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Elements of a Modern Jewish Wedding Ceremony

Elements of a Modern Jewish Wedding Ceremony

A modern Jewish wedding ceremony allows the marriage of a male Jew and female Jewess. Typically, a Rabbi officiates over the proceedings.  Often, the Rabbi and others will make speeches before the official proceedings.

The wedding ceremony may take place in the open air, at a synagogue, hotel or other venue. Often there are bridesmaids and pageboys, confetti and music, though none of these are officially part of the ceremony. According to some traditions, the groom wears a prayer shawl (tallit) or a white burial shroud (kittel) over his clothes. The bride typically wears a white dress and veil.

The wedding ceremony is an enactment of an agreement, set out on a wedding agreement (Ketubah- in Aramaic) in which the groom commits himself to provide the bride with sustenance, clothing and her other needs. This agreement is witnessed by two Jewish Law-keeping male witnesses (Edim).

The actual ceremony has two Jewish legal major parts: betrothal/sanctification (Erusin/Kiddushin) and marriage (nissuin). The former prohibits the bride to all other men and the latter allows the couple to each other.

First, the groom checks that the bride is his intended and covers her with her veil (bedekken- Yiddish) and the wedding ceremony starts by the groom being brought to stand under a nuptial canopy (chuppah).  The nuptial canopy comprises four poles, typically 2-4 yard/meters high and a cloth/tallit square upper cover.

Thereafter, the veiled bride is brought to the canopy, and according to some traditions, she circles around the groom seven times.

The Rabbi blesses over a first cup of wine and makes the betrothal blessings. The bride and groom drink some of the wine. The groom then places the wedding ring on the bride’s right index finger and recites “Behold, you are betrothed unto me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel”. The Jewish law requires that the groom gives the bride an object of value, though it need not be a ring. The witnesses bear witness to this act and say “Betrothed she is (mekudeshet)”. In some weddings, the bride gives the groom a ring and she may also make a statement mirroring the groom’s recitation.

The wedding agreement (Ketubah) is then read out and signed by the two witnesses.

Seven blessings of marriage (nissuin) are then read out by the Rabbi and/other religious male attendees (often Rabbis and grandfathers of the bride/groom). A second cup of wine is drunk and the groom and bride partake thereof.

The groom then stamps on a glass to break it in memory of the shattered Temple of Jerusalem. The crowd typically shouts “Mazal tov” (congratulations) and the couple are led with music to a secluded room, where they are a couple for the first time and can eat their first meal as a married couple (and break their fast if they were fasting).

The ceremony is typically followed with a reception and/or wedding dinner, dancing, music and photo sessions. Most weddings are filmed/ videoed, too.


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