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Can you provide me with a short description of a traditional chupah?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Intimacy » Marriage | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Editor’s introduction: following is a brief self-guided tour of a traditional Chupah. 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 readers who occasionally attend a Chabad wedding we included (in parenthesis) some additional traditions you might notice at a Chabad wedding. 

• It is customary for the chupah to be held beneath the open skies. Certain halls have a skylight directly over the chupah canopy, and it is opened for the duration of the ceremony.

• The bride and groom are individually escorted to the chupah. Usually the escorts are the couple’s parents—either the two mothers accompany the bride and the two fathers accompany the groom OR the bride’s parents accompany her and the groom’s parents accompany him. In many communities it is customary for the grandparents of the bride and groom to join the escorting entourage. It is customary for all the escorts (including the grandparents) to hold candles.

• It is customary in Ashkenazi communities for the groom to wear a kittel during the chupah. It is also customary for the groom to wear an overcoat which covers the kittel.

• First the groom and then the bride are led to the chupah. Customarily, the band plays somber music while the bride and groom walk down the aisle. (At Chabad weddings, a hauntingly beautiful, and traditionally very holy, song which was composed by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi is played and sung during these holy moments).

• Upon arriving at the chupah, the bride circles the groom seven times. Sephardim do not observe this custom.

• After the couple has arrived at the chupah and the bride has concluded circling the groom, someone is honored with singing “Baruch haba” and the “Mi adir” hymn. (At Chabad weddings, someone is then honored with reading aloud the letter which the Lubavitcher Rebbe would customarily send to every bride and groom in honor of the wedding—a letter which includes his blessings for this special occasion). Some then have the custom of requesting all the Kohanim which are present to bless the bride and groom with the Priestly Blessing.

• A blessing is recited before the kiddushin—the betrothal which is effected by the giving of the ring. This blessing, which thanks G-d for sanctifying us with the Mitzvah of betrothing before consummating the marriage, is recited by the rabbi who is presiding over the wedding. The rabbi holds a cup of wine and first recites the hagafen, the standard blessing on wine, and then recites the kiddushin blessing. After concluding the two blessings, the groom and bride both take a sip from the cup.


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Life Cycle » Marriage » The Wedding

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
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.
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.
(pl. Ashkenazim). A Jew of Northern or Eastern European ancestry.
(Pl.: Sephardim) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries.
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
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."
(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).
[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.
Wedding canopy. Under this canopy, the groom betroths the bride with the customary ring, and the traditional marriage benedictions are recited.
(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.
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.
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.