Traditionally in a Jewish wedding, the groom puts a wedding veil on the bride shortly before the ceremony. Today, for some LGBTQ couples, both partners wear a veil while other couples choose to not wear veils at all. The bedeken ceremony itself is akin to a “first look.”
Historically, at the end of the processional, right before the couple has arrived at the chuppah (or wedding canopy), the bride walks slowly around the groom, circling him seven times. All couples, inclusive of queer and heterosexual couples, may choose a popular variation where each partner circles the other three times, followed by a final, seventh circle that the couple does together.
A Jewish wedding ceremony takes place under a chuppah, or wedding canopy, that has four open sides and a top covered with cloth. The chuppah symbolizes the couple’s home. Traditionally, parents and siblings stand by the chuppah for the wedding ceremony. But some couples choose to have them seated and instead have their bridal party stand for the ceremony. Some have everyone seated and only the couple and the officiant stand under the chuppah.
The erusin/betrothal ceremony begins with the blessing over the wine, called Kiddush. A Jewish wedding ceremony typically begins with a blessing of the first of two cups of wine (or grape juice) shared by the couple getting married. The next blessing of betrothal, or Erusin, sanctifies the couple as holy together. It sanctifies the intimate relationship you have with only your partner.
Modern couples have left the original idea of acquisition behind for the ring exchange and both individuals wear rings, signifying their love and commitment to each other. In ancient times, the wedding ring had to be solid metal (without stones or inscriptions) and it was placed on the right index finger. This was meant to be an act of pure love, since the heart was thought to be connected to the right side.
The Seven Blessings (Sheva Brachot in Hebrew) are a key part of a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony. They are meant to assist the couple in the start of their married life and enhance their joy on their wedding day. Some couples choose to have the traditional blessings read or chanted in both Hebrew and English, or just one of the two. Some choose to use a modern variation. The seven blessings can provide a wonderful opportunity to involve loved ones in your ceremony, whether they are Jewish or not, to read the blessings aloud.
The priestly blessing evokes safe keeping over the individual and in this case, the wedding couple. The three lines of this blessing ask that you be guided on your life’s journey. It highlights the role of community in the wedding couple’s transition from an individual to an important duo. This is a great opportunity for your officiant to talk about you as individuals. Some couples choose to be wrapped in a tallit (or prayer shawl) while the Priestly Blessing is recited.
Traditionally, Jewish weddings don’t end with a kiss or a pronouncement but instead end with the breaking of a glass. Typically, one partner will stomp their foot down on a thin glass that is wrapped in a cloth, though some couples choose to both participate and break two glasses. It can serve as a reminder of the brokenness in the world even on the happiest of occasions, or the fragility of life and relationships.
The final part of the wedding ceremony is a Jewish tradition called yichud. While it traditionally was an opportunity for observant couples to physically touch for the very first time, modern day couples who include yichud in their wedding use it to take a little time to be alone together in a private space immediately following the ceremony.
Being part of an interfaith/Jew-ish/multi-faith/however-you-define-yourself couple can be challenging, but you don’t need to find the answers alone. This 4-week workshop facilitated by 18Doors rabbis offers a safe environment to work on creating your religious/cultural lives together.