On the big day, wedding guests “oooo” and “aaaahh” while bride walks down the aisle in a beautiful white dress. The bride enjoys a shower with important women in her life where gifts come tornadoing into her lap. The bride receives an engagement ring that she proudly wears and presents to all those who gush over the exciting news. But what does a groom get? The groom gets perhaps the most exciting part of the Jewish wedding experience: He gets to break the glass!
At the end of the ceremony, a glass is placed under the groom’s foot and he stomps on it. Word to the wise that our own wedding coordinator reminded my husband: Use your heel!! You’ll get a louder crunch and you’ll prevent any accidents.
There are many ideas and reasons behind this loud and “mazel tov!”-inducing ritual, and it’s interesting to learn some of the most popular. It’s always good to be equipped with a few of these reasons because a) you never know who you may impress at a cocktail party and b) every Jewish individual has heard at least one of these reasons so you’ll be well versed in this tradition.
- Some rabbis say that this act serves as an expression of sadness at the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Why do we want to think of such a sad event on a happy day? Apparently, this links the bride and groom, the new unit, to the spiritual and national destiny of the Jewish people. Jews are supposed to be thoughtful to “set Jerusalem above my highest joy,” even during one of the most joyous occasions.
- For a less somber interpretation of this tradition, other rabbis who also serve as comedians the rest of the week (don’t forget to tip your waitress!) have joked that it’s the last time the groom gets to “put his foot down.” Ha. Ha. Ha.
- More superstitious rabbis might say that the loud noise the glass makes when it meets the foot is helpful to ward off evil spirits. Ghosts of girlfriends past, perhaps?
- For the rabbi that serves as a gynecologist on the side, the breaking of the glass symbolizes the breaking of the hymen and the consummation of marriage. Yeah. Don’t share that one at the cocktail wiener station of a party buffet.
- The breaking of the glass also reminds us that the world we live in is not whole. It’s a reminder that the bride and groom came together to be a single unit, but the rest of the world is broken and needs mending. Just don’t try to mend the glass in an attempt to fix the world. You’ll end up with cuts and that’s no good.
- The rabbis already have offspring in mind! The tradition promotes happiness as plentiful as the shards of glass and children as bountiful as the shards of glass. Depending on how many kids you want, make sure to tell your groom to stomp softly or forcefully.
- The last example is probably my personal favorite. The glass symbolizes that, like love, it is fragile, so the relationship should be cared for and unbroken. It goes beyond making sure the “glass” has enough Jimmy Choos to fill a closet and a dozen pink roses upon the evening’s arrival. It’s about making sure the “glass” enjoys the last bite of her favorite cookie. Or that the “glass” takes a break from the dishes a couple nights a week. Or that the “glass” feels like he has an ear when he needs to vent. It’s the little things that make us feel cared for and special. Because eventually, the chuppah will be taken down and the hora will stop playing, and at the end of the night, you have an empty reception hall and a lifetime ahead of you. The wedding day is just the beginning of all your special days.
It’s important to always remember this as you start your marriage off with a bang!