A Jewish wedding what to expect


Jewish weddings, as with anything in Judaism, are rich in tradition, ritual and symbolism. However you’ll be pleased to know that Jewish weddings are efficient and to the point, lasting only 45 minutes so those with short attention spans need not worry! The day itself for the SChattan (the groom) and Kallah (the bride) is considered to be the day when all past mistakes are forgiven (good news Gregg!) and they form a new and complete soul together.


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Bedeken (pre-ceremony)

In many cultures the first time that the groom sees his bride-to-be on the big day is at the end of the aisle but in a Jewish wedding the Chattan sees his Kallah at the Bedeken. This is the veiling of the bride, which by hiding the Kallah's beauty shows that the soul and her character are paramount to physical appearances (sorry Gregg but you’re marrying the whole package)! For the biblical fans this ritual is reminiscent of Rebecca covering her face before marrying Isaac (Genesis ch. 24).

The ceremony itself is made up of two parts, the Kiddushin and the Nissuin which take place under a Chuppah.

Chuppah

The ceremony takes place under the chuppah (canopy) which is a symbol of the home the newlyweds will build together. Whilst the chuppah is not the best structure to protect the Chattan and Kallah from the elements it does symbolise the unconditional hospitality that will be offered in their home (Kim will have to get used to regularly re-stocking the fridge!). The Chattan is first to make his way down the aisle and is followed by the Kallah, both are escorted by their parents to prevent them from running away at the last moment.

Traditionally the Kallah will then circle the Chattan seven times but Kim and Gregg have modified this ritual to symbolise how they are both at the at the centre of each other’s life. Circling is also a magical means of protection for the new family created at this moment.


Betrothal Blessings (Kiddushin)

No Jewish ritual would be right without wine and weddings are no exception. Two cups are blessed and drunk by the couple during the ceremony. The first cup is drunk (to settle their nerves?) after the Rabbi recites the betrothal blessings. Wine is a symbol of joy in Jewish tradition, it is fully embraced on many occasions throughout ones life . On Shabbat we recite Kiddush, the sanctification prayer, hence ‘Kiddushin’ is the sanctification of a man and woman to each other.

The Ring

In Jewish law a marriage becomes official when the Chattan gives an object of value to the Kallah. The ring is supposed to be simple, without blemishes or embellishment - just as it is hoped that the marriage will be one of simple beauty. The groom places the ring on the index finger of the bride’s right hand which historically was considered to be the closet finger to the heart. However other schools of thought believe it is to empower the Kallah's nagging finger for the rest of their lives. The ring is later moved to the ‘ring finger’ on the left hand.

The Kallah also give a ring to her Chattan as it’s only fair that Gregg also receives the tiniest handcuff in the world.


Ketubah

Not a Jewish musical instrument but the marriage contract, parts of which may be read out loud in the ceremony. It outlines all the promises the bride and groom make to one another for how they will live their lives together, its full of meaning and is legally binding under Jewish law , it is something to be hung up in the home afterwards as a reminder of what is to be strived for.

The Seven Blessings

The second part of the ceremony (Nissuin) begins with the seven blessings (the Sheva Brachot). Seven is a magic number in Judaism, beginning with the number of days it took to create and complete the universe. These blessings are laced with themes of greatness, love and in the words of Kanye ‘the good life’. Of course to end the blessings the bride and groom knock back their second cup of wine.


Breaking the Glass

The best known part of a Jewish wedding is also the last time that the groom is allowed to 'put his foot down'. The breaking of the glass, by the Chattan, with his foot symbolises the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and serves as a reminder that whilst it’s a moment of joy here, there are still others in the world who are not able to rejoice at this time in their own lives. A broken glass is also a physical reminder of the fragility of human relationships - the couple must never let the marriage shatter as the glass has been shattered. Kim it’s the one time you can’t get angry at Gregg for breaking something!

This marks the end of the ceremony when everyone stands up to shout “Mazel Tov.” This is when the ‘fete’ (West Indian = party) begins as the guests give the couple an enthusiastic reception when they walk back down the aisle, this time together.

Yichud

Traditionally the 18 minutes of 'alone time' for the couple where in times gone by they would consummate the marriage but, alas, it is today, a time for the bride and groom to reflect on what has just happened and to gather their thoughts.


Horas (Jewish Dancing)

The most interactive part of a Jewish weddings are the horas (i.e. the chair dancing)! The entire wedding party is expected to participate in a semi-organised dance that will get you shvitzing (sweating). The men form a group around the groom and the women form a group around the bride on opposite sides of the dance floor. Guests then dance with and around their bride and groom. For those of you less familiar, its somewhere between a Scottish Kayleigh and traditional Greek dance. It is communal dancing so make sure you get involved! You don’t have to know particular moves (as there are none!) - just grab the person next to you and join in! The men start with the raucous traditions which seem as though they might be a health and safety risk whilst the women may introduce props of their own. After a few dances guests lift the bride up in the air on one chair and the groom on another chair, bringing them closer together. Traditionally this was done so that the bride and groom could see each other over the heads of their guests. Everyone is still a bit unsure why the bride and groom wave a handkerchief between them, it is a bit strange! It is also customary for the mothers to be lifted up too…watch out Dayle and Radha!

For those of you interested below is a link to a short guide on how to dance in a Hora!

Click here for guide.

The Festive Meal (Seudah) & Party

Of course no Jewish occasion would be complete without food and lots of it! So eat, drink, dance, repeat constantly until you get kicked out of the place!


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FURTHER QUESTIONS?

Should you have any further questions, please contact wedding@kimandgregg.com