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a short primer on jewish weddings [Page 1 of 1]

Jewish weddings begin with the Ketubah, or marriage contract. This is a pact, generally written in Hebrew (or if you want to be as traditional as possible, Aramaic), which outlines the promises that the couple is making to one another.   The bride and groom both sign it, and it is witnessed by a rabbi and often one or two other people of the couple's choosing in a small, private ceremony shortly before the actual wedding takes place.   Unlike most legal documents, a Ketubah is usually designed to be a work of art, intended to be hung on the walls of the couple's home, so that they will be encouraged to look at it and reflect on their wedding vows every day.  

Like many Catholic and Protestant weddings, Jewish weddings also call for a lifting of the bride's veil before the rings join the couple. The ceremony takes place under a canopy called a chupah, which signifies God's presence, shelter and protection, but which is open on all sides, signifying the manner in which the bride and groom are inviting their friends and family to join them in this celebration.   Tradition dictates that the bride walk in seven circles around the groom beneath the chupah, symbolizing her commitment to building a home for them to share.   In many modern Jewish weddings, however, the couples either circle each other, showing their equal participation in creating that home, or eschew the circling entirely.  

The rabbi recites a betrothal blessing, after which the couple drinks from the same cup of wine.   Wine is a symbol of joy in the Jewish faith, so it is fitting that it be an integral part of this celebration.   The bride and groom then exchange vows and rings.   According to Jewish custom, once the couple has placed rings on each other's fingers, they are officially married.   Traditionally, the rabbi or wise members of the bride and groom's family recite seven blessings in Hebrew, and the couple then drinks from a second cup of wine.

After the blessings comes perhaps the most famous aspect of Jewish weddings, when the groom breaks a glass by stepping on it.   The precise meaning of this act is widely debated, but two common interpretations are that it symbolizes the fragility of human happiness, and that it symbolizes the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, serving as a reminder of the suffering that the Jewish people have endured.   Others claim that this is simply the last time the groom will get to put his foot down!  

In some streams of Judaism, the bride and groom then leave the chupah and go to the Yichud room, a private chamber where they can be alone and reflect on the pact they have just made. Furthermore, since it is customary for the couple to fast on the day of their wedding, this is when they get to share a small meal before rejoining their friends and family for a joyous reception.

Jewish weddings ceremonies are often brief, but their length, requirements, and order can vary depending on the particular stream of Judaism.   More Conservative ceremonies tend to adhere to the traditional ways, while it is not uncommon for Reform ceremonies to involve very little Hebrew and last fifteen minutes or less.


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Okay so I'm not the groom, but the bride to be. My partner is the first in his Jewish family to not follow Judaism whatsoever, so I wanted to nod toward their tradition since the rest of the wedding will be not traditional at all! Hell he wanted a hog roast :-/. Anyway, this article was nice and simple and gave me a few ideas that I'll run with and that I think all our guests will appreciate. Thanks a lot!

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