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The Jewish Wedding Guide
The Jewish Wedding Ceremony
Gifts for the Groom
Jewish law enjoins the entire community to bring joy and happiness to both the Kallah (bride) and Choson (groom).
Most of the laws and customs relating to the wedding ceremony, its preparations and Seudas Mitzvah (festive reception meal) date back to our Patriarchs and the giving of the Torah at Sinai.
There may be those who are somewhat unfamiliar with the procedures, laws and customs of what takes place at a traditional wedding. The following is a brief guide to some of the laws and customs of marriage. It is our fervent hope that this will enhance your knowledge and add to your appreciation of the traditional Chassidic wedding.
The Talmud teaches that, originally man and woman were created as a single being. According to tradition, Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day of creation as Siamese twins. G-d then separated the two forming Eve from Adam's side. Thus, man and woman i.e. husband and wife began as a single entity. Togetherness is their natural state. Their love stems from this natural tendency to be one. Our sages tell us that prior to the marriage neither man nor woman is considered a complete entity. The marriage is the joining of the two halves - man and woman - into one complete wholesome being.
To take it a step further, we are taught in Chassidic philosophy that upon birth each body contains a portion of one soul, and at the marriage the two parts unite as one once again. Thus, it is at the time of the wedding that the creation of bride and groom is completed and is therefore, such a meritorious occasion.
The wedding day has, for both the bride and groom, all the sanctity and solemnity of Yom Kippur. Both have fasted until after the chuppah ceremony through which time they seek G-d's forgiveness for any past wrongdoings.
The groom, who dons a kittel (white robe) under the chuppah, and the bride in her gown, are attired in white symbolizing angelic purity and freedom from sin. They pray that the Al-mighty "open a new gate for us as the old gate is closed" so that their new life together evolves from a pure and fresh beginning. During each day of their marriage the bride and groom will strive to grow and adjust to each other in order to establish the foundation for a Bayis Ne'eman B'Yisrael - a faithful Jewish home.
It is with profound gratitude that we acknowledge the infinite bountiful blessings of G-d Almighty who has granted us life, sustained us (in good health), and enabled us to reach the day when our children, ______ and ______, enter a new phase of life under the chuppah (canopy of marriage) following their entrance (at Bar/Bat Mitzvah) into the portals of Torah and good deeds.
We are overjoyed that you could be present to share this simchah with us.
It is our fondest wish that you enjoy the festivities and become involved in every facet of the celebration in order to share with us the joy, merriment, happiness and simchah that we feel on this day.
In the merit of bringing joy and happiness to the bride and groom, may we see the reaffirmation of the bond between G-d Al-mighty (the groom) and the Jewish people (the bride) with the coming of the righteous Moshiach imminently in our days.
With thanks, fondness, and best wishes to all participants, we hope to share simchas with each other all the days of our lives.
There are many reasons for varied customs in the rich pageantry of Jewish practice.
Following are a few pertaining to the wedding ceremony (chasunah) to help make it a more meaningful experience for everyone attending.
Marriage is a holy institution in Judaism. It is a sacred bond, a reciprocal fulfillment, an inherent good, a divine command. The Creator desires that His work, in Creation endure. Since marriage was given to man and woman for this purpose, the Torah wishes to impress the sanctity of marriage upon them. Its very name in Hebrew, "kiddushin," means "sanctification." This ideal is reflected in the details of the wedding ceremony and in the entire wedding day proceedings prior to the consecration of the "chuppah" or canopy.
Since an unmarried person is considered half a person, the wedding day is seen to be the beginning of a new life as a complete soul for both the bride (Kallah) and groom (Choson).
So, despite the tumult of preparations the weeks before the wedding, the couple prepare to lay the foundation of their new life together by trying to increase the quality and quantity of both their Torah learning and mitzvah observance and deepen their relationship to G-d.
During the week before the wedding, the Choson and Kallah do not see each other.
