The Jewish Wedding
A traditional Jewish wedding ceremony (called a chatunah, חֲתֻנָּה) is a ceremony full of symbolism.
It is a union of biblical, historical, mystical, cultural and legal traditions.
Likewise, these customs are passed down from one generation to the next, forming a chain of continuity that goes back more than 3,800 years.
The Jewish wedding is celebrated under the chuppah.
Also, the chuppah, also written as Jupa or huppah, is a wedding canopy, which has an opening on all 4 sides.
The chuppah consists of a square cloth made of silk, wool, velvet or cotton, supported by four poles.
The poles are placed on the ground or can also be held by friends of the bride and groom.
Many times the couple decides to decorate the poles with flowers, personalizing it to their liking.
It is a demonstration of the couple’s commitment to establish a home that is always open to guests, as was Abraham and Sarah’s tent.
The chuppah symbolizes the couple’s new home.
Abraham was famous, not only for his kindness, spirituality and wisdom, but also for his hospitality.
His tent had entrances on all four sides so that travelers coming from any direction would have a door to enter.
According to the Midrash, Abraham’s house was open for all people, for those who were on their way and for those who were returning to their homes.
Daily people came to his house to eat and drink.
Abraham welcomed them all.
He gave food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty.
He gave clothing to the needy.
There is a custom for the ceremony to be held under the sky.
This is to represent the blessing that God told Abraham, that his descendants should be as numerous as the stars.
The sages, too, find this reference to the chuppah in the Talmudic passage in Avot, referring to the house that is open on four sides.
In this way the chuppah symbolizes the new home of the bride and groom, which should be built with joy and excitement; and which should be a space of love, understanding, respect, kindness and solidarity.
The chuppah also symbolizes Divine Protection.
Above all, the chuppah is a fragile structure, but its strength lies in God’s blessing as shelter and sustenance.
The Jewish wedding ceremony.
With the entrance of the bride and groom the ceremony begins.
There are several customs in this respect.
The most traditional is that firstly the groom enters accompanied by his mother.
Then the mother of the bride and the father of the groom go to the chuppah.
Also in this procession, the bridesmaids, children with flowers, children with the wedding rings, groomsmen, etc. can be included.
Finally, the bride arrives accompanied by her father.
When the bride arrives at the chuppah, the groom goes out to greet her.
At this point there are different traditions.
The bride circles around the groom.
These circles have several meanings.
In Ashkenazic tradition, the bride usually circles around the groom three to seven times under the chuppah.
Some believe it is to create a magical wall of protection against evil spirits, temptations and the stares of other women.
Others believe that the bride is symbolically creating a new family circle.
On the other hand, it may represent that the bride will surround the groom with love and protection.
Some explain that the seven circles correspond to the seven times the word kallah, bride, is mentioned in the Shir haShirim (Song of Songs), a song of love.
Once the bride and groom are standing side by side under the chuppah, the chazan welcomes them.
Also, with this welcome, a request for divine blessing to the new couple is included.
After all this preliminary activity, we are ready to begin the actual marriage ceremony.
The Erusin is composed of 2 blessings, on the marriage and on the wine.
Once the second blessing is finished, the rabbi hands the cup of wine to the groom, who drinks from it; the cup is then presented to the bride, who drinks from the same cup.
This symbolizes the commitment to share their lives from that moment on.
It is the last glass of wine as unmarried people.
Wine, also represents joy and abundance.
“Wine gladdens the heart of man,” and one of the most joyous occasions to celebrate is a wedding.
The chazan holds a cup of wine and recites the blessing over the wine.
Next, the groom places the wedding ring on the bride’s finger.
As he places the ring on her finger, the groom says: “With this ring, you are consecrated to me according to the law of Moses and Israel”.
The bride then places the wedding ring on the groom’s finger.
Upon placing the ring on his finger, the bride pronounces the following phrase “Ani le dodi, vedodí li” which means “I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me.”
Signing of the marriage contract, the ketubah.
Next, the ketubah, the marriage contract, is read aloud.
The ketubah in its traditional ancestral form, details the main obligations of the husband to his wife.
Today the formula has been updated to the point that the bride and groom can sign their own vows and commitments of love, respect, care, etc.
With the reading and signing of the ketubah we divide the two parts of the Jewish marriage ceremony.
The nisuin ceremony, which takes place with the recitation of the seven blessings (Sheva Brachot).
Also, the first blessing is the blessing of wine, and the remaining six are consecrations related to the marriage.
The Sheva Brachot include special blessings for the newlyweds.
At the end of the betrothal they drink again from the cup of wine, their first cup of wine as husband and wife.
Breaking the cup
To conclude, a crystal glass is wrapped in a white napkin.
This glass is placed under the groom’s foot.
The groom must step on it and break it.
The breaking of the glass has several meanings.
On the one hand, it reminds us that, even in the moment of greatest personal joy, we must remember the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem.
On the other hand, it reminds us of the fragility of marriage and the need to care for it with care, respect and love.
Likewise, it is desired that in the same way that it will be impossible to put the cup back together again, that it will be impossible to destroy this new marriage.
When the groom breaks the cup everyone shouts “Mazal Tov” which means “good luck”
If you want to delve deeper into the rituals and meanings of the Jewish wedding, contact me. I will be happy to talk with you.
Also, if you need a professional, with 40 years of experience and with an open mind to officiate Jewish weddings, interfaith weddings under the Jewish rite, ecumenical weddings accompanied by a Catholic or Evangelical priest, and egalitarian weddings with same-sex couples; contact me. I love to collaborate in the realization of the dreams and illusions of the bride and groom.