Erusin: The First of the Two Ceremonies
Erusin, the ancient betrothal ceremony, includes two blessings and the ring ceremony, and is followed by the reading of the marriage contract.
In liberal Conservative and Reform communities, the concern is less for the strict requirements of Jewish law than for egalitarian treatment of both men and women. In those communities, it is common that the woman places a ring on the man's finger and recites exactly what he said to her (with the necessary grammatical changes). Some modern Orthodox men, whose communities do not sanction double-ring ceremonies, elect to wear a wedding band after the ceremony, there being no serious traditional objection to this practice.
Using a Borrowed Ring
One additional halakhic [Jewish legal] issue raised by today's ceremonies deserves mention. We have already noted that because the ring represents an item of value that the groom gives to the bride, Jewish law requires that it belong to him. Many couples, however, wish to use a ring that has been in the family for generations, perhaps a grandmother's wedding band or some other similarly meaningful heirloom. But if the family member wants the ring back after the ceremony, is this permissible? Can the groom betroth the bride with a ring that is not actually his?
The rather surprising answer is yes. Because of the general halakhic principle that "a gift given with the condition that it be returned is considered a gift," Jewish law recognizes the ring as belonging to the groom for the duration of the ceremony, and the marriage is valid.
Reading the Ketubah
After the ring ceremony, the ketubah [or marriage contract] is read aloud, marking the division between the formerly separated elements of the marriage ritual.
In traditional communities, the entire document is read in the original Aramaic; at most Conservative weddings, the opening and closing sections of the original Aramaic are read, followed by an English translation or paraphrase. The ketubah is then given by the officiating rabbi to the bride, since, at least in the traditional texts, the document enumerates the promises the groom makes to the bride and so becomes her property.
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