On the Sabbath of that week the Choson is called to the Torah (ufruf), to impress upon the couple the duty to look to the Torah as their guide in married life.
The bride and groom maintain the world by raising children who will busy themselves in Torah study; therefore, the groom is called upon to read the letters of the Torah, which contain the ten utterances of creation.
After his Aliyah, the congregation showers him with raisins and nuts, symbolic of their wishes for a sweet and fruitful marriage blessed with many children.
Meanwhile, on the same Sabbath, the Kallah's family and friends arrange a party (forshpiel) for her, expressing their same wishes for her.
From a few days prior, until a week after the wedding, the couple are considered royalty and are, therefore, not to be seen in public without a personal escort.
The holiest day of the year is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
It is a fast day on which each person reviews in depth all of his past actions.
Since on the day of one's wedding G-d forgives the bride and groom of all their previous transgressions, it is seen as a private Yom Kippur for the couple.
They fast until the ceremony; add Yom Kippur confessions to their afternoon prayers; recite the Book of Psalms, asking for forgiveness for the wrongdoings of their youth, committed knowingly or unknowingly, before starting their new life together.
Previously, each had been but half a person.
Now, with the hour of marriage, they resume their original wholeness, a new and pure soul is again to be theirs.
Standing under the chuppah their life destiny is set, all past reckoning erased.
At the wedding, pre-ceremony festivities begin at two separate locations (in the same building).
The receptions are held separately since the Choson and Kallah do not see each other during the week prior to the wedding.
At this time, relatives and friends greet the bride and groom and bless them, individually offering them their heartfelt wishes.
The following takes place during the Kabbalas Ponim.
Jewish tradition specifies that prior to the marriage ceremony, standard "Tena'im" (conditions) be stipulated in a written document by the groom and bride and their respective parents.
This most often occurs just prior to the marriage ceremony, representing a commitment of the Choson to fulfill the promise to marry his Kallah.
With the signing and finalization of this obligation, through reviewing the text aloud, a plate is broken, signifying that just as the breaking of the plate is irreversible, so too should the engagement be irreversible.
It is customary that the groom recite the Maamar Lecha Dodi - a Chassidic discourse on the significance of marriage, according to Jewish mysticism.
The discourse elaborates the elevation which the groom and bride attain through their bond in marriage.
This Chassidic discourse was originally delivered by the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, of blessed memory, in the year 5689 (1929) at the wedding of his daughter, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, of blessed memory, to the Rebbe - Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.
Others recite a Maamar first delivered by the Rebbe, on the 57th anniversary of the Previous Rebbe's marriage 5714 (1953). It is based upon the Maamar, Lecha Dodi, discussed above.
Before the chuppah ceremony, the groom, escorted by his father and (about to become) father-in-law, and accompanied by relatives and friends, goes forward to veil the bride.
During this procession a Chassidic melody composed by the founder of Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), known as "The Alter Rebbe's Niggun of Four Stanzas" is sung.
The groom brings down the veil over the bride's face, reminiscent of Rebeccah's covering her face with her veil upon seeing Isaac before marriage. The veiling impresses upon the Kallah her duty to live up to Jewish ideals of modesty and reminds others that in her status as a married woman she will be absolutely unapproachable by other men. The covering of the face symbolizes the modesty, dignity and chastity which characterizes the virtue of Jewish womanhood.
The Jewish woman, being the strength and pillar of the home, is also reflected in these signs of modesty and dignity which will be the pillars and the foundation of their new home. With the above, she will fill her home (the sanctuary of the individual's holy Temple) with security and warmth. At the conclusion of the Bedeken it is customary for the parents and grandparents to bless the bride.
Before the chuppah all the knots on the groom's garments are untied.
This symbolizes that at the moment of marriage all other bonds are eliminated, except this intimate one made between the bride and groom.
The groom dons the traditional white robe, known as the "Kittel", traditionally worn on Yom Kippur. This serves to remind the groom of the solemnity of the occasion.
