Jewish Wedding Traditions
Jewish wedding traditions preserve the ancient Jewish heritage; the ceremony in particular is a bittersweet blend of remembering past hardships of the Jewish people while honoring the love and purity of matrimony.
The wedding day begins with the bride and groom fasting from sun-up until the wedding ceremony; this process allows the couple to cleanse their souls of old sins and begin their marriage with a "clean slate".
A Jewish wedding ceremony starts with the badeken; the ceremonial veiling of the bride by the groom. In addition to the symbolism of the bridal veil as modesty and purity, this act demonstrates that the groom values the bride's soul and character over her physical appearance.
From there the bride and groom are escorted by their parents to the chupah; an outdoor canopy that represents the home the couple will build together. The bride then circles the groom seven times. Seven has special significance: there are seven Jewish wedding blessings and the term "when a man takes a wife" appears seven times in the Torah (the Jewish holy book).
The Seven Jewish Wedding Blessings:
- Blessed are You, God, King of the universe, who has created everything for His glory.
- Blessed are You, God, King of the universe, who created Man.
- Blessed are You, God, King of the universe, who created Man in His image, and in His own likeness, provided for the perpetuation of his kind.
- Bring joy and happiness to the barren city through the reunion of her children - Blessed are You, God, who makes Zion rejoice with her children.
- Let the loving couple be happy, just as You made Your creation happy in the Garden of Eden long ago - Blessed are You, God, who makes the bridegroom and the bride happy.
- Blessed are You, God, sovereign of the world, who created joy and celebration, bridegroom and bride, love and brotherhood, peace and friendship. May there soon be heard in the cities of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and celebration, the voice of a bridegroom and bride, the happy shouting of bridegrooms from their weddings and of young men from their song-filled feasts. Blessed are You, God, who makes the bridegroom and bride rejoice together.
- Blessed are You, God, the sovereign of the world, the creator of the fruit of the vines.
After the seven blessings the rabbi then recites the betrothal blessing after which the couple drinks a glass of wine. Wedding rings are then exchanged. As dictated by Jewish wedding tradition, the wedding rings are plain gold bands without gemstones or engravings; this symbolizes the couple's hope for a simple, honest marriage and that both are marrying for love, not material gain.
Next the ketubbah is signed. The ketubbaah is a wedding contract that outlines the rights and obligations of the bride and groom. Once signed, the ketubbah is entrusted to the bride for safekeeping. After the wedding many couples will frame and display the ketubbah in their home. The rabbi then reads out the seven blessings, after which a second glass of wine is consumed. This glass is then wrapped in a napkin and broken under the groom's foot. The breaking glass represents the destruction of the Temple and demonstrates the fragility of life (thus to cherish it all the more). This marks the end of a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, to which the guests congratulate the couple with shouts of "mazel tov" ("good luck" or "congratulations").