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Reilly & Adam


OCTOBER 15, 2016

A “Jewish Lifecycle event” is a transition in the rights or responsibilities of a member of the Jewish community. They recommit to their community and take on a new set of obligations for themselves. When one gets married in Judaism, they are committed to their partner and obligated to partake in a monogamous marriage. The bride and groom are now considered promised to each other, whereas before the wedding, they were together, but not bound to each other. This, among other things, is results in the recommitment to themselves, each other, and the community around them.

How Our Wedding Falls

Into Place in our

Jewish Lifecycles

As a couple who collectively identifies in the Conservative movement, we would prefer to use the Traditional text and the alternate Lieberman clause in our כתובה. We chose to do so because we feel that it adds a sense of inclusiveness for the wife, who is not given as much authority as the man is in the traditional clause. However, the Traditional clause is important to us because it can help connect us to earlier times where כתובות were used. This allows us to indirectly fulfill the mitzvah of לדור ודור, but throughout one’s new family, and their previous ancestors. This clause also reiterates the significance of a marriage, and how it should not be taken lightly. We think this is important because nowadays, people are rushing into marriages they regret. This כתובה allows us to recognize how important this is while connecting to our Judaism.


Us as a Couple

Anatomy of a Jewish Wedding

A Jewish wedding consists of three parts: Pre-wedding, Erusin, and Nissuin. The last two ceremonies, Erusin and Nissuin, used to be separated by an "interlude" of up to a year. The two were joined for three reasons: The two ceremonies were financially stressful on the families, the duration of the year could result in the death of the groom leaving the woman as an "Agunah," and the joining of the two ceremonies rid the temptations of a couple who was legally married but unable to touch for a year. The next three pages will give you a brief outline of each part for your own interest. 

  • Aufruf - אויפרוף

    • An aliyah that is typically given to the groom (or bride in less observant communities) before his wedding

  • Mikvah - מקווה

    • Bride immerses herself in the Mikvah

  • Separation Of Couple

    • The couple does not see each other before the wedding to enhances the        joy of  their meeting as partners

  • Fast the day before the wedding

    • Gives day solemn and serene tone to prevent cheap merrymaking

    • Allows bride and groom enter with a serene mindset

  • Tisch/Kabbalat Panim - טיש‎/קבלת פנים

    • Groom makes jokes and sings to get the guests excited

  • Ketubah Signing - כתובה signing

    • Two witnesses are required to sign. Often times the bride, groom, and      rabbi also sign

  • Bedecken -  באדעקן‎

    • Groom places the veil on the bride

  • Circling

    • Total of seven circles, but many different ways to do so

    • Bride circles groom seven times
    • Bride circles groom 3 times, groom circles bride 3 times, they do 1 circle together

    • Bride circles groom 7 times, groom circles bride 7 times

Part One: "Pre-Wedding"

  • Greetings - ברוך הבא

    • Spoken or chanted by the rabbi under the chuppah

  • Invocation - מי אדיר

    • Asks God to bless the wedding. Recited by a rabbi or a cantor 

  • first קידוש

    • Blessing for the first cup

    • Groom, bride, or rabbi can chant.

  • Birkat Erusin - ברכת אירוסין

    • "betrothal blessing"

    • blesses legal and valid marriage, warns against forbidden ones

  • קבלת קינין -Kabbalat Kinyan

    • Groom “buys the wife” with the ring

    • Man gives ring to wife

  • הרי את - Harei At

    • Legal statement/Marriage formula

    • What makes the couple married

  • Brides Response

    • Optional, but she could accept ring/gives the groom a ring

  • Interlude

    • Ketubah is read

    • Used to be time between two ceremonies

Part Two: "Erusin"

  • Kiddush

    • Second blessing of wine. Dates back to when this began the second ceremony

  • Sheva Brachot - שבע ברכות:

    • 7 blessings presented to bride and groom

  • Pronouncement

    • Bride and groom are officially married and God is asked to bless the marriage again

  • Break Glass

    • Secular custom

    • Opportunity for הידור מצוה

  • Yichud - יחוד

    • Bride and groom spend time alone

    • Often break the fast together

    • Symbolic consummation of marriage

    • Guards are often posted outside the Yichud room to ensure the couple is alone

Part Three: "Nissuin"

A Ketubah, or כתובה, is a contract that describes the obligation of a husband to a wife as the original text was written in Talmudic times, so the woman does not have many rights in the document. A כתובה needs to witnesses to sign it in order for it to be a legal and valid document, but the bride, groom, and rabbi often sign it too. The כתובה helps to prevent a man to divorce his wife against her will, although this is somewhat allowed in modern times. There are modern translations, alternative texts, and additional clauses that can be added to the original text that alter its meaning and can provide more rights to the woman, or change the overall tone or message of the entire כתובה itself. Depending on the observance of the couple, or the religious movement that they identify in, the couple may choose to stick with the original text: a traditional כתובה is considered a documented legal transaction of the man acquiring the woman. Now, throughout most movements, כתובות have evolved into more of a “declaration of love” between the couple and spiritual covenant of a Jewish marriage with God. Because of this, many couples use the כתובה as an opportunity to fulfill the concept of הידור מצווה. This is the act of beautifying a mitzvah. To do this, the couple can still fulfill the מצווה of having a כתובה and do הידור מצווה by beautifying the physical document. Although it is only required to have a ketubah, הידור מצווה would make the כתובה intricate and artistic, and allow the couple to express themselves through the art of the כתובה.