The wedding ceremony takes place under the open sky, recalling the blessing of G-d to Abraham that his seed be as numerous as the stars. The chuppah is reminiscent of Ruth's saying to Boaz "spread your robe over your handmaid." It also represents the desire that their home be under the protection and guidance of G-d Al-mighty. Chassidic philosophy teaches that several generations of departed ancestors of the newly wedded couple descend from the "world of truth" to attend the wedding of their progeny.
The Choson escorted by his father and father-in-law, and others, proceed to the chuppah, followed by the bride who is escorted by her mother and mother-in-law and other women. This procession signifies the Kallah's transition from her parents' home to her husband's. The groom awaiting the arrival of the bride symbolizes his welcoming her into his new "home." The Unterfirers, the couples escorting the Choson and Kallah to the chuppah, each carry a lit candle.
One explanation for this custom is that candles are reminiscent of the flickering light and fire which occurred at the marriage of G-d (the Choson) and Israel (the Kallah) under the "chuppah" of Mt. Sinai at the giving of the Torah. Here too, while escorting the bride and groom to the chuppah, the "Alter Rebbe's Niggun of Four Stanzas" is solemnly sung.
When they arrive at the chuppah, the bride and family circle the groom seven times. One of the many explanations for these seven circuits is that they represent a seven-fold bond which marriage will establish between the bride and groom and their families. This act also recalls the seven times that the Tefillin straps are wrapped around a man's arm. Just as a man binds himself in love to G-d, so is his bond in love to his bride. The number seven represents the completion of the seven day process in which earth was created. During these seven days, the earth revolved on its axis seven times. Since marriage reenacts the creative process, the Kallah's encirclement symbolizes the repetition of these seven earthly rotations.
Also, on the day of his wedding, the groom is compared to a king. Just as the king is encircled by his legion, the groom is to be encircled by his bridal entourage. When the bride has finished encircling the groom, she stands at his right, as the Psalmist states, "at the right hand does the queen stand."
"Poschim bidvar malchus," when commencing an assemblage one should open the gathering with a statement of "royalty." Our sages teach us "mon malkah rabbanan" - scholarly sages and great Jewish Torah leaders are considered royalty. It is, therefore, customary that on the onset of assemblages (such as circumcisions, bar mitzvahs, as well as weddings), greetings and blessings of the renowned leader of world Jewry, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and mentor of the Chabad movement, conveyed by letter, are read aloud as the opening statement for the chuppah ceremony.
The Torah advises us that it has given every Jew the power to bless his fellow man. In particular, the power and sacredness of blessing has been given to the Kohen. The Kohanim bless the entire congregation on all major Jewish holidays during services from the bimah (podium). In Israel, especially in Jerusalem, and most particularly at the Western Wall, Kohanim offer the priestly blessing daily during the morning service.
In the Diaspora, although priestly blessings are recited during the major Jewish festivals, there are special events where it is customary in many communities that priestly blessings are offered.
One such occasion is for the bride and groom in the most solemn moments of their life under the chuppah. It is, therefore, customary in many communities that prior to the opening of the betrothal blessings, a Kohen is called upon to bless the new couple.
Following the seven circuits of the Kallah, as the bride and groom stand beside each other under the chuppah, a cantor (in behalf of all gathered) officially welcomes the bride and groom with a blessing.
Every legal procedure in Jewish life is confirmed by at least two "kosher" witnesses. These witnesses can under no circumstances be of the immediate family or even distant relatives to the participating parties. All Jewish documents must bear the signatures of two kosher witnesses.
The consecration of a woman to man, the Torah advises us, is through "the giving of a valuable - money or ring - (to the woman), the presentation of a document, or through intimate living together." Nowadays, our sages tell us, we perform all three acts as a means of consecrating a woman.
