The Jewish Wedding Day
The Jewish Wedding
The significance of a Jewish wedding is much more meaningful and spiritual than just the giving of the ring. Throughout this article we will learn the true meaning of a Jewish wedding.
The Jewish wedding has certain customs and rituals with spiritual significance, expressing the importance of marriage and the main objective attributed between man and woman, as well as their obligations towards each other.
In this article we will try and explain to you the importance of these rituals for building a relationship.
The Wedding Day
It is stated in the sefer called מחנה אפרים that according to Kabalah the wedding day is a greater day then Yom Kippur itself. On this day all the past sins of bride and groom are forgiven, their life as a couple makes them into one new soul and opens a clean slate for them. It is therefore customary for the couple to fast from dawn until the end of the Chupah ceremony and for the groom to wear a white coat called a “Kittel” at the Chupah, the white colour symbolizes purity, and in union with the bride who is also dressed in white.
From the week before the wedding bride and groom are recommended to refrain from meeting each other until the beginning of the Chupah ceremony. This time of not seeing each other increases the love, longing and joy at the ceremony. Therefore we even have two separate reception parties for bride and groom before the Chupah.
While the reception is taking place the groom sits down with the officiating Rabbi and checks the Ketubah, to make sure there are no spelling mistakes or wrong names and that everything is written according to the law. Then the witnesses are summoned to sign the Ketubah. We recommend you get a custom made ketubah with all the information already filled in and checked by the Rabbi before the ceremony, then all that is left to do on the wedding day is, for the witnesses to sign. This way the ketubah is ready to hand to the bride at the ceremony without any further worries and avoids any distress caused by filling in the wrong information. When a custom Ketubah is not purchased the inquiries are usually not done properly in advance and are made only at the ceremony itself, the information is then filled out by hand by the Rabbi and all sorts of significant mistakes can be made which render the Ketubah indelible according to Jewish law.
Covering of the bride’s face - Veiling
The groom covers the bride’s face with a veil. The reason for this custom is modesty, and as a preparation for marriage. The source of this custom dates back to when our Matriarch Rivkah met Yitzchak, as it says: "ותקח הצעיף ותתכס" (בראשית כ"ד) "And she took her scarf and covered”. According to certain opinions the veiling is already considered as the Kidushin itself and is enough for marriage therefore we insist that the witnesses be present at this moment as well.
The Chupah – Marriage Canopy
In order to ensure that the Chupah is arranged according to the Jewish laws there is a Rabbi officiating the ceremony. Besides for that there will also have to be 10 males, above the age of 13, present (a minyan).
Our sages z”l called the first stage of marriage, the engagement, “the Kedushin”. This stage is what transforms a single girl to a married woman an “Eishes Ish”. The significance of this status is that from now on she is prohibited to any other man other than her husband. The couple is made for one another, they will now build a new personal life together. The creation of this new entity has exuberance and a sense of connection with eternity. Yet at this stage the women is still prohibited to her husband, until he will give her a Ketubah in front of two witnesses.
The Chupah ceremony is done under a canopy held up by four poles, which symbolizes the house. The canopy must be open from all sides, and is held beneath the open skies as a sign of the promise G’d gave Avraham that his children will be as the stars of the heaven.
The bride and groom don’t wear any jewellery under the chupah, their commitment to each other must not be based on any external factors only on each other’s essence.
After the Ketubah is written and checked, the fathers of both bride and groom escort the groom down the aisle to the chupah, followed by the mothers of bride and groom accompanying the bride.
The custom of most Ashkenazi Jews is for the bride to circle round the groom seven (or some only three) times under the canopy accompanied by her and her groom’s mother. This is as though the bride is creating a wall surrounding the groom to protect him from outside influences and any evil eye so that no harm can have control over the marriage, as we see form Yehoshua when he surrounded and encircled the walls of Yericho before concurring it.
After completing this, the bride stands to the right of the groom.
Kidushin – Sanctification
Before the Kidushin the first glass of wine is filled (the second one is filled before the seven blessings) on which the blessings of betrothal are said.
The Rabbi stands beside bride and groom and says the blessing:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹקינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָּפֶן
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹקינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל הָעֲרָיוֹת וְאָסַר לָנוּ אֶת הָאֲרוּסוֹת וְהִתִּיר לָנוּ אֶת הַנְּשׂוּאוֹת לָנוּ עַל יְדֵי חֻפָּה וְקִדּוּשִׁין, בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי מְקַדֵּשׁ עַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל עַל יְדֵי חֻפָּה וְקִדּוּשִׁין
Then the bride and groom have a sip of the wine, usually the mother of the bride gives her the cup.
The Wedding ring
The wedding ring must be gold and round along the inside, it must also be smooth on the outside without any decorations on it. It should be made of one type of metal without any gemstones or diamonds on it. The groom takes the ring into his right hand, the witnesses stand beside him, and he says to the bride: "הרי את מקודשת לי בטבעת זו כדת משה וישראל" . He then places the ring on a finger of the bride’s right hand.
The Ketubah (marriage contract)
At this point the Ketubah is read out loud. One honors an important and respected person to read the Ketubah. In the contract the groom accepts upon himself all the liabilities listed in the Ketubah, which are as follows: to provide his wife with all the basic needs such as food and clothing etc. The primary obligation is for the protection of her rights. One must make sure that from this point and on the Ketubah is in the possession of the woman. The ketubah is often artistically decorated and is framed and hung up in the home like a painting.
The Seven Blessings
The Seven Blessings are recited on a second cup of wine. The family honors seven important guests with a blessing. At the end of the blessings the bride and groom drink from the cup.
Breaking of the glass
At this point a complete, non-broken glass wrapped in paper is placed on the floor. The groom says the verse:
"אִם אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ יְרוּשָׁלָיִם תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִי, תִּדְבַּק לְשׁוֹנִי לְחִכִּי אִם לֹא אֶזְכְּרֵכִי, אִם לֹא אַעֲלֶה אֶת יְרוּשָׁלִַיִם עַל רֹאשׁ שִׂמְחָתִי"
and shatters the glass with his right foot.
At the end of the Chupah ceremony the bride and groom are accompanied to a closed secluded room and they are left alone to spend some time together. The two witnesses ensure the room is empty and closed after the couple enter the room and lock the door, they then remain standing outside for a few minutes. The practice today is for bride and groom to break their fast together at this unique time.
It is a great mitzvah to cheer and dance before the bride and groom, the guests accompany the couple from the yichud room with song and dance to the wedding hall. After the festive wedding meal the Seven blessings are once again said.