Jewish marriages in the United Kingdom are authorised by the Office of the Chief Rabbi. The London Beth Din works together with the Office of the Chief Rabbi on any personal status issues and other halachic matters relating to marriages.
For all further information about marriage under the Office of the Chief Rabbi please click here.
The London Beth Din also provides certification as to eligibility to marry for those getting married overseas.
For more information about marriages within the United Synagogue, in the UK, Israel or abroad and the United Synagogue’s Marriage Enhancement Programme (MEP), please visit the United Synagogue marriage pages.
The Marriage Process and Ketubah
These are exciting times for you and your respective families as you plan and anticipate the joy of celebrating your chuppah and look forward to the future as a married couple. Judaism, with its beautiful rituals, Sabbaths and festivals provides a special framework through which a marriage can flourish, and we wish you the traditional Jewish blessing – Mazal Tov – as you begin this important journey together.
Jewish marriage is, of course, a complex relationship. It involves the intertwining of two lives at many different levels. To succeed, it requires the unremitting efforts of both husband and wife to be attentive and sensitive to each other's needs. This includes their spiritual needs. The marriage relationship is the ideal state for enhancing and harnessing the spirituality latent in every man and woman, which is why consecrating the marriage bond is called ‘kiddushin’ in Hebrew, which means ‘sanctification’.
Marriage under a chuppah involves, amongst other things, the acceptance of all the conditions and requirements of Jewish law. This is encapsulated in the words of the groom when he says to his bride: “Be consecrated to me (as my wife) with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel.” The Rabbis, from the earliest times, reinforced this declaration by requiring the bridegroom to make a solemn commitment to fulfil all his duties to his future bride as detailed and witnessed in the ketubah (marriage contract). This includes financial obligations to provide for her basic needs – even in the event of his demise or divorce. Additional details of agreements should a marriage break down are made in the PNA (see below).
What happens if the marriage fails?
We share your aspirations that your marriage will blossom and grow and, notwithstanding the possibility of some occasional moments of discord, that it will prevail throughout your lifetime. At this stage in your relationship, the last thing you wish to contemplate is the possibility – however remote – of divorce. Yet the Torah, itself, acknowledges that not all marriages are destined to succeed indefinitely, and it provides for the possibility, as a last resort, for a couple to terminate their relationship. This, however, can only be achieved in a very specific way.
Please refer to the section on Divorce for further details.
How does the London Beth Din’s Pre-nuptial Agreement (PNA) help?
As part of the process of applying for the authorisation of your marriage by the Office of the Chief Rabbi, you will be offered a PNA to sign. It is assumed that all marrying couples will sign it and we encourage you to do so. A sample copy of this is available here. This document asks you to agree to certain undertakings that should help to avoid the problems described above. (It is not a conventional PNA in the civil law sense because it does not deal with prospective financial arrangements on a divorce. If a couple wish to regulate prospective financial arrangements on divorce, they should do so in a separate PNA drawn up by a solicitor).
First, the couple undertake that, should their marriage run into serious difficulties, they would attend the London Beth Din who may suggest a referral for counselling or mediation that may support their failing marriage. If, however, their relationship has deteriorated to the point where such support would be to no avail, the same meeting provides the London Beth Din with an opportunity to discuss the possibility of Get proceedings with the couple. From experience, where there is a deadlock in relation to the Get, such a discussion is often a critical moment where the couple ‘turn the corner’ and agree to move on.
Second, the agreement provides for the London Beth Din to direct parties to fulfil their obligations in Jewish law (as per the conditions in the ketubah).
The PNA comes with the recommendation of the Chief Rabbi and the London Beth Din. It is designed to help facilitate the giving and receiving of a Get in those cases where this is sadly required. The PNA reminds the couple of their religious and moral duty to come before the London Beth Din in the event of the breakdown of the marriage, and to work to help facilitate both the giving and receiving of the Get. The Chief Rabbi and the London Beth Din wish to highlight the importance they place on the parties cooperating to facilitate the dissolution of the religious marriage as soon as is reasonably possible after it has irrevocably broken down. It is therefore their fervent wish that by all couples signing the document as a matter of course, it will be in place in those cases where it is truly needed.
If you have any queries relating to the PNA, please feel free to contact Rabbi Yoni Birnbaum, Director of Marriage Authorisation at the Office of the Chief Rabbi via email@example.com or 020 8343 6313 and he will be happy to offer further advice and guidance.
The PNA sets out to ensure that the sanctity of Jewish marriage is preserved and enhanced, not only in the circumstances of its joyful celebration but also, G-d forbid, should it ever fail to live up to its hopes and expectations.
The content of the PNA is an agreement between husband and wife rather than a document that is to be relied upon in court. If you have any queries, please contact us on the details below and we will be happy to offer further advice or clarification.