Arriving at the Huppah, or Wedding Canopy

A procession leads the groom and then the bride to the huppah, where the bride traditionally encircles the groom three or seven times.

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The following article presents a traditional view, and many customs and interpretations it presents would be understood in more egalitarian ways by many contemporary liberal Jews. Reprinted with permission from Love, Marriage, and Family in Jewish Law and Tradition, published by Jason Aronson Publishers .

Following the veiling ceremony, the couple are led to the huppah for the marriage ceremony. 

The groom arrives at the huppah before the bride. Since the huppah is considered [according to traditional understanding] the symbolic home of the groom, he must be there first to welcome his bride to his home. The tradition is said by some to go back to the very first wedding, when, the Torah says, God took Eve "and brought her to Adam." Eve, since she was created after Adam, is considered in Jewish thought to represent a higher form of life than is Adam, since she was able to carry a fetus in her body. As the first one created, Adam is said to have been waiting under the huppah in the Garden of Eden when Eve was brought to him.

The Wedding Processional

In some circles, it is customary for two people to lead the groom to the huppah to the accompaniment of appropriate music. In other circles, however, the groom is accompanied by a larger retinue, since the groom is likened to a king.

There are varying customs regarding who accompanies the principals to the huppah. Sometimes the groom is accompanied by his parents and the bride by hers. Indeed, this custom is cited by the Zohar, which says, "The father and mother of the bride bring her to the domain of the groom." However, there is no Jewish tradition of a father "giving away the bride."

jewish wedding processionAmong other groups, it is customary for the groom to be accompanied by the two fathers and the bride to be accompanied by the two mothers. Where the custom is for the principals to be accompanied by their parents, and the parents are divorced, great care should be taken that this should not become a source of aggravation in which one of the parents, out of pettiness or seeking to strike out at a former mate, refuses to accompany his or her child to the huppah if the other parent does so. No feelings of hurt or spite designed to hurt the child's other parent can excuse marring the supreme happiness of a son or daughter on a wedding day, and the marrying couple will probably always remember it as an act of supreme selfishness on the part of an immature parent.

Carrying Candles--An Old Custom

It is an old custom for those escorting the bride and groom to the huppah to carry candles in order symbolically to light the way of the bride and groom as they begin their future life together. On a number of occasions the Talmud refers to candles or lamps in association with weddings.

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Dr. Michael Kaufman studied at Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Vodaath, Telshe Yeshiva, Brookyn College, and the University of Louisville. His books include The Art of Judaism, A Timeless Judaism for Our Time, and A Guide to Jewish Art. He lives with his family in Jerusalem.