The Ketubah

In our כתובה, which is pictured below, we chose to customize it and illustrate our texts on either side of a tree. The tree symbolizes the Tree of Life, which we believe to be a fitting way to reflect Jewish marriages, although one of the most common. Like a tree, a marriage needs to be tended to and taken care of. One can also benefit from a tree and a marriage as long as the contribute to its growth. For a tree, it might be fruit, shade, or other physical components, but for a marriage, it could be companionship, personal belonging, or even the fulfillment of a mitzvah. If either are neglected, then they both will fall apart and not be able to live. Surrounding the texts and the tree is a spectrum of color in a circle. The ring represents something that is neverending, which both the bride and groom should hope that the marriage is. The marriage should be substantial enough to withstand all time and the difficulties it presents. In addition to this, the circle excludes all others and things outside of itself, since as a newly-wed couple, our only focused is on each other and our compassion, love, and confidence for each other. Contradicting to this, the circle includes by pointing to society and their moral obligation to include us as a new family. This is another way to include these Jewish beliefs in our marriage. Finally, the spectrum of color represents individuality and how two separate people join to make something together. In a spectrum, an infinite amount of color blends together to create something bigger than themselves. In a marriage, we, as two people, people unite to make something that we individually could not make ourselves.


Our Ketubah


You may have noticed that in our ceremony, prior to Reilly walking down the aisle, she immediately began to circle Adam, where after, Adam circled her three times, and then they circled each other simultaneously. This traditionally is usually done by the bride circling the groom seven times to correspond with the seven times the verse “when a man takes a wife” appears in the bible and to symbolize the seven days of the creation of the world. When we circled each other by ourselves, we each did so three times to correlate with the three times the verse “and I betroth thee” is written in the bible. We view the seventh and final circle, where we circle each other at the same time, as a symbol of two individuals coming together and each equally contributing to making the marriage one. The three-three-one pattern we chose adds up to seven so the imagery we explained before is still present. of the number seven is still used. We both are coming together equally, so we both circle the other the same amount of times. For the same reason we chose to use the Lieberman clause, we chose the circling patterns that we did because we feel that it adds a sense of inclusiveness for the wife. Instead of a connection to the phrase “when a man takes a wife,” we wanted to parallel “and I betroth thee” because by “betrothing” each other, both Reilly and Adam are both taken into account and considered equal pieces to make the “puzzle,” per say, whole. This phrase can be viewed from either Reilly or Adam’s point of view, whereas “when a man takes a wife” implies that it is Adam’s actions that make the marriage what it is. In our marriage, we hope that the marriage is formed as a result of both of our efforts, and want our ceremony to reflect that.


Legal Betrothal Statement


הרי את, directly translated to “behold you,” is the act of the groom placing a ring on the bride’s finger. It is the factor that makes the couple married. This is considered the legal statement, or the marriage formula. It is recited in both Hebrew and English. In the Hebrew text, הרי את has 32 letters. 32 can be written as לב in Hebrew, which is also the two letters that make the word “heart.” This can be interpreted to imply that the groom is giving his heart as he recites these words. The ring that the groom gives acts like a circle: it excludes all others, since as a newlywed couple, we are only focused on each other and the compassion, love, and confidence in our relationship. Contradicting to this, the ring includes by pointing to society and their Jewish obligation to include us as a new family. The circular ring implies no end, and permanence, that is hoped to carry into the marriage. Our rings are simple silver bands. Although traditionally, the bride did not give a ring in return or say the formula because it would make the ceremony more of an exchange than a transaction, we chose to view the ring-giving as “gifts” that we both own and give as a sign of equality in the marriage. The simplicity of our bands dates back to a tradition that has been used for many years. A simple band was used to show the bride that she is being given something of value, but it is unclear as to how much. She can not be definite about it’s worth, and therefore not obligated to repay the groom. No stones or adornments mask the ring’s pure state of simplicity or give a pretense of a worth that it is not, just as a marriage should not be based off of false foundations or be deceived as something it is not. 

Placement of the Rings

The ring is placed on the index finger for a number of reasons. One dates back to ancient times when there was a belief that an artery ran directly from the finger to the heart, therefore linking one spouse to the other’s heart at all times. Another is just an opinion that the index finger is the most visible to guests and general people, and yet another is that the index finger is the most active finger. This is supposed to show that bride consciously and actively accepts not just as a gift but a binding transaction. However, sticking with our belief that our bride, Reilly, is presenting herself to be bound with Adam, not an object for sale, we choose to put the ring on the index finger to follow the ancient tradition without a specific incentive of why.

