The Bride’s Survival Guide: Jewish Wedding Traditions And The Meaning Behind Them
Apart from having unique wedding dresses, there are a variety of the Jewish wedding traditions that you can easily incorporate into your wedding to make it unique. Whether you grew up in the Jewish culture or religion, or you attend their temples, you might be yearning to incorporate some of their traditions in your wedding celebrations.
Depending on what subculture you are, the Orthodox level you embrace, and whether you are marrying a Jewish or not, the traditions might be mandatory or optional. You will need to be sure of your ceremony outline with a rabbi who is ordained or whoever will be the officiant to decide which best plan to follow for you, your partner, and your family. You will need to discuss any wedding reception traditions with your family members also.
The following are some of the typical Jewish wedding traditions that might include on your wedding day.
- Aufruf: Before your wedding, on your Shabbat, as a Jewish couple, you will need to partake of a aufruf, meaning, calling up in the Yiddish. During the Aufruf, the groom, alone or together with the bride, are called to recite the Aliyah. It is a special blessing recited before and after the Torah is read. After it is done, the couple is blessed by the Rabbi as well as the impending union is blessed. The guests are free to toss candy to the couple for celebration, and a small reception might follow.
- Fasting: Depending on the Jewish community that the couple belongs to, there are those who will be fast on their wedding day. It is similar to the Yom Kippur holiday significance, which is done to atone for any sin that might have been committed. After the ceremony, the couple can then eat.
- Covering of heads: During a Jewish wedding celebration, male guests, whether Jewish or not, have to cover their heads using skullcap, which is referred to as yarmulke or kippah as a sign that they are respectful. Traditionally, married women cover their hair using a lace head covering that is secured in place using a Bobby pin, though, in some other communities, women just put on kippot. The couple must provide the head covering at the wedding celebrations, and thus guests don’t have to come on their own.
- Separate seating: During Orthodox Jewish wedding celebrations,women and men sit separately at the wedding ceremony and even at times, during the wedding reception. You might see a partition, or what they call a mechitza,designed to separate where men are seating from where women are seating. Some Jewish wedding receptions may even have separate dancing floors.
- Bedeken: In the communities of the Orthodox, a bedeken ceremony happens before the wedding. Before the bedeken happens, the couples are separated. The groom, together with his male friends and male relatives, make a processional to where the bride is, who at that moment, is seated on a throne, surrounded by female friends and family members. As guests come in while singing and dancing, the groom walks in and places a veil on the bride’s face. It is a tradition representing modesty, referencing many biblical stories.
- Ketubah:It is a common Jewish tradition where the marriage contract or Ketubah is signed. A ceremony for ketubah is traditionally done shortly before the real wedding ceremony happens.
Two witnesses are chosen by the couple who are not blood relatives to sign the marriage contract or the ketubah with them, and an officiant or rabbi and close members of the family are present during the signing. The ketubah, which is signed, is what is displayed during the Jewish wedding ceremony.
- Chuppah: It is a significant Jewish wedding tradition. It refers to a wedding canopy that has clothes supported four poles, which might stand on their own or honored guests or wedding party. The Chuppah can either be simple or decorated elaborately, depending on how the couple wants it to be.
A Chuppah is a representation of the Jewish home creation and a show of hospitality to the assembled guests. In Jewish wedding celebration, parents and the officiant, stand with the couple who are getting married, under the Chuppah. The maid of honor and the best man, if so desire, stand in the Chuppah too.
- The wedding processional: During the Jewish wedding processional, it tends to be a bit different compared to the Christian processional. The rabbi starts, followed by grandparents, the bride, then the grandparents of the groom. The next in line are groomsmen and then the best man. The parents of the groom escort him on the aisle, followed by the bridesmaids then the maid of honor. The parents of the bride escort her down the aisle.
- Circling: Normally referred to as the hakafot, many Jewish weddings will depict a bride circling the groom, though there are couples who have modified this particular tradition to reflect modern relationships. During the wedding processional and before the bride reaches the chuppah, she walks three times around the groom.
There are several reasons given to this tradition, with the common one being that she is creating a protective wall around the groom. Some couples twist it by circling each other, for equality purposes. If that is the case, the bride will circle the groom three times, and then the groom rotates her three times, and then they circle each other one time to make it a total of seven times each.
- Sheva Brachot: It refers to the seven blessings which are recited during the wedding ceremony by the rabbi. They are done over a cup of wine during the proceeding’s latter part and are done in Hebrew, though you can as well decide to translate it into English.
- Prayer shawl: A fringed prayer shawl or tallit, might be used in the Jewish wedding traditions. As a wedding gift, the bride is free to give the groom a tallit. It might also serve as the Chuppah’s cloth When the final blessings are being administered, the parents of the couple might wrap the tallit around the shoulders of the couple. It usually is a unity symbol and that they are surrounded by love.
Jewish wedding traditions are easy to incorporate into your wedding ceremony. You can pick on the prayer shawl and include it in your Christian wedding. Whatever traditions you might be interested in, check at the ultimate bride’s survival guide.
Photo by Candace McDaniel
Photo by Tom Pumford