While you’ve heard our take on Jewish wedding traditions with a unique twist. In this piece, we’re getting back to the basics covering wedding events that are specific to traditional Jewish weddings. From signing the ketubah to breaking the glass, keep reading to learn what Jewish wedding traditions and rituals you can incorporate into your special day.
This Jewish tradition serves a purpose well beyond the wedding day. It’s a Jewish marriage contract that represents each partner’s duties to one another. While this contract is rarely enforced by civil courts, it is a part of Jewish civil law.
The couple creates the contract before they get married so that they can craft a reminder of what’s important to them. It’s a helpful, practical tool that couples can reference later on to help navigate the rough times in marriage. In fact, it’s designed to be a useful framework in the event of divorce, too. Any time the newly married couple gets into an argument, it’s a symbolic tradition to debate in the presence of the ketubah.
Ketubahs can be decorated with simple or extravagant designs, and couples will often display them at the ceremony for all of their guests to see. It's customary to recite its content during the ceremony, and like a marriage license, have it signed by both the couple and two witnesses.
The chuppah is the traditional Jewish altar that comprises four posts that hold up a canopy to signify the new home the couple will form together. According to Jewish wedding tradition, the canopy is usually made by or belonging to the bride, groom, or one of their family members. Friends or family may optionally hold the four posts up during the ceremony to demonstrate by example the support they will offer the couple throughout their marriage.
The processional at a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony is led by the groom accompanied by his parents. Next, the bride and her parents walk down the aisle. Both sets of parents typically remain under the chuppah for the duration of the ceremony.
During the ceremony, an Ashkenazi Jewish wedding ritual calls for the bride to circle the groom three or seven times under the chuppah. This act is believed to fend off “ayin ha'ra,” otherwise known as the evil eye, which is negative energy that comes from looking at something with ill-feeling. Some people believe the ritual repels evil spirits and temptation.
Depending on the degree to which you want to incorporate Orthodox Jewish tradition or the request of your Rabbi or family, consider covering your shoulders while you’re under the chuppah. There’s nothing in the tradition that says you don’t have the creative autonomy in the way you choose to do so.
Sheva Brachot is the name of this beloved Jewish wedding ritual, traditionally chanted over a glass of wine. They're normally recited at the ceremony by the Rabbi in Hebrew and English for guests. Sometimes the couple assigns readers for each blessing. At the reception after the meal, and for the seven days that follow the wedding ceremony, the couple continues to celebrate their wedlock with a focus on the recital of the blessings. Each blessing centers on a theme vital to a healthy, strong marriage and a happy life:
- Play & Humor
- Creativity, Art, & Beauty
Breaking of the Glass
After the rings are placed on the couple’s fingers, the Rabbi traditionally sings a Hebrew song called Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim (English translation: If I Forget You, Jerusalem). The song is a remembrance of the demolition of two Jewish temples during the fall of Jerusalem. At times of great joy, it’s Jewish tradition to acknowledge ancestors’ times of great suffering.
A glass is wrapped in a napkin or cloth, placed at the feet of the groom, and everyone yells “Mazal Tov!” This is the big moment of the ceremony. The glass breaking is a symbol of:
- The fragility of relationships.
- A break from the past.
- The ruination of the Temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.
- A hope of happiness and/or children that are as plentiful as the pieces of glass.
- The permanence or irreversibility of the marriage.
The Hora Dance
This is the moment we all get so excited about on the dance floor. The families of the newlyweds gather around, lift them up into the air, and proceed to dance around them. The couple holds either end of a napkin or handkerchief to express their union. The tradition can be traced back to several different cultures including Romanian, Balkan, Greek, Turkish, Russian, and more. The dance became popularized in modern-day Jewish celebrations in the 1920s when Jewish populations were settling in Palestine.
This tradition’s high energy is infectious, to say the least. In fact, in some instances, the newlyweds are thrown up in the air on a sheet that’s held tightly by the groomsmen! Everyone’s invited to dance around the couple with as much enthusiasm as they'd have at their own wedding. On some occasions, the couple’s parents or immediate family members are also hoisted into the air alongside the newlyweds.
Klezmer music is customary for this Jewish wedding event. At Orthodox Jewish weddings, you’ll find women and men dancing separately with a physical partition between the two groups. Make sure the DJ and/or live band understands the flow, duration, and key details about the Jewish wedding traditions you want to incorporate into your big day.