Jewish Wedding Traditions: Ceremonies, Rituals, Blessings ... And Dancing!
Jewish weddings are incredibly special event and photographing them is an absolute delight.
Jewish weddings are steeped in traditions and rituals that have been passed down through generations. In this article, I’ll discuss some of the most important Jewish wedding traditions that make these occasions so unique.
From signing the Ketubah to the glass breaking, Jewish weddings are incredibly special events that make the Mornington Peninsula wedding photography an absolute delight. And of course, none would be complete without the Hora!
The ketubah ceremony, or marriage contract, is how a Jewish wedding begins. Typically signed by both the bride and groom before the ceremony and traditionally written in Aramaic, the Ketubah will outline the groom’s responsibilities (both financial and conjugal) to the bride as well as the details about the wedding like date, names, and other things.
Depending on who you ask, this obviously isn’t the most romantic part of the wedding, but it’s incredibly important. The exact rules may differ depending on whether it’s an Orthodox or modern Jewish wedding ceremony, but the foundations of responsibility and love are fairly similar.
Couples from nonorthodox communities may have a contract that focuses more on equality, whereas traditionally, as mentioned above, it would stipulate the groom’s financial responsibility. In some cases, that contract may even be written by the bride and groom themselves (in Hebrew or English) to fit their own lifestyle, circumstances, and beliefs.
Though it has been a historically critical part of Jewish weddings, it’s a tradition that has adapted and evolved to fit a wider variety of people.
While the bride has her reception surrounded by close family and friends who dance in front of her, the Jewish wedding Tisch for the groom is a somewhat less lively affair.
Hoson’s Tisch (Yiddish) sees the soon-to-be husband and (traditionally) his male friends sitting around a table that’s full of food and drink. He’ll be surrounded by male family friends who will toast and sing to him throughout the event. As I briefly mentioned, traditionally it will only be men at the groom’s reception, but depending on the person and their beliefs, it’s somewhat common for women to be invited along too if they chose it.
During a recital and speech by the groom, it is customary for him to be interrupted. While that might seem unkind or inappropriate, it’s actually one of the most well-loved Jewish marriage traditions! Historically this was done to help out the groom who may not have had time to study (due to his mind being busy!), and would protect him from looking uneducated or not well-read. In modern times, and depending on the community you belong to, it’s often done as a way to show him that he’s loved, and supported by everyone.
Perhaps one of the most intimate and personal Jewish wedding customs, the Bedeken ceremony, a Yiddish word meaning to “check” or “confirm”, is the veiling of the bride. Often completed during the Ketubah signing, Bedeken symbolises the groom’s deep love of the bride’s inner beauty.
There are various stories about the beginning of such a tradition: From Jacob who was fooled into marrying his true love’s sister (If the groom veils the bride, he won’t be fooled), to Rebbeca veiling herself when she is told that Isaac is approaching (Gen. 24:64).
Whatever its true origins are, it’s clear that its intimate nature makes it an extremely emotional and heartfelt part of any Jewish wedding ceremony.
Exchanged under the Chuppah (a canopy where the marriage ceremony takes place underneath) while the Ketubah is read aloud, Jewish wedding rings are an extremely important part of the day. To understand its true significance, we first need to explore the history of traditional Jewish weddings.
Traditionally, the groom would give some sort of financial gift or payment to the bride which was known as a ‘bride price’. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean the groom is buying the bride but instead buying her exclusivity. By accepting this offering, she agrees to be faithful and intimate only with him from there on out.
While this does still happen, the ring is often used as the bride price due to its monetary value. There’s no need for Jewish wedding bands to be extortionately priced, a simple piece is often sufficient. In fact, it’s tradition for the wedding band to be simple without embellishment. Often it’s made from gold, and sometimes silver, but never with gemstones. It’s typically this way so as to avoid any ambiguity about the value and keep everything legally binding.
That said, there are of course some people who chose specific rings due to their significance or emotional attachment. While they may not be traditional, the modern Jewish wedding is adaptable, evolving, and less strict than it once was. This greatly depends on the community to which the bride and groom belong, though.
Glass breaking is perhaps one of the most well Jewish wedding traditions and it holds a few different meanings.
Some believe it symbolises both partners standing by each other through the hardest of times, and others suggest it shows how all marriages can be full of happiness, but sometimes sadness.
Finally, some suggest it signifies the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem. In any case, the cloth and the shards of broken glass are often kept by the couple as a wedding memento and to remind them of these various meanings.
Another well-known Jewish wedding tradition, “Mazel Tov” is a phrase that is commonly used to wish a person congratulations or good luck. And what better time to use such a phrase than at a wedding?! This frequently happens just after the glass is broken, and lots of the guests will be heard cheering “Mazel Tov” to wish the bride and groom all the best for their future.
From the Hebrew word ‘Yachad’ (together), Yichud at Jewish weddings is the first opportunity a couple has to spend time together without a third party present — immediately after the chuppah ceremony. Historically, this is a time that was used to consummate the marriage, though that’s often not the case anymore.
In Orthodox communities, the newly wedded couple would spend exactly 8 minutes in Yichud, but in less strict non-orthodox communities it’s simply a time to relax, recharge, and take a breather after the proceedings.
It’s a ritual where the bride and groom emerge from the room, ready to take on the rest of their life together.
As one of the highest energy parts of the day, the wedding horah is a traditional dance where the newly wedded couple are lifted up into the air on chairs while their guests dance around them in circles! It can either happen as soon as the couple enters the reception area or after the meal as the first dance.
Anyone who wants to join in can do so, though the ‘official’ carriers are commonly selected beforehand – often the best men. Due to the strenuous nature of the dance, and the fact it can sometimes go on for hours, it’s not unusual for people to swap in and out to help carry the weight of the couple.
Traditionally this dance was done with individuals spinning in circles, but more recently it’s done by the entire group. Men and women would also traditionally dance in their own circles, but in more modern communities they all dance together.
Jewish weddings are exceptionally unique, incredibly beautiful, and a whole load of fun! As a Jewish wedding photographer, these are just some of those rituals, ceremonies, and traditions that make Jewish weddings so special, and such a pleasure to photograph.
Ready to tie the knot and book your Mornington Peninsula wedding photographer? Get in contact today and let’s get planning your dream wedding together!