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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Observance, Marriage, Women in Judaism (4/12)
Section - Question 8.15: Weddings: What happens before a Jewish wedding?

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Observance, Marriage, Women in Judaism (4/12)
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                                  Answer:
   
   The following are some common customs before a Jewish Wedding:
   
   Tena'im--The Engagement: 
          Engagement in Jewish law is more than just the intention to
          marry; it carries considerable legal and social significance.
          The official Jewish engagement takes place at the groom's
          table, with the signing of "Tena'im," which creates the Jewish
          legal status of "engaged." The honor of reading the contract
          (in Aramaic) is often given to a prominent rabbi or close
          friend. Then, the mothers of the bride and groom break a china
          plate, signifying the completion of the engagement agreement.
          
          Te'naim is a mutual agreement between the bride and groom's
          parents. It concerns the date and financial arrangements of the
          marriage. The Te'naim dates back to the third century C.E.; it
          serves to discourage disorganized arrangements as well as
          misunderstandings that can lead to hurt feelings and strained
          relationships. Often, the signing is accompanied by an
          engagement party for the couple and their parents. Te'naim is
          primarily an Orthodox custom.
          
          There is the notions of Eirusin, Qiddushin, and Nissuin.
          Eirusin refers to giving the ring (meaning the bride-to-be
          can't marry anyone else, but they are not yet husband and wife
          in any fiscal or sexual sense). Qiddushin is the acceptance of
          the ring. Nissuin refers to sharing a home: chuppah, yichud, or
          consumating the marriage (the tannaim dispute which is
          necessary). This time is not really betrothal, but is more than
          getting engaged, and yet not quite fully married. There is no
          western equivalent, really. The maximum period of time allowed
          is a year. This was a rabbinic enactment toward the end of the
          2nd Temple era (around the time of Jesus), so as to prevent men
          from performing eirusin and then never committing to marriage
          (nissuin). In fact, if you waited more than a year, the court
          required you to support your bride anyway, to prevents
          stringing her along. The problem with having a long engagement
          is that hormones get impatient. So, by the 12th century the
          norm was to perform eirusin in the morning, have a full day of
          wedding celebrations, and have nissuin right before sunset.
          Today they are even closer together. The ring is given under
          the chuppah (bridal canopy). Technically, Eirusin is the giving
          of the ring, Qiddushin occurs as when she accepts the ring, and
          nissuin an instant later as they are already under the chuppah.
          Some opine that nissiun requires being alone together, so we
          dance with the couple from the chuppah to a yichud room (lit:
          being alone room). According to this opinion, nissuin is 15 min
          or so after qiddushin.
          
   Selecting the Date and Place
          Before the wedding, the couple selects a rabbi and meets with
          the rabbi to set a date and place. The rabbi instructs and
          counsels the couple as they prepare for the day.
          
          Jewish marriages do not take place on Shabbat, festivals or the
          High Holy Days. This is because "one does not mix one occasion
          of rejoicing with another." This keeps the celebration of the
          holyday separate from the celebration of the wedding (such
          separation is important: consider the dilemma of Christian
          children who are born on Chistmas: Whose birthday is being
          celebrated?) However, weddings may be held on Chanukah and
          Purim. Wedding are not traditionally held on days of public
          mourning as the mood of such days would diminish the joy of the
          wedding. This includes Tisha B'Av, the fast of Gedaliah, the
          tenth of Tevet, the fast of Esther, the seventeenth of
          Tammuz,the period between Pesach and Shavuot, and the three
          weeks from the seventeenth of Tammuz until Tisha B'Av. The one
          exception Lag B'Omer, the thirty-third day in the Counting of
          the Omer, which is a popular wedding date in Israel. This is an
          especially popular time to get married in Israel. Tuesday is
          considered a good day to have a wedding, because in the account
          of Creation (Genesis, chapter 1), we read ki tov ("it is good")
          twice on the third day.
          
   Oyfrufn/Aufruf/Shabbat Chatan
          On the Shabbat morning before the wedding, it is common for the
          hatan (groom) (sometimes the couple is called) to be called up
          to read the Torah in the synagogue. This serves to announced
          the forthcoming marriage to the community and permit everyone
          to wish the couple mazel tov. In Ashkenazic communities, this
          was the equivalent of the "If anyone has any objections to this
          marriage..."; that is, it permitted anyone with information
          concerning impediments to the validity of the marriage to voice
          them. After the groom recites the final blessings, Sephardic
          communities throw candy and raisins to wish the groom a sweet
          life. Those who try to avoid Yiddish call this the "Shabbat
          Chatan", Sabbath of the Groom. Note that usually there is a
          simultaneous "Shabbat Kallah", where the brides' friends make a
          party for her.
          
   Fasting
          The couple will not have seen each other for the week before
          their wedding day. On the wedding day itself, they fast and
          recite special prayers; the day is a personal Yom Kippur (Day
          of Atonement) for them. Thus, they are fasting as an atonement
          for sins. The fast also emphasizes the serious nature of the
          commitment. The custom is that they fast from dawn until the
          chupah ceremony is completed. If the marriage takes place on a
          day of public celebration (Rosh Chodesh, Chanukah, Tu B'Shevat,
          or Purim) then the fast is suspended. The fast permits the
          couple to begin their married life free from the taint of sin,
          a fresh slate, as it were.
          
   Mikveh
          Traditionally, the bride visits the mikveh before to the
          wedding. This is done to mark the change of status.
          
   Kittel
          Keeping with the Yom Kippur theme, the bride and groom
          traditionally wear white at the wedding as a symbol of purity.
          
   The Reception: 
          The bride is often seated on a bridal chair, and is greeted by
          friends and family members. In an adjacent room, the groom
          meets with his friends, who may sing and share the celebration.
          He may attempt a brief lecture on some issue in Jewish law; if
          so, custom dictates that he be interrupted by his friends'
          singing.

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Observance, Marriage, Women in Judaism (4/12)
Previous Document: Question 8.14: Weddings: What is a Jewish Marriage?
Next Document: Question 8.16: Weddings: What happens during a Jewish wedding?

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