Tag Archives: wedding

Solemnize or sanctify? A Wedding Question

When a couple marries, is the ceremony one of Solemnization or Sanctification? This is an important distinction to understand for couples getting married and for those of us doing the officiating. When an officiant solemnizes a wedding he/she duly performs a formal marriage ceremony. When an officiant sanctifies something, that something is consecrated, set apart and declared holy, or made legitimate by a binding religious sanction. It is important to see that one can perform a legitimate ceremony (solemnize) without adding the consecration. And in point of fact, officiants are often called upon to do the one without the other.

My role as a rabbi requires that I be committed to doing both. But that does not mean that a different officiant, a layperson, for example, cannot also incorporate the holy into the ceremony. For all of us, it requires deliberate forethought to solemnize and sanctify a wedding.

If someone asks me to perform a service that uses Jewish ritual as a perfunctory overlay, I believe that still falls under the auspices of solemnized but not sanctified (and something I am uncomfortable doing). It is only when the ritual is embraced as part of the meaning making process that we can elevate the ceremony to be one of consecration.

I have long thought about this issue as couples approach me regularly. I need the couple to make a commitment to a Jewish family and future, as well as a ceremony that resonates with the couple. Every couple I work with therefore is required to invest time and effort to understanding the rituals they will include and exclude from their ceremony in addition to having the important conversations with each other to discover what each of them understands as a Jewish family and future. I serve as the lamplighter on this journey.

A young woman shared that she was asked to officiate at her sister’s wedding. The couple said it was because the sister knew them well. The couple is in love but neither is religiously affiliated or active. Given their lack of attachment to Judaism, it is likely a ceremony that I would not do. But this anecdote points to a trend towards serious, but non-religious union. I am sure that this young woman will do her utmost to provide a meaningful ceremony. However, she will need to invest much effort in order to sanctify and solemnize her sister’s wedding (I am confident that she will, and I stand ready to help her). I wonder if the fee-for-service or mail-order ministers would do justice on behalf of the couples they ostensibly serve.

Sanctification should be an important consideration for every couple seeking a meaningful ceremony. And it needs to be an issue that every officiant honestly confronts.

Shabbat Shalom

This past weekend, I had the honor of attending a wedding. In typical Orthodox fashion, it seemed the immediate world was invited. Friends and family from across the globe came to celebrate. It was an evening of unbridled joy; food and drink were in abundance, but most importantly there was dancing and music.

The Tisch was raucous and the men escorted the groom in a fever pitch of singing and dancing so he could veil his bride. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the crowd gathered to the chuppah to escort bride and groom out with the same energy and fervor.

The band was amazing, keeping everyone on dancing for almost the entire evening. The large dance floor was crowded to overflowing. At first, I tried to watch from the sidelines, clapping to the beat of the music, but an elderly chossid grabbed my hand and pulled me into the circle of other old men dancing and jumping in merriment.

The entire spectrum of Jewish practice was in attendance Sunday night. We were all united in the joy and celebration of a wedding, that magical moment of hope and light shining in a world so desperately in need of it, the central message of the Sheva Brachot. It was amazing to behold and to participate. May it always be so.

Shabbat Shalom

Gad Elbaz beautifully sings the final verse of Lecha Dodi, welcoming the bride to the music of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.  Enjoy.