Jewish wedding: traditions & symbols
With more than four thousand years of history, the Jewish people have one of the most interesting cultures and traditions on the planet. Among their most common celebrations we can find the Hanukkah, Bar Mitzvah and the Jewish wedding ceremony.
The wedding is one of the most important celebrations of the Jewish religion. Historically, family has been the spiritual strength of the Jewish people. It’s the basic and central institution of Jewish life. Synagogue, occupy a secondary place in relation with family. Judaism can survive without the Synagogue, but never without the family.
Jewish marriage is more than a union but a meeting of these two halves, which finally come together again. In Hebrew the marriage ceremony is called Kiddushin: consecration. A sanctified act and a divine commandment, in which is reflected a life dedicated to spiritual values and ideals.
A traditional Jewish wedding is full of meaningful rituals symbolizing the beauty of the relationship between husband and wife, as well as obligations to each other and to the Jewish people.
We’re about to explain the beauty and joy of the Jewish wedding traditions as well as the meaning for the Jewish people.
The wedding day
With the beginning of the day starts the happiest and soulful day of one’s life. This day is considered like a moment when all past mistakes are forgiven, as both souls merge into a new and complete soul.
In Hebrew language the groom is known as Jatán, while the bride is called Kalá. The day of forgiveness and repentance is known as Yom Kippur.
at this forgiveness day, bride and groom are fasting the whole day from the morning until after the conclusion of the wedding ceremony. During the ceremony, the groom wears a kitel, that is the traditional white robe used on this special day.
During the week before the wedding, groom and bride are not allowed to see and meet each other. The expectation and excitement of the ceremony increases thanks to this tradition. Just before the wedding ceremony starts, the jatán (groom) and the kalá (bride) will greet the guests separately. This is called “Kabalat Panim”.
The Jewish tradition resembles the couple as a queen and a king. The bride sits on a “throne” to receive and greet the guests, while the groom is surrounded by guests who sing and cheer with him.
After this, the groom’s mother and the bride break a plate. The reason is to show the seriousness of the wedding commitment. A plate can never be completely repaired. Just like relationship that breaks that can never be completely repaired.
this tradition is about the groom covering the face of the bride with the veil. The veil symbolizes the idea of modesty, and the idea that, although physical appearance can be very attractive, the soul and character are fundamental and supreme for a woman.
The groom, accompanied by family and friends, approaches where the bride is sitting and cover his face with her veil. This is an ancient tradition and indicates the groom’s commitment to dress and protect his wife.
The wedding takes place under the Chuppah. The Chuppa is a canopy under which a Jewish couple stand during their wedding ceremony. A symbol of the house that will be built and shared by the couple. It is open on all sides, just as Abraham and Sarah had their shop open on all sides to welcome friends and family with unconditional hospitality.
The Chuppah is usually celebrated outside, under the stars, as a sign of the blessing given by God to the patriarch Abraham.
Groom and the bride don’t wear jewelry under the Chuppah. Their mutual commitment is based on what they are as human and not on any material possession.
To start, both are accompanied to the chuppah by their respective parents. Under the chuppah, the bride goes around the groom seven times. Just as the world was built in seven days, the kalá is figuratively building the walls of the new world of the couple. The number seven also symbolizes the wholeness and integrity that can not be achieved separately. After that, the bride stands to the right of the groom.
Blessings of commitment (Kiddushin)
For the next step in the wedding ceremony, two glasses of wine are used. The first cup accompanies the blessing of commitment. After it is recited, the couple drinks from the cup.
Wine is a symbol of joy in Jewish tradition and is associated with the Kiddush, the prayer of sanctity recited on Sabbath and the holidays. The marriage or also called Kiddushin, is the sanctification of a man and a woman.
In Jewish law, marriage becomes official when the groom gives an object of value to the bride. This is traditionally done with a ring made of gold, without stains or ornamentation like diamonds or gems. Just as marriage, is expected to be with a simple beauty.
Now the groom takes the wedding ring on his hand and, with the watchful eye of two witnesses, he declares to his wife, “Now you are committed to me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel”. then, the groom places the ring on the forefinger of the bride’s right hand. According to Jewish law, this is the central moment of the wedding ceremony, and the couple is now completely married.
Ketubah (Marriage contract)
Now it’s time for the reading of the ketubah (the marriage contract) in the original text in Aramaic. In a Jewish marriage the groom accepts diverse responsibilities that are detailed in the ketubah. The man’s duties are to provide food, home and clothing for his wife, and to be attentive to her feelings and emotional needs. Protecting the rights of a Jewish woman is so important that marriage can not be formalized until the contract is done.
The document is signed by two witnesses, and has the power of a legally binding agreement. Ketubah will be in possession of the bride and she must have access to the document throughout her marriage.
The 7 blessings
The seven blessings, also called Sheva Brachot, are now recited on the second cup of wine. These blessings links the groom and the bride to the faith in God as the creator of the world, the one who gives joy and love, and the redeemer of the Jewish people.
These blessings are recited by the rabbi or any other person that families wish to honor. At the end of the seven blessings, the couple again drink a little of wine from the cup.
Breaking the cup
A cup is now placed on the ground, and the groom breaks it with his foot. This is an expression of sadness for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and identifies the couple with the spiritual and national destiny of the Jewish people. Jews, even at the moment of greatest happiness, is always aware of the psalmist’s request to “establish Jerusalem above my highest joy”.
This marks the end of the Jewish wedding ceremony. With shouts of “Mazel Tov”.
The couple is escorted to a private room, and left alone for a few minutes. These moments are a manifest of their new condition, living together as husband and wife.
The couple has been fasting since the morning, so it’s the moment to break their fast.
The banquet (Seudá)
During the meal, there is a lot of music and dancing to celebrate with the new couple. In order to bring joy to the occasion, some guests start performing feats of juggling and acrobatics.
After the meal, the Birkat Hamazon (the blessing for after the meal) is recited, and the Sheva Brachot are repeated (The seven blessings).
During the week following the wedding, it’s usual for friends and family to prepare banquets in honor of the couple. This is called the Sheva Brachot Week, because of the blessings said at the end of each one of these banquets.