The Jewish Wedding
We’ve laid out all you need to know about the traditional Jewish wedding.
The traditional Jewish wedding ceremony involves the signing of a Ketubah, the blessings of betrothal (Kiddushin,) marriage (Nissuin), and the provision of a ring to the bride before a Rabbi and witnesses. Secular Jewish weddings may contain all elements or modified components according to the tradition of the bride and groom.
Traditionally, the bride and groom do not see each other for a week preceding the wedding, and fast the day before. The groom may hold an Afruf at synagogue on the Saturday before the wedding.
Tishch and Kabalat Panim
Most Jewish weddings begin with a Tisch (Yiddish for “table”) and a Kabalat Panim (a cocktail hour) to enable the signing of the ketubah while easing the bride, groom, and their guests into the wedding ceremony.
At the tisch, male relatives and friends of the groom joyously gather around the bride and grooms’ fathers and the Rabbi at a table laden with food and drink. At the tisch, the groom is toasted, songs are sung, and the Ketubah is signed. The Ketubah is signed in the presence of the groom, the Rabbi, two witnesses and both the bride and groom’s fathers.
A tradition based on the biblical tale of Jacob accidentally marrying Leah, an Orthodox bedekin takes place with a veiled bride seated on a decorated “throne” surrounded by her female friends and relatives. The groom’s male relatives and friends accompany the groom with lively singing toward the seated bride, at which point the groom lifts the bride’s veil before placing it back down. The bedekin can also take place at the end of the aisle, a moment before reaching the huppah.
The Wedding Ceremony
The ceremony itself takes place under a huppah, a canopy made of cloth supported by four rods to symbolize the home that is being established by the couple. As sunset marks the change of a day, the huppah must take place thirty minutes before or after sunset. In some traditions, the bride circles the groom seven times upon reaching the huppah. Under the huppah, the bride stands to the right of the groom with her parents at her side, and the grooms at his, with the Rabbi and witnesses next to them.
The ceremony consists of the Kiddushin, the reading of the Ketubah, and the Nissuin. During the first part of the ceremony, the consecration (Kiddushin), the bride and groom commit themselves exclusively to each other with a blessing of betrothal over a cup of wine that both the bride and groom drink from. The groom then recites a blessing, placing the ring on the brides right index finger.
During the Nissuin seven blessings are recited by the officiating Rabbi, or occasionally by male guests whom the couple have chosen to honor. According to tradition, the ceremony concludes with the groom shattering glass with his right foot symbolizing the destruction of the temple.
Following the conclusion of the ceremony, some couples choose to have a time of Yichud, or separation. During this time the couple are led to a private room symbolizing the shared home being established.
The ceremony is often followed by food, dancing, speeches and the repetitions of the seven blessings.