This paper discusses the institution of marriage and its associated ceremonies within the Catholic and Jewish faiths. Almost every human society recognizes at least one form of matrimonial contract, binding couples together, most often in order to found families, and most religions offer ceremonies, customs, and rituals that recognize the establishment of these contracts. Catholicism and Judaism are no exceptions. The ways in which each celebrates and solemnizes marriage give indications of the similarities and contrasts between these two contrasting faiths.
Marriage, the contract between a man and a woman, often designed to establish and maintain a family, is a social arrangement found in societies throughout history. Especially in many Western societies, this contract is also viewed as a religious sacrament. Within the Catholic church, matrimony has been considered one of the church's seven sacraments since the 13th century. Marriage, along with baptism, confirmation, and the administration of holy orders, is considered a sacrament that may be administered only once in an individual's lifetime. This is based on the idea that, because God is faithful in his promises, the gift of these sacraments cannot be withdrawn. The other three sacraments, Eucharist (holy communion), penance, and anointing of the sick, can be administered as often as necessary; indeed, communion can be received as often as every day by the most devout worshippers.
Catholic beliefs are based on a combination of written books, primarily the Bible, and unwritten tradition. Sacraments, and the ways in which each are administered, derive from the written history of the religion and the practices which have arisen over the nearly two centuries in which Catholicism has been in existence. Alice Lea Mast Tasman observes that marriage was not always a part of the church's domain:
In the Christian world there was a time when the wedding ceremony was...