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Can you walk me through a traditional Jewish wedding?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Life Cycle » Marriage » The Wedding | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Editor’s introduction: following is a brief self-guided tour through the various stages of a traditional wedding. As traditions may vary from community to community, it is possible you have seen other traditions. The following is a basic description, if you feel something else is noteworthy, feel free to post a comment.

For the benefit of many Askmoses.com readers who occasionally attend a Chabad wedding we included (in parenthesis) some additional traditions you might notice at a Chabad wedding.

It is also important to note that the following is just an overview of what happens at the wedding, but it does not explain the reasons for every tradition. Many of the reasons can be found in other articles throughout our site, and some of those articles are actually linked herein. You may also post a comment to ask about a specific custom, and our editor’s will either post the answer or refer you to the article with the proper answer. (As other people may have had the same question as you, we advise that you read through the comments before you post your question.)

The wedding day

Our Sages1 teach us that on their wedding day a bride and groom are forgiven for all their prior sins. Consequently, the day of their wedding is considered a "minor Yom Kippur" and it is customary for them to fast on this day.2

on their wedding day a bride and groom are forgiven for all their prior sins
The fast begins at dawn and concludes when the bride and groom sip from the wine beneath the Chupah; thus the fast is quite short in the event of a morning or afternoon Chupah. Even if the Chupah is scheduled for after nightfall, it is preferable for the bride and groom to abstain from eating or drinking until the Chupah.

If the wedding is on a day when the Torah is read in the synagogue, the groom receives an Aliyah—and he takes precedence over all others, even a bar Mitzvah boy or someone who is observing a yahrtzeit on that day.3

The Minchah prayer preceding the wedding is recited by the bride and groom with great intensity and concentration. It is common custom to pray this minchah in private – not with a Minyan – in order to heighten the ability to focus and concentrate. If the bride and groom are fasting (even if they will be breaking their fast at an afternoon Chupah) the aneinu prayer is inserted in the Amidah. Before stepping backwards at the conclusion of the amidah, the bride and groom recite the viduy (confession) which is normally recited on Yom Kippur (even if they are not fasting). If the Chupah will be held in the morning, the viduy can be recited after the Shacharit amidah.4

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe would personally give his very own prayer-book to grooms who wished to use this holy Siddur for this special prayer. This prayer-book is still available today for all interested grooms who are willing to make the trip to New York to avail themselves of this special and holy opportunity. If necessary, this can be done several days before the wedding.)

It is customary for the bride and groom to recite the entire Book of Psalms on the day of the wedding. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch instructed that "every free moment of the day should be used for reciting Psalms."5

Before her wedding a bride must immerse in a Mikvah; ideally this should be done on the night before the wedding.6 In some circles it is also customary for a groom to go to the Mikvah on his wedding day.7

The reception that precedes the Chupah

Before the Chupah it is customary for the bride and groom to host separate receptions; one for the men and one for the women. Hors d'oeuvres, light refreshments, and l’chaims are served by both receptions.

Footnotes

  • 1. See Rashi Genesis 36:3
  • 2. The bride and groom do not fast if the wedding is on one of the following festive days: Rosh Chodesh (except Rosh Chodesh Nissan); Chanukah; Tu b’Shevat; the 15th of Av; the day following Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot and Yom Kippur; and Purim Kattan and Shushan Purim Kattan (the 14th and 15th of Adar I).
  • 3. Nitei Gavriel laws of Marriage 7:6
  • 4. ibid chapter 8
  • 5. ibid 9:4
  • 6. ibid 11:2
  • 7. ibid 9:7

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Life Cycle » Marriage
Intimacy » Marriage

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Halachic
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Kohanim
Plural form of Kohain. Priests of G-d. This title belongs to the male descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. The primary function of the Kohain was to serve in the Holy Temple. Today the Kohain is still revered and it is his function to recite the Priestly Blessings on certain occasions.
Mikvah
A ritual bath where one immerses to become spiritually pure. After her menstrual cycle, a woman must immerse in the Mikvah before resuming marital relations.
Chabad
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
Simchat Torah
An extremely joyous one-day autumn festival following the holiday of Sukkot. In Israel it is the eighth day of Sukkot, outside of Israel it is celebrated the next day, the day after Shmini Atzeret. Every Sabbath we read a portion of the Torah. On this holiday we celebrate the completion of the yearly cycle.
Ashkenazi
(pl. Ashkenazim). A Jew of Northern or Eastern European ancestry.
Sephardi
(pl.) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries. (singular: Sephardi).
Sephardim
(Pl.: Sephardim) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Lubavitcher
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
Grace After Meals
Biblically mandated prayer, consisting of four blessings, recited after eating more than an ounce of bread.
Brachot
(Plural form of "bracha.") Blessings. A Jew is required to recite a bracha before gaining any sort of benefit or pleasure such as eating or drinking (and usually afterwards as well); or before fulfilling a Mitzvah (commandment).
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Amidah
Highlight of every prayer, recited silently while standing. Weekday Amidah consists of nineteen blessings, Sabbath and holiday Amidah contains seven blessings.
Aliyah
Literally means to rise up. Has two popular meanings: 1. Being called up to the Torah scroll and recite the blessings when the Torah is being read. 2. To emigrate to the Holy Land.
Shacharit
Morning prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Sephardic
(adj.) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries.
Baal Shem Tov
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), Polish mystic and founder of the Chassidic movement.
Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn, spiritual leader of the worldwide Chabad movement.
Psalms
The Book of Psalms. One of the 24 books of the Bible. Compiled by King David; mostly comprised of poetic praise for G-d. A large part of our prayers are culled from this book.
Tzaddikim
Plural form of Tzaddik. A Tzaddik is a saint, or righteous person.
Rebbes
Plural form of Rebbe. A Rebbe is a Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Siddur
Prayer book.
Chupah
Wedding canopy. Under this canopy, the groom betroths the bride with the customary ring, and the traditional marriage benedictions are recited.
kittel
(Yiddish) A long white garment, normally made of cotton or linen, customarily worn by Ashkenazi married men on Yom Kippur. A kittel is also worn by Ashkenazi men beneath the wedding canopy.
Minchah
Afternoon prayer service. One of the three prayers a Jew is obligated to pray every day.
Lubavitch
Also known as “Chabad,” Lubavitch is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. “Lubavitch” is the name of the Belarusian city where four of the Chabad Rebbes (leaders) were based. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York, with branches worldwide. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
Minyan
A quorum consisting of ten adult male Jews. A minyan is necessary to recite the kaddish or to publicly read from the Torah scroll.
Ketubah
The wedding contract which features the husband’s various obligations to his wife. The focal point of the document is the financial compensation due to the wife in the event of the marriage’s dissolution through divorce or widowhood.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
yahrtzeit
The (Jewish calendar) anniversary of a person's death.
sheva brachot
1. The seven benedictions recited in honor of a bride and groom beneath the wedding canopy and at subsequent celebrations. 2. The celebratory week following a wedding (during which time the aforementioned blessings are recited.)