Jewish Wedding Rituals

In a Jewish wedding, the bride and bridegroom should meet with the Rabbi (Jewish religious leader) shortly after they get engaged to select a date and will be given counselling. The time of day for the wedding is left up to the couple. The wedding invitation may be a two-sided text. The left side of the text will be in Hebrew and the right side in English. The Jewish invitation reflects the celebration of marriage and the participation of the guests.

 

Attire 

The wedding is considered a personal Yom Kippur - a day of repentance and forgiveness of the couple. The Jewish practice of wearing white is for spiritual pureness. The Orthodox bride will wear white to symbolise that she has been to the mikvah (a bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism) in preparation for the wedding. 

 

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Document

The marriage document, called a Ketuba, is a contract, written in Aramaic, which outlines the bridegroom's responsibility towards the bride. In ancient Arabia, it was the custom of providing the wife with a dowry to protect the wife in the event of her becoming widowed or divorced. This written obligation entitles her to receive a certain sum from his estate in the case of his death or in the case of divorce. The complete term of this document is the ketubah (the marriage deed). A minimum obligation was 200 silver denarii at the marriage of a virgin and 100 at the marriage of a widow. For the security of the wife's claim, the amounts fixed in the ketubah are: all the property of the husband, both real and personal that was mortgaged.

 

A Ketuba today is signed by the bridegroom and two witnesses. Although this custom continues, the document has no legal significance. The Ketuba becomes the property of the bride after the wedding.

 

Wedding Ceremony 

After the Ketuba is signed, the Rabbi and the two fathers lead a procession of the bridegroom and male guests into the bride's chamber for the badekan (veiling) ceremony. Bridegrooms still come to look at their bride before the ceremony and actually place the veil covering her face. Once the bride is veiled, the ceremony begins.

 

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Grandparents are seated first. The bride's parents are seated to the right of the centre aisle and the bridegroom's to the left. The actual procession order for the Rabbi and cantor is determined by local custom. In most case, if the Rabbi is planning to come down the aisle, which often happens when the ceremony is not in a temple or synagogue, he will be next. The groomsmen will follow, one at a time, usually standing to the left of the chuppah (canopy).

 

The chuppah is supported by four poles in stanchions. Sometimes, a large talis  (prayer shawl) is put on the poles and held above the couple to create the chuppah.

 

The best man comes down the aisle alone and goes under the chuppah on the left.

 

The bridegroom, escorted by his parents, goes under the chuppah to the left of the best man. The bridesmaids follow, single file, and stand to the right of the chuppah. The maid or matron of honour comes alone, and stands under the chuppah on the right side. She is followed by the flower girl and ring bearer, if any.

 

The bride comes down the aisle next, escorted by her parents. They stop just before the chuppah and the parents may lift her veil and give her a kiss. They then replace the veil and walk up under the chuppah on the right side. When her parents are in their places, the bride takes three steps on her own and the bridegroom comes to escort her under the chuppah. The bridegroom turns as he joins her, so she is on his right.

 

During the ceremony, in Hebrew and English, the Rabbi reads the Ketuba and the couple drinks wine. Sephardic Rabbis usually wrap the couple in a talis, symbolizing their becoming one. Only one ring, given to the bride by the groom, is required by Jewish law. Traditional Rabbis are hesitant to perform a double ring ceremony. A liberal Rabbi may incorporate a ring from the bride to the groom as a gift.

 

In most ceremonies, the bridegroom repeats a Hebrew vow after the Rabbi, with the giving of the ring. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Rabbi will ask the best man to place a wine glass, wrapped in a white cloth or in a special bag the couple provides, under the bridegroom's right foot. The bridegroom will break it.

 

After the glass is broken, the guests shout "Mazel Tov," clap their hands, embrace and sing as the couple departs. The bride and bridegroom will kiss immediately after being declared "man and wife".  Then they run up the aisle into a Yichud.

 

Yichud

The Yichud is a brief seclusion where the couple can spend a few moments together before joining their guests. When the couple has fasted until the ceremony, this is their opportunity to break the fast with either a chicken soup or their favorite food. After the Yichud, the couple may be greeted with a toast or a shower of rice.

 

A wedding booklet may be given to all guests and it includes a copy of the wedding invitation, the Ketuba text, names of all the wedding vendors, a note from the couple and an explanation of the different aspects of the ceremony.

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