I’ll admit it here in front of God, you, and anyone who’ll listen. I love weddings. When I’m invited to one, I’ll leap tall buildings, if necessary, to join in the celebration! Once I’m there, I’m like the 5th grade nerd who sits at the front of the class; I’m so intent in hearing what the clergy says about the bride and groom, to see the bride’s dress, to feast my eyes and taste buds on the cake. At Jewish weddings I get goose bumps during the processional & recessional because the music is so special to me. And my favorite part of the whole wedding - the chuppah! I critique them like a movie critic on steroids.
So, since I consider myself a connoisseur of all things ‘wedding’, I’ll share with you some insights about Jewish wedding ceremonies that you may not already know. Let’s just call these ‘trade secrets’, even if they’re not.
The Sound of Music:
In Jewish and some Interfaith weddings you won’t hear the traditional “Wedding March.” Instead you might hear the song, “Sunrise, Sunset” made popular by the classic Jewish theatrical favorite, “Fiddler on the Roof.” Other traditional Jewish processional music includes melodic tunes inspired by the Hebrew phrase, “Dodi Li,” meaning, “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine”. Indeed, sometimes I feel like my beloved when I’m wearing his pajamas and talking about Longhorn football.
But I digress.
Here Comes the Bride:
At a Jewish wedding ceremony, you won’t be expected to stand for the bride’s big entrance during the processional, because Jews only stand during the service when we’re speaking directly to God or we’re if we have to run after a two year old gone astray. You might also be surprised to see the Groom coming down the aisle arm and arm with his parents followed by the Mother-of-the-Bride & the Father-of-the Bride escorting the ‘beloved’. In the Jewish tradition, both sets of parents bring their children to be consecrated to each other under their carefully designed chuppah. By custom, all of the parents are part of the wedding party and therefore share space under the chuppah or at least around its fringes.
Once everyone gets down the aisle, you might think the entire wedding party is confused because the bride and her attendants are standing to the right of the groom and his men. This tradition symbolizes the creation of Eve from the right rib of Adam.
Chuppah Huppah Whatta?
Ok, let’s clear on a common misconception. A chuppah is not a ‘wedding alter’. Nope; it’s way cooler than that. A chuppah (also, huppah or chupah) is ceremonial object that represents the new home the couple will soon create together. It’s open on all four sides as a reminder that Abraham’s tent was open to welcome strangers coming from any direction. (Abraham was a very magnanimous guy.)
Chuppot (plural of Chuppah) can be handheld or stationary, lavishly draped and adorned with family heirlooms or flowers, or simple and unlavish; the chuppah’s design is a visual representation of the couple.
At one Jewish wedding I attended, all the guests were mailed a small cloth square in advance of the big day to help create a personal chuppah cover which now hangs on the couple’s wall!
Finally, during a Jewish ceremony you will hear the rabbi or cantor read from the Ketubah, which is a Jewish wedding contract. In Hebrew, the text is legal-ease that unromantically maps out a plan of financial protections for the bride should the groom divorce her. However, when translated to English, the Ketubah is a much more egalitarian, emotional document, pointing out the beautiful hopes and dreams the couple has for one another. Where the chuppah is the visual representation of the couple, the Ketubah is the oral. Hearing a couple’s Ketuboh read aloud is much like hearing the self-written vows of a Christian or non-religious couple. It is a highly personal moment that will move even the most stoic.
Ok. Get out your hankie; we’re going to get personal here.
My Ketubah Says:
“I promise to stand by you always; to be joy to your heart and food to your soul; to bring out the best in you always, and for you, to be the most that I can be; to laugh with you in the good times and struggle with you through life’s challenges.” Below is a picture of my Ketubah.
What do you think? Do you like the idea of a ‘wedding contract’ read aloud to all who accept the invitation to join in a marriage ceremony, and then to be re-created in an artistic, beautiful presentation? Perhaps you are planning an Interfaith wedding – have we given you any ideas for your own marriage ceremony? Do you feel like you learned a few things about Modern Jewish Weddings? Do you have any unanswered questions?
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