13 Jewish Wedding Traditions and Rituals You Need to Know (2023)

  • Wedding Ceremony Ideas

Know what traditions to expect and what they signify.

By

Jaimie Mackey

Jaimie Mackey

Jaimie Mackey was the real weddings editor at Brides from 2013 to 2015. She also worked as a luxury wedding planner and produced over 100 high-end weddings and events in Colorado

Brides's Editorial Guidelines

Updated on 09/10/21

13 Jewish Wedding Traditions and Rituals You Need to Know (1)

Heading to your first Jewish wedding? Whether it's Reform or strictly Orthodox, there are some Jewish wedding traditions that you will definitely see. Some may sound familiar, but knowing what to expect (and being versed in the meaning behind what you're watching) will make you even more prepared to celebrate.

(Video) What to Expect at a Jewish Wedding Ceremony

"A Jewish wedding ceremony is a little bit fluid, but there is a basic outline," says Rabbi Stacy Bergman. "The ceremony can also be personalized by having the officiant really speak to the couple and tell their story."

Meet the Expert

Rabbi Stacy Bergman is an independent rabbi in New York. She received her Rabbinic Ordination and a Masters Degree in Hebrew Letters atHebrew Union College.

FAQ

13 Jewish Wedding Traditions and Rituals You Need to Know (2)

Read on for the most common traditions you'll see at a Jewish wedding.

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Aufruf

Aufruf is a Yiddish term that means "to call up." Prior to the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom are called to the Torah for a blessing called an aliyah. After the aliyah, the rabbi will offer a blessing called misheberach, and at that time it is customary for members of the congregation to throw candies at the couple to wish them a sweet life together.

Everything You Need to Know About the Jewish Aufruf

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Fasting

The wedding day is considered a day of forgiveness, and as such, some couples choose to fast the day of their wedding, just as they would on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). The couple's fast will last until their first meal together after the wedding ceremony.

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Ketubah Signing

The ketubah is a symbolic Jewish marriage contract that outlines the groom's responsibilities to his bride. It dictates the conditions he will provide in the marriage, the bride's protections and rights, and the framework should the couple choose to divorce. Ketubahs aren't actually religious documents, but are part of Jewish civil law—so there's no mention of God blessing the union. The ketubah is signed by the couple and two witnesses before the ceremony takes place, then is read to the guests during the ceremony.

Everything You Need to Know About the Ketubah Signing

(Video) Jewish Wedding Traditions

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Bedeken

During the ketubah signing, the groom approaches the bride for the bedeken, or veiling. He looks at her and then veils her face. This signifies that his love for her is for her inner beauty, and also that the two are distinct individuals even after marriage. It also is a tradition stemming from the Bible wherein Jacob was tricked into marrying the sister of the woman he loved because the sister was veiled. If the groom does the veiling himself, such trickery can never happen.

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The Walk to the Chuppah

In Jewish ceremonies, theprocessional and recessional orderis slightly different than traditional non-Jewish ceremonies.In the Jewish tradition, both of the groom's parents walk him down the aisle to the chuppah, the altar beneath which the couple exchanges vows. Then the bride and her parents follow. Traditionally, both sets of parents stand under the chuppah during the ceremony, alongside the bride, groom, and rabbi.

30 Stunning Chuppahs From Jewish Weddings

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Vows Under the Chuppah

A chuppah has four corners and a covered roof to symbolize the new home the bride and groom are building together. In some ceremonies, the four posts of the chuppah are held up by friends or family members throughout the ceremony, supporting the life the couple is building together, while in other instances it may be a freestanding structure decorated with flowers. The canopy is often made of a tallit, or prayer shawl, belonging to a member of the couple or their families.

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Circling

In the Ashkenazi tradition, the bride traditionally circles around her groom either three or seven times under the chuppah. Some people believe this is to create a magical wall of protection from evil spirits, temptation, and the glances of other women. Others believe the bride is symbolically creating a new family circle.

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Ring Exchange

Traditionally, Jewish brides get married in a wedding band that is made of metal (gold, silver, or platinum) with no stones. In ancient times, the ring was considered the object of value or “purchase price” of the bride. The only way they could determine the value of the ring was through weight, which would be altered should there be stones in the ring. In some traditions, the rings are placed on the left forefinger because the vein from your forefinger goes right to your heart.

(Video) Engaged? Jewish Traditions Before a Wedding

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Sheva B'rachot: Seven Blessings

The seven blessings, called the Sheva B'rachot, come from ancient teachings. They are often read in both Hebrew and English, and shared by a variety of family members or friends, just as friends and family are invited to perform readings in other types of ceremonies. The blessings focus on joy, celebration, and the power of love. They begin with the blessing over a cup wine, then progress to more grand and celebratory statements, ending with a blessing of joy, peace, companionship, and the opportunity for the bride and groom to rejoice together.

Sheva Brachot (Seven Blessings): Everything You Need to Know

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Breaking of the Glass

As the ceremony comes to an end, the groom (or in some instances the bride and groom) is invited to step on a glass inside a cloth bag to shatter it. The breaking of the glass holds multiple meanings. Some say it represents the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Others say it demonstrates that marriage holds sorrow as well as joy and is a representation of the commitment to stand by one another even in hard times. The cloth holding the shards of glass is collected after the ceremony, and many couples choose to have it incorporated into some sort of memento of their wedding day.

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Mazel Tov!

Shouting "Mazel tov!" is one of the most well-known Jewish wedding rituals. Once the ceremony is over and the glass is broken, you will hear guests cheer "Mazel tov!" Mazel tov has a similar meaning "good luck" or "congratulations." The direct translation is actually closer to wishing the best for the future, a great destiny, or a pronouncement that the person or people have just experienced great fortune. There's no better time to say "mazel tov" than at a wedding!

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Yichud

Following the ceremony, tradition dictates that couples spend at least eight minutes in yichud (or seclusion). This wedding custom allows the newly married couple to reflect privately on their new relationship and allows them precious time alone to bond and rejoice. It's also customary for the bride and groom to share their first meal together as husband and wife during the yichud. Customary meals differ from community to community and can range from the "golden soup" of the Ashkenazim (said to indicate prosperity and build strength) to chocolate-chip cookies from grandma.

Everything You Need to Know About the Yichud

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Hora and Mezinke

The celebratory dance at the reception is called the hora where guests dance in a circle. Oftentimes, you will see women dancing with women and men dancing with men. The bride and groom are seated on chairs and lifted into the air while holding onto a handkerchief or cloth napkin. There is also a dance called the mezinke, which is a special dance for the parents of the bride or groom when their last child is wed.

What to Know About the Jewish Hora Dance

(Video) What is involved in a Jewish wedding ceremony?

FAQs

What are the rituals of a Jewish wedding? ›

While wedding ceremonies vary, common features of a Jewish wedding include a ketubah (marriage contract) which is signed by two witnesses, a chuppah or huppah (wedding canopy), a ring owned by the groom that is given to the bride under the canopy, and the breaking of a glass.

Why do Jews stomp on glass when they get married? ›

During a Jewish marriage ceremony, the couple crushes a glass. It's meant to be a moment of remembrance for the destruction of the Jewish temples.

Why do Jewish grooms smash a glass? ›

The promises made by the bride and groom, like the broken glass, are irrevocable. The breaking of the glass also serves as a reminder of the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE and all subsequent sufferings of the Jewish people.

At what age can a Jewish girl marry? ›

Age of marriage

Citing the primacy of the divine command given in Genesis 1:28, the time between puberty and age twenty has been considered the ideal time for men and women to be wed in traditional Jewish thought.

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