How to Choose a Rabbi to Officiate Your Wedding

Two Methods:General Advice for Choosing a RabbiWhere to Find a Rabbi

Jewish weddings are noted for such traditions as the chuppah (Hebrew: "wedding canopy"), the ketubah (Hebrew: "marriage contract"), and the groom's breaking of the wine glass to symbolize the fragility of relationships. Even if you don't belong to a synagogue, you can still be married by a rabbi. Whether you want a traditional Jewish wedding or a modern Jewish wedding, you'll be able to find a rabbi who can help you have a beautiful ceremony.

Method 1
General Advice for Choosing a Rabbi

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    Start your search early. Many rabbis are in demand for weddings and other services, sometimes booking their schedules years in advance. You're more likely to get the rabbi you're interested in having conduct your wedding do so if you give him or her enough lead time.
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    Decide if, in fact, you need a rabbi. Under Jewish tradition, having a member of the clergy is not necessary to have a Jewish wedding. The bride and groom marry each other. All that Jewish law requires are the ketubah, 2 male or female kosher witnesses and someone knowledgeable enough to conduct the ceremony according to Jewish tradition. Whoever conducts the ceremony must be licensed in the state you're marrying in.
    • If you and your future spouse belong to the same synagogue, you're in luck! If the two of you belong to different synagogues, talk to BOTH rabbis about what to do.
    • A cantor is also a member of the Jewish clergy and is licensed to perform weddings. If you want music to be important to your wedding and/or a rabbi is not available, the cantor can perform the ceremony. You can also have both a rabbi and cantor if you wish.
    • Some states allow Quaker-style weddings, which have no officiant but incorporate readings and blessings for the couple, with everyone attending serving as witness. Some couples accordingly choose to adapt Jewish traditions to this style of wedding.
    • If you choose neither a cantor nor a rabbi, check to see if your planned officiant works with a rabbi who can sign the ketubah.
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    Look for a rabbi you can work with. You may have certain ideas you want to incorporate into your wedding, such as writing your own ketubah contract text or using gender-sensitive language to refer to God. You'll want to choose a rabbi whose approach to the wedding matches your own.
    • Prepare a series of questions to interview prospective rabbis. You should cover such things as the rabbi's general approach to weddings, his or her attitude on the liturgy, whether you can schedule times to consult about the wedding, whether he or she wishes to oversee setting up the chuppah and other important factors.
    • Your prospective rabbi may ask you and your future spouse to attend one pre-marital counseling sessions prior to the wedding. This assures the rabbi that you have prepared for married life and not just the marriage ceremony and gives the rabbi the opportunity to see if he or she can work with you.
    • If the marriage is an interfaith marriage, be aware that Orthodox and Conservative rabbis don't perform interfaith ceremonies, and while Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis are permitted to do so, many choose not to. In such a case, it may be necessary to find a non-affiliated rabbi, especially if the ceremony is to be jointly officiated by clergy of the faith of each half of the couple. Joint ceremonies are the best way to go.
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    Know the fee schedule upfront. If you choose a rabbi other than a family friend, you'll likely have to pay a deposit to reserve his or her services. A rabbi's honorarium, or fee, should cover the time spent officiating the wedding, meeting with the couple beforehand, telephone conversations, and advice on Jewish customs. If the wedding is a destination wedding, travel arrangements for the rabbi should be included. However, if the rabbi chooses to bring a spouse or stay over at the destination, the rabbi should be expected to pay those additional expenses.

Method 2
Where to Find a Rabbi

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    Look for a rabbi you've admired in the past. This could be the rabbi who led services at the synagogue you attended as a child, a friend of the family, the rabbi who led your college group or the rabbi who leads the synagogue you and your intended currently attend.
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    Recall the Jewish weddings you've been to. If the rabbi who officiated those ceremonies moved you, perhaps that rabbi could officiate your wedding, too. While he or she may not live in your area, that rabbi could still officiate if he or she has no congregational responsibilities.
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    Ask your friends about rabbis they've admired. They may know a rabbi who has moved them in the past, either at temple or at a wedding they've been to perhaps even their own.
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    Check out the rabbinical colleges. Rabbinical students are eager to practice their skills, and they're supervised by faculty members with more experience that they and you can draw on if problems arise while planning the wedding.
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    Search online. Many rabbis without congregational responsibilities advertise their availability to conduct weddings online. These sites also frequently include information on what traditions are associated with a Jewish wedding and have links to vendors that can supply such things as the chuppah and the glass to be broken.
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    Let your fingers do the searching. If you don't have Internet access, or want to keep your search local, you can find a list of rabbis and synagogues in the Yellow Pages of your telephone book.
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    Visit a synagogue or other Jewish activity. Shabbat services are open to all, but if you don't feel comfortable attending a synagogue you're not used to, look for a panel discussion or lecture led by a rabbi. If you and the rabbi hit it off, contact the rabbi to see if he or she does weddings.


  • In planning the wedding, it helps to make up a call sheet with the numbers of the rabbi or cantor, as well as the caterer, photographer, florist, limousine service and other important people. The rabbi you select should be in touch with you the week of the wedding to make sure everything will go as planned.
  • If you and your future spouse belong to different branches of Judaism, the two of you need to discuss how you will spend your lives together before deciding which rabbi to ask to officiate your wedding.
  • In the event your rabbi pulls out at the last minute, and your synagogue has a cantor, he or she can perform the ceremony.
  • If your synagogue has several rabbis, ask the Senior rabbi what to do.


  • If an emergency occurs, and your rabbi can't perform the ceremony, ask the cantor to officiate.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Judaism | Weddings