Information about Jewish Weddings
A Guide to a Jewish Wedding
A Jewish wedding celebrates the beauty of the relationship between husband and wife, as well as their obligations to one another and to the Jewish people.
The following very brief guide explains the elements of a traditional Jewish wedding.
Prior to the wedding ceremony, the bride (kallah) and groom (chatan) greet their guests in separate rooms.
At the chasan’stisch where the groom and his guests gather, the ketubah, the ancient marriage document outlining a husband’s responsibilities for his wife, is witnessed and signed. It will be read during the wedding ceremony. Once concluded, it’s off to the Bedeken!
This is the veiling of the kallah by the chatan. It is reminiscent of Rebecca covering her face when first meeting Isaac (Genesis 24:65). The groom is danced into the room to greet the kallah. After he places the veil over her face, she receives blessings from their families.
At the conclusion of the Bedeken, the guests dance the chatan out of the area and the wedding ceremony itself will begin. Guests proceed to the ceremony area, turn off their cell phones, and take a seat.
The wedding ceremony takes place under a chuppah (canopy), a symbol of the home that the new couple will build together. It is open on all sides, just as biblical Abraham and Sarah had their tent open on all sides to welcome people in unconditional hospitality.
First the chatan and then the kallah are escorted to the chuppah by their entourages and respective sets of parents.
At the ceremony, the chatan wears a kittel, the traditional, simple white robe worn on Yom Kippur. It is a symbol of purity and new beginnings.
Under the chuppah, the bride circles the groom seven times. Just as the world was built in seven days, the kallah symbolically builds the walls of the couple’s new world together. Another interpretation recalls that Joshua circled the ancient city of Jericho seven times. Just as Joshua caused the walls of Jericho to tumble down, so, too, the barriers separating the two are undone.
The term Kiddushin highlights the sanctity of marriage. It is the first of a two-step process through which man and woman become husband and wife. Two cups of wine are used in the wedding ceremony. The first cup accompanies the betrothal blessing recited by the rabbi. After these are recited, the couple drinks from the cup.
In Jewish law, a marriage becomes effected when the chatan gives an object of value to the kallah. Traditionally, he does this with a ring. The chatan takes the wedding ring in his hand and, in view of two witnesses, declares in Hebrew, “Behold, you are betrothed unto me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel.” He then places the ring on her finger. According to Jewish law, they are now husband and wife.
Ketubah- Marriage Contract
Now comes the reading of the ketubah (marriage document) in its original Aramaic. The ketubah outlines the chatan’s various responsibilities ― to provide his wife with food, shelter and clothing, and to be attentive to her needs. Protecting the rights of a Jewish wife is so important that the marriage may not be solemnized until the contract has been completed. The document is signed by two witnesses and is a legally binding agreement. The ketubah is the property of the wife for the rest of her life.
The seven marriage blessings (Sheva Brachot) are now recited over a second cup of wine. The themes of these blessings link the couple to our faith in God as Creator of the world, Bestower of joy and love, and the Redeemer of our people. At the conclusion of the seven blessings, the chatan and kallah again drink from the wine.
Breaking the Glass
Even at this happiest of occasions, we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem. A glass is placed on the floor and is shattered by the chatan with his foot. We recite the verses from Psalms 137: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.”
This marks the conclusion of the ceremony. With shouts of “Mazal Tov,” the chatan and kallah are then given an enthusiastic reception from the guests as they leave the chuppah together as husband and wife!
Yichud - Privacy
Immediately after the chupah, the bride and groom adjourn to the “yichud (seclusion) room,” where they spend a few minutes alone. The couple is traditionally escorted into the room by their parents. After a few moments, the in-laws slip out, leaving the couple alone. The door is then locked from the inside. The couple remains secluded in the room for at least eight minutes.
The Festive Meal (Seudah)
It is a mitzvah for guests to bring simcha (joy) to the chatan and the kallah on their wedding day. The guests celebrate with the new couple with music and dancing.
After the meal,BirkatHamazon (Grace After Meals) is recited, and the Sheva Brachot are repeated.