(Please note that any readings, vows, prayers and any other ceremony elements can be changed, rearranged, substituted, deleted or added as necessary.)
~ PROCESSIONAL ~
Canopy Carriers enter, build the Wedding Canopy.
Minister enters, stands inside of the canopy.
(Groom) enters, escorted by his parents, then stands to the left of the Wedding Canopy.
Groomsmen enter, then stand to the left.
Brides Maids enter, then stand to the right.
Ring Bearer enters.
Flower Girl enters.
(Bride) enters, escorted by her parents, then stands to the right of the Wedding Canopy.
(Bride) and (Groom)’s mothers come under the Wedding Canopy, and light the Unity Candle tapers.
(Bride) and (Groom)’s fathers shake (Groom)’s hand. (Bride)’s father kisses (Bride). Both fathers join (Bride) and (Groom)’s hands together.
~ WELCOMING ~
Minister: Welcome family and friends. (Bride) and (Groom) are happy that so many of you who mean so much to them are here to share and celebrate this, their wedding day. You have been invited here to witness and to participate in their wedding, for the ideals, the understanding, and the mutual respect that they bring to their marriage have their roots in the love, friendship, and guidance that you all have given them. I would like to take this moment to mention that there are those close to (Bride) and (Groom) who could not travel to be here today, but whose thoughts and blessings are with them; and there are loved ones who are no longer here in body, but who are here in spirit. Let us remember them now in a moment of silence.
~ ACKNOWLEDGING THE BRIDE AND GROOM’S TRADITIONS ~
Minister: Out of two different and distinct spiritual traditions, (Bride) and (Groom) have come together in love. In that spirit of love, they have chosen to learn from each other the best of what each has to offer, to appreciate their differences, and to affirm that their being together is far better than being apart from each other. Traditions from both (Bride) and (Groom)’s faith will be recognized all throughout our ceremony, and you are invited to observe, and learn, and cultivate appreciation in both the similarities and the differences of their traditions.
~ OPENING BLESSINGS ~
Minister: And so in the tradition of (Christian participant)’s faith, we invoke God’s presence through these words:
Heavenly Father, you have made the bond of marriage a holy mystery, a symbol of Christ’s love for his people. Hear our prayers for (Bride) and (Groom). With faith in you and in each other they pledge their love today. May their lives always bear witness to the reality of that love. We ask you this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
In Judaism, special occasions are often begun with the Shehecheyanu blessing:
Baruch atta Adonai, Eloheinu melekh ha’olam,
she-echeyanu ve’qi’eh’manu, va’higiy’anu laz’man hazeh
Which translated means, “Blessed are You, Lord, our G-d, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.”
~ EXPLANATION OF THE WEDDING CANOPY ~
Minister: Joseph Campbell writes, “Ritual introduces you to the meaning of what’s going on.” A wedding is the ritual that signifies the transition from a single life into married life. Like most rituals, the wedding involves many symbolic elements, each bearing a significant meaning in the formation of the new marriage, and the new family that the marriage creates. Soon, (Bride) and (Groom) will be asked to join me under the Wedding Canopy, which is used in many faiths, and in Judaism is known as the Chuppah. But first, our four Canopy Carriers will explain the significance of the Canopy, in order to “introduce you to the meaning of what’s going on.”
Canopy Carrier #1: Long after tents vanished from the Jewish landscape, wedding ceremonies were held out of doors in the hope that the marriage would be blessed by as many children as “the stars of the heavens.” Some kind of covering was employed to create a more modest and sanctified space.
Canopy Carrier #2: The Wedding Canopy, or Chuppah, is a multifaceted symbol. It symbolizes: modesty in the presence of God, the safety of your home, the protection of a garment, the intimacy of your bed covering. It is open on all four sides – to respect Abraham, who had doors on all four sides of his home so that visitors would always know they are welcome.
Canopy Carrier #3: Many other traditions also include the use of a bridal canopy. In Hindu and Jain weddings, the canopy is called a mandap, in which the covering represents the universe, and the four legs represent the couple’s parents. In some traditions, a wedding arch or arbor may reflect two trees, or vines, reaching up and meeting each other halfway, creating a protective structure. In other traditions, it is simply used to represent a holy, sacred, special place for a couple to be married.
Canopy Carrier #4: The Wedding Canopy does not promise that love or hope or pledges will keep out weather or catastrophe. But its few lines are a sketch for what might be. The flimsiness of the Wedding Canopy is a reminder that the only thing that is real about a home is the people in it who love and choose to be together – to be a family. The only anchor that they will heave will be holding onto each other’s hands. The Wedding Canopy is the house of promises. It is the home of hope.
~ HAKAFOT – CIRCLING THE GROOM ~
(Note: This is written for the tradition of seven circles, however it can be adapted for the tradition of three circles.)
Minister: There is one more tradition I would like to explain before our Bride and Groom enter the Wedding Canopy, and that is the Hakafot, or the Circling of the Groom.
