not having a ceremony rehearsal).
- Begin practicing Hebrew prayers for the ceremony and writing your Hebrew name for signing the ketubah.
- Send prewedding dinner invitations.
- Touch base with your officiant.
- Remind your caterer to order challah, wine, and any other needed ritual foods.
- Entrust all the ritual elements to someone very reliable: the ketubah and pen for signing; huppah and poles; kiddush cup; rings; yarmulkes; and of course the glass for stomping.
- Enjoy the prewedding meal with friends and family.