What to Expect at a Jewish Wedding
If you’ve never been to a Jewish wedding, you may be puzzled by what you see. Here are some questions you might have.
“It’s their wedding and it’s only an hour before the ceremony, why aren’t the bride and groom together?”
It’s a longstanding custom that the bride and groom do not see each other the week prior to their wedding. On the day of the wedding, they greet their guests, but in separate rooms.
“How come the bride and groom are not eating any hors d’oeuvres?”
Another custom is for the bride and groom to fast on their wedding day until after the ceremony. Why? Because the wedding day is a little like Yom Kippur, it is a new beginning. According to tradition, God forgives the sins of the bride and groom and they start their new life together with a clean slate.
Before the actual wedding ceremony is the ‘Badeckin’, the placing of the veil on the bride. The groom, who had been sitting with his father, his father-in-law, and other friends and relatives, is literally ‘danced’ into the main reception area. In the reception area the bride awaits, sitting majestically, as if on a throne, flanked by her mother, her mother-in law, and most of the other guests. This is often a very special moment, as the young couple have not seen each other for an entire week. A veil is placed over the face of the bride and the groom is escorted out. The origins of the Badeckin can be traced to our forefather Jacob. Jacob was famously fooled into thinking that the veiled woman he married was Rachel. We want the groom to be sure who it is under the veil.
At the ceremony, both the bride and the groom typically wear white. It is traditional for the groom to wear a ‘kitel’ during the ceremony. The kitel is the same white robe worn during the high holidays, as this is another indication that the wedding day is likened to a private Yom Kippur. The parents of the groom escort him down the aisle to the canopy or ‘Chuppah’. The parents of the bride do the same. This is meant to symbolize the willingness of the parents to “let go” and allow their relationship with their child to be superseded by the marital relationship in fulfillment of the verse, “and man shall leave his parents and cling to his wife”; (Genesis 2:24).
The custom, when feasible, is to have the wedding ceremony outside, under the stars. This is to remember God’s blessing to Abraham that his children will be “as numerous as the stars”. Symbolically, we bestow this same blessing upon the new couple. A wedding hall that is used for traditional weddings, may well have a small sky roof that is opened during the ceremony.
Often hand-made by an artist; and later beautifully framed, the Ketubah is an ornate document that is read aloud in Hebrew. Most people have no idea what is being read. Sorry to dash any romantic notions, but the “Ketubah” is a contract. It specifically spells out the groom’s obligation to the bride, including his obligation to support her. Romance is great, but Judaism is also concerned about rights and obligations.
The Chuppah (Canopy)
The ceremony itself takes place under the Chuppah. The Chuppah is a large rectangular cloth canopy supported by four poles. The Chuppah is meant to symbolize the new home being built.
For continuation, please see page 41 of Simply Jewish.