The שבע ברכות, arguably the core of the entire ceremony, bless God, the people's individuality and physical body, the two people working together to create a whole, and the final complete marriage. They put the bride and groom into the timeline of Jewish history. Mentioning the beginning of time in the Garden of Eden, and then the current time, the marriage, the שבע ברכות help bridge the gap between prehistoric Judaism and modern day Judaism. As a guest, your presence is more important than you think. In order for these seven blessings to be recited, we need a minyan, or 10 bar mitzvahed men (and women in less orthodox movements.) Although the שבע ברכות are originally in Hebrew, translations can be provided or read. In our ceremony, you will hear the English interpretations of the blessings read prior to the Hebrew. This allows everyone to understand these blessings, which we felt was very important because as the minyan, everyone should be able to understand what they are making possible. You will find a quick explanation of the שבע ברכות on the following page.


Sheva Brachot

- 1: celebrates God's creative power and the creation of wine. This blessing was added later in time from the original six to equal the golden number seven.
- 2: praises God’s creation in the beginning of time. Touches on the concept of how the uniting two people is considered a “testimonial to God’s creativity” by the Rabbis, therefore helping to try and complete creation as it is God’s glory.
- 3: celebrates creation of man. God created humanity, so we thank him for doing so. This blesses the bride and groom as separate people and deals with the physical human body
- 4: again celebrates the creation of man, but blesses and thanks God for creating man in his holy image. This blessing deals with man’s soul: a divine aspect that God gives to every person. This blessing praises the alleged “happiest of happies:” marriage of man, and celebrates successful parenthood as the parents raised their children to reach this moment.
- 5: the fifth blessing has many interpretations. Our three favorites are:
This blessing reminds the couple of Jerusalem before wedding, as it is the center or Judaism as the שבע ברכות are the center of the ceremony
It also can be seen as the woman being blessed with kids
It calls for a "redemptive unity of the end of days," meaning that all Jews will be united together and with Israel in the end of days
- 6: This blessing wishes for perfect harmony between the couple. It is considered the blessing of marriage, stressing the importance of passion and friendship between the bride and groom being two individuals to make a whole
- 7: The final blessing calls for the bride and groom to rejoice. It speaks about the joy of the end of days, and happiness and marriage becoming the same. Ten different forms of the word “happy” are listed, which shows importance: The synonyms build happiness and is indicative of how you, as a guest, should enjoy this moment as much as we as the couple do, and together, we should rejoice.

Sheva Brachot: Explained


The act of breaking a glass can come across as a random act without significance to someone who does not know the background of it. If you fall under that category, do not worry! The whole purpose of this booklet is to educate you about everything you need to know. The breaking of a glass is a secular tradition that is now a common part of Jewish weddings. The origin of this tradition may be traced back to Talmudic times. Mar Bar Rabina, when observing that the Rabbis who were guests at his son’s wedding were becoming too joyous and boisterous, smashed a glass to gather their attention and tone the mood down. Though a marriage is something to celebrate, Rabina used the original breaking of the glass to ironically make a point of that when there is rejoicing, there should also be trembling. There are many interpretations given for why this tradition was continued and what the meaning is in modern times. One of them is that the ability of the glass to break with ease symbolizes the fragility of human relationships. It is a way to say and wish that the glass breaks so the marriage does not have to. Another reason is that the glass cannot be mended to be the way it was before it was broken, which is reflected on a marriage. Like a glass, marriage, if broken by divorce or another factor that disturbs it, cannot be perfectly mended. Although a glass can be glued back together, it will still visibly be different than it’s original state, like a marriage will be if reconciled after something “breaks” it. These clarifications are only three of many, but we like them because we feel that the three help depict important morals that we, Adam and Reilly, feel are essential to marriage. 

Breaking a Glass Background



In addition to these meanings, the breaking of a class is another opportunity for us and any couple to fulfil the act of הידור מצווה. A couple can take the time to find a goblet that they find beautiful to use in the breaking. We chose a glass with the Tree of Life etched on it for the same reason we chose to include the tree in our כתובה: The tree symbolizes the Tree of Life, which we believe to be a fitting way to reflect Jewish marriages, although one of the most common. Like a tree, a marriage needs to be tended to and taken care of, and if one neglects to do so, both the tree and marriage will dwindle. The bag that we are smashing the glass in is a bag that has been passed down in Reilly’s family for longer than they can remember. In order to condense the remnants of the broken glass, it is often broken in a bag. We chose to customize this otherwise simple procedure and continue the tradition that has been an essential part of marriages in the Lowell family for so long. After the ceremony, the glass’s pieces will be put into another bag that we as a couple have pre-selected, and the bag that is an heirloom will be kept with us as a couple until the next couple gets married.


Making the Break Beautiful