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Jewish Wedding Traditions

 

 

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Before the Ceremony

It is a Jewish tradition for a Bride to present her Groom with a tallit to wear for his Aufruf (reading of the Torah prior to their ceremony). The Groom's family often give candlesticks to the Bride that can be used during the actual wedding ceremony.

 

The Bedeken

This means veiling, and is a small rite before the ceremony in which the Groom raises the veil over the Bride's face.  He is acknowledging that he is marrying the correct woman.

 

This custom originated in the story of Jacob who didn't see the face of his Bride prior to his wedding and was tricked into marrying Leah instead of his intended, Rachel.

 

The Eursin and Nissuin

Traditionally, the Jewish marriage ceremony consists of two parts: The Erusin (pre-engagement) and Nissuin (marriage). The Eurisin was historically performed up to one year before the marriage ceremony, but recently the two have been combined into the marriage ceremony.  Kiddush, begins the Eursin ceremony, which is the blessing over the wine.

 

Kiddush is part of virtually all Jewish observances as a prayer of sanctification.

 

The Exchange of Rings

The exchange of rings completes the Erusin ceremony. Under Jewish law, an act of Kinyan, or formal physical acquisition, makes legally binding a declaration of marriage.  Two witnesses must see the bride accept the ring from the groom as he recites the words of marriage.

 

The Tanaim

Before the bride and groom walk with their parents to the hupah, a tanaim is signed.  The groom is asked if he is ready to accept the responsibilities  as outlined in the Kepubah.  The groom accepts a handkerchief or other object given from the Rabbi as a sign of his acceptance in the presence of his two witnesses, who sign the ketubah.  

 

The text of the ketubah is not meant to vary, but the decorations around its border may be different and often expensive.

 

The Kippot or Yarmulkes

It is also a custom for Jewish men to cover their heads at all times (especially during prayers) with a kippot (yarmulkes) as a form of reverence, respect, and acknowledgement that God is present everywhere. In some congregations, women also cover their heads to pray.

 

The Wedding Procession

In a traditional Jewish wedding, first the groomsmen and then the groom enter accompanied by the groom's parents, then the bridal attendants, then the bride enters, accompanied by her parents.  Both sent of parents stand behind the couple and slightly to the right and left of them during the ceremony.

 

The Hupah

Some Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform wedding ceremonies take place under a hupah (wedding canopy). The hupah is a rectangular piece of cloth large enough for the Bride, Groom, Rabbi, and sometimes other members of the wedding party. The hupah signifies the new home about to be shared by the newlyweds.   It is often held by members of the wedding party or close friends of the couple.

 

Circling the Groom

The bride at the beginning of the ceremony may Circle the Groom seven times.  It is a Biblical custom that defines the space shared by husband and wife.  The number seven, in Judaism, is a mystical number and represents fulfillment and completion; the seven circles complete the couple's search for each other.

 

The Sheva Berakhot or Seven Benedictions

After the ketubah has been read at the ceremony, wine is often poured into a new glass and the Sheva Berakhot (Seven Benedictions) are recited over it. The Bride and Groom then drink from the glass of wine. With the ceremony complete, tradition calls for the Groom to break the wrapped glass by stomping on it. This final action symbolizes the destruction of the Holy Temple in Israel, and reminds guests that love is fragile. The audience may shout Mazel Tov, and the Bride and Groom kiss.

 

The Yichud

This is a few private moments between bride and groom that takes place immediately after the ceremony.  It is a symbolic consummation of marriage.

At the reception, the couple and their guest rejoice as a Mitzvah, or obligation.

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