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7 Things I’d Like to Change at Jewish Weddings

The busiest time of the season for Jewish weddings is right after Tisha b’Av and before Rosh haShana, when many families planning weddings like to schedule their simchas. If you are like me, you probably have been invited to several weddings in the past month.

While I love to share in the joy of friends and family members at the weddings they organize, I’ve found that I don’t enjoy going to these affairs nearly as much as I used to. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I do believe there are customs and practices that have changed, which contribute to my dissatisfaction.

In the spirit of making our simchas more enjoyable, I will outline seven things about Jewish weddings that I find troubling – and that I would love to change.

  • At virtually every wedding I now attend, there is a group of friends of the bride and groom who will cheer loudly during the processional when their friends walk down the aisle. Whoops and clapping from the audience are now the norm. And then there is the one idiot who yells out at the top of his lungs, “Mekudeshet,” after the kiddushin portion is completed. When did this become part of a Jewish wedding ceremony? Shouldn’t the ceremony be treated a little bit more seriously? Can’t these young adults save their cheers for a baseball game?  Perhaps the bride and groom enjoy this kind of behavior; as a guest, I find it extremely disrespectful.
  • Usually, a Jewish wedding features a well-known vocalist with a beautiful voice as part of the band. Why limit his singing at the ceremony to “Mi Adir” and “Im Eshkacheich”? He can also sing to the melodies being used by the bride and groom when they march down the aisle. I think the music and the wedding ceremony would be greatly enhanced if it featured more real singing and less background music.
  • There are many opportunities for women to participate in the wedding ceremony and remain faithful to halachic standards … why aren’t more Modern Orthodox wedding ceremonies featuring women under the chuppah? A woman could read the ketubah; a woman can serve as the emcee and introduce the people being given the honor of doing sheva berachot. Some Modern Orthodox rabbis will allow women to read an English translation of the sheva brachot after they are read in Hebrew, allowing for the addition of seven women to receive honors under the chuppah. And a woman can deliver a speech or offer words of blessing to the bride and groom. We recently attended a wedding where the chosson and kallah were making aliyah; a female friend of the bride read the Prayer for the State of Israel under the chuppah. It certainly would be a breath of fresh air to see more women being included in the wedding ceremony. All it takes is a little bit of thought and creativity.
  • Weddings are much too long. I can’t remember the last time I stayed at a wedding through the bentching and sheva berachot, an important part of the day. After a few hours I simply have had enough. May I suggest that more people plan to schedule bentching and sheva berachot immediately after the main course is served. Then you can have more dancing and desserts for those who wish to stay.  I believe this would be a much better way to allocate the time, which would then allow many more people to stay for bentching and sheva berachot.
  • And speaking of changing the schedule, maybe there is a way to avoid the 45-minute wait for the bride and groom to take photos together that we all must deal with after the chuppah. May I suggest the following schedule: a) Begin with a very short cocktail portion for a half hour where drinks are served and the chosson’s tisch is held, b) Then have the bedeken and wedding ceremony, c) Follow the ceremony with a light smorgasbord for an hour, while the bride and groom take photos, d) Finally everyone gathers together for the seudah, and the dining and dancing can begin immediately, without a wait. To me this seems like a much more efficient and reasonable way to schedule the various portions of the simcha. If one is insistent on keeping to the schedule that we all now follow, maybe the bride and groom and family members can schedule to take still photos two weeks before the wedding, assuming both families are local (thus avoiding the wait for photos). Or … is it a halacha that the bride and groom should not see each other before the wedding? I know it’s unromantic, but maybe we can go back to the days when we were not so careful about this custom – and have the still photos taken a few hours before the wedding begins, thus alleviating the problem of waiting an hour for the bride and groom to take photos together.
  • I have noticed that at many weddings I attend, the friends of the bride and groom hijack the dancing at the beginning of the first dance – and family members don’t get a chance to dance with the bride and groom until later. May I humbly suggest that we allow family members the honor of dancing with the bride and groom for the first 10 minutes in the inner circle – and only after that should friends of the bride and groom get their opportunity for some revelry.  I think it’s only fair to the immediate family that they get a chance to dance first with the bride and groom.
  • Finally, I know I am not alone in feeling that the bands are much too loud when they play their music at the reception. Personally, I think the music would be even more enjoyable if it wasn’t performed as loudly as it is now. The problem is that the folks making weddings don’t have any desire to tell the band to tone it down a bit. It seems that we are destined to wear earplugs if we feel the music is too loud (having earplugs for wedding guests is now just as much a necessity as the kippahs and bentchers). Maybe a few trendsetters will have the courage to instruct the band to lower the volume a few decibels.  Until then, I fear we will have to deal with the loud music.

Wedding customs have changed dramatically since my wife and were married 41 years ago. I’m hoping that we might be able to witness some of these changes I am suggesting soon.

About the Author
Michael Feldstein, who lives in Stamford, CT, is the author of "Meet Me in the Middle," a collection of essays on contemporary Jewish life. His articles and letters have appeared in The Jewish Link, The Jewish Week, The Forward, and The Jewish Press. He can be reached at michaelgfeldstein@gmail.com
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