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…
Tag Archives: Jewish wedding ceremony
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 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.
- The Tenaim. The traditional formal agreement between the two families that the bride and groom will marry.
- 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.
- 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.
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!”
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!
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.
In most cases, the best height for huppah poles is 8 feet. That gives you lots of space under the canopy, and this size works for most conventional hotels and wedding venues and for ceremonies held outside. The poles in the photo at left are 8 feet tall.
However, some small spaces require 7-foot poles, such as many inns, private homes, and cruise ship spaces. Huppahs.com has rented huppah poles for ceremonies in all of these types of venues.
Your contact at the venue or your wedding planner will be able to tell you the height of the ceiling in your ceremony space.
I was recently asked what a Jewish bride and groom wear. Here’s the answer for a traditional Jewish ceremony:
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. (But why does the bride wear a veil in the first place? This post explains: Why a Jewish bride wears a veil – It might not be the reason you’ve heard.)
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.
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.
Answers to the 6 questions we are most frequently asked at Huppahs.com:
1. Does Huppahs.com rent only hand-held huppahs?
Yes, all of our huppahs are hand-held. This most traditional style of huppah is easy to put up and take down, and easy to transport to where ever you need it.
2. What cities does Huppahs.com serve?
We lease huppahs everywhere in the U.S. We ship by FedEx.
3. Do I ship the huppah back in the same box it came in?
Yes. Repack the poles and canopy in the box they arrived in, and apply the pre-paid return shipping label.
4. When I return the huppah, do I deliver it to a FedEx office, or will FedEx pick it up?
You can do either – your choice. Drop it off at a FedEx location near you or call FedEx at 1.800.463.3339 to arrange a pickup.
5. When should I order my huppah?
At least 3 weeks before the wedding to take advantage of $55 shipping (which includes a pre-paid return shipping label). For the best selection, reserve your huppah 3-4 months before the ceremony.
We can get a huppah to you with less than 3 weeks notice, but the shipping cost will be higher. We’re a great last-minute huppah solution.
Check availability online or by phone at 301-300.0950.
6. What’s the best way to incorporate a hand-held huppah into the procession?
Most often, the huppah bearers lead the procession. The huppah bearers can also enter from the side of the ceremony space just before the procession begins. The arrival of the huppah is a breath-taking moment that focuses everyone’s attention on the ceremony…and your imminent arrival!
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
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.
Huppahs (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.
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.
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.
I had to show you these photos of a very pretty evening wedding, from Surrendering to Serendipity, Gayle Harper’s blog about her travels along the Mississippi Great River Road. Serendipity indeed. While staying at the 150-year-old Nottoway Plantation she found preparations underway for this wedding and captured it on film. As dusk fell, the reception began.
Miri and Hank share a deep sense of engagement with the environment. The couple met through Habonim Dror, a youth-movement that supports making green choices. “We spent many summers at camps enjoying the beauty of nature.” Because of this, Hank and Miri strongly support environmental causes.
When it came time to make their love for each other official, they were not going to leave their love for nature behind, but they were planning to marry in the middle of January. How to have a garden wedding, surrounded by the natural environment they both love, in the middle of winter? The answer: Miri and Dan celebrated their wedding in the middle of New York’s Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, at the Palm House, which resembles a conservatory with its large pane windows on the gardens — and night sky — outside.
In planning the wedding, the bride and groom were inspired by the local Maine woodlands and the autumn harvest, especially the apples in the local orchard. The wedding colors were moss, apple, and the hues offered up by the locally available foods and flowers.
Photos: Karen Rusten
Source: From Seedling to Sachet: Growing Your Own Wedding by Mosey.
And Check this Out:
Real Life Wedding: Hipsters Marry in their Native Environment
If your home is a 300-year-old barn, your backyard wedding will naturally take on something of a country theme. Jan and Rob played the opportunity for maximum impact, with the prominent use of reds in the color scheme and reception decor that evokes a country store. Even if your home isn’t a 300-year-old barn, the details of Jan and Rob’s celebration will serve as great inspiration for your autumn wedding.
Photos: Elisabeth Millay