Before the Jewish Wedding Ceremony

Before the wedding, bride and groom are feted, the bride is veiled, and the groom dons a shroud-like garment.

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Kaufman describes traditional wedding customs, some of which may not be observed by many liberal Jews. In some communities, many traditional customs are retained, although they are practiced in more egalitarian ways. Reprinted with permission from Love, Marriage, and Family in Jewish Law and Tradition, published by Jason Aronson Publishers.

The traditional Jewish wedding begins with separate simultaneous receptions by the groom and the bride for the wedding guests.

The Bride's Reception

The bride's reception is usually the livelier one. It is an old tradition, referred to in the Talmud, for the bride to sit on an attractive throne. Surrounded by her attendants, close family members, and friends, she receives guests and well wishers. As the musicians play, her friends dance in front of her.

The Groom's Tisch

The groom's reception (Yiddish: hoson's tisch) for men is held at a table laden with food and drink. Seated adjacent to the groom are his father and the bride's father, surrounded by the rabbis. Around the table are male guests, relatives, and friends of the groom, who toast the groom and sing. [Today, many grooms opt to have female friends and relatives at their tish as well.] Often, the room in which the groom's reception is held is where the late-afternoon Minchah prayer service takes place.

jewish brideIt is customary for a groom to deliver (or attempt to deliver) a learned discourse at the tisch ("table"). But traditionally he is interrupted by his friends shortly after beginning, with lively singing and rhythmic clapping in which all present join to prevent him from continuing. This custom is not intended as an affront or as an act of disrespect to the groom, but is designed to protect the groom who may be less than scholarly, lest he be shamed on what should be his most joyous day.

In many Hasidic circles, a badhan, or professional wedding jester, would be employed at the tish to entertain the assembled guests, by toasting the groom in rhymed couplets sung in traditional tunes.

The most crucial procedure at the groom's reception is the completion and validation of the ketubah, the marriage contract. The ketubah is carefully reviewed by the rabbi to determine that all details are correct.

The groom then formally accepts all the unilateral obligations to which he commits himself in the ketubah by executing a kinyan sudar, a traditional legal consent and agreement process. The officiating rabbi hands him a small article of clothing such as a handkerchief, and the groom, before two witnesses (who may not be close relatives of bride or groom), takes it and lifts it up symbolically to affirm consent, before returning it to the rabbi.

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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.