Category Archives: Jewish Wedding Ceremony

Who Can Hold the Huppah Poles?

Anyone can hold a huppah pole. There’s no Jewish law on this. Unless your wedding officiant limits who can hold the huppah poles, or your community has strong expectations that you want to meet, you can choose anyone you want.

For my own wedding, for example, which was an Orthodox ceremony, we had both men and women holding poles. Some of the huppah bearers were Jewish and some were not Jewish. In fact, asking someone who is not Jewish to hold a huppah pole can be a great way to include them in your wedding if your officiant requires that the other roles in the ceremony, such as reciting a blessing, be done only be someone who is Jewish.

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Who Stands Under the Huppah?

wedding at New York Prospect Park May 2012

The question of who stands under the wedding huppah is one of the more popular email questions we get at Huppahs.com. The answer is a matter of custom rather than Jewish law or strong tradition. Generally, the couple getting married and the officiant stand under the huppah. Parents and members of the wedding party stand to the sides.

Jewish Wedding, by Moritz OppenheimThe inclusion of the officiant under the huppah is a relatively new development. If you look at etchings of early huppah ceremonies from the Middle Ages, when huppahs as canopies first became part of the Jewish wedding ceremony, only the bride and groom stood under the huppah. This is consistent with the idea of the huppah representing the couple’s home and shared spiritual space.

Because we’re talking wedding custom rather than law, there is room for exceptions. At the wedding of ultra-orthodox royalty earlier this year, dozens of people stood under the huppah. But that huppah was probably at least 25 feet wide on each side. And they had 25,000 guests.

(Photo: Wedding at Brooklyn’s Prospect Boat House under an Organza Huppah. Thank you to mother of the groom, Nancy Gershman.)

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Mazal Tov! Rituals, Customs — and Readings — for Jewish Weddings

mazal tovIf you are looking for Jewish readings to incorporate into your wedding, Rabbi Michael Shire’s Mazal Tov! The Rituals and Customs of a Jewish Wedding includes a section of meditations about love and marriage collected from across the Jewish universe in. One of my favorites comes from The Baal Shem Tov, the great 18th century teacher of Jewish mysticism:

“From every human being there rises a light that reaches straight to heaven. And when two souls that are destined to be together find each other, their streams of light flow together, and a single brighter light goes forth from their united being.”

Same-Sex Marriage, Same-Sex Ketubah

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What’s Going On? This Jewish Wedding Program Explains [PDF]

Jewish wedding program
While reorganizing my office this week I came across the program I wrote for my wedding to explain Jewish wedding traditions to the guests who weren’t Jewish (since I come from a large family of people who are not Jewish, that was a lot of people). I thought I’d share it, especially for couples putting together something similar. One of the best things I did was to include in the heading the phrase “Consider it an invitation to join in the celebration,” because that’s just what people did. See the program…

7 Ways to Decorate a Wedding Huppah

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25,000 Guests Attend Tuesday’s Royal Jewish Wedding (Video)

The Jewish royal wedding of the season took place in Jerusalem on Tuesday night, when Shalom Rokeach, 18-year-old grandson of the leader of the Hasidic Belz Rebbe dynasty, married 19-year-old Hannah Batya Penet in an ultra-Orthodox ceremony. While the groom is Hasidic royalty, the bride is a commoner, inviting parallels to Wills and Kate.

The most widely cited wedding detail is that 25,000 people attended. The second most cited detail is that the bride wore a veil the entire evening, although the veil for the reception was smaller than the one she wore for the ceremony. As Kate Dries of Jezebel observed, these aren’t the kind of details that get you featured on Style Me Pretty, so I wanted to highlight some of the deets I love:

  • Sunset ceremony.
  • People holding candles.
  • A huppah befitting a royal wedding: It looks like its about 25-feet square. The canopy is blue — looks like velvet — with scalloped valances that are embroidered in gold and edged in heavy gold bullion fringe and gold tassels.
  • Chandeliers — 5 of them — hung under the huppah.
  • The bride’s full ball gown without a train – formal, but nothing to trip on when circling the groom.
  • The bride’s ceremony veil. It’s heavier than most, for the sake of modesty before all those male guests, but the bride wears it well, and the length is great.

I still don’t know what they served at the reception, which was my first question after finding out about the 25,000 guests. If you find out, let me know.