The number seven plays a very mystical role in Judaism, and even in nature. In music there are seven basic tones in diatonic scale. There are seven colors in the spectrum of light, which blended together form one, perfect white light. In holistic medicine, it is taught that there are seven charkas within the body. Even our home planet has seven continents and seven seas. And those who enjoy gambling know the association that the number seven has with good luck.
In the Bible, we are taught that G-d created the world in six days, and completed the first weekly cycle by resting on the seventh. The phrase, “when a man takes a wife” is found seven times in the Bible. And in the story of Joshua, G-d instructed him and the Israelites to walk around the city walls of Jericho seven times, after which the walls crumbled, allowing them to enter and conquer their enemy.
Now I would not associate (Bride) and (Groom) with enemies to be conquered, but tradition informs us that the circling of the groom seven times symbolizes crumbling of any emotional walls either the bride or groom may have put up between them, allowing them to open their hearts to one another, as they begin the creation of their own new world together. And with their walls crumbled, their hearts united, the bride and groom can enter this home with no walls.
I now invite (Bride) to circle (Groom) seven times, and then join me under the Wedding Canopy.
(Bride) circles (Groom), then they enter the Wedding Canopy.
~ READINGS ~
Minister: I now invite (Name) and (Name) to share with us these holy words of inspiration and contemplation.
First Reader: Our first reading is from the Book of Ruth from the Tanakh.
Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”
1 Corinthians 12:31-1-13:8a
Second Reader: Our second reading is from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians.
If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever. Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offense, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.
Love does not come to an end.
~ VOWS ~
Minister: (Bride), (Groom), I now ask you to join both of your hands together and recite your vows of marriage to one another.
((Bride), then (Groom)): I take you to be my wife/husband, my friend, my love, and my lifelong companion: to share my life with yours. To build our dreams together, while allowing you to grow with your dreams; to support you through times of trouble, and rejoice with you in times of happiness; to treat you with respect, love, and loyalty through all the trials and triumphs of our lives together; and to give you all the love I can give my whole life long.
~ RING CEREMONY ~
Minister: From traditions innumerable, it has become customary to exchange an item of worth to validate the promise of the marriage vows. In our society, the most common form of this practice is the exchange of rings.
Best Man presents the rings.
The rings you have chosen to exchange are a symbol of the unity into which your two lives are now joined — together in one unbroken circle. They are a reminder that from now on, wherever you go, you will always return to one another, and to your togetherness.
As you exchange these rings with one another, know that they will always be for you the symbol of your unbroken love. May your rings always call to mind the freedom and power of your love, which you will celebrate from this day forward as husband and wife.
(Bride), please repeat after me: (Groom), I give you this ring to wear with love and joy. As a ring has no end, neither shall my love for you. I choose you to be my husband this day and forevermore.
(Groom), please repeat after me: (Bride), I give you this ring to wear with love and joy. As a ring has no end, neither shall my love for you. I choose you to be my wife this day and forevermore.
~ LIGHTING OF THE UNITY CANDLE ~
Minister: (Bride) and (Groom), earlier in our ceremony, your mothers, (Name) and (Name), lit these two tapers that sit alongside this Unity Candle. These two candles are symbolic of two individuals, as you enter this union as two unique, individual souls in your own right. Even as the flame of your two individual lives continues to burn brightly, we celebrate the mystery of the third thing – that invisible presence which is your love made manifest in each other’s lives, and in the world. This third flame is fed by your love and will, in turn, feed you with greater brightness and warmth than you can even imagine now, at the tender beginnings of your life journey together. In lighting this third candle, we bear witness to the awesome power of love’s groundedness in the substance of earthly life. As this flame draws its nurturance from the candle beneath, so does our human love thrive in the substance of our daily giving and forgiving; the seasons of our planting and of our harvest; the rootedness of our beginnings and the blossoming of our aspirations. May this flame grow ever brighter as the wisdom of your love adds substance to its glow.
The ba’al shem tov, founder of Hasidim, has said: “From every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to heaven. When two souls that are destined for each other find one another, their streams of light flow together and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being.”
Through your words that you have spoken in your vows, through the symbols of the rings you wear and the wine that you drink together, you bring the individual light of your love for each other together to form the one true light of your union of love. May that light be a guide to illuminate your world to prevent darkness. May it give you warmth to protect you from the cold. May it inspire you with the energy that is the fuel of the life that you share together in love.
(Bride) and (Groom), I now invite you to take the light of the tapers, which symbolize your individual identities, and bring that light to kindle your unity candle, which symbolizes the light of your union. As you light your unity candle, remember that the light of your love will forever shine, for no wind may ever snuff it, no rain may ever douse it. The light is your love, which you have promised to each other forever.
~ WINE CEREMONY/KIDDUSH ~
Minister: Drinking from the Wineglass together is another tradition that stems from many backgrounds. It is symbolic of the labor you endure together which shall, in turn, bring the fruitfulness and sweetness of life you share together. It is a reminder that from this moment on, you will share everything, doubling your joys and dividing your sorrows. Furthermore, it symbolizes the many days that you sit at the same table and eat and drink together as husband and wife – as each other’s family.
