Our Two Cents: Which traditions fit in our nonreligious wedding ceremony

Dr. Sharon Ufberg and her three children offer advice about family, love and life. Send your questions to [email protected].

I am getting married this October to a wonderful non-Jewish woman. While I am not religious, and we have already agreed to have a nonreligious person officiate at the ceremony, I would love to add a few Jewish traditions into the ceremony.  I don’t want to alienate my wife or make her family uncomfortable, though. Can you make some suggestions of a few traditional Jewish wedding rituals that could be incorporated into the ceremony? My favorite is the breaking of the glass, although I am not sure what that represents. Thanks for your help! K.B., Berkeley

Saul: The first step I would recommend is to talk to your wife-to-be about your interest in having some Jewish rituals added to the nonreligious ceremony. If she is comfortable with your idea of adding some of your traditions into the wedding, then perhaps you should pick one or two together that feel right for both of you. Usually, we think of the wedding as being all about the bride, but I think it’s great if you as the groom want to play a role in making it meaningful to you too, and if breaking the glass is what you want to do — then go for it.

Sharon: There are plenty of interesting choices of rituals to add to your wedding ceremony that can honor your roots without alienating anyone. I think it may be fun to reinterpret some of the more basic elements of the ceremony without having to delve into the traditional interpretations. For example, the Kiddush or blessing over the wine could be included and seen as a “toast” of sorts — to mark the special moment in time, the special day for the two of you, or the first of many celebrations you will enjoy with your bride and your families. The most important point is really to add something that feels meaningful to the two of you and enhances the ceremony for you both.

Alexis: Congrats on your upcoming marriage! Having gotten married two years ago in a Jewish wedding, I know how meaningful Jewish rituals can be in the ceremony, and I encourage you to add some. Once you get the green light from your fiancée, you two need to determine whether you want to use the traditional rituals or incorporate Jewish rituals with a less-religious twist. For example, you can break the glass without delving into the destruction of the Temple, or you can have a Jewish relative sing the Sheva Brachot (Seven Blessings) in Hebrew.  Of all the traditions, getting married under a chuppah may be the most comfortable for your fiancée — and perhaps the best place to start your discussion.

At my sister’s wedding, family members read the English translation of the Sheva Brachot after the rabbi sang it in Hebrew. This could be a great way to bring everyone together. This way the crowd all understands and participates in this special ritual. I think once you’ve read the blessings in English with your bride, she will also see the importance and value in incorporating them in some way. Perhaps she, too, has a religious or family tradition that she may want to include in your wedding ceremony.

Dr. Sharon Ufberg is a Napa-based radio host, journalist, consultant and integrative health practitioner. Her daughters live in San Francisco: Lawyer-turned-writer Alexis Sclamberg, 28 and married; and hair colorist Jessica Sclamberg, 26 and single. Saul Sclamberg, 24 and single, studies chiropractic in Los Angeles. Read more at http://r-2-cents.com.