For this reason, the Chuppah ceremony entails all three aspects:
The giving of a ring by the Choson to the Kallah (the exchange of value);
The handing over of the Ketubah (marriage contract) to the bride;
And after the Chuppah, the bride and groom adjourn to a private room (symbolic of intimacy) where they break their fast.
It takes two witnesses (to the exclusion of others) to attest that all three aspects of marriage have taken place in accordance with the laws of "Moses and Israel." Two witnesses are called upon to stand under the Chuppah and witness these procedures.
The Jewish marriage ceremony has two basic parts: "Kiddushin" and "Nisuin." Both parts are introduced with the benediction over wine, the traditional symbol of joy and abundance. The first blessing over the wine signifies that just as we pronounce the holiness of the Sabbath and festivals over the wine, we sanctify the personal relationship of marriage over wine. The bride and groom each take a sip of the wine.
The second is recited over the ceremony itself, thanking G-d for giving us the opportunity to perform this Mitzvah, after which the Choson and Kallah once again take a sip of the wine, after the seven blessings. The marriage blessing speaks of the commandment concerning illicit marriages, and of permitting us to those married to us, by the rite of Chuppah and Kiddushin.
The blessing ends: "Blessed are You L-rd, Who sanctifies His people Israel through Chuppah and Kiddushin.
The essence of the ceremony which follows is the act of Kiddushin, performed by the groom. The act of marriage is an agreement entered into by two people, with the acknowledgment that G-d is also a partner. In the presence of two witnesses, the groom places a simple ring on the bride's right forefinger. Only a simple gold band (without engravings or adornment) is used to impress upon all present the singularity of the moment in time, as opposed to the value and bearing of an ornate object in space. The perfect roundness of the ring symbolizes an unspoken prayer; just as a ring must be made of plain gold without blemishes or obstructions, so it is hoped that the marriage will be one of simple beauty, free from strife or conflict which might, G-d forbid, destroy its perfect "roundness." The ring is gold to indicate that the Kallah should be as precious as gold to the Choson. As the groom places the ring on her finger he says: "Harei At Mekudeshes Li B'taba'as Zo Kedas Moshe V'Yisrael - Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel."
This is to say, that as the laws of Moses and Israel is of Divine origin and bear the seal of truth, so shall our marriage be consecrated. And, as the laws of Moses and Israel forever consecrate all those who enter into its covenant, so shall we be consecrated forever.
To separate the betrothal blessings from the marriage blessings (Sheva Berachos), the "Kesubah" (marriage contract) is read aloud in Aramaic. The "Kesubah" is a binding document of confidence and trust which details the husband's obligations to his wife. Therein, the Choson pledges to "work for you, honor, provide for and support you, in accordance with the practices of Jewish husbands who work for their wives' honor, provide and support them in truth." Its basic aim is to strengthen and affirm the wife's dignified status, as well as to confer a number of special privileges on her. The contract also contains stipulations of financial settlement in case of, G-d forbid, divorce. Special stipulations are also provided in case of a husband's demise.
The signing of the Kesubah shows that the bride and groom do not see marriage as only a physical and emotional union, but also as a legal and moral commitment which delineates the human and financial obligations of the husband to his wife according to Jewish law and customs. The Kesubah also protects the special rights and dignified status entitled to the wife in the marriage.
Symbolically, this document is also reminiscent of the wedding between G-d and Israel where "Moses took the Book of the Covenant" and read it to the people after the Jews stood under the "Chuppah" at Mt. Sinai. Following the reading of this contract, the Kesubah is handed over to the Kallah. Should this document be lost, the couple may not live together until a new contract is drawn up.
The concluding portion of the marriage ceremony is the seven blessings. Several different people are called upon to recite these blessings in the presence of a quorum of at least ten men, because of the communal emphasis of the blessings.
They acknowledge G-d as the Creator of mankind, joy, bride and groom.
They also praise G-d for having created man in His image, and for giving him the ability to reproduce that image.
The first blessing is recited over the second cup of wine as a sign of rejoicing.
