Jewish Wedding Ceremony:

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20120505-wedding_Vienna_Jan_2007_005.jpgA Jewish wedding ceremony combines a betrothal ceremony, a marriage ceremony, and a public joining of the couple to become an individual family unit. During the wedding ceremony the veiled bride approaches the groom and circles around him. Then, after two blessings are recited over wine, the groom places a ring on the bride's finger and recites the words "Be sanctified to me with this ring in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel." Jewish law does not require a rabbi to be present, but one normally is for civil rather than religious reasons. [Source: “Marriage Customs of the World From Henna to Honeymoons”: “ by George P. Monger, 2004 ^]

During a wedding ceremony, the couple and their parents stand under a wedding canopy, or chuppah, symbolizing the marriage chamber or home, and the ketubah, or marriage contract, is often read out loud (usually in Aramaic and with a translation into the language of the couple being married). Jewish weddings combine two ceremonies into one event — the kiddushin, the betrothal ceremony, and the nissuin, the marriage ceremony. In the Reform marriage ceremony, chuppa and ketûbâ are almost always omitted, as well as the reference to the restoration of the Holy City. Other English prayers, however, for the wellbeing of the bride and bridegroom, are added.

Caroline Westbrook wrote for “Although the ceremony has to be under a rabbi's supervision - as they will be familiar with all the laws and customs of the wedding - it does not necessarily have to be performed by a rabbi, as long as one is present. Most couples opt to have a rabbi conduct the ceremony, although it can be performed by a friend or family member, provided they have the permission of a rabbi. [Source: Caroline Westbrook,, July 24, 2009, BBC |::|]

At a reform wedding: 1) the rabbi blesses the couple about to be married; 2) the ketubah is signed in a private room followed by the couple reciting a special prayer; 3) the rabbi says some opening words; 4) a prayer of gratitide is offered by the congregation followed by a speech about uniting couples by the rabbi; 5) the rabbi(s) praise(s) God and then the congregation praises God with special prayers; 6) the couples sips wine and says their vows; 7) the rabbi read the ketubah; 8) the rabbi and then the congregation says a closing prayer; 9) the groom break a glass with his foot.

Websites and Resources: Virtual Jewish Library ; Judaism101 ; ; Chabad,org ; BBC - Religion: Judaism ; Encyclopædia Britannica,; Yivo Institute of Jewish Research ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook ; ; Jewish Museum London

Beginning of Jewish Wedding Ceremony

Caroline Westbrook wrote“The ceremony itself begins with the signing of the Ketubah - the Jewish marriage contract which sets out the legal terms of the marriage. The origins of the Ketubah go back to the days of the Sanhedrin - the Jewish Supreme Court - in Jerusalem a few thousand years ago - in order to protect the bride by the terms of her dowry. [Source: Caroline Westbrook,, July 24, 2009, BBC]

20120505-wedding Chuppahcropped.JPG
wedding chupah
“The signing is done prior to the main ceremony and is in the presence of four witnesses and the officiator of the service. During the signing of the Ketubah, many men will sign an agreement saying that they will not contest a Get (Jewish divorce) in the event of the couple separating. This is significant for those Jewish women whose husbands refuse to give them a Get, meaning they are unable to remarry. |::|

“This is accompanied by a ceremony known as Bedecken (veiling), in which the bridegroom places the veil over the bride's face. This symbolises the groom's intent to clothe and protect his wife, and dates back to Biblical times, when Rebekah covered her face before she married Abraham's son Isaac. |::|

“During the ceremony, the officiator of the service, usually the Rabbi, will make a speech about the couple and bless them as they begin their new life together. The service also features a prayer, usually sung by a cantor, about the sadness Jewish people at the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem. As with the engagement ceremony, Jews remember that even in their happiness at being married, they still remember this, and the fact that other sad events have happened in Jewish history, and pay respect to those who have suffered. |::|

Blessings and Jewish Betrothal Ceremony

The ceremony consists of a number of blessings. The first praises God for having created the fruit of the vine, of which both bride and bridegroom partake. After this sharing, the bridegroom places a ring on the bride's finger: "By this ring you are wedded unto me according to the Law of Moses and that of the people of Israel." Whoever officiates, commonly a rabbi, renders thanks to God for creating all things for His glory, fashioning man and woman in His image, making them companions, and granting them joy. He begs for their continued happiness and ties their hopes to the messianic hopes of the Jewish people. [Source: J.M Oesterreicher, New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1960s,]

During the betrothal ceremony, the kiddushin, the bride and groom sip from a cup of wine to remind them that they are now going to share the same “cup of life.” The rabbi recites the two betrothal blessings, and the groom says, in Hebrew, “You are now consecrated to me with this ring according to the law of Moses and Israel.” He then puts the ring on the index finger of her right hand. It is at this point that the ketubah, the marriage contract, is read out — usually in Aramaic with an English translation. [Source: “Marriage Customs of the World From Henna to Honeymoons”: “ by George P. Monger, 2004 ^]

Jewish Marriage Ceremony

Jewish wedding ring
The marriage ceremony, nissuin, follows the betrothal ceremony. During this the couple stands beneath the a chuppah, which symbolizes their home together, and recite seven blessings (sheva brakhos), which they must do in the presence of ten adult Jewish men. After the couple drinks wine, the man smashes his glass, or sometimes a small symbolic piece of glass, with his right foot, in commemoration of the destruction of the Temple. The wedding ceremony is traditionally followed by a feast and a repetition of the seven blessings.

