Jewish vs. Catholic Wedding: What’s the Difference?


Outdoor Jewish wedding

A religious celebration of a union between two people is one way of ensuring that the marriage is valid and legal. Each religion has its ways of celebrating this ceremony. The Jewish have their specific ways of celebrating a marriage with some notable differences from those of the catholic church.

So, are there any differences between a Jewish and Catholic wedding? There are several differences between Jewish and Catholic Weddings. The differences stem from the many rituals and traditions that are specific to both religions. The specific rites and customs that couples have to go through in both religious weddings are what entails their differences. The two religions might have the same origins, but some of their practices are quite different.

Each religion has designed a process to celebrate a marriage and ensure it is valid under its laws. These ceremonies are reserved for individuals who practice that particular faith or are getting married to a person of that specific faith. Read on to find more information about the differences between a Jewish and Catholic wedding and some of their similarities.

Jewish vs. Catholic Wedding: Learn the Difference

There are several differences between a Jewish and catholic wedding. One of them is the wedding blessings. A key ingredient in a religious wedding is the blessings that the newly-weds receive after saying their vows. In a Jewish wedding, there are several blessings that the spouses will receive.

There is a total of seven blessings chanted by seven of their friends or relatives. In a catholic wedding, there is only one blessing, the nuptial blessing that occurs after the bride and groom have exchanged their vows. The priest prays for them and asks for God to give them special graces, bless their children and hand them a long life together.

Another difference between Jewish and Catholic wedding is the matter of responsibilities the bride and groom have for each other. In a Jewish wedding, the bride and groom will sign the Ketubah, a marriage contract that contains the responsibilities of the bride and groom.

In a catholic wedding, there is no signing of a document that includes the roles of the spouses. However, you might receive some prenuptial advice from the priest during the wedding planning process.

When you attend a Jewish wedding, you will notice that the bride and groom will stand a canopy. This canopy is known as a Chuppah, which is a common feature in a Jewish wedding that symbolizes a Jewish home.

It is not a must for the chuppah to be present, the marriage will still be valid, but it is a traditional item that most Jewish couples love to have at their wedding. In a catholic wedding, there are no additional structures in the church. The bride and groom will stand or kneel at the altar during the ceremony.

The processional is vital to any wedding ceremony. It is a joyful way of introducing the bride and groom and their families. In a Jewish wedding ceremony, the groom is part of the wedding processional escorted by his parents.

The bride will stand on the right, and the groom will stand on the left. In a catholic wedding, the groom does not take part in the processional. He will stand at the altar and wait for the bride. The bride will stand on the left at the altar, and the groom will stand on the right.

The most important part of a wedding ceremony is the wedding vows. Vows are a way to prove that both the bride and groom have given their express consent to get married. In a catholic wedding, you will recite your wedding vows from memory or repeat after the priest, then say “I do” as a way of giving consent.

In a Jewish wedding, you will not recite your wedding vows. They are recorded in the Ketubah, which you will sign as a way of giving consent. The vows will be read to your guests by the rabbi.

A Jewish wedding ceremony will take up a considerable amount of time, between three hours and six hours. The traditional Jewish weddings will last longer because of the rituals that the bride and groom will participate in. if the couple customizes the wedding by removing certain conventions, it will be shorter.

A catholic wedding is among the shortest religious ceremonies in the world. It could take between thirty minutes and one hour, depending on the type of ceremony. If it is a nuptial mass, it will take one hour, but if it is a marriage service ceremony, it will take no more than thirty minutes.

Reading scriptures from religious texts is part of all religious ceremonies. If you have a catholic wedding on a normal day on the church calendar, the priest will direct you to choose the scripture reading for the wedding ceremony.

You will also be allowed to select the readers of the scriptures, known as lectors. Jewish couples do not have this choice. The rabbi or cantor will choose the scripture readings for your wedding ceremony.

