By Carol Guzman
Believe it or not, Valentine’s Day is one of the most popular days to get engaged. Perhaps, like me, you’ve noticed a lot more engagement notifications or engagement photoshoots show up on your Facebook feed. According to Brides, there is an uptick of engagements that take place during December through March. As many of my friends prepare to take the next step in their relationship (MAZEL TOV!) below are some Jewish customs that couples may partake in during their engagement.
- Have a family member or close friend throw you a L’ Chaim: Similar to an engagement party, a l’chaim is a celebration where an engaged couple’s family and friends gather together to congratulate the couple as they begin to plan for their big day.
- Tena’im: Literally meaning the ‘conditions,’ the tena’im is a document that signifies two families approving a match between their children. The document can include instructions for finances, the time and date of the wedding, and the penalties each family will face if either person decides to back out. It is also customary for attendees to smash a plate to commemorate the families’ approval of the union. The tena’im is a tradition that has evolved over time and has modern reinterpretations.
- Aufruf: On a Shabbat service before the wedding ceremony, the couple is called up to the bimah, a synagogue’s elevated platform, and is given the honor of an aliyah, the recitation of the blessing before and after the Torah reading. Once the couple has finished reciting the blessing, it is customary for congregants to pelt throw fruit gummies at the couple to wish them a sweet and happy marriage.
- Find a Wedding Officiant: A wedding officiant is a wonderful resource that can help the couple incorporate Jewish traditions to make the wedding a meaningful Jewish event. Whether you opt to have Jewish clergy, or a close friend officiate the wedding, the earlier you communicate what ceremonial traditions are important to you the better. Clergy members may also provide pre-marriage counseling which can help the couple visualize and prepare for their future together.
- Genetic Screening: During your pre-marital counseling sessions, your wedding officiant may recommend getting carrier screening during your engagement. At least one in four individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent is a carrier for at least one “Jewish” genetic condition. However, it is important to note that while individuals with Jewish ancestry are more likely to carry some of these conditions, anyone, regardless of ethnicity, can be a carrier of any condition. Therefore, it is important for Jewish and interfaith couples to know their carrier status when planning for a family.
The Sarnoff Center wishes you mazel tov on your engagement! Whether or not you choose to incorporate some of these customs during your engagement, remember to focus on what is most important – your relationship to each other.
To learn more about the Sarnoff Center’s affordable, accessible carrier screening program or to speak with a genetic counselor, visit JewishGenetics.org/cjg/get-screened or contact us at GeneticScreening@juf.org.