Here’s another video, where we get to see a little more of the bride in action. She circles the groom at the 2:00 minute mark.

The Jewish Wedding Ceremony, Step by Step

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The Jewish Wedding Ceremony, Step by Step

The Jewish wedding ceremony is richly layered in centuries of tradition, Jewish law, spiritual teachings, and customs from communities around the world. Here we’ve laid out the basic structure of the traditional Jewish wedding, with some of the most widely-accepted interpretations of the parts of the ceremony. We’ve also included some of the most popular customs and practices that couples have added during the past few decades. If we’ve missed any of your favorite customs or interpretations, feel free to add them in the Comment section.

Greeting the Couple

Traditionally, Jewish wedding celebrations begin with separate receptions for the bride and groom, together called kabalat panim. Many contemporary couples combine the activities of these receptions into one small pre-huppah ceremony attended by only a few family members and friends.

Attending the Bride. At the bride’s reception, referred to in Hebrew as hakhnassat kallah, the bride sits on a specially decorated chair and receives well wishes from her guests.

The Groom’s Table. At the groom’s reception, or chossen’s tish, two traditional documents and one newly-adopted document are signed.

  1. The Tenaim. The traditional formal agreement between the two families that the bride and groom will marry.
  2. The Ketubah. This is the wedding contract. In the most traditional of Jewish weddings, the purpose of the ketubah is for the groom to assume his legal and moral obligations to his wife. The groom and two witnesses sign it. Increasingly, couples choose ketubahs that lay out both partners’ obligations to each other, and both partners sign them.
  3. Prenuptial Agreement. The Prenup is a new agreement, introduced in the 1950s and embraced by a wide spectrum of Jewish communities. It helps ensure that a woman who marries under Jewish law and decides in the future to end the marriage will be able to obtain a divorce under Jewish law. The Conservative movement incorporates this agreement into its standard ketubah through what is called the Lieberman Clause. Modern Orthodox communities generally use a separate prenup form.

Veiling the Bride. Also called bedecken. The groom lowers the veil over the bride’s face. The groom is the person who lowers the veil so that he can make sure that the bride is the person he intends to marry. The practice recalls the Biblical story of Jacob, who was tricked by his father-in-law into marrying the sister of his intended bride.

The Huppah Ceremonies

In a traditional Jewish wedding, the groom puts on a kittel, a white robe, before the festivities move to the huppah. Wearing white, for both the groom and the bride, signifies that for them this day is a new spiritual beginning. The kittel has no pockets, symbolizing that the bride marries the groom for who he is rather than for what he owns. For the same reason, the bride removes her jewelry before the huppah ceremony.

The wedding takes place under a huppah, a canopy that represents the couple’s physical and spiritual home. The huppah is open on all four sides, like the tent of the first Jewish couple, Abraham and Sarah, to associate the couple’s home with the hospitality for which Abraham and Sarah were known. Historically, a bride was escorted from her home to the ceremony while walking under a huppah carried by four huppah-bearers.

The Procession. For a ceremony using a traditional hand-held huppah, the huppah bearers carry the huppah into the ceremony space. Then, as with other modern wedding processions, any special honored guests are escorted to their seats, and the members of the wedding party enter and take their places. The groom is escorted to the huppah by his parents, and the bride is escorted by her parents.

Kiddushin, The Betrothal. When the bride reaches the huppah, she circles the groom seven times, creating the spiritual space that will surround them in marriage. The number of circles can vary. Today, both partners may take turns circling each other to symbolize their mutual obligations to each other. After circling, a bride stands to her groom’s right.

  • Opening Blessings.
  • Blessing for the First Cup. The rabbi recites a blessing over a cup of wine, and the wedding couple each take a sip. Some couples may pass the cup to their parents or other guests for them to sip.
  • The Ring Ceremony. This is the central act of the Jewish wedding ceremony. The groom places the ring on the bride’s right index finger while reciting the following, in Hebrew or his native language: “By this ring you are consecrated to me in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel.” Today, some brides also give the groom a ring at this time, while reciting a similar statement to that of the groom.
  • Bride’s Acceptance. Two people must witness that the bride accepts the ring willingly.

Reading the Ketubah

Reading the ketubah is not a formal part of the ceremony, but today most couples incorporate it into the ceremony at this point.

