By law, only rabbis authorized by the Israeli Rabbinate may perform weddings in Israel. If you are close to a rabbi certified by the rabbinate of the town where you are registered, you may ask him to officiate at your wedding. Having a rabbi you know officiate the ceremony can make the experience more personal. You might also ask recently married friends to recommend their officiants. You can also ask for names at the Marriage Bureau where you registered. Alternatively, you can call one of the new, rabbinical, non-profit organizations of the national-religious community that work to narrow the religious-secular divide.
After choosing a rabbi, notify the Marriage Bureau where you registered of your selection, and they will provide a “consent form” for him to complete. If he is not registered at the local rabbinate, he may be asked to submit his smicha (ordination) certification(s) and/or other rabbinic credentials.
Some individuals have opted for private ceremonies that are not authorized by the rabbinate and/or one of the government-appointed religious councils. If you pick this route, anyone you choose may perform the ceremony. The non-Orthodox denominations in Israel can advise you on making the arrangements. Please be aware, however, that such private ceremonies will not be recognized by the Israeli government, and no official marriage certificate will be issued.
What to Expect from Your Rabbi
You should meet with the rabbi who will perform the ceremony well in advance of the wedding, so you can get to know each other. You should both ask him questions about the ceremony and tell him what you imagine for your ceremony.
Be sure he knows the precise time you plan to begin, that he plans to be there on time, and that he does not have another wedding scheduled right before or after yours. If you arrange transportation for the rabbi, you can be more confident that he will arrive on time. Arrange for the rabbi to come just a few minutes before the chuppah will actually begin (not at the start of the reception), so that he not need to wait unnecessarily.
Discuss your personal preferences regarding the ceremony. Some rabbis add explanations of the ceremony and/or make long speeches, while others simply recite the standard prayers with no embellishments. Some perform the ceremony in a light-hearted jovial atmosphere while others prefer a serious tone. Tell your rabbi what type of ceremony you would prefer.
Confirm the logistics of the ceremony: Who will bring the kippot, wine, wine cups, the ketubah (and copy), and who will act as witnesses. In addition, if the bride’s gown is low cut or sleeveless, ask the rabbi if he expects her to wear something over it during the ceremony. Does he require certification of the kashrut of the catering company or that the bride went to mikveh? Make sure to advise the rabbi of your full names and any other pertinent details of the family. (Are you kohanim; have any of the parents of the bride or groom passed away?)
If you want to add a personal touch to the ceremony, tell the rabbi in advance. If you want to play specific music, to have a friend speak under the chuppah, or if you want to make your own personal remarks, you should consult the rabbi. If you want to add elements of mutuality (like a double-ring ceremony), discuss with your rabbi what may or may not be done as part of the ceremony.
The meeting with the rabbi also provides an opportunity to settle financial compensation in advance of the wedding. Though awkward, it is desirable to reach an agreement before the ceremony regarding this matter. Make sure to discuss the rabbi’s travel arrangements and plans for reimbursement.
Ask the rabbi for his telephone number(s) so that you can reach him before the wedding, if necessary.