In a Jewish wedding, the bride and groom will stand under the Chuppah. But before that, the bride and groom will circle each other; a tradition called the hakafot. When the bride reaches the chuppah, she will circle the groom three times to signify creating a protective wall around the groom.

The groom can also circle the bride if they want to, demonstrating equality in the relationship. In a catholic wedding, the bride and groom will stand or kneel at the altar depending on the priest’s directions.

The Jewish religion has placed some rules regarding wedding rings. Jewish wedding rings cannot have any adornments. As a result, you cannot buy rings that have diamonds or other precious metals on them.

They have to be made from one single material, preferably gold or silver. If you are having a catholic wedding, the wedding ring can have adornments, but it is better if you are modest with the purchase. The ring should not be a display of how much money you have.

Still, on the wedding rings, only the bride shall receive a wedding ring during the ceremony at a Jewish wedding. Wedding rings were not in traditional weddings in the early years, but the groom used to give the bride a monetary value gift.

Wedding rings have become a modern way of providing a gift to the bride; hence, only the bride can receive it. In the case of a catholic wedding, you will exchange rings with your bride or groom after saying your wedding vows.

In a catholic wedding, the bride and groom might receive the holy communion liturgy of the Eucharist. If you have a nuptial mass, you and some of your guests will receive the holy communion during the wedding ceremony.

In a Jewish wedding ceremony, there is no Holy Communion. Together with their guests, the bride and groom might drink wine at the end of the wedding ceremony.

At an Orthodox Jewish wedding, it is customary for men and women to sit on either side of the ceremony. In an ultra-orthodox wedding, the men and women are separated by a partition.

They will not mix until the ceremony is over. In a catholic wedding, men and women are allowed to sit together. The guests might sit according to families, where people will sit according to their relationship with the bride or groom.

When a Jewish wedding ceremony is coming to a close, the bride and groom break glass in a clothing bag by stepping on it. It shows their commitment to stand by each other during hard times. In a catholic wedding, the promise to stand by each other is through the wedding vows.

You will swear to stand by your wife or husband for better and for worse. Saying those words before the church and God shows you are ready to support each other when things in the marriage get tough.

Another difference between a Jewish and catholic wedding ceremony is that a Jewish ceremony is a joyous, happy moment. A catholic wedding ceremony is a serious and reflective moment for the bride and groom.

In a Jewish wedding, there is singing and dancing, especially towards the end of the ceremony. In a catholic wedding it is a solemn moment for the bride and groom. You take part in serious events like the liturgy of the Eucharist. But it does not mean that you cannot have fun at your catholic wedding.

Similarities Between Jewish and Catholic Weddings

Jewish and Catholic religions have the same origin. Abrahamic religions originate from Judaism and ancient Israelites and worship the God of Abraham. Jewish and Catholics worship the God of Abraham; hence, some of their rites and tradition could be similar. Some of the rituals or rules regarding weddings might be the same in the Jewish and Catholic religions.

One of the similarities is the requirement that a religious clergy must officiate the wedding. A rabbi or cantor can officiate a wedding, while a bishop, priest, or deacon can officiate the wedding in the catholic faith.

Only those allowed by the church or synagogue to officiate the wedding will have the power to do so. Religious clergy officiating the wedding ensures that the marriage is valid as per the church’s laws or synagogue.

In both wedding ceremonies, the consent of the bride and groom to getting married is essential. The bride and groom have to give their consent, which is recorded by the church.

In a Jewish wedding ceremony, you will sign the Ketubah as a way of giving your consent. Your consent is recorded in a catholic wedding by reciting the wedding vows and signing the marriage certificate. Marriage is not valid in both religious if the consent of both parties is not explicit.

People choose to have religious weddings because they want the presence of God at their wedding. Both Jewish and Catholic faithful believe that God speaks through religious texts. In a Jewish wedding, the rabbi or cantor will read a few passages from the Torah.