George P. Monger wrote in “Marriage Customs of the World From Henna to Honeymoons”: “Seven blessings are recited over a cup of wine to seal the union — blessings that allow the couple to live together as husband and wife, with such themes as the “wondrous” nature of the marital state, the inclusion of Jerusalem as a partner in the happiness and joy of the bride and groom, the wish that the couple will be as happy as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the wish that the marriage will be blessed with happiness. [Source: “Marriage Customs of the World From Henna to Honeymoons”: “ by George P. Monger, 2004 ^]

Under the chuppah, the bride makes seven circuits of the groom, representing the seven days of creation. This is said to remind the couple and the witnesses that marriage is a reenactment of the creative process — an opportunity for the couple to create a new world, create a new life together, and become a new unit within the community. The number seven also corresponds to the seven marriage blessings. Seven is often considered a mystical number. One of the central symbols and artifacts of Judaism is the sevenbranched candelabrum, the menorah. (Among the Fassi of Morocco, the number seven also recurs throughout the wedding, symbolic of a complete cycle, with seven days of celebration, seven evenings spent on ritual cleansing,and seven wedding garments worn by the bride at the wedding.)

Breaking of the Glass at a Jewish Wedding Ceremony

The Jewish wedding ceremony ends with the breaking of a glass by the groom under his heel. This is linked to remembering the destruction of the Temples in 586 B.C. and A.D. 70. Some say this is done to remind the bridal couple in the midst of joy of the suffering of the Jewish people.

Others say the glass is broken to remind the couple how easy it is for domestic sanctity and peace to be broken. Many men joke that the breaking of the glass also symbolizes the last time a newly married man will ever be able to put his foot down! Once the glass is broken, congregants convey their congratulations to the couple.

Monger wrote in “Marriage Customs of the World From Henna to Honeymoons”: “ Jews are taught to put Jerusalem above their greatest happiness, and this is said to remind the couple of the sorrows of Israel. However, some have interpreted this act as one to ward off evil spirits. Everyone present shouts mazal tov, which means “good fortune.” The rabbi then blesses the couple. In Great Britain, the legal aspect of the marriage is the signing of the civil register, witnessed by two friends or relatives. This takes place on the bimah where they are given the ketubah and their state marriage certificate. [Source: “Marriage Customs of the World From Henna to Honeymoons”: “ by George P. Monger, 2004 ^]

Jewish Orthodox Wedding Ceremony

Mazel Tov!
Like other Jewish wedding ceremonies, the Orthodox one is composed of two parts — the betrothal and the marriage —and begins with an invocation and blessings given by the rabbi. He then asks the bride and groom if they “will take each other, promise to cherish and protect....whether in good fortune or in adversity and to seek together with her (him) a life hallowed by the faith of Israel.” At many Orthodox ceremonies the chuppah is held aloft by four men while the wedding ceremony is conducted. The mothers of the bride and groom accompany the bride as she walks to the chuppah and the fathers of the bride and groom accompany the groom as he walks to the chuppah.

The groom usually gives the bride a ring — commonly a simple gold band — and declares: "Behold, you are betrothed to me by this ring according to the law of Moses and Israel. Blessed are you O Lord who makes bridegroom and bride to rejoice" The ring symbolizes the groom will wrap himself around his bride and protect her. Sometimes there is a formal veil lifting ceremony in which the groom lifts the veil after taking a sip of wine.

To mark the end of the betrothal part of the ceremony the rabbi reads the “kutbah “ (marriage contract) aloud and the groom hands the ketubah to the bride before witnesses. Afterwards the marriage part of the ceremony begins. The Seven Blessings — based on the prayer: “We praise you Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine” — are read by either honored guests, close relatives or a rabbi. The couple then shares a cup of wine and the groom breaks it symbolizing the destruction of the Temples, and the bride walks around the groom seven times, symbolizing the seven days God used to create the universe. Sometimes the couple then walks under a canopy after breaking the cup, symbolizing their first home and God watching over them.

After the ceremony the couple are allowed to enter a private room where they can spend a short amount of time alone. In the old days the bride and groom fed food to each other to symbolize support for each during their marriage. When they emerge from the room the couple are regarded as married. After the wedding guests wish the couple “”mazel tov” ,” or good luck. For the next seven days newlywed Orthodox couples are supposed to eat a meal with a minyan in which the seven blessings recited at the wedding are repeated.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook; “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible,; Wikipedia, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine,, London, Library of Congress, The New Yorker, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2024

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