Jewish Weddings

Since the vast majority of the people who we anticipate coming to the wedding will not be Jewish, we wanted to put up a little primer about Jewish weddings.


THE KETUBAH SIGNING

In Orthodox communities, the ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) is signed after the tish by the groom, the rabbi, and two male witnesses. In Reform and Conservative congregations, the bride may also sign the ketubah, and additonal lines can be added for female witnesses, too.

THE B'DEKEN

The first time a bride and groom see each other in an Orthodox wedding is during the b'deken, or veiling of the bride. Both fathers and all the men lead the groom to the bride's room, where both mothers and all the women surround her. The groom lowers the veil over her face, setting her apart from everyone else and indicating that he is solely interested in her inner beauty. The ceremony is based on the biblical story in which Jacob did not see his bride's face beforehand and was tricked into marrying the wrong sister, Leah.

THE HUPPAH

The huppah, or wedding canopy, dates back to the tent-dwelling Jewish nomadic days in the desert. Historically, Jewish wedding ceremonies were held outdoors, and the huppah created an intimate, sanctified space.

KIDDUSHIN

The kiddushin (betrothal ceremony) takes place under the huppah. It begins with greetings, a blessing over the wine, and a sip taken by the bride and groom. Next come the rings: The groom recites an ancient Aramaic phrase as he places the wedding band on his bride's right index finger -- the finger believed to be directly connected to the heart. In a double-ring ceremony (not permitted in some Orthodox weddings) the bride also places a ring on the grooms index finger while repeating a feminine form of the Aramaic phrase, or a Biblical verse from Hosea or Song of Songs. The ketubah is then read aloud in English and Aramaic.

SHEVA B'RACHOT

The sheva b'rachot, or seven blessings, consist of praise for God, a prayer for peace in Jerusalem, and good wishes for the couple. In Sephardic weddings, before the sheva b'rachot are recited, the parents wrap the couple in a tallis, literally binding them together.

THE BREAKING OF THE GLASS

Depending on whom you ask, the breaking of the wineglass is, among other things: a symbol of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem; a representation of the fragility of human relationships; and a reminder that marriage changes the lives of individuals forever. It's also the official signal to shout, "Mazel Tov!" and start partying.

THE YIHUD

In a day filled with chaos, the yihud -- or "seclusion" -- is a standout ritual that lets you focus on the days true purpose: your new partnership. Immediately after the ceremony, bride and groom retreat to a private room for 15 minutes of personal time. No in-laws, no seating arrangement charts, no videographer.