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5 Jewish Wedding Traditions & What to Expect, for Couples, Officiants, & Guests

Published Thursday, Feb. 1st, 2024


Two brides exchange rings while a rabbi reads a blessing from the ceremony script during a happy outdoor Jewish wedding
Photo: CREATISTA / iStock

5 meaningful traditions found in traditional, modern, and interfaith Jewish weddings

 

 

 

It would be impossible to capture all the joy and ritual of a Jewish wedding ceremony in one article – there’s simply too much tradition, history, and fun to include! Jewish weddings are often epic celebrations of faith and culture, filled to the brim with love, good company, lively music, drinks, and dancing.

 

With this in mind, we’ve included only a handful of our favorite traditions below. These five rituals serve as a simple introduction to Jewish wedding celebrations – including traditions suited for modern, traditional, and interfaith Jewish marriage ceremonies. 

 

Along with a short description of each tradition, we include links to sample wedding ceremony scripts for officiants, plus further reading for a ‘close up’ look at how and when to add these rituals in your own ceremony.

 

Mazel tov! 

 

 

Ask a friend or relative to officiate your wedding! Get ordained online here and learn how to perform your first wedding ceremony.  

 

 

 

5 Jewish Wedding Traditions We Love 

 

 

1. Signing the Ketubah

 

A ‘ketubah’ is a decorative Jewish wedding contract. Ketubot (the plural of ketubah) can be traditional or modern in style. They can be written in Hebrew, Aramaic, English, and other languages; and are often stunning works of art – adorned with beautiful hand-lettered text and colorful illustrations.

 

In traditional and Orthodox marriages, the ketubah includes specific language that describes a groom’s financial and marital obligations to his new wife. It’s signed by the groom before the marriage ceremony, in front of two witnesses and the officiant (usually a rabbi). This marriage contract is binding in Jewish law, and shows the community that the groom understands his new role as a husband and will take good care of his wife ( via Chabad.org).

 

In many modern, same-gender, and interfaith Jewish marriages, both spouses sign the ketubah. The ketubah signing might happen before the ceremony in the presence of an officiant and witnesses, or it might be included during the ceremony as a unique unity ritual under the chuppah, to be celebrated by all of the couple’s friends and family. 

 

Modern ketubot contain a variety of texts, sometimes including the couple’s written vows or promises, readings from scripture, or other meaningful additions. 

For a detailed look at how to officiate a ketubah signing, including what to say and how or when to add one your ceremony, click the links below:

 

 

Jewish groom wearing a yarmulke and red suit jacket signs the ketubah while his bride watches. She is wearing a white wedding dress.

Photo via @navashoham, photo has been cropped

 

 

2. The Chuppah 

 

A ‘chuppah’ (or ‘huppah’ or ‘chupah’) is a symbolic cloth incorporated into Jewish wedding ceremonies. Chuppahs might be draped over the couple’s shoulders (like a tallit prayer shawl), held above the couple’s heads by friends or relatives, or secured to posts above the ceremony space to form a canopy.

 

To some, the chuppah symbolizes the presence of G-d, presiding over the union. To others it represents the couple's home in marriage, into which faith and love will flow for many happy years to come. The cloth itself is sometimes decorated with a family crest, and might be passed down as a family heirloom. 

 

A couple stands beneath the canopy during the marriage ceremony and exchanges vows. The wedding officiant recites the Sheva Brachot, or ‘the seven blessings,’ and pronounces them wed! 

 

For more inspiration on how to include a chuppah in your ceremony, click the links below: 

 

 

 

Wedding officiant reads from the wedding script to a bride and groom during the wedding ceremony, under the chuppah, being held by friends

Friends hold the chuppah above the bride and groom's heads while the officiant reads from the ceremony script, during this sweet outdoor wedding

 


3. Bedeken Ceremony 

 

Ah! One of the most emotional, festive, fun, and meaningful moments of the wedding day – the ‘bedeken,’ or veiling of the bride! This ritual takes place right before the formal marriage ceremony and is the couple’s first look at each other in their wedding attire, right before they walk down the aisle to the chuppah. 

 

Traditionally, after drinks and conversation during the tisch (or tish), a groom is accompanied (or carried!) by a group of singing groomsmen to greet his bride, who will be waiting with her bridesmaids and mother. Surrounded by loved ones, the groom lifts the bride’s veil and places it over her face to prepare for the ceremony. (via Smashing the Glass) Afterward, the groom heads to the chuppah with his attendants and the officiant, to await the bride’s entrance.

