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What is the minimum requirement to be considered halachically married? I ask 'to be considered married' because I would like to know if there are also any opinions which suggest that people can be married without a marriage ceremony (although this is the prevalent custom!).

For instance, I have heard (cannot identify source) that non-Jews are considered married if they merely live together.

This issue is somewhat relevant to current debates in Israel that marriage has to be performed through certain institutions. Some secular jews in Israel (that I have met in discussion) don't want to marry under the rabbinate but still consider themselves married in a holistic sense in any case. So what is the minimal requirement for a jew to 'be considered married'?

There are, of course, many nafka minot to this if the definition of 'marriage' is more inclusive than just 'people who get married under the rabbinate'.

(Although this question is similar to this question, here I am asking for a more broad definition of acknowledgment of marriage status. Forgoing a ceremony of any sort, are there any de'ot that would consider someone married under a broader definition (albeit not l'chatchila) e.g. merely living together or 'marital' relations with kavana. Regardless of whether this couple keeps any mitzvot in any case, there are nafka minot e.g. kohanim wanting to marry someone who has been in this sort of a relationship. Also, since the gemara in kiddushin (1a) entertains the idea of 'kesef, shtar and(/or) biah', could this suggest that the system in place now (e.g. Rabbis, formal ceremony, eidim, etc.) is more of a formality (to cover all bases) and in reality a lot less is needed to be considered technically married, albeit not lechatchila)

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  • It is a good question, we can see consequences as very stringent. e.g. if mister A and miss B consider themselves married in a holistic sense by living to gever and separate, without Get... what would be the status of the children of B with mister C?? – kouty Sep 5 '16 at 13:22
  • @kouty Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Henken (among others) discuss the matter and give psakim based on lechatchilah and bedi'avad. – sabbahillel Sep 5 '16 at 14:20
  • What is "a holistic sense"? Indeed what is marriage other than a label to which certain (secular or religious) laws refer? – Adám Sep 5 '16 at 16:11
  • Very little but that doesn't make it a good idea. – Benny Powers Sep 5 '16 at 20:13
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Halachically, a person must give the shava peruta in front of two kosher witnesses and write a kesuvah signed by two kosher witnesses. However, I know of a case in which the original witnesses turned out to be married to cousins of the bride and had to be replaced at the last minute. I also know of a case in which this was not discovered until after the wedding and enabled the bride to remarry after she ended the marriage without a get. Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Henken discuss the matter and bring up the halachos of getting "married" with only a civil ceremony.

Additionally, the secular laws of inheritance and marriage benefits are involved which also require other than "pure halachic" marriage.

Just under the rabbinate just means that a valid rav has certified that the aidim (witnesses) are kosher, that the man has properly given the shaveh perutah to perform kiddushin, the kesuvah is written and witnessed properly, and that there are no problems that would invalidate the kiddushin (and nesuin). As long as this has been done, there would be no halachic problems. The just under the rabbinate is a legal matter done by the state to ensure that this is true.

The state has rules that affect the legal status, which is a different matter as discussed in need for civil marriage license in the frum world

However, a state marriage is necessary for other non-Judaism-related purposes, which may (I don't know) include some tax breaks, inheritance issues, custody issues in case of divorce, etc.

See also If a Jewish couple is married through a civil ceremony alone, do Jewish marriage laws apply to them thereafter?

The under the rabbinate specification can also be used to ensure that the mesader kedushin can be trusted. As explained in What is the role and function of the officiating celebrant in a Jewish wedding?

The first and primary function of the rabbi is to ensure that the entire wedding is properly conducted according to Jewish law and custom. He makes sure that all the "paperwork," i.e. the ketubah (marriage contract), is in order; that the marriage witnesses meet all halachic criteria; and that all other parts of the ceremony conform to halachic standards.

As an example, he checks that the ring is proper for use as kiddushin and makes sure the groom says the harei at properly and actually puts it on her finger in front of two kosher witnesses.

  • Your answer only explains why the checks are done: because there could be problems. But people could be married without any of these checks. – bondonk Sep 6 '16 at 7:48
  • @bondonk Yes, however I know of cases in which the two aidim turned out not to be valid, invalidating the kiddushin. I will try to make it clearer. – sabbahillel Sep 6 '16 at 12:53
  • @sabbahillel, you wrote "I know of a case in which the original witnesses turned out to be married to cousins of the bride and had to be replaced at the last minute". My question: In this case, what is the rabbinic definition of "cousin", seeing we are all related, and to be more specific, Ashkenazi Jews, due to endogamy, are more related to each other and have more cousins than usual. – ninamag Jun 17 '18 at 5:54
  • @ninamag In that case it was first cousins. Obviously, it is not going back to Yaakov. – sabbahillel Jun 17 '18 at 14:01
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The requirements for marriage is a valid kidushin and nisuin in front of aidim. The minimum requirement for nisuin is yichud. Although in order to have marital relations a ketuba and sheva brachot are required

  • Please can you bring a source for this specific opinion. – bondonk Sep 6 '16 at 6:31
  • Also, as the question asks, please can you define the minimal requirement for nisuin. – bondonk Sep 6 '16 at 7:45
  • @bondonk which part? – HahamG Sep 6 '16 at 18:12
  • A source that the MINIMAL requirement for "marriage is a valid kidushin and nisuin in front of aidim". To do that you'd need to define kidushin and nisuin (saying 'harei at', or just giving a woman a sheva peruta? just biah?) and aidim (two kosher witnesses?) in the most minimal sense, etc. – bondonk Sep 6 '16 at 18:34
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First, it should be clear, that there are two different stages of Jewish marriage, with different consequences:

  1. Kiddushin (betrothal) is the first step, when the couple is considered married to forbid the bride for all other men. There are (practically) no obligations one to another.
  2. Nissuin (cohabiting) is the last, when the couple is considered married to start all obligations of the husband to his wife and the opposite.

So for judging illicit relations the first step is sufficient, and for judging responsibilities, the second is required.

Second, there are no minimum or maximum requirements. Valid and willing way of Kiddushin in front of two valid witnesses is the only requirements for Kiddushin. And secluding afterword in a room or a house only when the woman is not Nidah is the only requirement for Nissuin. No other behaviors are really "requirements" for a valid marriage.

NB: it should be noted, however, that all marriages are conditioned "על דעת חכמים" (in the eyes of the Sages) with an option to be invalidated retroactively by a Jewish court.

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