Nussuin, Nuptials

The sheva b’rachot, seven blessings, are recited. These prayers place the couple within God’s continuing act of creation and celebrate the many voices of joy that God created in the world, including the voices of the bride and groom.

Breaking the Glass

The groom smashes a glass on the ground with his foot as a reminder of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Everyone yells “Mazel tov!”

Yichud

The newly married couple spends some time in seclusion — at least eight minutes according to strict interpretations of tradition — breaking their wedding-day fast and sharing their first married moments alone together. The bride puts on the jewelry she took off before the huppah ceremony.

For modern couples who do not have a double ring ceremony under the huppah, this is a good time for the bride to present the groom with his wedding ring.

After the yichud, it’s time to join everyone else at the party!

What do the Jewish bride and groom wear?

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Wedding Music Budget Advice: A Little Live Music Makes a Big Impact

Are you weighing the pros and cons of live music versus a DJ for your wedding? Are you considering a custom iPod music mix for the cocktail hour or dance party, like I wrote about in my previous post? Recorded music can really stretch your music budget, but few details elevate the atmosphere of an event more than live music, so if you don’t have live music for the dinner reception and dancing, try to find room in the budget to add an element of live music during the ceremony, and the cocktail hour, too, if you can swing it.

If you’re planning a Jewish wedding with a bride’s reception or you’re planning to sign the ketubah in front of all your guests, consider having live music during those events also. For my own wedding, we hired musicians to play klezmer music while escorting the groom from the ketubah signing to the bride’s reception for the veiling. It was a lot of fun and really ramped up the party’s energy as we prepared for the ceremony under the huppah.

You could go with a small trio or quartet, but even a single instrument playing during your procession can heighten the emotional intensity of the moment, taking your breath away and tugging at your guests’ tears.

Find musicians on wedding planning websites, the music departments of a local college, or through friends’ recommendations.

The musical world offers so many instruments, you are sure to find one that matches and enhances the feel of your wedding. Here are some options:

  • Cello
  • Harp
  • Flute
  • Guitar
  • Piano

Am I missing your favorite?

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Top-notch #wedding planning calls for managing transitions in time.

One of the goals of event planning is to never have guests asking each other, “What are we supposed to be doing now?”, or even worse, having to answer each other, “I don’t know.”

Help your guests have a wonderful time at your wedding by reducing the confusion that can creep into the proceedings during transitions. In my previous post I gave tips for easing transitions in space — moving from one place to another. Today, I’m giving you tips for guiding your guests through transitions in time — moving from one part of the event to the next.

During a Jewish wedding — for most weddings, actually — transitions from one part of the program to the next usually involve moving from one room to another. After the veiling ceremony, everyone moves to the place where the huppah stands. When the huppah ceremony is over, everyone moves to the next room, anticipating cocktails. Later, it’s on to the meal. In these instances, the tips that help people move smoothly from one space to another will also do most of the work of easing their transition from one part of the program to the next. But there are still more things you can do to make these transitions as smooth as possible for your guests.

Tips for Managing Transitions Between Parts of the Wedding

  • Invite guests to move to the next part of the event. When it’s time to move from one room to another, and guests can’t be expected to know which way to go, don’t just open the door and wait for your guests to figure out it’s time to move. Invite them to do so. When the veiling ceremony is over, have the rabbi or a family member who doesn’t mind speaking up say something like, “Please join us on the lawn / in the sanctary / in the Steinsaltz Room for the wedding ceremony,” and hold out an arm in the direction people should move.” When the cocktail hour is over and it’s time for dinner, have a staff member from the venue, caterer, or wedding planner announce, “Please join us in the Roosevelt Room / terrace / ballroom for dinner.”
  • When transitioning from a cocktail hour to a buffet meal, invite one person or couple to begin. When you have a large number of guests, opening up the buffet can create a chaotic rush. When the number of guests is small, no one may feel comfortable stepping up to serve themselves first. The solution: Invite one person or couple to be first: “Will you start the buffet for us?” If the group is small, start with a guest of honor, such as a grandparent or a guest who traveled an especially long way to attend, or the rabbi. Invite the person to start the buffet, escort them to the table, and hand them a plate. If the crowd is large, start with the group nearest the buffet, and let the rest of the guests follow on as they realize the buffet is open.
  • Keep written programs short. A printed program can be a useful guide to guests who are not familiar with the ceremony, or to acknowledge people who have special roles, but keep the program short. You don’t want your guests spending a lot of time with their heads down reading. You want them watching and taking part in the ceremony they have come to share with you.

