As wedding ceremonies get more and more personal, it's easy to get carried away with throwing tradition out the window. However, before you get busy crafting your own one-of-a-kind nuptials, be sure you aren't omitting—or forgetting—the very ritual that'll make your marriage legal in the eyes of your house of worship, as proof in these four religious ceremonies.
Without the seven-step ritual or Mangal fera, in which the couple takes seven steps around a fire or flame as the priest chants seven blessings that the couple vows to uphold, a marriage isn't legal in the Hindu faith.
What does this mean for you if you're planning a Hindu ceremony? You can't write your own Hindu vows, but what you'll be promising to your future spouse is pretty comprehensive anyhow. Here's your crash course:
With the first step, we will provide for and support each other.
With the second step, we will develop mental, physical, and spiritual strength.
With the third step, we will share the worldly possessions.
With the fourth step, we will acquire knowledge, happiness, and peace.
With the fifth step, we will raise strong and virtuous children.
With the sixth step, we will enjoy the fruits of all seasons.
With the seventh step, we will always remain friends and cherish each other.
While Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jewish weddings will differ from each other, the one similarity—and absolute requirement—is the signing of the ketubah by two Jewish attendees who are not related to the bride and groom. These couple-appointed witnesses are proving that the nuptials did in fact occur and that the groom will essentially provide for his new wife for as long as they both shall live. It's the equivalent of a civic marriage license, validating the marriage in Jewish Civil law.
Muslim traditions will vary based on cultural, geographic and religious differences, but the one ritual that unites them is the nikah, or the signing of the wedding contract by the bride, groom, and two adult witnesses, to legalize the marriage in the eyes of the Muslim faith. The signing can happen at home or in a mosque, and the father of the bride or the officiant might also put pen to paper. Besides keeping things official, the document states several terms for the bride and groom to uphold.
Quaker couples marry themselves at a regularly scheduled "meeting" (or service)—not at a separate wedding ceremony, and they do so without the hand of a third person. Here's how it goes down:
Once the Meeting (here, meaning congregation) approves that the wedding can take place, it appoints an oversight committee from among its members, usually two men and two women, to oversee the arrangements, much like an officiant would. This committee includes members of the bride and groom's choosing and ensures that all legal requirements are met and oversees a Pre-Cana of sorts. For example, it walks through a series of questions with the couple-to-be, including: Do they both see marriage as sacred? How do they view their relationships to their extended families? to their community? to society as a whole? Are there prior obligations—legal or financial or other—that need to be met?
At the regularly scheduled meeting, someone rises to explain the marriage that's about to happen. Following a period of silence, the couple makes their promises to each other, as stated in their marriage certificate, which they later sign. At the end of the meeting, all attendees are asked to sign the certificate as witnesses.