Halachic law dictates when not to marry

As Jewish couples contemplate "setting their date," it might help them to know the times of the year or specific days that local rabbis will not be able to perform the ceremony.

The knowledge of the time of year that Jewish tradition has considered most favorable is also useful.

There are two kinds of conflicts that preclude using certain days on the calendar for a Jewish wedding. One is days that are already holidays, days already set aside for simcha and/or observance that would overshadow any wedding and therefore are not considered proper.

Such days are Shabbat, the High Holy Days, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. In the case of Shabbat for traditional Jews, the work involved in preparation would also preclude using that day.

Few, if any, rabbis perform weddings on those days. Some also include the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because the festive mood of weddings conflicts with the penitential mood of these days.

The cases of two other holidays, Chanukah and Purim, are different. There is a dispute in Jewish legal sources as to whether a wedding on Purim is permitted or not, but most rabbis queried agreed that it rarely comes up. Weddings are permitted on Chanukah.

The other conflict is those times of year that are traditionally considered mourning periods. The chief day of mourning is the ninth of Av, the date that the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed.

On the secular calendar, this date varies each year, but it usually comes toward the end of July or beginning of August. Again, many rabbis will not perform marriage ceremonies on that date.

Many rabbis also exclude the three weeks of mourning that precede this fast day and begin with the fast day of the 17th of Tammuz, the day the walls of Jerusalem were breached. Again, on the secular calendar, the three weeks generally fall somewhere in mid-summer.

Another period of mourning occurs in the spring, basically from the end of Pesach to Lag B'Omer or just before Shavuot, depending on specific tradition.

The period of counting the days between Passover and Shavuot is called sefira, and is reserved primarily for mourning. One well-accepted practice to exclude marriage ceremonies is from Passover (when weddings are not performed regardless) until Lag B'Omer, excluding Rosh Chodesh Iyar (the first day of the month of Iyar, first days of months being traditional minor holidays) and Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel's Independence Day.

In Israel, the chief rabbis have declared that weddings are permitted on both Yom HaAtzmaut and Yom Yerushalyim, the day of the reunification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War.

In terms of particularly good times to get married, some rabbis like to perform weddings in the Hebrew month of Elul, as it can be read as an acronym for the Hebrew words "Ani l'dodi v'dodi li" (I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine) from the Song of Solomon. The month of Elul in the Hebrew calendar is the month that precedes Rosh Hashanah.

Second marriages are often conducted on Thursdays, Baron noted, because it gives the couple a "long weekend together" before resuming their everyday life.

For first marriages, there is a custom of Sheva Brachot (Seven Wedding Blessings), festive gatherings for the week after the marriage with special meals and the blessings recited again at each. During this period, neither bride nor groom work, but are expected to amuse each other and have their friends amuse them.

For second marriages, it is not customary to follow the Sheva Brachot pattern, but if one gets married on Thursday, then it is reasonable to have Friday off and prepare for Shabbat together, so the couple can have more celebratory time together.

One more day mentioned, at least in the Talmud, as propitious is the 15th of Av; in the time of the First Temple it was a day for rejoicing, dancing and matchmaking. In Chassidic thought, getting married in Av after the ninth carries a certain appropriateness.