The Jewish Wedding
Before the Jewish Wedding Ceremony
The Jewish wedding ceremony is full of joy and beauty - the happiest and holiest day of a couple’s life.
The Kabbalat Panim, the week preceding the Jewish wedding, the chatan (Hebrew for groom) and kallah (bride) refrain from visitation.
Then comes the cherished wedding day, which is like Yom Kippur for the groom and bride because they are forgiven for past mistakes as they prepare to become a new and more complete soul. They fast from dawn until the after the marriage ceremony.
The couple attends separate receptions before the Jewish wedding ceremony. The bride sits on a throne in one room and receives guests. The groom is surrounded by guests who sing and toast him. At the groom’s reception, the tena’im (official engagement document) and the Ketubah (marital agreement) are signed by two witnesses. Another tradition that some observe is the breaking of a plate by the mother of the groom and the mother of the bride to show that, as the plate cannot be repaired, a broken relationship can never be fully repaired.
Next, the veiling of the bride or Badeken is done by the groom, accompanied by family and friends just before the wedding ceremony, signaling his promise to clothe, care for, and protect his wife.
The Jewish Wedding Ceremony
The Jewish Wedding ceremony takes place under a Chupah – the Jewish Wedding Canopy, symbolic of the home to be built by the couple. Open on all sides, it can be a tallit or decorated cloth held aloft on four poles by relatives or friends. Escorted by their respective parents to the chupah, the bride and both sets of parents along with the grandparents circle the groom seven times as he continues to pray. Under the chupah, the groom and bride wear no jewelry to show that their commitment is not based on material possessions.
There are two interpretations why the groom is circled seven times: 1. Joshua circled the walls of Jericho seven times to bring them down. The bride circles the groom prevent any walls from coming between them. 2. Circling the groom represents the seven orders of nature, seven days of the week, seven heavens, and seven emotional attributes, as her commitment is absolute in accordance with G-d’s wishes.
The Jewish wedding ceremony begins with Sheva Brachot (seven blessings). The first benediction, Kiddushin, recited over a cup of wine, sanctifies the joy and abundance of the Jewish marriage ceremony. The main benediction pronounces the sacredness of this special moment and the sanctity and purity of a proper marriage. The groom and bride sip from the Kiddush cup.
The Ring Ceremony
During ring ceremony of the Jewish wedding, two witnesses watch the as the groom places a gold ring on the bride’s right forefinger and says, “Harei at mekudeshes li b’taba’as zo k’das Moshe V’Israel (Behold, you are consecrated unto me with this ring in accordance of the Law of Moses and Israel). The ring is an unbroken circle of solid gold without gems or engravings to symbolize a marriage without conflict or distraction.
During the final benediction, two tallitot (prayer shawls) are wrapped around the shoulders of the couple, suggesting the life they will have together.
The End of the Jewish Wedding Ceremony
The end of the wedding ceremony is marked by breaking the glass in remembrance of the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. A glass is placed on the floor and as the groom breaks it with his right foot, guests shout, “Mazel Tov!” and thanks are given.
The couple adjourns to break their fast in the Yichud Room as two witnesses wait outside to ensure their privacy. After they have a bite to eat, they join their guests at the Jewish Wedding Feast, where there is great joy, music and dancing. The feast is followed by the Seudas Mitzvah (“Grace after Meals”) and repeating the seven blessings recited under the chupah.