The second thanks G-d for creating the world and at the same time it honors those assembled at the wedding.
The third and fourth acknowledge G-d's physical and spiritual creation of mankind.
These blessings are recited at weddings, since it is only then that the couple begins life as complete human beings.
In the fifth, we pray for the restoration of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the edifice which so expressed G-d's special relationship to the Jewish people that the memory of its destruction rises above even our highest joys.
The sixth expresses the hope that the bride and groom grow in their love for each other, focusing their love as exclusively as Adam and Eve, when there was no one else in the world.
In the seventh blessing, we pray for the time when Moshiach will come to redeem us from exile so that peace and tranquility will reign over the world.
1. Baruch Ata Adonai Elohainu Melech HaOlam, SheHakol Barah Lichvodo
At the conclusion of the blessings, after the couple drinks from the second cup, the groom breaks the glass with his right foot, as an additional remembrance of the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Traditionally, this custom was also incorporated into the ceremony to remind everyone that even at the height of one's personal joy, we must, nevertheless, remember the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The breaking of the glass symbolizes the breaking of our hearts in remembrance.
After the ceremony the bride and groom adjourn to a private room for a symbolic "consummation" of the marriage. This procedure is witnessed by the same two exclusive witnesses who were designated at the time when the ring was placed on the Kallah's finger under the chuppah. The few minutes the couple share together allude to their new intimate relationship and emphasizes that their absolute privacy be respected. Refreshments are served, and the Choson and Kallah break their fast. Before entering the "Yichud" (private) room, a silver spoon is placed at the threshold. Both the groom and bride step over the spoon with their right foot first upon entering the room.
Most Jewish celebrations (marriage, circumcision, bar mitzvah, etc.) are followed by a dinner to honor the occasion. At this meal all guests participate in the Mitzvah of "L'Sameach Choson v'Kallah," to celebrate in joy with the groom and bride. Although the wedding feast in itself is a mitzvah, the emphasis is on entertaining the newlyweds. By dancing around the Choson and Kallah, the community expresses its support for the couple. As a part of the Jewish people, they never need fear facing life alone. As a mitzvah, it is to be taken seriously.
The Talmud relates many instances where the greatest of our sages have set aside their diligent non-interrupted study of Torah for the sake of merry-making at a wedding. In accordance with Jewish law, men and women dance separately, in different rooms or in the same area separated by a "Mechitzah" (divider) for reasons of "Tznius" (modesty). This is one of the strong virtues binding a husband and wife, enhancing each other's uniqueness.
At the end of the Seudas Mitzvah (festive meal), "Grace After Meals" is recited, and the Sheva Berachos (seven blessings) recited under the chuppah are once again repeated.
It is a custom in some Hasidic communities, although not in Chabad, for the bride to dance with her groom, her father, and other male wedding guests. During the mitzvah tanz the bride may hold the groom's hand and her father's hand, but dances with the other guests by holding on to one end of a scarf or a gartel (belt), while the guest holds the other. Mitzvah Dance at a Satmar wedding.
The Mazhinka dance is performed at the wedding of the last (not necessarily the youngest) child in the family to be married. At this dance, the mother of the "mazhinka" dances with a broom, symbolically "sweeping out" the now-empty nest.
In contrast to a non-Jewish custom, in which the bride and groom take off to some exotic honeymoon location, Jewish custom dictates that the couple begin their new life together in their community.
For seven consecutive evenings following the wedding, it is customary that friends or relatives host festive meals in their honor. The act of feasting recalls the "seven-day celebration" after the marriage of Jacob to Leah, while spending their days in prayer, learning Torah and performing mitzvos in order to give the "new house in Israel" a solid foundation in G-d's ways of holiness.
Mazal Tov! Mazal Tov!
1) During the week before the wedding, it is customary for the groom and bride not to see each other, even during the day.
2) On the Sabbath before the wedding, the groom is called up to the Torah.
