10 Traditional Jewish Wedding Rituals
By Debra Shepperson with Relish Photography by Lee
1. Many couples fast before the wedding.
The wedding day is like a mini Yom Kippur (also known as the Day of Atonement that includes a ritual fast). Tradition states the couple’s past sins are forgiven on their wedding day. Many brides and grooms wear white clothing during this time as it is also a traditional color for Yom Kippur.
2. The bride and groom see each other before the wedding ceremony.
The ketubah (Jewish prenuptial) signing is completed before the couple walks down the aisle. It can either be done in private while the wedding guests gather for the ceremony or in front of guests.
3. The groom lowers the bride’s veil before the ceremony.
The groom looks at his bride before he covers her face with a veil to make sure she is indeed the woman that he intends to marry. The veiling also symbolizes the groom’s intention to marry the bride because he loves her for who she is and not just for her physical appearance.
4. The ceremony begins with circles.
Traditionally the bride circles the groom seven times to symbolically create a new family unit. Why seven times? There are seven days in a week, and the number seven signifies completeness and wholeness. In some communities, brides circle the groom three times instead of seven—or they do not circle at all. Some congregations have made egalitarian updates to the tradition; the bride circles the groom three times, the groom circles the bride three times, then the seventh circle is completed together.
5. The chuppah or wedding canopy.
The canopy can be made of a tallit (prayer shawl) or other cloth that is attached to four poles. The poles can either be secured in place, or they may be held by four people during the ceremony. The chuppah symbolizes the home that the couple will share during their marriage. It is open on all four sides to signify hospitality.
6. Seven blessings are read or chanted.
Called the Sheva B’rachot or “seven blessings,” this may either be read by the officiant or by other people whom you wish to honor.
7. Wedding rings are not placed on the left ring finger during the ceremony.
Instead, they are placed on the right index finger. They are switched to the left ring finger after the conclusion of the ceremony. In some communities, only the bride receives a ring under the chuppah. If she wants to give the groom a ring, she does so later.
8. The moment the bride receives her ring is the moment that the marriage is official.
The actual marriage takes place when the groom gives the bride an object of value (usually an unadorned metal ring) in front of two kosher witnesses.
9. The bride and groom share a cup of wine during the ceremony—twice.
They can either drink from the same cup both times or share from two different cups.
10. The groom breaks a glass.
At the end of the ceremony, the groom stomps on a glass. The shattering glass serves as a reminder of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It also represents the concept that there is sorrow in the world even in our times of joy.
Debra Shepperson is Co-Owner of Relish Photography by Lee, a full-service wedding and portrait photography company. To learn more about the Relish wedding collections and services, please visit www.relishphotosbylee.com. Photos by Relish Photography by Lee.