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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Observance, Marriage, Women in Judaism (4/12)
Section - Question 8.16: Weddings: What happens during a Jewish wedding?

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                                  Answer:
   
   The following are some common customs during a Jewish Wedding:
   
   The Ketubah: 
          The ketubah, or marriage contract, may be printed, or it may be
          written in beautiful calligraphy and illuminated. Much of the
          Aramaic text is over 2,000 years old, and the present form was
          fixed in the eighth or ninth century. The ketubah formalizes
          the groom's commitment to protect and care for the bride. The
          ketubah has two signatures from close friends or respected
          teachers as formal witnesses to his commitment.
          
          After the ketubah is prepared, the groom is asked if he is
          prepared to fulfill his obligations as stated in the ketubah.
          The traditional method of indicating agreement is for the group
          to take hold of a handkerchief or some other object given him
          by the rabbi. This is performed in the presence of witnesses.
          
   Badeken: Veiling the Bride 
          After the signing of the ketubah, the fathers of the bride and
          groom escort the groom to the bride, where guests dance and
          sing. There, the groom will lift the veil over the bride's
          face. This is to verify that it is indeed the woman he intends
          to marry. The groom then replaces her veil, reciting the
          blessing "Our sister, may you be the mother of thousands of ten
          thousands" (Genesis 24:60), words first uttered by Rebecca's
          mother and brother to her as she left her home to marry Isaac.
          The purpose for this ceremony is often explained by referring
          to the story of Jacob, whose father-in-law substituted Leah for
          Rachel when he married.
          
          As for the replacing of the veil: The roots of this custom date
          back at least 600 years, and is based on talmudic sources.
          Perhaps the ceremony signifies modesty, or the groom's
          responsibility--defined in the ketubah--for clothing the bride.
          
          The couple will be blessed by their fathers, as they have been
          many times before. At this point, the groom and his friends
          exit singing and dancing, to prepare for the ceremony.
          
   Chuppah: The Marriage Ceremony 
          The ceremony itself is a combination of symbolism, traditions,
          and religiously binding acts.
          
          The central physical symbol is the Chuppah, the marriage
          canopy. It is a canopy supported by four poles; it originally
          referred to a chamber reserved for the bride on her wedding
          day. The custom of using a chuppah originated with the rabbis
          in the Middle Ages, to separate the wedding ceremony (which was
          held outdoors) from any surrounding marketplace.
          
          The chuppah represents the home that they will create together,
          and the Divine Presence under which they will be married. One
          nice custom is to have honored friends hold the chuppah poles.
          In some families, the custom is to make a family chuppah, and
          to pass it down from generation to generation (as opposed to a
          wedding dress).
          
   Escorting the Bride and Groom: 
          The bride and groom are escorted to the chuppah by their
          parents, who carry candles to light the way. Traditionally, the
          fathers of the bride and groom escorted the groom, and the
          mothers of the bride and groom escorted the bride. Today, the
          groom's parents escorting the groom and the bride's parents
          escorting the bride. The groom arrives at the chupah first. The
          bride is escorted to the chupah by shoshvinim (escorts). The
          groom dons a kittel, a white robe worn on the High Holidays.
          Neither the bride nor groom wear jewelry under the Chuppah; the
          ring he gives her under the chuppah should be of unparalleled
          importance to her.
          
   The Ring:
          Traditionally, the ring presented from the groom to the bride
          must be worth at least a perutah (about a dime), and must be
          owned free and clear by the groom. It must be a band of metal,
          with no holes going through it (this eliminates any
          misunderstandings about the value of the ring). There are
          traditionally no stones, for if a stone were set in the ring,
          the wife might overestimate its worth, and this might
          invalidate her acceptance of it. Note that a different ring may
          be worn after the ceremony.
          
   Seven Circles: 
          When the bride reaches the chupah, tradition is that she
          circles around the groom either three or seven times. This
          symbolically making him the center of her life (note that some
          say that it symbolizes her protective care of her husband). The
          mothers of the bride and groom follow, showing that the family
          will be an integral part of that life. The custom comes from
          the verse in Jer. 31:22: "A woman shall court (go around) a
          man". Note: Many are bothered by the unevenness of this custom
          and have either made it egalitarian (each circles the other) or
          eliminated it altogether.
          
   The Blessings: 
          There are nine blessings recited under the chuppah.
          
          The first two blessings -- one over the wine and the second
          solemnifying the betrothal (Birchat Erusin) -- represent the
          first part of the ceremony.
          
          Next, two witnesses are called; they examine the wedding band
          to be sure that it meets standards of Jewish law (that it of
          one piece and without embedded stones). The groom then places
          the ring on the bride's index finger and formally declares her
          to be his wife. They are, at that point, fully married
          according to Jewish law.
          
          The ketubah will be read (usually by a prominent rabbi or
          scholar). The groom will then give it to the bride; the ketubah
          is, strictly speaking, the bride's.
          
          The seven blessings that are then recited are among the most
          sentimental and beautiful of the Jewish liturgy, and are
          unparalleled expressions of joy. In a tradition at least 800
          years old, the groom breaks a glass, symbolically remembering
          the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, destroyed by the
          Romans in the year 70. The ceremony is over. With singing and
          dancing, the couple are escorted from the room.
          
   There are some other interesting wedding customs, as described in The
   Jewish Catalog:
     * There is a custom that the bride give the groom a tallit on the
       day of the wedding. This is because the tallit represents the
       number 32, which is the number of fringes on the shawl. The number
       32 is the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word for heart.
     * In Europe, a jester was hired for a large wedding. His job was to
       be an actor, singer, poet, etc. and master of ceremonies.
     * We are all familiar with the concept of the Jewish matchmater as
       illustrated on the stage in Fiddler on the Roof. Yes, some
       communities still use matchmakers and arranged marriages.
     * In some communities, the bride and groom are wrapped together by a
       single tallit (in fact, this was done for the FAQ maintainer; the
       same tallit was later used to wrap the maintainer's daughter when
       she was named).
     * It is common to set the wedding date for a Tuesday, because on the
       third day of creation, the Torah repeats twice: "and G-d saw how
       good it was".

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Observance, Marriage, Women in Judaism (4/12)
Previous Document: Question 8.15: Weddings: What happens before a Jewish wedding?
Next Document: Question 8.17: Weddings: What happens after a Jewish wedding?

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