It’s usually when I’m about three of four minutes into a conversation with someone about my wedding that they’ll realise and say something. ‘Ah! It’s a Jewish wedding! Oh… wait, so what’s the actual difference’? There’s no denying that a stereotypical Jewish wedding is an exciting, large (often 200 guests plus), enjoyable occasion with plenty of emotion and dancing. These days though, no two weddings are the same so it’s actually quite hard to pin point exactly what a Jewish wedding entails. Usually though, the traditional aspects are the same in each Jewish wedding. Each symbolise the commitment the bride and groom are making to each other for the rest of their lives and the Jewish community. Even though there are parts of mine and Dan’s wedding that may be slightly different (I’m desperate to do a speech for instance), here’s a generic guide to a Jewish Wedding.
So all weddings Jewish or not usually incorporate a beautifully organised flower display of some sort. Commonly in a Jewish wedding, flowers will also be used to decorate the Chuppah. A Chuppah is the special canopy under which the ceremony is performed. Often partners may wish to just keep it simple instead and have four poles with a tapestry on top. Chuppah means ‘cover’ or ‘protection’ which is intended as a ‘roof’ for the couple and their immediate family, those close to them forming the ‘walls’ of the ‘home’.
When it comes to choosing a dress, whilst trying on some amazing meringues I had to bear in mind the crazy dancing that will take place. This really is a major feature in Jewish weddings. Most common in a Jewish wedding is the ‘Hora’ (the ‘chair dance’) where the happy couple are hoisted above the guests on chairs to the song ‘Hava Nagila’ while friends and family dance around in a circle and the happy couple try not to look or fall down.
In other preparation, particularly if you’re getting married abroad it’s important to check that your Rabbi is available and that the date doesn’t fall on any Jewish holidays or periods where marriages aren’t supposed to take place.
Another important decision in preparation for the big day is choosing two witness’ who aren’t blood related to the bride or groom to sign the Ketubah. A Ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract type document that states the Jewish groom’s commitment to the bride. This is usually signed following a brides reception and the grooms ‘Tisch’, (the grooms ‘table’ gathering with the Rabbi and his male friends/relatives with lots of laughter, interruptions and singing). Thankfully for me it’s an easy decision as I already know who I’ll be having as my witness and I’ve even made space in my home on a wall for the framed Ketubah to hang later on.
What to expect
After the signing of the Ketubah, is the Badeken. It’s a short custom observance whereby the groom covers the bride’s face with her veil. This is to ‘check’ that the bride is definitely the bride and is a custom that stems back to the story where Jacob was deceived into marrying the wrong bride. This is the first time the bride and groom will have seen each other for a long time so it’s often a teary event. Once this has taken place the groom is then ushered to the Chuppah to prepare for the ceremony.
Jewish weddings are usually in a synagogue on a Sunday but these days it’s becoming common for them to be outside of a synagogue. Daniel and I for instance will more than likely be marrying outdoors simply for preference. During the ceremony itself, men and women usually sit on separate sides and you’ll notice the bride walks around the groom in a circle seven times (to signify a ‘wall of love being built around the relationship’).
During the ceremony, there is also wine during blessings (Kiddushin). The first cup is shared during the betrothal blessings and the second shared to commit the bride and groom to creating a Jewish home selflessly dedicated to everything good in the world. During the ring giving, (normally a plain band to signify simplistic beauty of the marriage) you will note that it’s often placed on the index finger – not the fourth finger. In a Jewish wedding, it’s also said you’re consecrating the marriage according to ‘the law of Moses and Israel’, (Israel and Britain’s national anthem is also sang at the reception). Once the Ketubah is then read aloud, seven blessings follow (Sheva Brachot).
Stamping the glass
Is that where you pin money on a bride? Is that where you jump over a broom? No actually. Pinning money is a Greek tradition and the broom is sometimes an African American tradition. What’s probably most knowing in a Jewish wedding is the stamping of the glass at the end of the ceremony. Use this as a signal to cheer and shout Mazel Tov! or Simcha!
Once the ceremony is over, there is usually a Yichud (private reflection). This is alone time and time for the bride and groom to reflect on the day and sometimes even consummate the marriage! Usually these days however, it’s spent having photographs taken.
Now all that’s left is to party, dance, drink and do as the Jewish do best… EAT! Challah (Jewish bread) will be served at our wedding for sure but as for the entire menu being Kosher… aside from no pork, shellfish or squid, we’re unsure on what will be on offer!
Well, what do you think? Have you been to a Jewish wedding? Have you any plans? Comment below xx