A Sampling of Wedding Traditions from Different Faiths

From every religious perspective, the joining of a couple in matrimony is the celebration of a new and cherished stage in their lives -- one that focuses on both the joys and responsibilities of building a life together. However, there are many wedding customs particular to each religious tradition that have endured over generations and continue to be an important part of marriage celebrations throughout the world.

Catholic weddings typically start off with a processional and opening hymn, followed by readings from both the Old and New Testaments and a psalm. After the recitation of the wedding vows and the exchange of rings, the priest blesses the rings as symbols of love and fidelity and offers a prayer to bless the couple's new union.

Taking communion is another traditional part of a Catholic ceremony, often followed by the recitation of the Lord's Prayer by the entire congregation. Once the priest has blessed and dismissed the congregation, the wedding party begins its recessional and exits the church.

Jewish weddings can include any of a number of customs, depending on the couple's preferences and their family traditions. Many Jewish couples include the signing of a Ketubah, a marriage agreement in which the couple declare their commitment to each other and to God and the Jewish people, in their ceremonies.

In Jewish weddings, both the bride and groom are typically accompanied down the aisle by their parents and the ceremony takes place under a chuppah, or canopy, that represents the home. Once the ceremony has concluded, the groom steps on a glass that has been wrapped in cloth -- a tradition with several meanings, including a regard for the sanctity of marriage.

Muslim wedding ceremonies are traditionally brief and simple, though they can be followed by several days of celebration. Typically, at the marriage ceremony, called a nikah in Arabic, the bride and groom are in different rooms and may or may not be able to see each other. The officiant goes into each room to ask the bride and groom if they consent to the marriage and are entering into the marriage of their own free will. The bride's responses are communicated to the officiant by a guardian, called a wali. Then, with witnesses in attendance, the couple signs the marriage contract or license and the officiant brings them together to pronounce them husband and wife.

Protestant weddings can vary according to the particular denomination, but in most ceremonies, a friend or family member of the couple participates in the ceremony by reading a passage from the Bible. Most often, the wedding begins with the groom and best man standing in front of the church with the pastor as the wedding party enters and makes its way to the front of the church. The ceremony ends with the pastor offering a final blessing and the wedding party exiting the church following the bride and groom.

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