What To Expect At An Orthodox Wedding

If you’ve never been to a Orthodox Jewish wedding ceremony and have been asked to attend one, it is important to know what to expect. An Orthodox Jewish wedding follows the Torah very literally. There are traditions practiced at an Orthodox wedding that differ from Christian weddings, and even other Jewish weddings.

There are three different types of Jewish wedding ceremonies: reformed, conservative, and orthodox. The type of ceremony is based on the synagogue in which the wedding is held. While reform Jewish ceremonies and conservative Jewish ceremonies are more liberal, the orthodox Jewish wedding ceremony is the most traditional and strict of the weddings.

If you are a member of the bridal party, there are customs that you will be involved in before the guests arrive.

Tish

During the Tish, the groom, the ushers or groomsmen, and the male family members arrive at the synagogue first. They all gather in a room together for song and prayers before the ceremony.

Tena’im

At this time, the terms of the wedding are agreed upon, and the wedding contract is signed, noting the times and dates of the wedding. After the signing, the mother of the bride and the mother of the groom smash a plate, symbolizing the breaking of their relationships with their children.

Bedeken

The Bedeken, or the veiling of the bride, occurs right before the bride’s processional. This custom is based on the story of Jacob in the bible, when he accidentally marries the bride’s sister, Leah, because she is hidden under her veil. The bride sits in a chair at the front of the room with her veil covering her face, and the groom, surrounded by his groomsmen, dances to the bride and lifts her veil. This is also a symbol that he is marrying the bride for her inner beauty as well as her outer beauty.

The Wedding Ceremony

The ceremony takes place beneath the chuppah, an arch made of birch, flowers, or even metal. The ceremony itself is sometimes referred to as the chuppah as well. Traditionally, the purpose of the chuppah is for the groom to give and the bride to accept the simple wedding band.

Once the bride has joined the groom under the chuppah, she will walk around him in a circle seven times. Then the rabbi will greet the guests and give the Kiddush blessing. The groom will then give the bride the simple wedding band, which has been purchased with his own money and is given as a gift to her. This is a sign that she is accepting his marriage proposal.

Following the giving of the ring, the seven blessings will be recited, and the groom will break the wedding glass.

After the Ceremony

Immediately following the exchanging of the vows, the bride and groom will be taken into a room together to be alone for the first time as husband and wife. The entering of the bride and groom into the room must be witnessed by two people, as it is actually a requirement according to Jewish law.

Finally, the reception will commence, which is a time for the guests to celebrate with the bride and groom.

Other Practices at an Orthodox Jewish Wedding

In addition to the other ceremonial customs of an Orthodox Jewish wedding, there are a few other helpful things to know before you go:

  • There is a very conservative dress code for an Orthodox Jewish wedding. See our article What To Wear To A Jewish Wedding for more information.
  • Men and women must sit separately and dance separately at an Orthodox Jewish wedding.
  • Orthodox Jewish weddings take place on Sundays, as opposed to Saturdays.

Photo by Mike Goldstein, Flickr Creative Commons


Read all of the articles in our Jewish Wedding Traditions series:

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