Jewish Wedding 101

yes, jenn is getting married. in four (!!) sleeps. i am uber excited to be having a wedding with lots of friends and family joining me, and realized that while i almost exclusively attend jewish weddings, for some mine will be a first. I haven’t been able to find one site that explains things in a way that satisfies me, so i’m going to pull some information together here so that folks who are interested can read about it before the day.

first, a few basics. the ceremony will start at the time on the invitation so plan to arrive at least 10 minutes before then to get seated. there are no ushers, and really you can sit anywhere you want in the sanctuary. no ushers to guide you, and no groom/bride side in terms of where you sit. i’ll be standing on the right – so sit on the left for better views of me! men, please take a yarmelke to cover your head in the sanctuary – they’re provided for you. you can take it off for the party. and women, you can wear what you like – no modesty concerns if you’re sitting in the sanctuary. and men and women can sit together in case that was something you were wondering! I also got a q about photos – unless the rabbi says otherwise, take as many as you like. but please stay out of the aisle!

now, the serious stuff:

before the chuppah, which is the main ceremony, we’ll be in the badekin with our immediate family. during this warm up event, we sign our civil license and jewish marriage license, called a ketubah. n will also cover my face with a veil at that time – this is a reference to the bible where Jacob ended up marrying Leah instead of Rachel by accident. not that i was planning any sneaky surprises…

our ceremony starts like most ceremonies – with a procession. everyone will come down the aisle to a song called Erev Shel Shoshanim, which translates to Evening of Roses, a hebrew love song that n and I chose. you’ll know when I’m coming because the music will change to a different song, called Al Kol Eleh, which translates to For All these things. It’s not a typical tune for a bride to march to, but it’s my favourite song and i love the words. and it’s my wedding. so yeah.

n will escort me under the chuppah, a canopy that symbolized the new home we’re building. then i’ll circle him seven times. i can’t find one distinct reason for the 7 times, and in fact, some do it 3 or 4. but since i grew up thinking a bride circles seven times that’s what i’ll do. you can look here and here for different rationalizations of the number seven.

after that, the ceremony itself begins. a lot of it will be in hebrew but the rabbi will explain what we’re doing. there’s two short but distinct parts: kiddushin and nissuin.

first, the kiddushin, or betrothal. there will be a few blessings and then we exchange rings. really, only n has to give me a ring, but conservative jews often do a double ring ceremony where i present him one as well. that’s what we’re doing. random fact: the rings have to be plain, without any stones, “just as it is hoped that the marriage will be one of simple beauty.”.

then they’ll read our ketubah, the part of the ceremony that separates the kiddushin from nissuin. it’s read out in aramaic (but there’s also english on the document). n will then hand it to me and it’s mine to keep

during the nissuin, we’ll be blessed with the sheva brachot or seven blessings. the first is over wine, and the next six are marriage themed. i chose a tune i like for the fifth one that’s not as traditional as the others the cantor will sing. also, folks might sing along to the sixth so don’t be surprised. this part is all hebrew but goes quickly.

after that, we’re escorted in front of the ark for a minute – that’s something n’s synagogue does, not law or tradition or anything like that.

finally, n will get to break the glass – since during every jewish celebration we have to remember the destruction of the temple (or people joke it’s the last time the groom gets to put his foot down). when he crushes the glass, everyone will yell mazel tov!. and we’re married!

the whole thing should take about 30 minutes.

n and i won’t be around during cocktail hour because we’ll be in seclusion which is actually required to complete the wedding ceremony. yeah, get your mind out of the gutter. the bride and groom share a few moments alone before we get to party with everyone else.

I think that’s everything. Get ready to dance (maybe your first?) Hora, drink a l’chaim or 6, and have a great time! i can’t wait!

Also, here are the links that I used to help pull this information together where you can read more details:

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