It was the first marriage proposal I'd ever received. When Ryan and Amy sent me an email, shortly after we returned from the Honeymoon Israel trip I staffed as a Jewish educator, I was thrilled by its subject title: "Will You Marry Us?"
One Ketubah.com order, four wedding meetings and just two months later, there we stood under their chuppah wedding canopy experiencing a ceremony that honored their different backgrounds and mutual love and respect for one another. The truth is - we did not know each other even two months prior. So why would they bother finding a rabbi at all? Here are 5 reasons why it's worth it!
1) Finding a Spiritual Guide
Throughout the process, Ryan, Amy and I really got to know each other. By their wedding day, we had spent enough time together that I could authentically officiate their ceremony... and not forget their names! Together, they shared with me their family histories, religious backgrounds, and hopes and dreams for their marriage.
2) Premarital Counseling is Essential
Don't skip premarital counseling! (Even if you choose to have an officiant who is not an ordained clergy.) Like many other ordained clergy, I am trained in Prepare & Enrich, which is a couples’ assessment tool to help couples identify their strengths and areas for growth. In addition, I've done a unit of chaplaincy at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (a whole summer as an intern at the hospital), enrolled in a Family Systems Therapy training class, and gained a lot of lifecycle experience. While not all clergy choose to do this additional training, these skills set us apart from those in your life who may be wonderful (and even eloquent wedding officiants) but aren't able to fully support your emotional and spiritual wellbeing through the transition to marriage.
3) Life (Shit) Happens & Families are Complex
Have you noticed that your mom cries every time you mention you want funfetti wedding cake or your brother makes a joke that he's busy every time you ask if his flight is booked? Hot take: It's not about the cake (or the flight). It's because life cycle events bring out a lot of emotions, feelings, fears, and tears. Often, unexplored family dynamics emerge at transitional life moments and in unexpected ways. For parents who can't believe their baby has grown up to siblings who may lament their own relationship woes to moms who legitimately do not like funfetti (but really, it's not about the cake). Clergy can help you navigate and clarify the different ways you and your circle of loved ones are managing the wedding process. And if sadly, there is a loss in the family leading up to your celebration - clergy know how to hold space for grief and joy simultaneously.
4) Wisdom Beyond the Princess Bride
It may be one of the best lines in movie history, and Kevin may have brought it back to life in This is Us (Spoiler Alert), but clergy can be witty and wise. They will help you craft a ceremony that speaks to your values, hopes and dreams as a couple. They will create a space where you can offer vows or lean into the traditions of a JewISH wedding ceremony. The right rabbi for you will allow you to make decisions about what you want to include or exclude from your ceremony, learning about the component parts of a JewISH wedding ceremony to really understand the meaning and symbolism.
5) Plan for Your Life (Not just the ceremony)
Clergy who officiate your wedding want to help you think about your future, not just about your flower order. Don't get me wrong. We loooooove flowers, too. (I'm a fan of blue thistle.) But we want you to consider: how do you want to define your family? How do you want to include your religious and cultural backgrounds in your future? What have you received from prior generations - and how much of it do you want to accept? This is what clergy help you do. AND if you happen to find a clergy person who does not help you with these critical conversations, make sure to register for Modern JewISH Couples "Essential Couples’ Conversations" - offered online and in person. It's hard to make couple-friends and even harder to find people who want to think through important conversations. MJC is here for you no matter what!