In a catholic wedding, there are specific scriptures from the Bible that you can choose as scripture readings for the liturgy of the word; one scripture from the Old Testament, one scripture from the New Testament, one scripture from the Gospel, and one scripture from the book of Plasms for the responsorial plasm.

In modern times, both the Jewish and Catholic religions have incorporated some modern wedding traditions into their ceremonies. Some movements in the Jewish religion allow their followers to add some modern elements into their wedding ceremony.

You can consult with the rabbi, and he can help you customize your Jewish wedding. In the catholic church, depending on the parish or the priest’s rules, you can also customize the wedding with some modern elements. All you need is to consult with the bishop or priest on what you can add and remove from the wedding ceremony.

Witnesses are crucial for any wedding. It is a requirement in most religious groups that the bride and groom have people to witness their union. In a Jewish wedding, you can invite a close friend or relative to witness your marriage. The rabbi or cantor can also act as a witness for your marriage. In a catholic wedding, you are required to have witnesses.

The catholic church laws require that the bride and groom should also have two other witnesses in addition to one official witness. The catholic church also has requirements for who can be a witness at your wedding.

The venue of the wedding ceremony is also one of the similarities between a Jewish and catholic wedding. In both religions, the religious leaders recommend that you hold your wedding in a church or synagogue. A church or synagogue is more spiritual; hence, making the wedding more authentic.

However, if you desire to have a wedding outside of the church or synagogue, you should consult the rabbi or priest. Some will accept to officiate at a different venue, but some might decline. When picking a venue outside of the church, make sure it is appropriate, that will increase the chances of the rabbi or cantor accepting to officiate at that wedding.

Saying blessings to the couple is also a similarity between a Jewish and catholic wedding. Wedding blessings are essential to the couple as they show the marriage’s approval from the church or synagogue.

The wedding’s blessings appeal to God to watch over the couple and guide them to a long and prosperous marriage. Jewish wedding blessings are recited by the rabbi and the guests, while in the catholic church, the nuptial prayer is prayed by the priest during the ceremony.

Both religious groups allow interfaith marriages. An interreligious couple can have a Jewish wedding if one of them is Jewish. The catholic church also allows its congregants to marry from other religions. Sometimes the rabbi or priest will request you to fulfill some conditions before they can officiate at your interfaith wedding.

The most common condition is the promise to raise the children in a particular faith. The rabbi will ask the Jewish spouse to promise they will raise their children in the Jewish faith. The priest or bishop will also ask the catholic spouse to promise to raise the children as catholic, but the other spouse must be made aware of that promise.

Both religions also allow the bride and groom to engrave their wedding rings. Engraving a wedding ring is one way of showing your love and commitment to your future husband or wife.

The Jewish religion allows you to engrave the wedding ring, but it has set some rules to follow to ensure the wedding ring is kosher. Both religions require that the engraved words be appropriate; hence, you have to consult with the rabbi or priest before you have your wedding ring engraved.

Both religions believe that the religious wedding gives a proper foundation of the marriage in their faith. There is the presence of God in both wedding ceremonies through the various rites and traditions. If you are a religious person, you would want to have God’s presence at your wedding ceremony. The presence of God ensures that the marriage receives blessings and approval from the Lord.

Final Word

There are several differences in how the Jewish and catholic celebrate their marriages, as discussed earlier. Some of the differences include the chuppah and breaking of the glass in a Jewish wedding and the receiving of holy communion and kneeling at the altar in a catholic marriage. These differences are the things that make such weddings special to the Jews and Catholics.

Since these two religions have a common origin, some practices are in both ceremonies. Giving consent, witnesses for the marriage, and recognizing religious leaders as wedding officiants are some of the things you will find in both Jewish and catholic weddings. So, if you attend a Jewish or catholic wedding, you might notice some different practices, but you will also see some standard practices during the ceremonies.

Photo credits:

Main image – Simonpor, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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