Following these tips will help produce a fabulously organized wedding. They’ll also do much more. The personal interactions that happen when people are welcomed and joyfully invited to the next part of the celebration, and when someone is nearby to answer their questions will impart a wonderfully personal touch that costs you nothing but will make your day more meaningful and memorable for your guests.

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Looking for a Wedding Rabbi? Ask InterfaithFamily.com and Enter to Win $500 Gift Card

interfaith wedding rabbi

InterfaithFamily.com can help you find a rabbi for your interfaith wedding through their Officiant Referral Service

Are you looking for a rabbi to officiate at your wedding, bar/bat mitzvah or other life cycle event? Use InterfaithFamily.com’s Officiant Referral Service, and you could win a $500 American Express gift card.

Fill out a form to request an officiant referral by June 30, 2011 to be entered for a chance to win.

Tell them Huppahs.com referred you, and if you win, Huppahs.com will also win a $500 gift card, which we will donate to our local Jewish Social Services Agency in your name. In the “referred by” field, enter the email address: “maria@huppahs.com“.

Good luck! Here’s the link:

https://secure.interfaithfamily.com/jml/administrator/components/com_civicrm/civicrm/extern/url.php?u=1487&qid=190177

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Weekly Wedding Tips

Sign up for our weekly email with insiders’ wedding planning tips and special deals on huppah rentals and the wedding items you need Subscribe now

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What do the Jewish bride and groom wear?

I was recently asked what a Jewish bride and groom wear. Here’s the answer for a traditional Jewish ceremony:

demure wedding dress

Ivanka Trump: The dress she wore for her 2009 Jewish wedding started the popular trend toward more demure gowns.

The Jewish Bride

The bride wears a white gown. For a most traditional ceremony, the gown is modest, with a collar that is not too low. The shoulders are covered, and maybe the elbows too (thank you Ivanka Trump, for setting the pace for elegant demure wedding gowns.)

The veil is a must. The groom traditionally lowers the bride’s veil just before the huppah ceremony. The ritual is related to the Torah passage that tells of Jacob unknowingly marrying the sister of the woman he loved. He could not tell he was marrying the wrong woman because the bride’s face was covered by a veil. Now the groom lowers the veil so he knows who he is marrying.

Any jewelry is removed before the huppah ceremony, as an indication that we marry a person, not a person’s possessions. The jewelry can go back on after the ceremony.

The Jewish Groom

The groom covers his head with a kippah (also called a yarmulke). In some communities he wears a hat on top of that. Covering our heads before God is a demonstration of respect and awe.

For the ceremony, the groom wears a tailored white robe, called a kittel, over his suit or prayer shawl, called a tallit, over his shoulders.

Both the bride and groom wear white because Judaism teaches that a person’s wedding day is a day of spiritual renewal; a personal Yom Kippur. All one’s sins are wiped away, and the bride and groom approach the huppah with spiritually pure souls.

21 Things Rabbis Wish Wedding Coordinators and Couples Knew About Planning a Jewish Wedding (Huppahs.com)

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Rabbis’ Wedding Planning Advice Now Available as Printable Flyer

Rabbis wedding planning advice for Jewish weddings“21 Things Rabbis Wish Wedding Planners and Couples Knew About Planning a Jewish Wedding” is now available as a flyer in printable PDF format for you and your wedding planning clients.

Printable Flyer.

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We’ve moved this article to our main website at Huppahs.com: 21 Things Rabbis Wish Wedding Coordinators and Couples Knew About Planning a Jewish Wedding

And it’s also now available as a printable PDF flyer.