 

Modern, same-gender, and other LGBTQ+ Jewish weddings might include alternatives or variations to the bedeken (also called ‘badeken’ or ‘bedekken’). For example, modern couples might have mixed-gender wedding attendants, or gather as one large group instead of two separate groups. A bride might place a yarmulke on the groom’s head, or two brides might lift each other’s veils, and so on. 

 

Watch a lively example of a bedeken ceremony in this video by Eli’s Band: 

 

 

 

 

4. Sheva Brachot (the Seven Blessings)

 

The final blessing bestowed by the wedding officiant on the newlyweds during the ceremony is called the ‘Sheva B'rachot,’ or ‘Seven Blessings.’ 

 

The wedding officiant recites or sings the blessings and the couple sips from a glass of wine – symbolically ‘drinking in’ the blessings and toasting a future filled with faith, love, and family. Friends and family are often encouraged to join in and sing along with the officiant if they know the words.

 

There are many modern variations of the seven blessings for couples to choose from, as well as the traditional Hebrew reading. Some modern versions are spiritual but don’t mention G-d (like this version from Ritual Well),  while the traditional reading is deeply religious. 

 

The blessings can also be modified to suit individual couples, like readings that don’t refer to children (for child-free couples), or this feminine version of Sheva Brachot for a same-gender LGBTQ+ wedding. 

 

The Seven Blessings are often recognized as the heart of a Jewish wedding ceremony, and might be recited again during the couple’s first meal, at the wedding reception, and in the week following the ceremony. (via My Jewish Learning)

 

Here’s a modern version of the Seven Blessings from an Inclusive Modern Orthodox Jewish Wedding Ceremony Script, adapted by AMM Minister ‘Rabbi’ Lori Prashker-Thomas: 


“May you be blessed with love.  May your admiration, appreciation, and understanding of each other foster a love that is passionate, tranquil, and real.  May this love between you be strong and enduring, and bring peace into your lives.


May you be blessed with a loving home filled with warmth, humor, and compassion.  May you create a family together that honors traditions old and new.  


May you be best friends and work together to build a relationship of substance and quality.  May your sense of humor and playful spirit continue to enliven your relationship.  May you respect each other’s individual personalities and perspectives and give each other room to grow in fulfilling your dreams. 


May you be blessed with wisdom.  May you continually learn from one another and from the world.  Together, may you grow, deepening your knowledge and understanding of each other and of your journey through life. 


May you be blessed with health.  May life bring you wholeness of mind, body, and spirit.  May you keep each other well-balanced and grounded and live long so that you may share many happy years together. 


May your life be blessed with the art and beauty of this world.  May your creative aspirations and experiences find expression, inspire you, and bring you joy and fulfillment.  May you find happiness together in adventures, big and small, and something to celebrate each day of your lives. 


May you be blessed with community.  May you always be blessed with the awareness that you are an essential part of a circle of family and friends.  May there always be love, trust, support, and laughter within this group, and may there be many future occasions for rejoicing in their company.”

 

Read the full wedding ceremony script here.

 

 

 

 

5. Mazel Tov! Breaking the Glass 

 

The last tradition in this list is one you’ll probably recognize – the breaking of the glass! 

 

This ritual is included in all styles of Jewish weddings, from traditional to progressive to secular. It can be performed with wine glasses, light bulbs, vases, or other delicate glassware, and the chosen glass is often wrapped in cloth or aluminum foil before breaking (for the couple’s safety).

 

Traditionally, a groom breaks a glass with his foot at the end of the ceremony, followed by a joyful ‘Mazel Tov!’ from the officiant and guests to wish the new couple good fortune in marriage.

 

In modern ceremonies, both partners might take turns stomping on the glass until it breaks, or they’ll each break a glass – two glasses breaking at once! 

This noisy ritual is thought to mean many things, depending on who you ask. Some see it as a reminder of the fragile nature of life, or the fragile nature of marriage, and a reminder to live and love each other fully.  

 

Click the link below to read a sample officiant script with creative wording for the ‘breaking the glass’ ritual: 

 

 

 

Close up of a groom stepping on a glass wrapped in a cloth during a Jewish wedding

This groom steps on a glass wrapped in a cloth during his wedding ceremony... Mazel Tov! 

 

 

 

As mentioned above, there are other wonderful Jewish wedding traditions not included in this list -- as well as an infinite number of variations and alternatives for modern and interfaith couples. 

 

As you plan your ceremony, you might also consider the pre-ceremony 'aufruf' ceremony and 'aliyah' blessing, the 'kiddushin' to bless the couple and sip wine at the start of the ceremony, the circling ritual, fasting together as a couple, a quiet moment of 'yichud' following the ceremony, and of course dancing the hora

 

 


 

Read Next: 

 

 

Browse all Jewish Wedding Articles

 


 


Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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