Huppah Customs

A collection of posts about huppah traditions.

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.

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.

What do you call the people who hold the huppah poles?

The conventional American term is “huppah bearers”. The classic term is unterferers, which means “supporters”.

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.

Huppah, huppa, chuppah, khupa – Which spelling is right?

30 FREE Wedding Save-the-DateAll these spellings are correct, and you might even see others. The word originally comes from Hebrew, and the Hebrew alphabet has some letters and sounds that English doesn’t have. Different people substitute English letters for the Hebrew letters in different ways. We like the spelling “huppahs” because the English sounds in “huppahs” are closest to the Hebrew pronunciation than the English sounds of other spellings, like “chuppahs” or “khupas.” We also like huppahs because it is the spelling used in our favorite Jewish wedding planning book, The New Jewish WeddingNew Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant.

Interested in a more detailed discussion? Buckle up and read on:

This is how the word huppah looks in Hebrew:

chuppah

The first letter: Het. The first letter is the letter on the far right (Hebrew is written right to left, unlike English, which is written left to right). This letter, called het, makes a sound that doesn’t exist in English. It’s a kind of raspy, rolling h sound that you make with the back of your tongue against the roof of your mouth. If you’re not a native Hebrew speaker it can take some practice. If you haven’t heard a Hebrew speaker pronounce it, the sound is difficult to get just from a written explanation.

In prayer books and other Jewish texts that substitute an English “h” for the Hebrew het, the h is usually shown with a dot underneath it, as in our logo for Huppahs.com:

Huppahs.com logo

 

Second letter: Vav. The second letter from the right, vav, can make three different sounds depending on the word. It can sound like the English v, or the long vowel sound o, but in “huppahs” it makes a sound like the English u.

Third letter: Peh. This letter sounds like the English p. When our word is written in English, it is most often written with two p’s, although you’ll sometimes see it with one p.

Last letter: Hay. In our word, the letter hay has a soft “ah” sound which some people write with an ah and some people write with just an a.

We hope we’ve explained all this in a way that makes sense. Now, the difference between making nouns plural in English and Hebrew is a whole other can of worms. That post will have to wait for another day.
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8 responses to “Huppah Customs

  1. Pingback: How to Decorate Your Huppah #6: Wrap Garland Around the Poles | Backyard Huppah

  2. Pingback: How to Decorate Your Huppah #5: Hang Ribbons from Poles | Backyard Huppah

  3. Pingback: How to Decorate Your Huppah #4: Scatter Flower Petals on the Ground | Backyard Huppah

  4. Pingback: How to Decorate Your Huppah #3: Drape Swags of Garland Between the Poles | Backyard Huppah

  5. Pingback: How to Decorate Your Huppah #2: Attach Bouquets to Poles | Backyard Huppah

  6. Pingback: How to Decorate a Huppah #1: Attach Garland to the Edge of the Canopy | Backyard Huppah

  7. Pingback: What do the Jewish bride and groom wear? | Backyard Huppah

  8. Pingback: 21 Things that Rabbis Wish Wedding Coordinators and Couples Knew about Planning a Jewish Wedding | Backyard Huppah

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