I love a good wedding – who doesn’t?
Weddings are the perfect way to celebrate the beauty of love, commitment, and tradition.
What I love even more than the average wedding is one that incorporates values and traditions from various cultures, religions, and backgrounds. Doing so is a wonderful way for a couple to express what’s important to them and share it with the people they love.
Jewish wedding traditions can include important symbols and rituals that make the celebration both unique and orthodox.
Whether you’re planning a Jewish wedding or will be attending one, it’s a great idea to learn about these traditions.
11 Jewish Wedding Traditions and Rituals
1. The Tisch
One of the funner traditions of Jewish weddings is called the Tisch. The Tisch, which means the table in Yiddish, is a special reception for only the groom and the men involved in the wedding ceremony.
During the Tisch, the party enjoys food, drinks, and general celebration for the day and union to come. But the fun and games don’t stop there. Also during the groom’s table, the groom must give a presentation on the Torah portion of the week.
This presentation is no ordinary one. As the groom attempts to speak, his party will interrupt and heckle him. Despite the distractions, he must continue. It’s an incredibly fun part of the Jewish wedding tradition.
2. Double Rings
In many Jewish ceremonies, couples use a singular ring – much like any other traditional ceremony.
However, sometimes Orthodox Jewish weddings will perform double-ring ceremonies. During the wedding ceremony, the groom will first place the ring on his bride’s right index finger, only up to the second knuckle.
This tradition demonstrates a closeness to the soul. It is also the finger used when reading the Torah.
Later in the ceremony, the groom will move the ring to the traditional left-hand ring finger, and the bride will bestow the groom’s ring as well.
Chuppahs, pronounced “huppahs,” is a marriage tent used in many traditional Jewish wedding ceremonies. The chuppah has evolved. At its earliest stages in history, the chuppah was a large wedding tent that the groom’s father would provide for the ceremony.
It later changed to just a small canopy held by four branches. The branches would come from a tree that the family planted at the time of birth of the child.
Though chuppahs have changed slightly to include more modern materials, their structure remains the same. The couple stands under the chuppah during the ceremony to symbolize the home that they will create together. Yet the sides remain open, indicating a welcoming home.
4. Bridal Bath
On the morning of her wedding, a Jewish bride may choose to take a cleansing bath at the mikvah, which is a ritual bath. Doing so is an act of purification said to prepare the bride for her groom.
Jewish brides may also choose to visit the bath earlier, but no sooner than four days from the wedding.
This ritual is not only a time of symbolic cleansing, but it’s also a time of relaxation, reflection, and peace before the big day. The traditional mikvah has about 150 gallons of water and is connected to a natural spring.
The mikvah is also used during the conversion of a person to Judaism.
Fasting is a prevalent tradition in the Jewish faith, both on the community and individual levels. Certain days on the Jewish calendar call for fasting, such as Yom Kippur.
Other times of significant events require fasting, including preparation for battle, mourning, atonement, prayer, and personal choice.
One tradition of Jewish weddings can include fasting of the bride and groom. As an act of both piety and atonement for sins, a couple may choose to fast on the day of their wedding leading up to their ceremony.
The act of fasting, in this instance, allows the couple to enter into their holy union in purity with repentance under their belts; not a bad way to start a marriage if you ask me.
Once the ceremony is over, the couple can resume eating and enjoy their celebration.
6. Gendered Seating
At very traditional, Orthodox Jewish weddings, you may notice that there is separate seating for men and women. Some weddings will require men and women to sit separately during the ceremony.
Depending on the level of tradition of the couples and their families, this separation may continue into the reception. Very traditional Jewish weddings will even have divided dancing for men and women.
In short, if you’re hoping to meet someone at a wedding, an Orthodox Jewish wedding probably isn’t the time or place. It’s best to honor the traditions chosen by the couple and wait for the next wedding to find your soulmate.
The bedeken is a romantic, beautiful moment in a Jewish wedding ceremony that provides some intimacy for the newlyweds-to-be. Also known as the Jewish veiling ceremony, this ritual happens after the bride and groom’s individual activities when the groups come together.
Tradition states that for the bedeken, the groom and his entourage go to the bride, who is often with both her mother and her groom’s mother. She may also be with other women in her life.
The groom approaches the bride and places her veil over her face, reciting the scriptures of what Rebecca’s mother said to her on her wedding day in the Torah.
This moment is a beautiful tradition because it symbolizes the importance of inner beauty. While it also follows biblical examples of women veiling themselves in the presence of men, it also makes a statement that the groom values his bride for more than her outer appearance.
8. Signing the Ketubah
In very traditional Jewish marriages, it can seem like the man has “acquired” the woman. In today’s social climate, many of us non-Jewish people may cringe at the thought. However, the signing of the ketubah, or the Jewish marriage contract, can help us better understand the relationship.
A ketubah is a contract signed by the groom, rabbi, and two of the groom’s male witnesses. This contract outlines the bride’s rights in the union and dictates the groom’s responsibilities to her – something taken very seriously under Jewish law.
In some more modern Jewish traditions, the bride might also sign this contract along with her choice of female witnesses.
In America and other parts of the world, this contract doesn’t hold any legal value. But it does hold up in civil courts in Israel.
During a traditional Jewish ceremony, the bride and groom may include circling. In this Jewish tradition, this is known as hakafot. Following the processional, before the ceremony begins, a Jewish bride will walk clockwise circles around her groom – seven, to be precise.
Circling is done as a public affirmation of consent to the marriage. The number seven is very prominent in the Jewish tradition. For instance, in the creation story at the beginning of the Torah, God rested on the seventh day.
This number of “perfection” as some call it signifies completeness and fulfillment. Not only is this act meaningful in its symbolism, but it adds a nice touch to your wedding for guests to enjoy.
10. Breaking the Glass
The breaking of the glass is a very dramatic moment in a traditional Jewish wedding. So dramatic, that you’ve probably seen the action replicated in various pop culture references. It certainly is a way to start your marriage off with a bang – literally.
But if you ask me, it seems odd to begin a newly formed, permanent bond with the breaking of something delicate. Why would anyone want that at their wedding? For a couple of reasons, actually.
For one, breaking the glass is a nod to the sexual union between husband and wife. Traditionally, the bride and groom will have saved themselves for marriage. The breaking of the glass signifies the end of that period of waiting.
Additionally, stomping on the glass is a way of representing how fragile relationships can be. It’s a reminder of how easily a marriage can be disrupted if we’re not careful. Jewish couples break the glass in hopes that their marriage will never shatter.
Finally, the loud bang of the glass is the perfect way to get the party started. The wedding ceremony under the chuppah is quiet, dignified, and serious. By breaking the glass, you break the ice in a sense, and everyone is free to celebrate on that command.
Plus, it’s just fun. When else are you allowed to smash a glass?
One of my personal favorite Jewish wedding traditions is yichud. Yichud means seclusion. While most weddings proceed immediately into the reception to celebrate with friends and family, some Jewish ceremonies include a period of yichud, or seclusion, for the newlyweds.
This seclusion is a private moment that the couple shares after the ceremony. It allows the two to quietly reflect on their new union together without the hustle and bustle of celebrating crowds.
Yichud can be as short as eight minutes, but some couples choose to share their first meal as spouses during this time. It’s a beautiful tradition and is especially significant in Jewish law, which does not allow an unmarried man and woman to be alone together.