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5 Ways to Personalize Your Same-Sex Jewish Wedding Ceremony

What’s the difference between a same-sex Jewish wedding ceremony and a heterosexual Jewish ceremony?  Except for slight tweaks to allow for a more gender neutral, all-inclusive ceremony, says Cigall Goldman of Mazel Moments, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Jewish Lesbian Wedding
Photo courtesy of: Cantor Ronald Broden

“The idea that love is love,” according to Rabbi Brian H. Denker-Youngs of Modern Divinities, “is one which is instilled in us at birth and forms the very foundation of our Jewish heritage.  The Jewish wedding ceremony celebrates and acknowledges the mutual love and commitment between two individuals for one another and Judaism.

There are so many ways to personalize your ceremony, while being as innovative or traditional as you’d like in expressing your love for one another.  Here are just a few ideas for you to creatively plan and customize your same-sex Jewish wedding ceremony! 

Five Considerations When Personalizing Your Same-Sex Jewish Wedding Ceremony

1. Ketubah

What Does It Mean?  The ketubah is the Jewish marriage contract that is signed before the wedding ceremony.  It’s a beautiful way to transform your marriage vows into a work of art!  Since the ketubah can be easily and beautifully adapted, it has become popular with couples of different religions and backgrounds. 

Two Brides Ketubah

Personalize It: There is a huge variety of unique and custom ketubahs available.  The ketubah should reflect your and your partner’s personal taste and style.  After all, it will probably be on display in your home like any other piece of art.  Opting for a ketubah with images of two men or two women is an excellent option.  You can also choose one with symbols that are meaningful to you, such as the tree of life or a hamsa.  Another idea is to buy one inspired by your favorite form of art, such as modern, watercolor, or even 3-D.  In addition to the design of the ketubah, the ketubah text can be personalized and adapted for couples of the same gender.  Reading this text aloud at, or prior to, the wedding ceremony can give your guests a personal glimpse into your relationship and vows.

Photo: Bride Squared Ketubah from This is Not a Ketubah

2. Chuppah

What Does It Mean?  The chuppah is a canopy under which Jewish wedding ceremonies take place.  Its open sides symbolize the welcoming of friends and family to the couple’s new home and life together.  This has become a ceremony statement piece where a couple can showcase their unique style.

Personalize It:  The chuppah can be designed to reflect the theme and colors of your wedding.  The rainbow flag has become a symbol of gay culture and using one as the top of your chuppah can bring color and joy to the ceremony décor.  A modern couple may opt for sleek Lucite with suspended crystals.  You can also choose to make your chuppah personal by having guests contribute to a patchwork design or incorporate a tallis from a beloved family member.

3. Circling

What Does It Mean?  Jewish wedding ceremonies traditionally include the bride circling the groom seven times.  Seven is a symbolic number in the Jewish tradition; circling honors the number of times marriage is mentioned in the Torah, the 7 days of creation, and more. 

Personalize It:  To make this custom more egalitarian and suitable for same-sex weddings, consider holding hands and walking the seven circles together.  Or divide the responsibility so each person does three circles.  Walking the last circle together is sure to be a meaningful moment.

4. Breaking Of The Glass

What Does It Mean?  A surefire sign that a Jewish wedding ceremony has ended is when the groom steps on a glass and guests shout out “Mazel Tov!”

Rabbi Brian H. Denker-YoungsPersonalize It:  For a same-sex or straight wedding, why not break two glasses instead of just one?  Opting for bright, colored glass as opposed to traditional clear is a fun and symbolic twist.  You can save the shards of glass and incorporate it into a mezuzah or candlesticks for your home together, or custom jewelry, making a memorable symbol from your special day.

Photo Credit: Rabbi Brian H. Denker-Youngs

5. Yechud

What Does It Mean?  The yechud (Hebrew for “together”) is the time right after the ceremony, before the reception, reserved for the newlyweds to share their first moments as a married couple before joining their guests.

Personalize It:  This tradition has become a favorite for many couples because it gives them some privacy before the chaos ensues!  Many thoughtful venues and caterers will provide a sampling of food from the cocktail hour that most couples don’t get to enjoy.  This custom needs no adaptation and can and should be shared by all married couples, regardless of religion or sexual preference.

Jewish same-sex couples can embrace their bright future together, while still carrying on Jewish tradition.  With minor adaptations to a standard Jewish wedding ceremony, a same-sex ceremony can be personal, modern and traditional.

 

Cigall Goldman is the founder of Mazel Moments, the award-winning website that makes it easy and fun to plan any Jewish-inspired event including a wedding, bar & bat mitzvah or baby celebration. Keep up with them on Twitter (@mazelmoments)!