ALSO VISIT:
Who can hold the huppah poles?
Huppah Customs
Read more recent posts…

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Contact Info for Major Jewish Religious Movements

Lace wedding huppahFor help locating a rabbi and other wedding planning information, here is the contact information for the major Jewish religious movements in the U.S.:

    Conservative Movement: The Rabbinical Assembly, 3080 Broadway, NY, NY 10027 (212) 280-6000
    .
    Interfaith Couples: InterfaithFamily.com, 90 Oak Street, Fourth Floor, P.O. Box 428, Newton Upper Falls, MA 02464 (617) 581-6860
    .
    Orthodox Movement: Rabbinical Council of America, 305 Seventh Avenue, NY, NY 10001 (212) 807-7888
    .
    Reconstructionist Movement: Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, 1299 Church Road, Wyncote, PA 19095 (215) 576-5210
    .
    Reform Movement: Union for Reform Judaism, 633 Third Avenue, NY, NY 10017 (212) 650-4000

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New Trend: Green Gold Wedding Rings

gold-wedding-ring-buy

18K Yellow Gold Comfort Fit Wedding Ring available at BrilliantEarth.com

Can gold wedding rings be green? They can if they’re made from recycled gold. They’re “green” as in good environmental management, and if you are planning a green wedding you might want to consider a ring of reclaimed gold.

When gold is mined, the materials pulled out of the mine are often dumped in piles on the ground nearby. There, the toxic minerals in them can leach into the ground, killing vegetation as well as animals and also seeping into the drinking water sources of local communities. Buying a ring of reclaimed gold means that no new gold was mined for your ring.

There are at least two online sources for rings of recyled, reclaimed gold: greenKarat and Brilliant Earth. If you’re in Chicago, you can make an appointment to visit Leber Jeweler.

Consider these other alternatives to buying newly mined gold: buying a vintage ring and giving new life to a family heirloom.

Keep in mind as you shop that strict interpretation of Jewish law and most tradition-minded rabbis require the use of plain gold rings without any gems or etched designs.

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Why do the Jewish bride and groom wear white?

In Judaism, a person’ wedding day is a day of renewal, a personal Yom Kippur. On the wedding day, the bride and groom’s souls are wiped clean. White is a symbol of the bride and groom’s spiritual purity. The bride wears a white wedding dress, and the groom traditionally wears a white robe called a kittel, or a tallit, a prayer shawl.

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How old is the practice of using a huppah for Jewish weddings?

Chuppah Middle AgesHuppahs (also spelled huppas, chuppahs, or khupas) became a part of the Jewish wedding ceremony during the Middle Ages in Europe, about the same time and place that men began covering their heads with kippot (yarmulkes). The Middle Ages sounds like a long time ago, but when you consider that Judaism’s history reaches back 5,000 years, the wedding huppah is a relatively young custom.

The earliest huppah poles were only a few feet tall. Four young men would hold the poles as they escorted the bride, who walked under the huppah, from her home to the synagogue.

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Who can hold the huppah poles?

Anyone can hold a huppah pole. That makes the role of huppah bearer, or unterferer, a great role to offer someone who you want to honor but who isn’t Jewish or isn’t comfortable reciting Hebrew during the ceremony. Of course, all rabbis have their preferences, so as with all aspects of a Jewish wedding, always double check with the rabbi who will be performing the ceremony.

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Why does a Jewish wedding ceremony take place under a huppah?

The huppah serves as a visible representation of the home, both physical and spiritual, that the bride and groom will share as a married couple. Traditionally, the bride creates their shared spiritual space as she steps under the huppah and circles the groom.

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Because You Asked: My Kippah Vendor Recommendation

brown velvet kippah

dark royal blue suede kippah

white satin kippah
Photo source: Yofah

After yesterday’s post about using kippahs and bentschers as wedding favors, I’ve been asked if I know of a good vendor for kippahs – something good quality and easy on the wedding budget. I’m happy to tell you about the vendor I used just a few months ago for my daughters’ b’not mitzvah: Yofah. I had a great experience with them.

Yofah offers the widest selection of colors and fabrics, and the best prices, of any other kippah vendors I found. Their online system for personalizing the inside of the kippah with text in English and Hebrew is easy to use. And when the kippahs arrived, I found that the quality was very good.

fuschia satin kippahBTW: Let me share with you the kippot style my daughters chose for their b’not mitzvah: fuschia satin. I just love them (the kippahs and the girls!).

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What Makes a Huppah a Huppah?

Outdoor huppahThe huppah’s structure evokes a tent — specifically, the tent that was the home of Judaism’s first couple, Abraham and Sarah, 5,000 years ago.

A huppah (also written chuppah or huppa) has a fabric canopy held aloft by four poles or a frame with four legs. The huppah is open on all four sides, as the tent of Sarah and Abraham is said to have been because of their great hospitality.

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