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What to expect at a religious wedding ceremony

Weddings can be as unique and varied as the couples tying the knot. Quite often couples like to include certain twists on the ceremony and celebration to personalize their big days. But just as there are surprises at weddings, there also are many traditions that will be adhered to during ceremonies.

Couples who opt for religious wedding ceremonies often adhere to certain rules and traditions fostered by their faiths. Guests who may be unfamiliar with traditions outside of their own beliefs may not know what to expect during certain ceremonies.

Jewish celebrations

The world's Jewish population is divided among many distinctive denominations and further classifications. Although there may be subtle differences in wedding ceremonies between the sects, Jewish wedding traditions tend to be consistent across the groups.

Conservative and Orthodox Jews may not hold weddings on the Sabbath or other holidays. Couples will sign the Ketuba, which is a marriage document affirming their connection to each other and to God.

The ceremony starts with grandparents seated first, followed by a procession of the rabbi, cantor and groomsmen. The groom and bride will be escorted by their parents. The wedding party will gather beneath the chuppah, which is a canopy that signifies a house and represents the couple's future together. A solid gold ring is given only to the bride according to Jewish law, although more liberal rabbis may allow a ring for the groom as a gift. The bridegroom smashes a wineglass with his foot after the vows have been exchanged.

Christian celebrations

Christian celebrations are similar among the various denominations. Such ceremonies typically involve a processional, though the groom is typically not included, instead standing at the altar. Christians typically hear various scripture readings, and the officiant will explain the significance of marriage in this faith. Many Catholic weddings feature a full Mass during wedding ceremonies, and this Mass includes the transubstantiation of the Holy Eucharist.

After vows and rings are exchanged, the couple kisses and is pronounced husband and wife in the eyes of God. The bride and groom will go on to sign the marriage document with two witnesses on hand.

Hindu celebrations

A Hindu wedding celebration is an elaborate affair that includes extended family and community members. The wedding ceremony is called vivaah sanskar and can be a very colorful celebration that lasts for days. The couple and guests will be wearing traditional dress. The bride usually wears body art produced with a mixture of henna and turmeric.

Hindu rituals may vary widely, but some key things are shared. According to the "Encyclopedia of Hinduism," many will include the Kanyadaan, or giving away of the daughter by her father; Panigrahana, or holding one's hands by a fire to signify the union; and Saptapadi, which is taking seven steps and making seven promises to each other before the fire. The couple may have their clothing tied together during the seven promises ritual to represent their lifelong bond.

Wedding ceremonies may vary depending on culture and religion, but they all share the joy of two people pledging their love and devotion to each other.

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