Jewish weddings are often the ceremony [next to the Bat/Bar Mitzvah] the average jew follows closest to tradition. Jewish weddings are typically massive, expensive, gorgeous affairs and they follow a format that usually consists of the following traditions that are unique to Jewish weddings;
- It’s traditional for the bride and groom to avoid contact with each other for the entire week leading up to the wedding.
- Jewish weddings tend to take place in the evening and often on Saturday night [after Shabbat ends] or on Sunday, but not on Friday.
- The weddings are often held outdoors, including the night weddings if the setting is warm enough.
- There are very specific times of the year when Jews cannot marry therefore even low-key Jewish couples typically check with a Rabbi before booking the day.
- As with Bris and Baby naming ceremonies, a wedding isn’t something you formally request people to attend, but rather you ask them to share in your joy with their presence. The wording of a printed invitation is important according to Jewish superstitions.
- The bride and groom get married under a floral or fabric covered canopy, open on all sides, known as a Chuppa. It is sometimes made out of wood and presented as a gift for the bride and groom to keep in their garden.
- Both the mother and father walk the bride down the aise but stop four steps from the Chuppah and let her walk those final steps alone to symbolize her decision to marry.
- During the wedding, the two mothers traditionally break a plate together [to represent the seriousness of the union and to remind everyone that once broken note easily repaired.]
- The bride and groom drink to cups of wine during the ceremony from a shared goblet.
- After the exange of rings the couple sign an official Jewish Marriage contract, known as a Ketubah. Like vows, the Ketubah is filled with the promise to take care of each other in meaningful ways but unlike standard wedding vows these are written down, framed, and often hung in the home as a reminder.
- To end the ceremonial part of the wedding, the groom steps on a glass, which erupts the audience into applause once it’s crushed. The guests are then ushered to the reception room, while the bride and groom get a few minutes alone before they join the reception.
- At the reception, food is extremely important. You will never go to a Jewish wedding serving rubber chicken on the menu. Expect a spread of epic proportions, and assume you’ll be taking extras home with you when you can stuff in no more.
- Dancing, music and speeches are all to be expected as you’d find at any wedding. There are some traditional songs and dance that crop up at most Jewish weddings, but receptions are far more flexible than the ceremony portion of the wedding.
Of all the traditions memorable in a Jewish wedding, what always stands out to me as distinctly different is the effort that’s put into the wedding. The food is often homemade, the decorations are usually handmade and unique and little personal touches are present everywhere. You can feel the love in everything planned for the wedding and it makes the occasion far more special than a shop-bought affair.