Explanations of Traditions for Your Program

Are you providing programs for your guests? Programs are a great extra detail to create for your wedding ceremony. It’s a perfect place to welcome your friends and family, say thank you to those who made your wedding day possible, and even remember the loved ones who are no longer with you, but hold a special place in your heart and memory.

And, most importantly, it’s an ideal place to share some of the traditions your guests may see while you’re under the chuppah. Usually, a rabbi will lead the ceremony and describe what’s happening and why, but for those who want to take the program with them or if they missed the rabbi’s description, your friends and family can read about the beautiful traditions you’re including.

This is a guide that has popular, mainstream Jewish traditions. If you are choosing to include other customs from another religion or culture, this would be a good place to add them. If your ceremony is more on the super reform side, you can tailor the wording and traditions listed below. And if you’re going ultra traditional, you’ll most likely need to add several more components. These selected traditions are from a modern, mainstream “conservaform” wedding and seem to follow the types of Jewish wedding ceremonies that visiting Yentas are designing.

Good luck! Email alison@theweddingyentas.com if you have additional questions!

Ketubah
The marriage contract (ketubah) specifies the couple’s commitment to each other. The ketubah was signed during a ceremony before the wedding service and contains the signatures of the bride and groom as well as two witnesses who are Jewish and not blood relatives. The rabbi has also signed and dated the ketubah to make it official.

Bedeken
The bedeken is the veiling ceremony during which the groom placed a veil over the bride. This ceremony took place privately and is considered one of the most moving elements of a traditional Jewish wedding. By covering his bride with a veil, the groom ascertained her identity, and confirmed that he is marrying the woman of his heart’s desire.

Chuppah
The chuppah is a canopy that symbolizes the home that the bride and groom will build together. The chuppah is open on all sides, also symbolizing that friends and family are always welcome in the newlyweds’ home.

Hakafot
The bride circles the groom (hakafot) seven times. Two interpretations of the significance: seven is the number of days of creation, and the wedding ceremony is the creation of a new household; seven is the number of times the phrase “when a man takes a wife” occurs in the Torah.

Wrapping the Tallit
During the final benediction, the couple is wrapped by a tallit (prayer shawl) around their shoulders. This wrapping symbolizes the private Jewish life the bride and groom will have together.

Breaking of the Glass
The wedding ceremony concludes with the groom breaking a glass under his foot. There are many significances behind this custom. One of them is that it is a reminder that relationships are as fragile as glass and must always be treated with care, love and respect. After the breaking of the glass, the guests yell, “Mazel Tov!” which means good luck.

Yichud
After the chuppah ceremony, the couple is escorted to a private room and left alone for a few minutes. These moments of seclusion signify their new status of living together as husband and wife.