What is a Handfasting Ceremony?
A wedding is an event in which two individuals are legally joined in matrimony. Wedding customs and traditions vary significantly between cultures, geographical areas, religious communities, and other social strata. In the United States, wedding customs tend to follow a typical pattern, with an allowance for some individual variation. For instance, while many weddings feature an exchange of wedding rings, most also include the exchange of wedding vows. Some couples choose to exchange their wedding rings post-nuptial, while others wait until after the ceremony.
Jewish weddings tend to be quite formal, even when held outside of the traditional temple or synagogue. This form of Jewish wedding ceremony usually includes a bridal chorus, which consists of members of the wedding party, the bride’s family, and other close family members and friends. The bridal chorus is present throughout the wedding ceremony, leading the wedding party through the three traditional parts of the ceremony: the vows, the wedding breakfast, and the wedding banquet. Some Jewish weddings have no bridal chorus, instead using only the rabbi, the groom’s family, and other immediate family and friends as the bridal chorus.
Christian weddings in the United States tend to be much less formal than those observed in the Jewish cultures. Christian weddings tend to be more joyous occasions, focusing instead on the couple and their relationship. There are no readings from the Torah or wedding rituals, no exchange of wedding rings, nor is there a bridal chorus. Typically, Christian weddings do not use the ritualistic type of wedding cake, which is cut by the baker before the meal is served.
Christian weddings are also traditionally less expensive than Jewish weddings. While the bridegroom’s family pays for the wedding itself, most of the cost of the wedding comes from the bride and groom’s families. Brides pay for their own wedding dresses, their wedding rings, and many other aspects of the ceremony. This allows the bride and groom to split the cost between them, with the families of the other guests contributing only a small percentage of the overall cost. In some cases, the families of the bridal party may also contribute a portion of the wedding ceremony.
The Jewish wedding ceremony itself requires a Jewish groom to be more careful about what he says during the wedding vows. To avoid saying something offensive, the groom might want to get some help from a wedding coordinator or lawyer. Some rabbis believe that the wedding vow should be written entirely in the Hebrew language, with no reference or analysis by the wedding minister. The rabbi may ask the groom to read the words of the ceremony to the bride, if he wishes.
When it comes to the Catholic Church, the wedding ceremony is much more formalized. While the Catholic Church does not require a bridegroom to say the wedding vows, he will usually do so at the very end of the service, raising his hands to make a sign of his affirmation of faith. Catholics do not usually wait for the handfasting ceremony, which means the couple will be engaged only if they are married. After the couple is said their vows, the priest will take them to their place in the church, where they will give thanks to God for making their union right.