December 12th 2017 marks the first day of Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, the eight-day ‘Festival of Lights’ that celebrates the rededication of The Holy Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt.
In honour of this Holy time of year for the Jewish people, we’re taking a look at Jewish wedding traditions – rituals which have been in place since Talmudic times. While some have changed with the times, these Jewish wedding rituals are still deeply rooted in sacred traditions of yore and hold a special place in the hearts of Jewish couples around the world.
An ancient tradition which advises that the bride and groom fast on their wedding day, starting at daybreak until after the chuppah (the canopy under which the wedding ceremony is performed). The fast is done in order for the sins of the couple to be forgiven, as the wedding day is considered a day of forgiveness.
The Bride’s Reception
An older tradition from the Talmud; the Bride’s Reception is a regal one, where she gets to sit on a throne generally perched higher than others and is greeted by guests as they wish her mazal tov (good fortune). Food is served but is not eaten by the bride as she is fasting at this time.
The Groom’s Tisch
The groom’s reception (tisch means table) involves the groom’s male guests and rabbi’s toasting the groom and singing. The groom then attempts to talk about a lesson from the Torah but is continually interrupted by the singing, talking, and clapping of his male guests as they try to stop him from finishing. The tradition is based on trying to avoid humiliating the groom, who may not be an expert on the Torah.
The bedeken is the first time the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony. The groom brings his party to the bride’s, where he approaches her, looks at her, and then brings the veil down over her face before being escorted back to his own reception room. Signifying his love for her inner beauty, the tradition actually comes from the old Testament, where Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah instead of her sister as he couldn’t see her face.
Via Tara Consolati Events
The ketubah (a Jewish marriage contract) is a prenuptial agreement which the groom signs that acknowledges his bride’s rights and protections, and she gets to keep it as proof of the groom’s responsibilities to her. It is usually signed in the company of the groom, the rabbi, and two males witnesses.
Via Eden Ross
Ceremony Under The Chuppah
The chuppah (also known as the huppah) is the canopy under which the couple stands as they get married. It is representative of the home which the bride and groom are establishing together. On the walk to the chuppah, the groom’s parents will walk him down the aisle and then the bride’s parents will follow with their daughter. The bride then circles the groom seven times which represents various things – the seven wedding blessings, seven days of creation, a figurative wall to ward of evil spirits, or as some believe, a symbol of a new family circle.
Via Chris J Evans Photo
The kiddushin is the betrothal ceremony and is the point in which the couple makes a solemn commitment to God. After the greetings, the couple sip from the blessed wine and the groom, who is wearing a white kittel, recites an Aramaic phrase as he puts the wedding ring on his bride’s right hand. The white kittel serves as a reminder of his mortality, as a white shroud is worn during burial.
Known as the seven blessings, the sheva b’rachot are said by the couple as part of their nissuin (actual marriage). They can also be recited by special guests, the parents, and the rabbi, and are also sung by the wedding guests. The blessings focus on the joy and love of the newly married couple, and can also be a part of the seven-day long festivities held after the wedding as a celebration.
Breaking of the Glass
The best known feature of a Jewish wedding; the tradition involves stepping on a napkin-wrapped glass once the ceremony is over. The act is symbolic of different things. In Maurice Lamm’s The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage, it is said to represent the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem while others see it as a representation of the losses suffered by the Jewish people, even in times of joy. It is also said to represent the frailty of human relationships and the loud noise is said to frighten off demons.
Via Laurie Bailey Photo
The yichud is a religious law that prohibits the seclusion of unmarried couples in a private area. However, in an Ashkenazi Jewish wedding, it is the moment after the wedding when the couple spends a short period of time to themselves in a room. In older times, this was a moment when the marriage would be consummated however this is no longer in practice.