A Jewish marriage ceremony includes many different components. There are a few parts of the ritual which are required as well as many customs that have developed over the centuries. The marriage ceremony is a demonstration of two people’s pledging their exclusivity to one another. The required parts of the ceremony are betrothal (Erusin) and marriage (Kiddushin and Nissu’in). First a Jewish couple must become betrothed which is done via the betrothal blessing and a blessing over wine. To be married involves four parts: an exchange of something of value, typically a ring, a contract, the Ketubah, recitation of the seven wedding blessings (Sheva Brachot), and time spent alone (Yichud). A groom gives his bride a ring and declares, “With this ring you are consecrated to me as my wife according to the laws of Moses and the people Israel.” A bride can give her groom a ring, but it is not required by Jewish law. The Ketubah is typically signed by witnesses before the wedding ceremony begins, it is read during the ceremony and is then given by the groom to the bride. After the seven wedding blessings are recited and the ceremony concluded the couple spends a few minutes alone before joining their guests.
Many parts of the marriage ceremony that people are familiar with are customs that have developed over the centuries. Different Jewish communities have developed their own particular marriage customs, but some of the more common ones are:
Tisch/Kabbalat Panim-Tisch, which is Yiddish for table, is a custom where the groom gathers around a table with the male wedding guests before the ceremony to deliver a D’var Torah. Assuming that he is nervous it is traditional to interrupt him with songs and toasts. Kabbalat Panim, which is Hebrew for welcoming guests, is a custom where the bride sits on a throne-like chair to welcome all the wedding guests who offer her blessings.
Bedeken-Bedeken, which comes from German meaning to adorn, is the first glance that a groom would have of his bride on their wedding day if they had been separate beforehand. At the Bedeken the Ketubah would be signed, the groom would offer his bride a blessing, and the groom would put the veil over his bride’s face.
Circling-A bride would circle her groom seven times before they enter the wedding canopy (Chuppah) as a way of showing his exclusivity to her.
Chuppah-Chuppah, which is Hebrew for wedding canopy, is the place where the marriage ceremony takes place. Often times the covering is a talit, but it can be covered by anything. Often it is adorned with flowers.
Breaking a glass-After the ceremony under the Chuppah is complete, but before the couple spends a few minutes alone, the groom will break a glass. There are many different explanations for this custom from scaring away demons to reminding us of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
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