In the New Testament, it is written that at Jesus had performed his very first miracle at a wedding in Cana – turning ordinary water into wine. And regardless of what you may hold to be true about that story, it is nonetheless a reminder to always seek the extraordinary within the ordinary. Wine is also symbolic of the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice. Before he died, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples. During their celebration, Jesus exhorted his disciples to remember his sacrifice in the bread and the wine of their Passover meal.
In Judaism the sharing of the wine is known as the Kiddush, a ritual that is accompanied with the Hebrew blessing:
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha-olam Bo’rei P’ri Hagefen.
Blessed are you, LORD our God, King of the Universe,
who has created the fruit of the vine.
As you share this glass of wine, this cup of life, so may you share all that the future may bring. May you draw contentment, comfort, and happiness from your own cup of life. May you find life’s joys heightened, its bitterness sweetened, and all things hallowed by true companionship and love.
~ SHEVA BRACHOT ~
Minister: At this time, I will pour a second cup of wine, and as I do, I would like to invite (Names) to read the Sheva Brachot, or Seven Blessings from the Nisuin Ceremony of a Traditional Jewish Wedding.
Readers shall be assigned as needed.
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam, bo’rei p’ri hagafen.
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, sovereign of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam shehakol bara lichvodo.
Blessed art Thou LORD, our God, King of the universe, who created all things for His glory.
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam, yotzer haa’dam.
Blessed art Thou LORD, our God, King of the universe, who created man.
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam, asher yatzar et ha-adam b’tzalmo, b’tzelem d’mut tavnito, v’hitkin lo mimenu binyan adei ad. Baruch atah Adonai, yotzeir ha-adam.
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, sovereign of the universe, who creates man in your image*, fashioning perpetuated life. Blessed are You, LORD, creator of man.
Sos tasis v’tageil ha-akara b’kibutz baneha l’tocha b’simcha. Baruch ata Adonai, m’sameach Tzion b’vaneha.
May the barren one exult and be glad as her children are joyfully gathered to her. Blessed are You, LORD, who gladden Zion with her Children
Sameiach tesamach reiim ha-ahuvim k’sameichacha y’tzircha b’gan eden mikedem. Baruch ata Adonai, m’sameiach chatan v’chalah.
Grant perfect joy to these loving companions, as you did your creations in the Garden of Eden. Blessed are You, LORD, who grants the joy of groom and bride
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher bara sason v’simcha chatan v’kallah, gilah rinah ditzah v’chedvah, ahavah v’achavah v’shalom v’reut. M’hera Adonai Eloheinu yishammah b’arei Yhudah uv-chutzot Y’rushalayim kol sason v’kol simcha, kol chatan v’kol kalah, kol mitzhalot chatanim meichupatam u-n’arim mimishte n’ginatam. Baruch ata Adonai, m’sameiach chatan im hakalah.
Blessed are You, LORD, our God, sovereign of the universe, who created joy and gladness, groom and bride, mirth, song, delight and rejoicing, love and harmony and peace and companionship. Soon, LORD our God, may there ever be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem voices of joy and gladness, voices of groom and bride, the jubilant voices of those joined in marriage under the bridal canopy, the voices of young people feasting and singing. Blessed are You, LORD, who causes the groom to rejoice with his bride.
(Bride) and (Groom) drink the second cup of wine.
~ CHRISTIAN WEDDING BLESSING ~
Minister: My dear friends, let us ask the Lord for his continued blessing upon this bride and groom in these words from the Christian tradition…
Holy Father, creator of the universe,
maker of man and woman in your own likeness,
source of blessing for married life,
we humbly pray to you for this woman
who today is united with her husband in this sacrament of marriage.
May your fullest blessing come upon her and her husband
so that they may together rejoice in your gift of married love
and enrich your universe with their children.
Lord, may they both praise you when they are happy
and turn to you in their sorrows.
May they be glad that you help them in their work
and know that you are with them in their need.
May they pray to you in the stillness of their solitude,
and be your witnesses in the world.
May they reach old age in the company of their friends,
and come at last to the kingdom of heaven.
~ BREAKING OF THE GLASS ~
Minister: Now that (Bride) and (Groom) have shared the wine from this glass, symbolizing the sharing of their individual lives together, the wedding closes with the breaking of the glass, as is tradition in (Jewish Participant)’s faith, and which reminds us that love, like glass, is fragile and must be protected. The glass is broken to protect the marriage with an implied prayer: “May your marriage last as long as it would take to repair this glass.”
After the glass is broken, I invite you to express your commitment of love for one another with a kiss, and I invite everyone else to shout out a congratulatory “Mazel Tov!”
~ INTRODUCTION OF COUPLE ~
Minister: And now, it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you for the first time as husband and wife, (Groom) and (Bride) (Lastname).
~ RECESSIONAL ~
(Bride) and (Groom)
(Maid of Honor) and (Best Man)
(Brides Maids) and (Groomsmen)
(Flower Girl) and (Ring Bearer)
(Bride and Groom’s Parents & Grandparents)