Yes, you read that correctly: ceremonies. In Judaism, there are actually several “ceremonies” that take place prior to the main ceremony under the chuppah (wedding canopy) in order to become a married couple.
Before I get into all the details, let me first say I’m not a Rabbi, so how I explain some of these details may be how we decided to interpret particular traditions for us as a couple, so please don’t take this as the end-all-be-all of Jewish weddings, but feel free to ask any questions.
Prior to the ceremony, we had a “tisch” and “bedeken.” A tisch is an informal reception for the groom where all the men come to wish the groom well wishes. During the tisch, the engagement officially ends, and the groom and witnesses also sign the ketubah. The ketubah is the wedding contract which traditionally lays out all of the groom’s obligations to his wife, as well as how he must support her through life.
Another cool thing that happened during the tisch is that both of our mothers broke a plate together to symbolize the seriousness of the commitment between our families. I love how Judaism incorporates the family into the wedding ceremony so much, since marriage really is a bringing together of two families, not just two individuals.
While all of this was going on in the men’s room, there is also an informal reception for the women where I greeted all my female guests (as well as some of our non-Jewish male guests who weren’t comfortable attending the tisch).
Once the men completed all their tasks in the tisch room, the headed over to the ladies room for the bedeken. A Bedeken is literally the veiling of the bride. The tradition of the veiling dates back to the bible when Jacob accidentally married Leah when he was supposed to marry Rachel. After that, Isaac viewed his bride Rebecca to confirm she was the right lady for him, before she was veiled prior to their wedding. For the bedeken, the men all dance and sing into the bedeken room with the groom. This is actually a very exciting moment when there was a ton of joy and our fathers were arm-in-arm on each side of my groom. When the men arrived to where I was saying, both of our fathers, as well as my grandfather and our rabbi offered me a blessing & kind words before my husband came to me for the veiling. We exchanged a few words as this was the first moment we had seen each other all day. It was a very moving time for me.
After the bedeken, all of the men & the groom once again leave while dancing & singing to head to the ceremony. All of the guests of course follow to find their seats for the “big event.”
Once everyone was seated, the ceremony finally began. We had the traditional ceremony procession with the groom walking down the aisle, followed by his groomsmen, my bridesmaids, and finally the flower girls & then me. He walked down the aisle arm-in-arm with his parents and I walked down arm-in-arm with mine (this is a Jewish tradition that I absolutely love).
Our parents also held candles when walking us down the aisle, to symbolize to literally light the way as my husband & I began our life together. Light in Judaism is very symbolic of joy, and often associated with all joyous and happy occasions, most notably, Shabbat. This is a tradition which is not often used any more, but it’s something I absolutely loved when reading about Jewish wedding traditions, so I wanted to incorporate it into our wedding.
When I finally made it down the aisle, the ceremony began with the traditional circling. This is when both of our mothers & I circled the groom seven times. The number seven has several symbols for marriage (I’m sure there are some others besides these):
- The seven days of creation
- The torah says “and when a man takes his wife” seven times
- A biblical story exists where Joshua led the Jewish people into battle for the city of Jericho & was instructed to circle the city seven times. After his circling, the walls of the city crumbled. This is symbolic as when two people enter into a marriage, they all may face challenges in breaking down barriers or “walls” between them, but its important to keep the faith that those walls will be broken
After the circling, the ceremony begins with a blessing over a glass of wine, as well as another blessing for the sanctification of the marriage. Both the bride & the groom drink from the cup and then the ring ceremony begins.
Luckily my mom was right there with me to help me with my veil, otherwise I am sure I would have made a mess!
We had a very traditional ceremony, so during our wedding, we actually only exchanged one ring, which was the ring he gave to me (I have him his ring during a private time after the ceremony and before the reception). One thing which varies from the traditional American wedding ceremony, is that the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony actually has the groom place the ring on the bride’s right index finger.
After the ring ceremony, the ketubah is read to the guests. The ketubah was mainly read in Hebrew, with a few interjections from our Rabbi in English.
After the ketubah is read, there are seven blessings recited (called Sheva Brachot in Hebrew) which are special blessings in honor of the wedding. These same blessings are also said at the wedding reception after the meal & also in the first few days after the wedding. We gave the honor of each of these seven blessings to people important to us, including his brothers, father & my grandfather.
Once the blessings were completed, one more glass of wine, and finally, the breaking of the glass!
We were officially married! We shared a quick kiss & then went back down the aisle as husband & wife!
(One of my favorite photos, taken by a friend)
After the ceremony was completed, we were able to have some private time together to breathe, take in the day, and just enjoy a few minutes alone before taking portraits & heading off to the reception.
Hopefully later this week I’ll have a chance to share some of the reception highlights!
Until next time…