A Jewish wedding, traditionally, is complete with meaningful rituals that represent the beautiful relationship between the husband and wife. The ceremony is also a representation of their duties and responsibilities to one another and the people of the Jewish community. Following are some wedding traditions that are still followed even in this present age.
The Day of the Wedding
This day is considered the holiest and the happiest in anyone’s life whatever the culture or religious belief. In Jewish weddings, this is the day when the souls of the chatan (groom) and the kallah (bride) are purified. All the mistakes that they did in the past are all forgiven.
For a period of one week before the Jewish wedding, it is customary that the bride and groom do not see each other, increasing the excitement and anticipation of the much awaited event. This status quo will be maintained until before the wedding ceremony in which each of them will greet the guests separately. The couple will be equated to a king and queen who are both surrounded by guests. During this time, the mothers of the bride and groom will break a plate to show how serious is the commitment that their children are entering into.
The Jewish wedding ceremony is held in the open skies, under a marriage canopy called the Chuppah. This tradition is to remember God’s blessings to Abraham that his seeds will number the stars in the sky. This is also to represent the wish of the couple that their home be blessed with God Almighty’s guidance and protection. The groom, his father, and his father in law will be the first to approach the chuppah. They will be followed by the bride, her mother and her mother in law. The spouse’s escorts will each hold a lighted candle.
At the chuppah, the bride will circle her groom seven times. The #7 is to signify the 7-day process when God created the earth, and also the seven-fold bond that must rule their life as a couple. The bride and groom are not allowed to wear any jewelry during the ceremony, to show to each other that they are not marrying the materials possessions, but the person himself or herself. The jewelry can be put on back after the ceremony.
Next the Badeken follows. This is a veiling ritual where the groom, escorted by family and friends will approach the bride to where she is seated and covers her face with a veil. This is a sign that the groom commits to clothe and protect his wife. The veil on a bride symbolizes modesty, and signifies that the soul is more important than the outside physical appearance.
Still, during the ceremony at a Jewish wedding, 2 cups of wine are used. Wine in a Jewish tradition is a symbol of joy. The couple drinks from the first cup after the Rabbi has recited the betrothal blessings. The second cup will be used at a later portion of the ceremony.
There will be no exchange of rings as in other weddings. Instead, the groom only will give a ring to his bride. If the bride wants to give her groom a ring, this will be performed after the ceremony, outside the Chuppah.
The reading of the marriage contract will follow (ketubah), where the groom’s responsibilities are outlined, and include providing food, clothing and shelter for his wife. The marriage contract must be signed by two witnesses; otherwise, the wedding will not be solemnized. The bride will own the ketubah and she can have it framed and displayed inside her home.
The second cup of wine will now be used as the seven blessings ( Sheva Brachos) are recited. Then the groom will have a glass shattered by his foot. It is also a part of the ceremony, after which the couple will be escorted to the Yichud, a private room, for some moments of seclusion. They will be served food there. Other Jewish weddings do not have the Yichud ritual. This is then followed by the festive meal (Seudah).
During the week after the wedding, some friends and relatives will host celebratory meals to honor the new couple. And while some non-Jewish couples take off to their honeymoon after the reception, the Jewish custom does not allow this and dictates that the newlyweds stay in the community and start their life there.
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