Jewish law covers all legalities of wedding

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Aside from the marriage "contract," one doesn't usually think of a wedding in legal terms.

But the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony is an intricate weaving of rituals, customs and liturgical elements. Biblical and rabbinic Judaism maintains that sanctity in human life can be best achieved by legislating behavior in whatever human realms might reasonably be sanctified, and to that extent the marriage ceremony is heavily influenced by Jewish law.

Classic Jewish legal sources address virtually every detail of the ceremony.

The elaborate series of marriage customs begins before the wedding day itself. In traditional communities and some more liberal settings as well, grooms are called to the Torah at a synagogue service held the Sat-urday morning preceding his wedding. In Con-servative and Re-form communities that observe this practice, brides might also be called to the Torah. Typically, the congregation's rabbi will also recite a blessing in honor of the nuptial couple. This ceremony is known as aufruf, Yiddish for "to be called up."

One major ritual that takes place before a traditional wedding day is a bride's immersion in the mikveh, or ritual bath. This takes place after her last prenuptial menses.

Some brides- or grooms-to-be visit their deceased parents' graves before the wedding day. Sometimes a brief memorial prayer is recited to honor the dead parent before the public wedding ceremony begins.

Although a wedding evokes tremendous joy and celebration, from a religious viewpoint it begins on a solemn note, representing the bride and groom's commitment to mirror the relationship between God and humanity. In fact, the wedding day shares many qualities with the most sacred day of the year, Yom Kippur. Both begin a new epoch in a person's life and, traditionally, the bride and groom fast throughout their wedding day until the ceremony is over.

Exceptions are made in some cases. Jewish legal sources stipulate that on certain days, such as the celebration of the beginning of a new Jewish month, couples should not fast. The pair is also excused from fasting if the ordeal is a true hardship for them.

Other parallels between the wedding day and Yom Kippur include the wearing of white (since the bride traditionally wears a white gown, and in more observant communities the groom wears a white kittel, or robe), and the couple's recitation of the traditional confession, known as the viddui, before the start of the ceremony. This confession is recited numerous times in the Yom Kippur liturgy.

From the Jew-ish legal perspective, a wedding ceremony can be perform-ed virtually anywhere.

Jewish law is somewhat stricter regarding a wedding's timing. Because of the need to sign the ketubah, or marriage contract, traditional Jews wed neither on the Sabbath nor festivals. Rabbinic tradition decrees that two separate joys should not be mixed, and that each should be celebrated in its own right.

The same tradition also prohibits weddings during periods of collective Jewish mourning — such as the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot, and the three weeks between the 17th day of the month of Tammuz and the ninth day of the month of Av.

It is an ancient tradition to hold the ceremony on Tuesday, because on that day during creation God twice said, "It is good." (Genesis 1:10, 12).