Sometimes, we need a play-by-play reminder of what the Jewish wedding traditions and ceremony are all about. If you’re new to Jewish weddings or you need to brush up on the whole event since your the marriage booth at your summer camp’s carnival, this post, sponsored by World of Judaica, will be a total lifesaver! Keep this post bookmarked so you can refer to it as you plan your wedding. Remember, though, that it’s a traditional guide and you should check with your officiant about how your wedding ceremony will be personalized and tailored to you since every couple is different and every Rabbi or Cantor is different! Mazel tov from World of Judaica!
It’s true that many traditions may vary between the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities, but no matter the affiliation and heritage, the wedding day is supposed to be the happiest and holiest day in one’s life. This day is considered a personal Yom Kippur for the bride (Kallah) and groom (Chatan).
It is customary for the bride and groom not to see each other for one week before the wedding. This is called the Kabbalat Panim, and is intended to increase anticipation and excitement for the wedding. When the couple first sees each other on the wedding day, the groom will perform the Badeken, veiling of the bride. The groom lowers a veil over the bride’s face because the tradition of veiling goes back to biblical times when Rebecca covered her face before marrying Isaac. (Many Sephardic communities do not perform the Badeken.)
Before the couple heads to the Chuppah (wedding canopy) for the ceremony, they must first sign the Ketubah. The Ketubah, or marriage contract, outlines the groom’s responsibilities and obligations to his wife. The Ketubah must be signed by two witnesses and has the standing of a legally binding agreement. After the Ketubah is signed the wedding ceremony may commence. The ceremony takes place under the Chuppah, which is a symbol of the home that the new couple will build together, and is open on all sides just as Abraham and Sarah’s tent was open on all sides to always welcome guests with unconditional hospitality.
The best man is first to walk down the aisle standing to the left under the Chuppah, the groom is escorted by both his parents down the aisle before he takes his place to the left of the best man. Next comes the bridesmaids walking single file and take their place to the right of the Chuppah. The maid of honor walks down the aisle alone and takes her place on the right side of the Chuppah. The bride is escorted down the aisle by both parents before entering the Chuppah and joining her groom.
Like many Jewish ceremonies, the wedding ceremony begins with a cup of wine. The Rabbi says a blessing over the cup of wine and a second over the marriage. Both the bride and the groom drink from the cup. This portion of the ceremony is called the Kiddushin. During the ring ceremony the wedding ring is placed on the bride’s right index finger, which is the finger most visible to the witnesses. Jewish wedding rings must be made of solid uninterrupted gold, silver, or platinum with no precious stones or holes breaking the circle. The continuousness of the ring represents the hope for an everlasting marriage. After the exchanging of the rings, the Ketubah is read aloud. Once the groom has handed the Ketubah to his bride, they are officially husband and wife.
The second half of the ceremony continues with the Nissuin. A second cup of wine is filled and the Sheva B’rachot, seven blessings in honor of the wedding, are recited. At the conclusion of the ceremony the groom smashes a glass with his foot and the guests then shout “Mazel Tov!” — congratulations and good luck.