Weddings

Mahara”t Sara Hurwitz

I am the co-mesaderet kiddushin at a wedding next week.  It is not the first wedding I have participated in.  And at each ceremony, I can’t help but feel concerned about how the guests will respond to seeing a woman under the chupah.  Will people question whether the couple is halakhicly married? Will some call into question the couple’s religious level of observance?   How will my presence impact one of the most memorable days of a couple’s life as well as the future they will make together. And then I get a hold of myself, and I realize that there is very little negative impact that a female presence can have on the wedding ceremony.   When one actually analyzes the different components of the wedding ceremony, it is apparent that there is little that a woman cannot do, and much that a woman can contribute. 

The mesder/et kiddsuhin’s obligation to the couple begins way before the wedding day. 

On a halakhic level, the mesader/et kiddushin ensures that the couple is versed in the laws of niddah (family purity).  The mesader/et reviews the components of the wedding ceremony, and must review very carefully the language of the ketubah and the tenaim.

On a pastoral level, the mesader/et meets with the couple to discuss sensitive family dynamics, expectations they each have for their marriage, and to try uncover and acknowledge fears that each may harbor with regards to their relationship. 

It seems obvious that a sensitive knowledgeable woman would be in a position to meet all of the above obligations.  If the couple has a relationship with a female religious leader, there seems to be no barriers, thus far, to a female mesadert kiddushin.

Which brings me to the ceremony itself.   It is true that there are aspects of the ceremony that cannot be performed by woman. Women cannot function as witnesses to the ketubah or to the ring ceremony.  There are those who argue that a woman should not say the brikat erusin.  And there is some halahkic concern with a woman reciting the sheva brachot.  However, the formal definition of the mesdaer kiddsuin is “the one who arranges the betrothal.”  Translation—to coordinate the ceremony.  Practically this means explaining the components of the ceremony (if the wedding is in a place that needs to be explained), offering meaningful words under the chupah, ensuring that each of the components are recited appropriately and correctly.  In most ceremonies the mesader does not read the sheva brachot, and it is common to honor esteemed friends and family with different components of the ceremony.

And so, I ask again: is there really any reason for a woman who has a meaningful relationship with the couple not to officiate at the wedding?  I think not.

 

7 Responses to Weddings

  1. Shachar haamim says:

    I agree. There is NO halachik requirement for a “mesader kiddushin” per se. The ONLY halachik requirements for the ceremony are two witnesses and by virtue of a takanah of the geonim that a minyan be present (I’ll leave it to you to decide whether it has to be 10 men or can be mixed…)
    the “mesader kiddushin is a function that – today – is necessary by state law. In most jurisdictions “private” weddings are illegaly and the marriage ceremony must be solemnized/overseen/performed by a licensed functionary. At most the halachik issues surrounding the “mesader kiddushin” involve dina demalchuta dina.
    That being said, most mesadrei kiddushin that speak under the chuppa (at least that I have seen) are TERRIBLE. I have no reason to believe that a woman would necessarily be better. I think that the problems are inherent. Frankly the best chuppot are ones that have a close friend of both bride and groom (or a relative that knows both of them) coordinate the ceremony, call up people, etc. NO SPEECHES. We had a beautiful chupah and to date my only regret is letting the mesader kiddushin speak.

  2. Moish says:

    In your opinion could a non-jew be a mesader kiddushin? This question assumes that the non-jew can fulfill the term “meaning explaining the components of the ceremony (if the wedding is in a place that needs to be explained), offering meaningful words under the chupah, ensuring that each of the components are recited appropriately and correctly.”

  3. YC says:

    First of all Mazal Tov, may they build a bayit ne’eman b’yisroel

    Why on a halakhic level must the tenaim be reviewed very carefully?

  4. […] Weddings « Morethodoxy: Exploring the Breadth, Depth and Passion of Orthodox Judaism morethodoxy.org/2009/10/29/weddings – view page – cached I am the co-mesaderet kiddushin at a wedding next week. It is not the first wedding I have participated in. And at each ceremony, I can’t help but feel concerned about how the guests will respond… (Read more)I am the co-mesaderet kiddushin at a wedding next week. It is not the first wedding I have participated in. And at each ceremony, I can’t help but feel concerned about how the guests will respond to seeing a woman under the chupah. Will people question whether the couple is halakhicly married? Will some call into question the couple’s religious level of observance? How will my presence impact one of the most memorable days of a couple’s life as well as the future they will make together. And then I get a hold of myself, and I realize that there is very little negative impact that a female presence can have on the wedding ceremony. When one actually analyzes the different components of the wedding ceremony, it is apparent that there is little that a woman cannot do, and much that a woman can contribute. (Read less) — From the page […]

  5. Yonatan says:

    Why not have a non-Jew be mesader Kiddushin?

  6. EJB says:

    I am curious. Do you say Birkas Eirusin? Would you say Birkas Eirusin if you were the sole Mesaderet Kiddushin?

  7. Sara Hurwitz says:

    Thanks for all your responses. To answer a few questions: I will not be saying Birkat Erusin. Tenaim are not said at all weddings, and it is helpful to have someone knowledgeable to understand when you do and don’t say them. I don’t think a Non-Jew should be a mesader kiddushin. But I do think that it is possible to find meaningful ways for all members of a couple’s families, Jewish and Non-Jewish, to be able to participate in the ceremony.

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