“Do you officiate on Saturdays?”
My many years of experience tell me that the question the couple is actually asking is, “Will
you officiate at a wedding prior to the end of Shabbat/the Sabbath?” Here’s my response.
Typically no, but...
The Jewish tradition prohibits changes of personal status on Shabbat, meaning that for 25 hours—from sundown on Friday until after sundown at Saturday night—one cannot get married. A wedding on late Friday afternoon is fine; so is a wedding on Saturday night, after the sun has fully set and at least three stars are visible in the sky.
At the halfway mark of any weekend, Saturday night is the night to have a party. One can stay out/up late without concern for work the next day. Generally, people’s minds are free of work and other concerns on Saturday night. In addition, for people who need to travel far to get to a wedding, they have all of Sunday ahead of them to return home. Saturday makes good sense and I understand why so many couples call me asking about Saturday night weddings.
Still, many wedding officiants need to take into account the time needed to shower and change clothing after the end of the Sabbath and, having done so, the time it will take to get to the wedding venue. These personal considerations, along with the late end of the Sabbath during the long days of summer, necessitate that a Saturday night wedding in June, July or August might not start until as late as 9:00pm, or even later!
Here’s how I can be somewhat flexible: If the wedding is on a Saturday night during the longer days of the year, I will consider officiating prior to the end of the Sabbath if I know that, by the conclusion of the actual ceremony, the Sabbath will also have concluded. In other words, if the Sabbath ends at 8:00pm, we can start at 7:30pm. This means that by the time you are married, Shabbat will also have ended.
Questions about your start time? Consult with your wedding officiant! And, no matter what, do not sign a contract with your wedding venue or any wedding vendor until you’ve first vetted your date, time and location with your wedding officiant!