Liturgy, Rituals, & Customs of Jewish Weddings
For the processional the groom may don a white garment called a kittel, a simple cotton robe that is also worn on Yom Kippur and as a shroud at death, alluding to the seriousness of the day. Some grooms wear a tallit (prayer shawl) instead.
The marriage ceremony is conducted under a huppah (marriage canopy), which symbolizes the new home that the bride and groom are creating together. In a traditional wedding the bride circles the groom, but in modern weddings both may circle each other or the custom may be dropped altogether.
The betrothal involves two blessings, one over wine and the other reserving the couple for each other and forbidding them to have relationships with anyone else. This blessing reflects an earlier practice in which the bride and groom did not consummate their marriage until about a year after the formal betrothal, when the bride moved into the groom's home.
Next the groom performs the act that formalizes the marriage: He places the ring on the bride's index finger and recites in Hebrew, "Behold, by this ring you are consecrated to me as my wife according to the laws of Moses and Israel." In liberal ceremonies the wife may also present a ring, usually accompanied by a biblical phrase rather than the legal formula, although in many cases, the bride will recite a modified legal formula.
The reading of the ketubah serves as a divider between the betrothal and marriage ceremonies.
The nissuin ceremony involves the recitation of seven blessings, called the sheva berakhot, whose themes include creation of the world and human beings, survival of the Jewish people, the couple's joy, and the raising of a family. The rabbi raises a cup of wine from which the bride and groom drink after the blessings.
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