Traditional Jewish weddings usually begin with the bride and groom signing a Ketubah (also known as a marriage contract). It is typically signed on the day of the wedding. It sets out what the responsibilities and objectives of the married couple will be. The groom, by accepting this contract, allows the rabbi to read this to the bride at a later stage of the ceremony, the Ketubah is then witnessed. After it the Ketubah has been signed, the groom would lift his bride’s veil, looks at her, and then lowers her veil. The couple makes promises to each other and gives each other rings, and then blessings are made. The couple would drink from the same wine glass. The groom would then smash the glass under his foot. This tradition reminds Jews of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and how simply human happiness can be ruined. After the ceremony, everyone gathers for eating, drinking, and dancing. The wedding reception is a cheerful event. Sometimes the couple is lifted into the air while sitting on chairs. The bride and groom each hold one end of a handkerchief, and the guests say that they are “king and queen of the night” Seven blessings are recited over a cup of wine to seal the union and the wish that the marriage will be blessed with happiness. After the ceremony, the guests join in the celebrations and enjoy themselves. Everyone present shouts “mazal tov”, which means good fortune. There are a total of nine elements in the Jewish wedding.
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Shidduch is the very first stage of traditional Jewish marriage. The second stage is the Vort, which is when the families have met, and the couple has agreed to be married, the families usually announce the occasion with a small reception (known as a vort). The Ketubah, as stated, is the reception itself, the first thing usually done is the signing and witnessing of the Ketubah. The Bedeken is the veiling of the bride. The Kiddushin is when the groom, now takes a simple gold ring and places it on the finger of the bride, and recites in the presence of two witnesses. The Sheva Brachos (also known as seven blessings), are recited, either by one Rabbi or families.
Most ceremonies take place in a synagogue – as long as the chuppa is present and the ceremony is under a rabbi’s supervision it can be held anywhere. The wedding can be held on any day of the week except during the Jewish Sabbath or on major Jewish festivals. It is common for Jewish weddings to be on a Sunday. The wedding ceremony starts with a procession of all the guests. Once they have reached the location where the wedding will be, the couple and their parents walk down the aisle. The couple is married under a special canopy called a chuppah (also known as huppah).
There are many symbols in the Jewish ceremony. Symbols in the Jewish wedding are arments, the bride and groom wear white as a symbol of the purity of their marriage. A chuppah is a home that the couple will build together. It is still considered valid in the absence of a chuppah. A Unity Candle Ceremony is the symbol of the light of God’s presence. The candlesticks symbolize the beginning of a home that will be filled with the light of Sabbath and festival candles. The bride, the groom, and God are symbolized by the lighting of a Unity Candle. The Bedeken is the veiling of the bride. The wine is the symbol of life. The full cup of wine also symbolizes an overflowing of blessings. When couples have fasted prior to the ceremony, they are traditionally provided with their preferred foods during yichud. Chicken soup is a traditional yichud food. A wedding meal is to be prepared kosher style, which means no mixing of meat and dairy. The broom will often wear a black-tie or morning suit, while the groom usually wears a white dress.
Traditionally the bride and groom would have a rabbit to conduct the wedding. A minyan (10 Jewish adults) is required to be present for the blessing.
Segregation is when a person is separated from the rest of society and from his or her original status. In this stage, the couple is informing each other’s parents about their interest in marriage and an agreement is typically made. The couple has just gotten engaged with the permission of their parents/guardians and is in the process of getting into the married lifestyle.
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Transition can last for a few hours, days, months, or years. In this stage, the person going is becoming his or her new self and learning the new role. In this stage, the couple has just got married and is adjusting themselves in the new position of a husband and wife. The married couple learns more about each other and usually changes themselves in order for the couple to live together happily. The couple is learning how to act and behave around each other. They also learn their wrongdoings and end up making a difference in themselves. The husband and wife are slowly transitioning into the new lifestyle. Each day they are learning something new about their significant other. They are starting to get used to the married lifestyle.
Incorporation/reintegration is when the individual is reintegrated into regular society in his/her new role. In this stage, the couple has fully known how to act and behave like husband and wife. The husband and wife understand the way their minds work and the way they act. They understand what upsets and makes them happy. They have understood each other and are aware of one’s needs. They have fully transitioned into the marriage lifestyle. They are ready to put their past adulthood aside and become husband and wife.
- Harvey E. Goldberg. (September 21, 2019). Rites of Passage: Jewish Rules. https://www.encyclopedia.com/rites-of-passage-jewish-rites.
- Lisa Katz. (February 11, 2019). Marriage and Weddings in Judaism. https://www.learnreligions.com/marriage-and-weddings-in-Judaism.
- Paul Mason. (2004). Rites of Passage; Weddings. Chicago, Illinois. Heinemann Library.
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