The groom and bride maintain the world by raising children who will busy themselves in Torah study. Therefore, he is called upon to read the letters of the Torah, which maintain the ten utterances of creation.
3) It is well-known that the ancestors of the newlywed couple descend from the world of truth and attend the marriage celebration.
The souls of ancestors from three generations back attend all Jewish weddings; and there are some weddings at which those of even further removed generations are present.
4) The Previous Rebbe commanded that the bride should recite certain chapters of Tehillim (Psalms) on her wedding day.
Since the specific chapters are not known, the bride should recite the entire book of Tehillim, if possible.
5) It is a custom of the house of the Rebbeim, for a groom to arrange his schedule of studies in order to receive Semichah (Rabbinic ordination) before marriage.
6) The Previous Rebbe fasted on the day of his daughter's wedding.
7) If the wedding takes place before sunset, the groom and bride do not have to complete their fast.
8) It is customary that the groom (and when it is impossible, one of the Mechutonim) should recite the Ma'amar Lecha Dodi 5689 at the 'Kabbalas Ponim' (greeting the groom).
9) It is customary that the "unterfeurers" (the couples who accompany the groom and bride to the chuppah) from both sides should be married couples.
If the father or mother are presently married to another partner, it is customary that in addition to the married couple that accompany the groom or bride to the chuppah, the father with his wife (or the mother with her husband) should also circle the groom under the chuppah together with the bride.
10) It is customary that both fathers accompany the groom, and both mothers the bride.
11) While accompanying the groom to the veiling of the bride -- and afterwards when the groom and bride are led to the chuppah -- we sing the Alter Rebbe's Niggun of "Four Stanzas."
12) It is customary that the "unterfeurers" -- both the men and the women -- should circle the groom (7 times) together with the bride.
13) It is our custom that the groom wears a 'kittel' (white garment) under the chuppah. Therefore, he does not wear a kittel on the Yom Kippur following his marriage. On the following Yom Kippur he begins wearing a kittel.
14) Under the chuppah, and likewise in the preceding Minchah prayer during which he recited the 'Al Chet,' (the confessional prayer), and from the chuppah onwards -- the groom prays with a 'gartel.' (wears a sash)
15) We untie all the knots on the groom's garments (e.g. tie, shoelaces, etc.).
16) The groom should not have money, silver articles, gold, precious stones, etc. in his pockets at the time of marriage.
(Likewise, he should not have any of these things in his clothes e.g. a silver pin, etc. Even more so, he should not have them in his hand.)
17) The wedding ring should be gold and smooth, with no engraving on it; (even on the inside).
18) In the blessing "Samach T'Samach," (one of the Sheva Berachos,) the word "Samach" is recited with (the vowel) patach under each letter.
19) After the groom and bride drink from the cup of wine over which the Sheva Berachos is recited under the chuppah, it is given to someone to finish. Then the groom breaks it with his right foot.
20) After the chuppah, before the groom and bride enter the 'Yichud' (private room); a silver spoon is placed at the doorstep. The groom steps over it, with the bride entering after him.
21) During the week of rejoicing following the wedding, the groom or bride should try not to go alone, even in each other's company.
They should always be escorted by another person.
22) Two sisters may have their weddings in the same week, but not on the same day.
23) Even in the month of Tishrei our custom is to hold weddings only in the first half of the month.
24) Weddings are not performed during Sefirah, the period of Counting of the Omer between Passover and Shavuot, nor during the "Three Weeks" from the Fast of 17 Tamuz until Tisha B'Av.
25) The 15th of Av (Tu B'Av) is considered an fortunate day to hold a wedding, as is the 3rd day of the week (Tuesday).
Instead of making weddings during the month of Cheshvan, which is called Marcheshvan ("bitter" Cheshvan) weddings are held during the entire month of Kislev, (even during the second half). We also make weddings during the whole month of Adar and Elul.
After all this, are there still any questions? Please feel free to email us.