Looking for a quick background on the wedding chuppah that’s both short and sweet? g-dcast made this video with you in mind:
Looking for a quick background on the wedding chuppah that’s both short and sweet? g-dcast made this video with you in mind:
Another nearly forgotten wedding custom from Jewish Life in the Middle Ages:
A live fish played a part in Oriental Jewish weddings, and the newly married pair leapt thrice over the bowl in which the fish disported itself.
Here Oriental refers to the Eastern Mediterranean, the area that now includes Southern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel. I wish there were more details, but no. More from Isreal Abraham’s book here.
Not ready to go back to work? Listen to a Little Jewish Wedding Music from The Huppah Project (Video)
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…
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:
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.
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.
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!
Question: We are thinking of making a huppah canopy by combining the groom’s father’s tallit and his grandfather’s tallit. Do you have any recommendations for how we might do this?
Answer: The idea of making a wedding huppah canopy from more than one tallit, or prayer shawl, is a definite trend. At Huppahs.com we’re getting variations on this question more and more often.
Jewish couples have been marrying under huppah canopies made from tallits for centuries (Quick point: The Hebrew language plural for “tallit”, also spelled “tallith” would be “tallithim ” or “tallisim”. However, I’m using tallit as an English language word, so I’m using the plural “tallits”). Through the ages, the bride and groom stood under the groom’s tallit, in keeping with the symbolism of the huppah as the couple’s physical home and their shared spiritual space.
Many of our clients use our huppah poles with their own tallits or a tallit of a family member to create a very personal huppah.
Today, the idea of combining the tallits of more than one person is seen as a way to honor people who are special to the bride and groom and to represent the presence of these people in the couples’ lives.
As a huppah and tallit designer, I can recommend a few things to keep in mind:
Given these practical and spiritual considerations, my recommendation in most cases is to use only one tallit for a huppah canopy and honor additional special people in other ways. Here are some options:
Update: Here’s another option for using two tallits that doesn’t involve sewing them together: Attach one tallit to the huppah poles, and lay the second tallit on top of the first. You would want to make sure that the fabric of the first tallit is strong enough so that it won’t rip at the point of the tallit where you tie it to the poles, especially since the fabric will be carrying the weight of two tallits.
This would be a way to combine two tallits without sewing them, and it would be a way to include a second tallit that is older and frail or too delicate to sew or carry weight.
This idea comes from a Huppahs.com client who wanted to use a grandfather’s tallit that was too frail to be tied to the poles. His solution was to start with a Simplicity Huppah and lay his grandfather’s tallit on top of it. A great idea.
Do you have any other suggestions for honoring special people on your wedding day? Please share them in the comment section.
Real Jewish Wedding: Natalie + Richard Wed Under an Ivory Silk Huppah in a New York City Park
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:
Am I missing your favorite?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A.’s huppah, crafted by her Mom from huppah squares made by family and friends, became a way for her non-Jewish family members and friends to feel intimately connected with her wedding ceremony. Standing underneath the huppah, it felt to her like a shower of blessings and love.
Wedding photo taken by Davina + Daniel of New York and Montreal.