One of the difficult things about planning a Jewish wedding is knowing the difference between what elements are customs and which are Jewish law.
Customs vary depending on different cultures and family tradition. For example, it is custom for many Ashkanazi brides to circle the groom after they have entered the Chuppah. For the brides who do this, the number of times they circle vary. Three and seven are popular numbers; but they are not the only choices.
Having a Chuppah is Jewish law. Jewish law dictates how a Chuppah should be built. There are different levels of Jewish observance; but if you go strictly by Jewish law, the marriage is not valid if the Chuppah does not follow the proper guidelines.
Under the Chuppah, the Rabbi, Cantor or sometimes a valued family member does a blessing over wine followed by giving thanks. The bride and groom then proceed to drink the wine.
It is Jewish law that the groom must give the bride an object of value as a gift. In modern times, a ring is used. The ring must be valuable; but appear plain without having any markings or gemstones. The groom recites a blessing as he places the ring on her right hand pinky finger.
The Ketubah is then read out loud for everyone to hear. Being asked by the couple to read the Ketubah is an honor.
Generally after the Ketubah is read, whoever is officiating will speak. Under Jewish law, anyone who is Jewish can officiate; but traditionally and inline with most civil laws, Jewish weddings are mostly performed by a Rabbi or Cantor.
The Sheva Berachot’s, which means seven blessings in English, are then recited. Seven is a very important number in Judaism and celebrates many things.
The Chuppah ceremony ends when the groom smashes a glass with his foot. Some people choose to use light bulbs thinking they break easier; but using a real glass has much more spiritual meaning.
Some couples choose to honor important people in their lives by inviting them to be blessed. This can be done up to 14 times and spread throughout the wedding ceremony.
There are many other important parts of a Jewish wedding such as the pre-ceremony elements of Tish, Kabbalah Panim, and post-ceremony ones like Yichud. You can read more about these in this article from the Knot.com.
After the wedding Chuppah ceremony and Yichud comes a great party, MAZEL TOV!!
This is a guest post by Sandra Aaron. Sandra owns Mindless Sophistication Events based in Toronto, Canada. Sandra has been professionally planning corporate, non-profit and social events since 1994. She has a passion for planning Jewish destination weddings; especially in locations where people wouldn’t expect to see a Jewish wedding.
photo credit: Karie Mclain