Jewish Wedding Traditions
A wedding is an occasion in which two individuals are legally united in matrimony. The term “wedding” itself can mean “union or connection,” “affectionate attachment,” “acquaintances,” or “common interests.” Wedding traditions and customs often vary greatly among different cultures, religious groups, societies, states, and nationalities. They also vary greatly between rural and urban weddings.
Most Jewish weddings are arranged under the supervision of the chuppah, the marriage ceremony tent where the wedding takes place. In most traditional Jewish weddings, the bride and groom are referred to as yachatsubs, or mothers of the bride and groom. In most non-Jewish weddings, couples are referred to as simply as brides and grooms. Traditionally, Jewish women bear the groom’s ring on the wedding day while men wear it after the wedding as a symbol of commitment.
Some Jewish traditions require that the families of the bride and groom pay a entrance fee to the reception hall. This practice originated during the days of partition in the Jews’ homeland. It is not customary to wear the ring on the left hand in modern Jewish weddings, however, as it is thought to be a modern practice, and is not part of the original practices of the Jewish People.
Jewish wedding traditions include the exchange of wedding rings by the bride and groom in front of their parents and other immediate family members. This act is seen as symbolic of the couple’s commitment to marriage. Jewish couples may wear their wedding rings on their right hands if they choose, or on their left if they choose. However, most Jewish couples opt to wear their wedding rings on their right hands throughout the wedding ceremony, and on their left when the reception is over.
During a Jewish wedding, the rabbi performs the wedding ceremony, reads the Jewish marriage contract, signifies the blessings of God upon the newlywed couple, and signs the couple’s wedding day documents. In the United States, Jewish wedding customs vary slightly from those observed in the Jewish community in Israel. Jewish couples may be married either by a judge or by a rabbi, but they do not have to have a civil ceremony if they choose not to. Some rabbis feel that it is unnecessary to have a civil wedding, and that the Jewish law requires only a witness to the marriage, which may be a relative or close friend. Many Jews do not believe in divorce, so the wedding itself is considered a sacred union.
The Jewish wedding reception is one of the more formalized celebrations of marriage in the Jewish culture. Unlike the reception traditionally held at the home of the bride and groom, in a synagogue or temple, the Jewish reception has taken on a different form in recent years. Some of the more traditional aspects of traditional Jewish weddings in America have been displaced or adapted to suit American preferences for small and informal wedding ceremonies. The customs that remain are largely a reflection of the meaning of the ceremony.