What Is a Wedding?

The Definition of a Wedding and the Essential Components

Jewish wedding ceremony
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A wedding is a ceremony and associated rituals by which two people vow to spend their lives together in marriage. Though it is basically a celebration of love and partnership, a wedding may also have legal and/or religious significance – such as signing a state marriage license or a religious document such as a ketubah, or asking for God's blessings upon a marriage before Him.

But a wedding is not just about the couple getting married. It is also an exchange between that couple and their community of family and friends. It is a moment whereupon the couple vows to be together as a pillar of support, and simultaneously thanks their community for supporting and loving them. By attending a wedding, the guests are also agreeing to uphold this couple in their marriage together. A couple may ask their guests to take a community vow of support.

Typically following the ceremony is a reception, which may include food, music, dancing, and other rituals such as cutting the cake, or the first dance.

The reception is another opportunity for the couple to honor and thank their friends and family for supporting them.

A wedding can also be a way for a family to display their social and financial status, and a way for a couple to express their personalities, characters, values, and morals. There is no minimum that a couple must spend – the basic vows and agreements are free – but some couples have spent millions of dollars.

The Parts of a Wedding

The only essential parts are:

  1. The marriage vows – either traditional, non-traditional, or vows that you write yourself.
  2. the Pronouncement of Marriage by your officiant or celebrant.

In addition to these essentials, there are also typically other rituals incorporated into a marriage ceremony, such as the processional, blessings, readings from scripture or literature, family or community vows of unity, and an exchange of wedding rings or other gifts. A Sample Wedding Ceremony and Order of Service.

Following the ceremony, a couple may have a wedding reception or party, which might include a meal. Traditionally, wedding cake is served, which historically was a symbol of fertility, but today more typically is used to express hopes for a sweet life for the couple. Some people choose to have music and dancing, including the couple's symbolic first dance and family dances such as the father-daughter dance.