Traditional Jewish Wedding Ceremony

The night before the wedding the bride should immerse in a ritual bath (mikvah). The day of the wedding, the groom should immerse in a mikvah as well. The day of the wedding, until after the ceremony, the bride and groom should fast. The bride and groom should try to read the entire book of Psalms on the day of the wedding, if they have time. In the afternoon prayer service (minchah) before the wedding, the groom should recite the confession (Viddui) of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

Before the ceremony, the groom sits at the head of a table and songs are sung. If the engagement contract (Tenai'im) was not read by the engagement party, the legal document of engagement contract is accepted by the groom by lifting an object that belongs to the rabbi, such as a handkerchief, a pen, a skull-cap, or a prayer-belt, in the sight of two witnesses. Then the witnesses sign the contract and the contract is read aloud. After the reading of the engagement contract, a plate is broken, usually by the mothers of the groom and bride. All of the above may be done at the engagement celebration, if the couple wishes. However, it should be noted that an official engagement is legally binding and may not be broken, which is why many wait to have the official engagement until the wedding itself.

After this, the groom accepts the responsibilities of the marriage contract (Kethubah), again by lifting an object belonging to the rabbi in front of two witnesses. The Aramaic word "v'kanina" (and he acquired) may not be written in the contract until this is done. The witnesses must be Torah believing and observant adult Jewish men who are not related to the couple nor to each other. The witnesses then sign as witnesses to the marriage contract.

A sermon may be delivered by the groom at this time, but if he does it may be drowned out by singing in order not to embarrass him if he cannot speak well.

The groom is then lead to the place where the bride is sitting, and places a veil over her head. The Rabbi then blesses the bride quoting the Bible, saying:

"Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of generations!" "May the LORD bless you and keep you, may the LORD turn His Face to you and be gracious to you, may the LORD lift up His Face to you and give you peace". The father of the bride and grandfathers may also bless the bride at this time.

The groom is lead to the wedding canopy. A white robe known as a "kittle" is put onto the groom, and a prayer belt is wrapped around him. An overcoat is places over the "kittle" with only the right arm in the sleeve and the left arm hanging over the shoulder. All items are removed from the groom's pockets. If his shoes have laces, the laces are untied. Ashes are placed on the groom's head just above his hairline above the area between the eyes.

The groom is the first in the procession to come to the canopy. He is escorted either by his parents or by his father and new father-in-law (or if fathers have passed, he is escorted by two other men). Those escorting the groom should be holding candles.

When the Groom Arives the following is sung by the cantor:

"Welcome! Blessed is he (the groom) who arrives!
May He (God) Who is exalted above all,
may He Who is blessed above all,
may He Who is great above all,
may He bless the groom and the bride!"

If there are more in the procession, they may follow, although this is not the general custom.

In any event, the bride is the last to be brought.

In the Sefardic custom, the groom checks under the veil to ensure it is the same bride. The Ashkenazic and Hasidic Jews do not have this practice.

The bride is lead either by her parents or by her mother and mother-in-law, or by two other women if there are no parents. Those leading the bride carry candles as well.

The cantor sings the following when the bride arrives:

"Welcome! Blessed is she (the bride) who arrives!
May He (God) Who understands the rose among the thorns,
the love of the bride and the joy of lovers,
may He bless the groom and the bride!"

The bride is walked to encircle around the groom seven times.

The Rabbi fills a cup with wine and recites the following blessings:

"Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine. Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, King of the Universe, Who has made us holy with His commandments, and commanded us against those who we are forbidden to marry. And He forbade those who are only betrothed and permitted to us those who are wedding to us through the wedding canopy and the rite of holy matrimony. Blessed art Thou, LORD, Who made His people Israel holy through the wedding canopy and the rites of holy matrimony."

The bride and groom both sip from the cup of wine.

The Rabbi may ask the groom if he intends to marry this woman with this ring, and may ask the bride if she accepts the ring as a token of the marriage. However this is not usually done. But if the couple wishes to say the words "I do", this would be the way it is done.

The ring is shown to two adult Torah-believing and observant Jewish male witnesses who are not related to each other nor to the couple. The ring should be a plain band with no stone. They should be asked if it is worth some ascertainable value.

The groom is told to recite the following before placing the ring on the bride's right index finger: "Behold, you are wed to me by the rite of holy matrimony according to the laws of Moses and Israel."

The witnesses must see the ring being placed on the finger. This is the most important aspect of a Jewish wedding. The witnesses may say "Mazel Tov! Mekudeshes!" "Congratulations! She is wed to him!"

The marriage contract (Kethubah) is now read in the original Aramaic text. A translation may also be read after the original Aramaic.

Some Rabbis deliver a sermon at this time, according to various customs. Most do not have the custom to recite a sermon at this time.

Another cup of wine is filled and the following seven blessings are recited. They may be recited by any Jewish man. They can be said by one person or divided among several, up to seven. Usually the final blessing is recited by an honored rabbi, other than the officiating rabbi.

  1. "Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine"
  2. "Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, King of the Universe, for all was created for His Glory."
  3. "Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, King of the Universe, Who formed the human."
  4. "Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, King of the Universe, Who formed the human in His Image, in the image resembling his work, and set for him an eternal edifice. Blessed art Thou, LORD, Who formed the human."
  5. "May abundant joy come to the barren woman, when her children are gathered into her in joy (soon). Blessed art Thou, LORD, who gladdens Zion with her children."
  6. "May You cause abundant joy to come to these beloved friends, as You caused Your first formed people to rejoice in the Garden of Eden in earliest times. Blessed art Thou, LORD, Who brings joy to the groom and bride."
  7. "Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, King of the Universe, Who created joy and rejoicing, happiness, song, dance, gladness, love, and friendship. LORD, our God, may it soon be heard in the cities of Judea and the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of joy and the voice of rejoicing, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride, the voice of the laughter of grooms from their canopies and young men from their festive songs. Blessed art Thou, LORD, who causes the groom to rejoice with the bride!."

The bride and groom both sip from the cup of wine.

The groom breaks a glass cup under his right foot. All shout "Mazel tov!"

The bride and groom hold hands and walk to a private room. Two witnesses check that the room is empty with no other entrances, and the couple are locked inside alone. The bride and groom share a kiss privately and eat a little to break their fast. They must remain locked there alone together for around nine minutes at least.

A festive kosher meal is served. Before partaking of bread, the hands are washed by filling a cup with water and pouring the water on the hands. The following blessing is recited while drying the hands. "Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, King of the Universe, Who has made us holy with His commandments and commanded concerning washing hands."

Before eating bread the following blessing is recited: "Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, King of the Universe, Who brings bread out from the earth."

During the meal, there should be dancing, but the genders should be separated for dancing.

After the meal, the full grace after meals is recited over two cups of wine. The first cup the grace is recited over, and the second the above blessings 2-7 are recited. Afterwards, blessing 1 is recited over the first cup. The cups are mixed together and the couple drinks from the cup.

After this is over, entertainment may be given by a jester, and it is customary for men to dance in front of the bride and to dance with the groom. After this, the bride and groom dance together.

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