I spoke to a handful of serial wedding guests, and here are four things people told me they would be happy to never hear from a rabbi at a wedding ever again.
The assumption that children will be a part of the couple’s life
Look, maybe it’s in the ketubah or the couple told you they want kids during premarital counseling. Fine. But there’s literally no reason to bring this up during the wedding, especially if the couple hasn’t specifically requested that you talk about in front of their friends and family. Maybe they don’t want kids, or they already know getting pregnant is going to be a challenge, or they just aren’t sure. No matter what, they’re already feeling communal and familial pressure and you don’t need to make things worse.
“Make sure you step really hard on that glass, because it’s last time you’re going to put your foot down!”
“The only four words that matter from now on: “Yes, dear,” and “I’m sorry.”
If you aren’t laughing, it’s because neither of these alleged “jokes” are funny, but that definitely doesn’t stop (usually male) rabbis at Jewish wedding involving heterosexual couples from using them, and a litany of others. (I’m not saying this sort of thing doesn’t happen at queer weddings, or that women rabbis don’t make these comments, but let’s just say that it’s more likely to occur when the rabbi is a cis dude and the couple is straight.) If material such as this— vintage sexist statements about how women are domineering hags who just realize their full potential for shrewry once there’s a ring on their finger— exists in your rabbinic repertoire, do us all a favor: set it on fire, and never look back.
Anything that indicates you met the couple 10 minutes (or less) ago
We are all very busy. However, if officiating weddings is part of your job, please don’t recite a generic litany that cues the audience into the fact that you don’t know anything about the couple you’re marrying, or that you didn’t take the time to weave a meaningful narrative about them. It’s not only cringe-worthy to listen to about how Jonathan thinks Rachel is pretty and Rachel is enamored of Jonathan because he is nice, but it’s a bummer for the couple who is trusting you to make this ceremony special and intimate for them.
Anything that indicates that you think this is an opportunity for you to put on a show
“There are rabbis who decide that this is a time for a sermon/performance,” said E (who has a lot of “save the date magnets” for weddings on her fridge, so you know she’s not messing around). It’s true that officiating a wedding well does mean being a good orator, which means striking a balance between relaying information/moving things along/making sure the couple feels like you care about them as individuals and as people who are choosing to do this marriage thing together. But it’s not the time to show off your obscure knowledge of the talmudic significance of the date, or any other fascinating facts you can and should save for cocktail hour.
Your job is to facilitate what is supposed to be a meaningful experience for the couple and the other people who showed up.
And with that final admonishment, enjoy a summer of eating, drinking and being merry (or married)!