Jewish wedding traditions and rituals


Every culture has its unique customs that provide their members with a sense of identity and pride. Jewish culture is one of the oldest uninterrupted traditions in the world, and one of the reasons for its perseverance over the centuries is its insistence on a ritualistic and very strict form of common social events, such as weddings.

Even if you have never been to a Jewish wedding, you may have heard of the well-known rituals of breaking the glass or dancing the hora. Our experts from have prepared some information for you to learn more about the Jewish wedding traditions that may be incorporated into the ceremony of uniting two people in marriage.

Since the rituals are so numerous, they are grouped based on the moment of their occurrence in the process. Some of them must be completed before the main ceremony can take place, while others can only be enacted once the marriage becomes official. Here is a detailed overview:

Before the ceremony

For the marriage to be approved by the bride’s family and the Jewish community, the groom must formally accept his responsibilities as a married man. This is done by signing a traditional contract, or ketubah, which lists all of his future obligations. The ketubah must be signed in front of two witnesses, who are also required to sign their names on the document, and it remains a cornerstone of good family relations throughout the marriage. The moment of signing of the ketubah is considered analog to engagement, and this moment is sometimes celebrating with the ritual breaking of plates. While it is expected that this ceremony must take place ahead of the wedding to allow enough time for preparations, the exact period between the two events is not formally defined. Another important ritual that takes place before the wedding day is named Badeken, and it involves the veiling of the bride’s face as an indication of her virginity and innocence. This feat is performed by the groom in the presence of his family members as well as Rabbis or other prominent members of the community. The Badeken ceremony is often a cause for celebration and is typically less formal than the wedding itself.

During the ceremony

A majority of Jewish marital customs are reserved for the special day of the wedding. The central element of the traditional wedding is a chuppah or a wedding canopy under which the spouses must take their wows. The canopy consists of a large white sheet supported by four poles, which may be held by family members during the wedding, and it stands as a symbol of the new home that is being founded. As the bride approaches the chuppah, she is required to circle her future husband either three or seven times. At this stage, the bride is accompanied by her mother as well as the mother of the groom. The wedding ceremony includes two essential steps, the first of which is known as erusin or kiddushin, during which the groom presents the wedding ring that according to Jewish customs must be made of plain metal with no jewels. The function of this step is betrothal, and it still doesn’t amount to marriage. For the couple to be considered wedded, it is necessary to go through with nissuin, or nuptials in Hebrew. This part of the ceremony also takes place under the chuppah and frequently involves a loud reading of the wedding contract (ketubah). At this time, religious leaders or other guests may also recite traditional blessings. The ceremony ends with the symbolic action of breaking the glass, which the groom must smash on the ground and use his right foot to crush it to little pieces. This action typically draws a loud reaction from the guests, who shout the traditional Hebrew greeting of ‘Mazel Tov!’

After the ceremony

Of course, completion of marriage doesn’t represent the end of festivities at a Jewish wedding. A very important ritual that a newly married couple is expected to perform is called yichud, which translates as ‘togetherness’. The couple spends time alone in a room, demonstrating their ability to do so legally under Jewish religious law. While this was historically the occasion for the couple to consummate the marriage, the gesture nowadays has a purely symbolic meaning. Finally, all guests participate in the celebratory wedding feast or Seudat Mizvah, where food and drinks are served and guests congratulate and converse with the groom and bride. The feast is usually accompanied by music and dancing, so this part of the wedding can be the most lighthearted. Still, in some of the stricter communities, male and female guests are required to dance in separate groups. The feast typically ends with the recitation of Birkat Hamazon (which translates as Grace After Meals), as well as a repetition of the blessings that were said during the main ceremony.

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