July 13, 2021 5 min read 0 Comments



The wedding day is packed with rituals and symbolism, each one with deep meaning and  significance.  The Chuppa ceremony is no exception, from the very beginning with the witnesses signing the ketubah to the very end with the groom breaking a glass. These are the foundations the bride and groom start their marriage;  under a canopy that represents their new home that they will build and share together. Ashkenazim generally have the Chuppa outside under the open sky, as a reminder of God’s blessing to Abraham that his children would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. Sephardim usually have the ceremony inside.   We will list here just a few of the traditions that are in every Jewish wedding (Orthodox or Reform).


The Ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract that dictates the groom’s responsibilities to his bride and lists the bride’s rights in the event of a divorce. Protecting the rights of a Jewish wife is of primary importance, so everything is listed in the  Ketubah, to provide for her with food, clothes, shelter etc.  Before the start of the chuppah, this Jewish legal document is signed by the bride, groom, two witnesses and an officiating Rabbi or Masters of Ceremony. During the Chuppa this is read in the presence of everyone there.


After the Ketubah has been signed, the bedeken starts. The Bedeken (Yiddish for "covering"), is the ritual where the groom approaches the bride and covers her face with a veil.  This is a tradition that stems from the Bible. Jacob wanted to marry Rachel but after working for seven years to earn her hand in marriage, when the day came it was Rachel’s sister Leah under the veil! Laban their father had tricked Jacob. To this day, the groom covers the bride so as to not repeat the same mistake. Another interpretation of the veil is that the groom is not only interested in external beauty but inner beauty too. This is reminiscent of Rebecca who covered her face before marrying Issac- she was physically beautiful but Issac saw her soul and character first.


After the Bedeken, the grooms arrives at the chuppa first and waits patiently (or impatiently!) for the bride. When she arrives at the chuppa, she starts circling around the groom. She does this seven times. Let's explore this Ashkanzi custom a little deeper. Why does the bride circles the groom seven (or three) times?

1. Circling seven times corresponds to the seven wedding blessings.

2.The bride is demonstarting that the groom is the center of her life.

3. It symbolizes her protective care of her husband.

4. The seven circles remind us of the biblical story of Jericho. Joshua had to walk around the ancient city of Jericho seven times before the walls fell and the Israelites were able to capture it. So too, after the bride has walked around the groom seven times, the spiritual walls that separate them will fall and they are more open to building their home together.

5. Just like the Jewish "Tefillin" box is tied around the arm seven times, symbolizing binding oneself to God with love, so too the husband and wife are creating an eternal love bond.

6. The number seven has great significance. Throughout the Bible, seven is the number of completeness and perfection. As the bride and groom come together, they are bringing together two halves to make each other whole.

Recently, this custom has been modified in various liberal or progressive communities, influenced by feminism or to accommodate same sex couples. The bride will circle the groom three times, then the groom will circle the bride three times and then each will circle each other.


Recently, this custom has been modified in various liberal or progressive communities, influenced by feminism or to accommodate same sex couples. The bride will circle the groom three times, then the groom will circle the bride three times and then each will circle each other.

The seven blessings, or Sheva Brachot, are often recited by guests that the bride and groom have chosen to honor. They can be an uncle, aunt, grandparents or close friends. They individually join the bride and groom under the chuppa to recite a blessing. These blessings express joy and hope for the new couple, bestowing all kinds of goodness in their lives together. In Sephardi tradition, a parent wraps the bride and groom in a prayer shawl right before the blessings to recognize the intimacy and significance of the moment. Since the traditional text is quite ancient, many choose to write their own English translation of these blessings, or alternative blessings in addition to the Hebrew text.  Modern liturgist have created modified versions of the blessings to honor same-sex weddings.

After the seven blessings have been recited, the second cup of wine is given to the groom and bride to take another sip.


After the bride has been given a ring, and the ceremony is drawing to a close, the groom breaks a glass He crashes it with his right foot and the guests shout, “Mazal Tov!”.   So why do we break a glass on such a momentous occasion (besides for it being the last moment the groom ‘puts his foot down’)? There are a couple of reasons we can explore.
At the pinnacle of our joy, we need to take a step back and remember that life is not completely perfect. As a nation we are lacking our Temple. We express our sadness on this day for the destruction of the Temple, connecting the couple with their national and spiritual destiny. Some weddings choose this moment to sing the song, “If I forget thee, Jerusalem..” This fulfills the verse in Psalms, ‘to set Jerusalem above my highest joy.’
This tradition can actually be dated back as far as the Fourth-Century In the Talmud, there is a story of a Rabbi who hosted a wedding for his son and noticed that the guests were being excessively joyous. The Rabbi got an expensive cup and broke it in front of everyone. Why did he want to make his guests sad? Maybe he wanted a refund for the wedding? unlikely... One explanation offered in the Talmud is that he did it to make sure they didn't get too carried away in their merriment and end up sinning.
In Reform circles, the bride and groom break the glass together.

When the ceremony has ended, with joyous singing of “Siman Tov, U’Mazal Tov,’ (A good sign, and good luck) the bride and groom walk away to be left alone for their first moment together as a couple while the guests go onto the next stage of the wedding.