We love all weddings. Indoors or outdoors, faith-based or non-denominational, huge bridal parties or simple private ceremonies all make us swoon and sigh over the romantic possibility of saying I Do to your one true love. The uniqueness of every wedding is part of what makes them all so special, as each wedding is designed to represent the unique couple being tied to one another, and the unique love that they share.
We love Jewish weddings and their traditional celebratory elements. The chuppah, the breaking of the glass, and seeing friends and family members participate in the Sheva B’rachot. Do you know the history behind each of these meaningful traditions? The next time you RSVP “yes” to a Jewish wedding, keep an eye out for these significant symbols and traditions.
As a guest, you may not be able to see this part of the Jewish wedding ceremony, but it is an incredibly meaningful and significant moment. Before the ceremony begins, the groom approaches his bride for the bedeken, or veiling ceremony. Facing his bride, the groom places her veil over her face. This simple gesture symbolizes that his love for her is for her inner beauty. Swoon. It also serves as a reminder that even after the ceremony, the couple will remain independent individuals.
The chuppah is a canopy beneath which a Jewish couple stands during their wedding ceremony. Typically made of a sheet or cloth stretched over four poles, chuppahs are often beautifully adorned to fit the style of the bride and groom’s wedding. The chuppah symbolizes the home the couple will build together. In addition, its four open sides represent hospitality to one’s guests, while the covering of the chuppah represents the presence of God over the covenant of marriage.
The Circling of the Bride Around Her Groom
During the ceremony, you will see the bride walk in a circle around her groom three or seven times. The circling takes place under the chuppah. As with other traditions, there is some debate as to the true meaning of this custom. Some believe it is symbolic of the new family circle being created, while others believe the walk creates a magical wall of protection around the couple against evil spirits.
The Sheva B’rachot
The Sheva B’rachot is a custom known as the seven blessings. It is a tradition that finds its origins in ancient teachings. The words of the blessings are commonly said in both Hebrew and English and are typically spoken by friends and family members who have been asked to participate in the ceremony. The seven blessings speak of joy, celebration, the power of love, a blessing of joy, peace, companionship, and a call for the bride and groom to rejoice together.
The Breaking of the Glass
At the end of the ceremony, a glass is placed on the ground in front of the couple—typically today in a small protective bag. The groom breaks the glass by stomping it with his right foot. As guests, that is our cue to yell “Mazel tov!” a Jewish phrase meaning “congratulations!” or “good luck!” The exact origin of this custom is unknown, though some believe the breaking of the glass is meant to serve as a reminder that joy must always be tempered. Others believe it is meant to remind us that despite the joy of the day, Jews still mourn the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.
A Tradition to Celebrate
No matter the traditions, customs, symbols, mementos, or spoken words incorporated into a ceremony, what resonates the most for us is the opportunity to celebrate love and a tradition of marriage that is timelines and limitless. Of course, we always love the opportunity to celebrate the love between two special people, so no matter how it’s spoken, celebrated, or symbolized, we say, Mazel Tov!