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Jewish Wedding Traditions

Jewish Wedding Traditions
Jewish wedding traditions are known to be very meaningful and symbolic. They involve different customs which revolve around the Creator, His commandments, the bride and groom and their future life together. Read on to know more.
Priya Johnson
A Jewish wedding is highly symbolic and behind every small gesture lies a deeper meaning, which beautifies the whole wedding ceremony. Most of the Jewish wedding traditions stem from the time of the Patriarchs and the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai. According to the Talmud, man and women were created as one unit, or a single being on the sixth day, which means Eve was a part of Adam until God took her out from Adam's side. Since Adam and Eve are part of a single entity, their longing for each other to become one is a natural tendency and their love for one another draws them to each other.
The marriage covenant unites the separated halves of the unit and completes them. This is the beautiful basis on which Jewish wedding traditions rest upon. Let us have a look at the traditional way in which a Jewish wedding is planned and conducted.
Jewish Customs Prior to Wedding
Week Before the Wedding
The bride and groom are not allowed to see one another, the entire week before the wedding. This is done to enhance the excitement between the two on the wedding day. During this one week till the day of the wedding, the bride (kallah) and groom (chatan) are given the honor like that of a king and queen. They are truly made to feel special by their family and friends. Four days before the wedding, the bride is given a ritual bath, called mikvah, which symbolizes spiritual cleansing.
Jewish Wedding Day Ceremonies
The wedding day is the final big day for the couple. On this day, the couple is expected to fast the whole day. However, if either of them feels weak or ill, this rule can be excused. Moreover, if the wedding day falls on certain days like the first day of the month or a day after some holiday like Chanukah, it can be excused.
The bride's clothes will be white to symbolize the spiritual purification she went through during mikvah. The groom wears a short white robe called the 'kittel' over his suit to symbolize his preparation for the wedding. Under the chuppah, the bride and groom do not wear jewelry. The reason behind this is, the couple should commit themselves to one another for who they are and as they are, not for what they have and their material possessions.
Wedding Procession
After signing the ketubah, the wedding party will proceed towards the chuppah or wedding place. The onset of the wedding begins with the wedding procession, wherein the wedding party members like the rabbi, the groom and his family, bride and her family, etc. walk down the aisle towards the chuppah, where the wedding is to take place.
The wedding ceremony takes place under the chuppah, which is a canopy-like structure with no walls, but four poles holding the canopy. This unique canopy symbolizes the new home the couple will build together. It's open at the sides and this bears semblance to the kind of tent Abraham and Sarah had, which symbolized unconditional hospitality and welcomed people to their home. In the orthodox Jewish weddings, the wedding ceremony involves circling of the kallah 7 times around her groom.
The groom or chatan will then lift the bride's veil and then the ring exchange takes place. In the Jewish tradition, plain bands are used that are devoid of stones, engravings, etc. The reason for this is that there should be nothing that hampers the continuity of the band, symbolizing the smoothness of a marriage.
Signing of the Ketubah
Ancient Jewish weddings comprise the signing of the marriage contract, called Ketubah by the bride and groom. This contract explicitly puts forth the duties and responsibilities of the couple after they are united in the unique bond of marriage. The contract is written on an exclusively decorative parchment and then framed and kept on display in the couple's house. The wedding vows are exchanged and the seven marriage blessings are read.
Glass Breaking Tradition
Traditionally, the groom smashes a glass with his foot. There are different interpretations to this symbolic gesture. One says it symbolizes the fragility of human joy, while another looks at is as 'the marriage will last as long as the glass remains shattered', which means forever, because the glass once broken cannot be brought back. In the modern Jewish weddings, even the bride is asked to break the glass.
The ceremony ends by the Jewish wedding tradition called 'yichud', wherein the newly married couple is given the opportunity to spend a few minutes alone together, in a room to absorb the fact that they are married. Then they head off to the reception site, where the traditional wedding feast and traditional Jewish wedding dance is waiting for them.
Whoever came up with these traditions, honestly thought a lot. Not a single custom in a Jewish wedding is carried out blindly. Each custom is done for a specific purpose, holding special significance. These customs are truly intriguing and honestly make the Jewish wedding something very beautiful!
Man signing ketubah at a jewish wedding
Breaking glass underfoot as part of Jewish wedding ceremony