I haven’t spent much time on this sub, but I could really use some advice from a wide variety of voices.
My FH (future husband) and I both grew up in Reform/not-very-observant homes, but during graduate school he became more interested in exploring Judaism and became very integrated for awhile with his local observant/Orthodox community. For about the first year of us dating he was keeping Shabbas, studying Talmud, etc. etc, — I was happy to support him in doing all of that and learn with him, but I was very much following his lead and not initiating any of these activities myself.
After the first year, he became considerably less observant, which he attributes to grad school picking up and then him moving to where I lived, an hour away from his observant community. The net of this is that I met a handful of his community at a few dinners the first year or so of us dating, but I never became deeply entrenched or developed close relationships with any of those people. Neither of us are observant right now.
So, fast forward to our wedding: he wants one of his observant rabbi friends to officiate. I would like to go along with this, but I’m struggling. This officiant is not ok with any variants or deviations from the traditional ceremony, which means as the bride I won’t get to say anything for the entire ceremony (I’m ok with receiving a ring and not giving one, and I’m ok not giving an equal vow, but I’d like to at least say “I am my beloved’s, etc” or “I accept this ring” or something), and he’s not ok with anyone who’s not a sufficiently observant male Jew witnessing our ketubah or performing sheva brachot. Which basically means none of my friends and no one in either of our families can participate in these aspects; there will be 5 Jewish men at our wedding who are sufficiently observant, and I’m barely casual acquaintances with any of them. It’s important to me for at least one of the witnesses to my ketubah to be someone from “my” side; it feels wrong to have my witnesses be strangers. (It is also important to me that my ketubah has a Lieberman clause, and I don’t know if the officiant is ok with that; our last meeting got kind of derailed when I started crying when he told me my friend A. couldn’t be my ketubah witness. I don’t even know if I’m allowed to sign the ketubah with this officiant, since my understanding is the bride traditionally doesn’t?)
Other issues are that reception is not, in any way, going to be observant. We have kosher-style food for the 90% of guests who aren’t kosher and kosher-certified food for the 10% who are, which the officiant is not happy about; we’re going to have mixed dancing (haven’t discussed with officiant yet); we’re not using traditional liturgical music for the recessional and processional (haven’t discussed with officiant yet); my wedding dress is not going to be Orthodox-levels of modest, though I’m happy to put on a shawl or a bolero or something for the ceremony (haven’t discussed with officiant yet.)
The obvious answer is “just find another officiant”, which we’re considering, but my FH is struggling with that because he is afraid his observant friends just won’t come at all if we’re not having an observant wedding; we’ve talked about becoming more observant in the future and he is afraid the observant community will judge us or disapprove of us if we didn’t have a totally halachic, 100% approved wedding. And, too, he feels like his observant Orthodox friends are the only ones doing Judaism “correctly” and he would also like to do Judaism “correctly”.
One solution is, maybe, have a small, private, 100% observant ceremony a few days before our wedding, and then have a second not-totally-halachic (but with a second ketubah and a second rabbi) ceremony on the day of our reception. But I don’t know if you’re allowed to have two ketubahs, or do two religious ceremonies, and I don’t know if FH’s observant friends will still feel like we’re not doing it correctly/not show up if the public ceremony isn’t performed by the observant rabbi.