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February 23, 2018  RSS feed
Weddings and Engagements

Text: T T T

7 things (you may not have thought much about) to do before the wedding

By JORDANA HORN Kveller via JTA news service

The ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract, is often created as an original artwork and displayed in the home. The ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract, is often created as an original artwork and displayed in the home. Premarital counseling

As a prerequisite to marriage, the Catholic faith requires a course of premarital counseling set by the church called pre cana. No equivalent really exists in Judaism, but I did appreciate it very much when our rabbi offered an opportunity to sit and meet with him a few times to discuss how we wanted our lives to look as a married couple. (I would also love to go back in time and see what we said, since I am sure we didn’t really think we would have six kids, but that’s another story.) Ask your rabbi if you can do the same. It’s a good way to talk about things you may not have already discussed, like how religious you want your life to be, how you want to raise any kids, how you want to handle money and so forth.

Genetic screening

Here’s another one you may not have discussed: genetic screening. Before marrying, get tested for Jewish genetic diseases. Most people get reassuring results, but even if you both test positive as carriers, there are options to help you have healthy children. It’s super common to be a carrier for some kind of genetic disease: One in three Jews is a healthy carrier. The crazy part is you have no idea without testing.

The national nonprofit JScreen offers those with Jewish lineage subsidized testing for more than 200 genetic diseases. Their testing is meant for anyone with Ashkenazi, Sephardic or Mizrahi backgrounds, as well as interfaith couples. You can do the test at home and register online.

Consider the paperwork

You’re probably going to want a ketubah, a Jewish marriage contract. While I have a rabbi friend who refers to it somewhat pejoratively as an “Aramaic document of acquisition,” I see it as an opportunity to frame your marriage and mutual Jewish future. In the secular world, you may be considering a prenup.

As a Conservative Jew, I am a tremendous advocate of the Lieberman clause, in which both parties to the marriage agree not to withhold a “get” – the Jewish instrument of divorce – should the marriage not hold. Including this clause in your ketubah is a statement on behalf of women’s rights. There are many websites with ketubah options.

Talk to each other

This often gets lost in all the meetings with the florist, the band, etc. No one is actually going to recall what card stock you used for the thank you notes or how big your centerpieces were. Take time every day to talk about something not wedding-related. You know, like why you like each other, or a movie you saw. If you can, write a letter to your partner (offer them the chance to do the same for you, but this is optional, not mandatory) to be opened on your first, or 10th, anniversary.

On the flip side, if there are warning spots of trouble between you, don’t sweep them under the rug. Talk about the problem. Do you differ on fundamental issues, like whether to send kids to Hebrew school or what you believe, spiritually and politically? If you’ve got concerns, it’s not “just jitters” – and even if it were, this is a litmus test for how you deal with stress (and this is just the good kind of stress). If you don’t like the answers, you may need to have a more serious discussion that yes, could include postponing or calling off the wedding. Don’t compromise your future because you already paid for the caterer.

Plan the ceremony

The core of the wedding is the ceremony, not the party (I know – shocking), so take time to focus on that element. What would make the ceremony more meaningful to you and your partner? When I asked the cantor at our synagogue for traditional wedding music, he gave us a CD of music performed by our synagogue’s band, and I chose a song and sang it with them as I circled my groom. I will never be able to think about that without simultaneously smiling and crying.

Think beyond yourselves

Use the kiddush cup your partner’s great-grandfather brought over from Russia, even though you think it’s hideous. Use the tallis the entire family has been married under rather than the floral chuppah of your dreams. At the end of the day, you’re not making a wedding for Pinterest – you are making it for your family, past and future. Honor those people.

And, for that matter, honor your guests by making the registry easy to navigate (and easily refundable), the seating comfortable and the food plentiful.

Be kind

Figure out ways to pay your happiness forward. Write thank yous not only to those who gave you gifts, but to those who are giving their time: your officiant, the photographer. Be kind to everyone. Give your centerpieces to a nursing home or hospital. Donate a portion of your gifts, if they are monetary. Make sure you tell people how thrilled you are that they took the time to come and be with you to celebrate this milestone in your life, and how you hope they will be there for every special day to come.

This article was sponsored by and produced in partnership with JScreen.

Kveller is an online community of women and parents sharing experiences of raising kids through a Jewish lens. Visit

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