Jewish Wedding Ceremony Rituals

Getting Married the Jewish Way – Wedding Ceremony Rituals That Make the Event More Special

While this isn’t a complete list of wedding ceremony traditions, it is probably the most popular and important traditions that one expects to see happening at a Jewish wedding ceremony in Australia  We often use it as a checklist for what to expect when we photographing a wedding in Melbourne that involves a Jewish family.  Some of these aspects are visually very interesting with lots of unique details and really help to make a great wedding album.

It Starts with the Tish

The groom’s tish is the traditional way of starting a Jewish wedding. Tish is the Yiddish for table, wherein the groom tries to give a lecture on the Torah portion of the week while his family and male friends interrupt and jeer him. At the same time, the family and female friends of the bride entertain her in another room. Groom and bride may lead the tish together in Reform and Conservative congregations.

Signing the Ketubah

In the Orthodox communities, when the tish is done, the ketubah or Jewish marriage contract is signed by the groom, two male witnesses and the rabbi. In Conservative and Reform congregations, the bride may sign the ketubah as well and extra lines can be added for the female witnesses as well.

Meeting at the B’deken

It is during the b’deken when the groom and bride see each other for the first time in Orthodox weddings. The b’deken, or veiling of the bride. All men including both fathers will lead the groom to the room of the bride where all women and both mothers are surrounding her. The groom will lower the veil over the bride’s face and set her apart from others and indicate that his sole interest is her inner beauty.

Celebration at the Huppah

The wedding canopy or huppah dates back to the nomadic days of the Jews in the desert where they dwelled in tents. Historically, wedding ceremonies among the Jewish were done outdoors, with the huppah creating a sanctified and intimate space.

The Circling

On the first time that the couple steps inside the huppah, the bride will circle the groom for seven times which represent the seven days of creation and seven wedding blessings. It also shows that the groom is the center of the bride’s world. Most couples also choose to circle each other to make this ancient custom more reciprocal.

Kiddushin in the Huppah

The betrothal ceremony or kiddushin happens under the huppah. This starts with greetings, blessing of the wine, and sip taken by the groom and bride. The rings come next. The groom will recite an ancient Aramaic phrase while placing the wedding band on the right index finger of his bride. This finger is said to be directly associated to the heart. In double ring ceremonies, which are not allowed in some Orthodox weddings, the bride will also play a ring on the index finger of the groom while repeating the Aramaic phrase’s female version or biblical verse from Song of Songs or Hosea. The ketubah will then be read aloud in Aramaic and English.

Sheva B’rachot

The seven blessings or sheva b’rachot, is composed of a praise for God, good wishes for the newlywed and prayer for peace in the country of Jerusalem. In the Sephardic weddings, before the recital of the blessings, parents wrap the groom and bride in a tallisto literally bind them together. There is no need for the rabbi to say all the blessing. You can give honor to special guests through requesting them to read or sing a few of the blessings.

Glass Breaking

Breaking glass is no doubt the thing that sets Jewish wedding apart from the rest. Why is that so? The wineglass breaking can be a symbol of destruction of Temple in Jerusalem, representation of human relationships’ fragility and reminder that a marriage can change a person’s life forever. This also officially signals the shouting of Mazel Tov, marking the start of the party.

Ending the Day with Yihud

Seclusion or yihud makes a chaotic day special. This is the standout ritual which lets you focus on the true purpose of the day: the new partnership. Right after the ceremony, the groom and bride will go to a private room to have personal time for 15 minutes. Here, there are no rules but it is customary for them to make the most out of the moment and feed one another a bite or two of their very first meal as a married couple.

Planning your wedding?  You might find our article on wedding reception traditions at Jewish weddings useful.