Even at a young age, we become acutely aware of Jewish wedding traditions and the rituals of traditional Jewish ceremonies.
From baby naming ceremonies and bat mitzvahs to the joining of two lives in marriage under the chuppah, we are surrounded by our cherished and time-honored Jewish customs.
We’ve all have grown up with favorite traditions we’ve treasured through the years, traditions that were part of our weddings, and Jewish ceremonies in general. Memories of participating in those traditions might even include such moments as when our precious family pet ate the brisket or grabbed the dreidel while it spun!
Jewish Wedding Traditions
- Auf Ruf – The calling up of the groom to recite a blessing over the Torah on the Shabbat before the wedding. In some Jewish communities, it is the Shabbat after the wedding.
- Badeken (Bedekin) – The groom covers the bride’s face with a veil just before the wedding ceremony (based on the story of Jacob and Leah). The veil is a symbol of modesty (relating to the story of Isaac and Rebecca).
- Breaking of the Glass – Generally, the groom (chatan) breaks the glass with his right foot. It is a reminder of the destruction of the Temple, and a symbol of how fragile relationships can be. As with the glass, once relationships are broken and damaged, they are difficult to repair. The breaking of the glass at a wedding is also the signal for everyone to shout “Mazel Tov!” and begin the wedding reception festivities or as some express, ‘to start partying.’
- Chuppah (Huppah, Wedding Canopy) – The wedding ceremony takes place under the chuppah which symbolizes the home the couple will build together.
- Hakafot – Traditionally, the bride circles the groom seven times upon entering the chuppah. Among other things, the circling “seven times” corresponds with the seven wedding blessings and demonstrates that the groom is the center of her life. However, the modern version is now in place for our couples today. It is a shared custom. The bride would circle the groom three times, the groom would circle the bride the same number, and then together, they would circle together. The Symbolism of Seven is observed and the meaning only changes to now define the bride and groom are the centers of their life together. A nice approach to our changing times where tradition is observed on a more comfortable level.
- Jewish Wedding Dance (Circle Dances, Hora) – Guests dance in a circle around the couple and during the dance, the bride and groom are lifted on chairs. Variations (Krenzl and Mizinke Tanz) involving the parents are also sometimes part of the dancing celebration.
- Kabbalat Panim – To increase the anticipation of their upcoming wedding day, it is customary for the bride and groom not to see each other for the week leading up to the ceremony. In this case, the couple greets their guests separately before the ceremony. This is known as Kabbalat Panim.
- Ketubah (Marriage Contract) – Traditionally, a contract outlining the husband’s responsibilities to his soon-to-be wife. Ketubot (plural for more than one) are also beautiful works of art, often displayed in a couples’ home after the wedding. Ketubah Artist’s also changed with the times so couples can observe the wedding traditions of Ancient Times. Now the Ketubah text reflects the promises from the bride and groom to each other.
- Kiddushin (Blessings of Betrothal) – The first part of the ceremony which takes place under the chuppah and includes the blessing of the wine and the ring ceremony.
- Nisuin – The second part of the ceremony which includes the seven wedding blessings.
- Seudah (Festive Meal) – A celebratory meal following the fulfillment of a mitzvah (commandment). In this case, a wedding, but also for a bar mitzvah, a brit milah, etc.
- Sheva Brachot (Sheva Berachot, The Seven Blessings) – The seven wedding blessings are either sung or recited. They praise God for creating human beings, and for making the groom and bride as happy as Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden.
- Shidduch – Matchmaking in which Jewish singles are introduced to one another in Orthodox Jewish communities for the purpose of marriage.
- Yichud – During a Jewish wedding, the bride and groom are escorted to a private room to spend some time alone. This time of seclusion represents their new status as husband and wife.
Other Jewish Traditions and Rituals
- Baby Naming – An event that occurs shortly after birth. At this time the infant is given his/her name(s). According to Jewish custom, girls have their ceremony on the first Shabbat after they are born and boys are named on the eighth day after they are born as part of their circumcision ceremony.
- Bar Mitzvah – The coming of age of a boy and the associated ceremony.
- Bat Mitzvah – The coming of age of a girl and the associated ceremony.
- Shabbat – The seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest. The Jewish Sabbath is observed from sundown Friday until sundown on Saturday night.
- Tzedakah – Offering of charity monetarily or through the giving of time.
- Yahrzeit – The annual anniversary of the death of a relative. A time to remember the souls of the past. Do you have a Jewish tradition or ritual you would like to see added to this page?