A lovely whirlwind of excitement and love follows a proposal. Once the ring starts sparkling on the finger, the bride begins to execute all of her wedding daydreams and turn them into realities. It all sounds fun and girltastic, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, the panic starts to set in.
“When do I choose a rabbi?”
“What bridesmaids dresses can I get that fit the girls and the temple’s requirements?”
“When does the timer go off on my wedding gown shopping?”
These are all rational and normal questions and a little timeline goes a long way. Here’s a guide that should help you stay on target and keep your anxiety at bay. Feel free to plug in trips to your therapist on an as-needed basis.
12+ Months Before
- Start imagining your ceremony. Do you want it long and traditional? Short and sweet? Are you planning to include every single ritual or are you leaning toward an abridged version?
- Choose some preferred wedding dates. There are times of the year that Jewish weddings are off limits. Check out this previous Yentas post for those details.
- Choose your location. Do you want the ceremony in synagogue? If you belong to one already, that should be easy. Or, you’ll have to search for local synagogues. You can also have your chuppah in a secular location. Think of a favorite place outdoors or get in touch with a paradise-like country club or hotel.
- Start your search for vendors (photographer, caterer, and reception entertainment as a start) and meet with them to discuss their work. Matching your personalities with theirs is important with musicians and photographers because you spend your whole day with them. This is also when you decide if you want a kosher or kosher-style meal. When you meet with a band or DJ, make sure they can play “Hava Nagila” and are familiar with Jewish traditions.
- Start researching and narrowing down ideas for an officiant who suits you and your partner. Whether it’s a rabbi, a cantor, a rabbi and a [insert other religion's clergy here], a justice of the peace, or a friend, you need to know who will be facing you under the chuppah.
9 to 11 Months Before
- By now you should have an officiant, so meet with him or her to discuss the ceremony requirements. Discuss the different traditions of Jewish weddings and decide which ones you’d like to include on your wedding day.
- Confirm with your officiant or synagogue if there are requirements for clothing for men and women. Make sure to ask if there is a rule about covering one’s shoulders or if the groom must wear a kittel (ceremonial robe).
- Coordinate with your temple if you plan to have an aufruf, the honor of blessing and being blessed before the Torah reading on the Shabbat leading up to your wedding.
6 to 8 Months Before
- Decide what type of ketubah you and your partner want. Start your search for a ketubah artist if you’d like one custom made for you. Select your text or ask your officiant to assist you in writing your own. For more on the ketubah-shopping process, see our guest-blog feature by artist Rachel Deitsch.
3 to 4 Months Before
- Get in touch with people who you’d love to be honored at your wedding with certain readings or songs. This is also when you should decide who will sign the ketubah. If your chuppah is hand-held, who will hold the chuppah? Is there a family member who you’d like to make the blessing over the challah or wine?
- Make more purchases! This time, shop for and buy your wedding bands. Remember, according to Jewish law, you must use a simple band without separations or stones. For more details, see the Yentas post on ring requirements. Also remember that this requirement is for the ceremony, and you may still purchase and wear a more ornamental ring after the wedding if you wish.
- Think about what type of chuppah you want. Does your synagogue offer them if you get married on-site? Do you need to arrange this with your florist? Is there a chuppah rental company near you? Do you want a simple tallit to be your canopy or do you want something more elaborate?
- Book a rehearsal dinner site and make note of the final invited guest list. Also, secure your wedding rehearsal date and time with your venue and VIPs. Also, FYI, most rabbis will not participate in a ceremony rehearsal because they believe that the chuppah ceremony is sacred and should only be experienced once, therefore, they urge couples to save the experience for the wedding date. Not every rabbi or officiant believe this, but this is something to confirm. However, you can still have a celebratory dinner with friends and family the night or two before the big day as a welcome and get-ready-to-party party!
…To be continued…
Check back on Wednesday for the rest of the timeline so you’re on track to your big day!