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How Can I Have The Ceremony I Want While Pleasing My Religious Parents?

Dear Olivia,

My fiancé and I would like to have a very relaxed, modern wedding but my parents really want me to include some religious elements. How can I give nods to my culture (we’re Orthodox Jews) while still having the kind of modern wedding we want? - Lucy


I hear you. It’s tough, right? You want a wedding that reflects who you are, but who you are is so many different things. You come out of an ancient tradition with all kinds of beautiful, meaningful rituals, but at the same time, you’re a modern girl, not shackled to the past.

My best advice is to embrace it. If you’re a mish-mosh, let your wedding be, too! One of the easiest ways is to keep the religious elements in your ceremony, while cutting loose at the reception. For an Orthodox Jewish wedding, you could try these traditions (with a few modern touches):

  • Design a personalized Ketubah (marriage contract) that includes both the ritual language and your own specific vows.
  • Do a traditional Badeken, or veiling of the bride, but consider a switch to a shorter dress and no veil for dancing at the ceremony.
  • Design your own Chuppah, or wedding canopy, from materials that are important to your relationship (a grandfather’s prayer shawl, fabric bought on a special vacation, or even a banner from your alma mater’s football team!).
  • Talk to your Rabbi about including personal vows or poems in addition to the traditional wedding blessings. (Not every Rabbi is okay with this, so ask first!)
  • Include an explanation for your non-Jewish guests that the groom breaking the glass is a way to remember that even during the joy of a wedding, the Jewish people still mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • Try using a modern song for your recessional, to ease the transition from ceremony to party.

Once you’re in the reception, go wild!

Any reception site can be customized with decorations, centerpieces and favors that show your personality, and your band or DJ can quickly help change the pace from stately tradition to hard-partying 21st century – but including the Hora, the traditional circle dance, is a great way to pull shy guests on to the dance floor!

As far as décor, opting for a mixture of table sizes and shapes with beautiful textured linens makes your reception feel more modern. And different sizes and shapes of centerpieces also give a casual, “anything-goes” kinda feel.

And don’t forget the pictures! When you look back on your wedding album, you’ll remember all the personal touches you included, while your Bubbe and Zaide will be proud you honored your family and traditions.

Love, laughter and happiness,



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