The Jewish Ketubah
Traditional Hebrew wedding ceremonies begin with the bride and groom signing a marriage contract, called the Ketubah. The agreement, which once assured the bride’s legal status, states the expectations and duties of the couple once they are married. This beautiful, ornate document will be framed and displayed in the couples’ home.
After the couple have signed the Ketubah, the groom lowers his bride’s wedding veil after studying her face. This wedding custom recalls the biblical story of Jacob, who married the wrong woman when she covered her face with a veil.
In the Jewish tradition, the wedding ring should be simple, a band with no details, no stones, and nothing engraved, with nothing to distinguish the beginning from the end. The rabbi, groom, groomsmen, and Jewish male guests traditionally wear a white-colored cap called a yamulkes.
The Traditional Jewish Wedding Ceremony
The wedding ceremony begins with a procession of the wedding party members. At the wedding site, both sets of parents escort the bride and groom down the aisle. The marriage ceremony is performed under a special canopy, called a huppah, which represents God’s presence, shelter and protection.
After exchanging wedding vows, seven marriage blessings are read. The groom then steps on a wine glass, to symbolize the fragility of human happiness, a hallmark of Jewish history. It is also traditional for the bride and groom to be alone together for a few moments immediately after the ceremony. This tradition, called yichud, originated so that the marriage could be consummated, but now it is observed as a lovely time to be together before the reception. There is rarely, therefore, a receiving line at a Jewish wedding.
Favorite Jewish Wedding Dances
Wedding receptions are joyous celebrations, with much singing and many traditional dances. A lively Israeli dance called the Hora is performed at the wedding reception. While they hold on to either end of a handkerchief, bride and groom are lifted into the air on chairs by their joyful guests, as they are celebrated as ‘king and queen of the night’.
A lovely Jewish custom called the “Krenzl” — which means ‘crowning’ honors the bride’s mother when her last daughter is wed. The mother is seated in the center of the room and is crowned with a wreath of flowers, then all her daughters dance around her to a very lively Yiddish song. The Mizinke is a dance of celebration reserved for both parents who have just seen their last son or daughter married. The guests encircle the mother and father, while bestowing them with wedding flowers and kisses.
Another traditional dance is called “gladdening of the bride.” All of the guests at the reception circle the bride while they dance and sing praises about her.
A Jewish wedding would not be complete without a sumptuous meal to satisfy the entire wedding party and guests.