Boston Jewish Wedding
Jewish weddings are rich in history, tradition, and beautiful symbolism.
Traditional Jewish weddings are among the holiest days. It is often compared to Yom Kippur (or “day of atonement”), which is a holy day in Judaism and considered the most important holiday during the year. Traditionally, it was believed that the bride and groom on their wedding day would be cleansed from all past mistakes as they were merged into something new and complete.
In addition to having photographed over a hundred Boston Jewish weddings and taken tens of thousands of Boston Jewish wedding photos, I also had a fusion one of my own! There is much to learn about the traditions that surround them, but here are some basic facts you need to know:
BOSTON JEWISH WEDDING TRADITIONS
During Ketubah Signing
The marriage contract is signed by the bride and groom two witnesses and the rabbi or cantor, usually on the wedding day. The Ketubah outlines the groom’s responsibilities to his bride. The signing of the Ketubah is typically an hour and happens before the wedding ceremony. The Ketubah is often read to the guests during the ceremony and one of my favorite Jewish wedding photos to capture. The bride and groom do not often sign in private, but instead this moment takes place, for many couples, in the same room as their parents, family, and children.
The Bedeken means “the veiling”. It is custom that the groom veils the bride’s face during the ketubah signing. The veil covers the soon to be wife’s face (and beauty) to symbolize that the groom loves her for her inner beauty. The reason the women must wear veils stems from the biblical story of the wedding of Jacob. The story in the Bible says Jacob, who was in love with Rachel, was tricked by his father-in-law into marrying someone else (his love’s sister, Leah) because Leah was veiled.
During the Wedding Ceremony – Jewish Wedding Traditions on the wedding day
Chuppah or Huppah
The wedding canopy has four corners and a covered fabric called a “tallit” or prayer shawl. The four posts are held up by the bride’s /groom’s friends or family members during the ceremony, which symbolizes them supporting the life the couple is building together. The chuppah, like many elements of a Jewish wedding ceremony, is beautifully symbolic. It’s open on all sides and has multiple meanings behind it: signifying that everyone is welcome in this new home the bride and groom will build together; also symbolizing how Abraham welcomed guests into his tent with hospitality. The word “chuppah” is used in two ways. Firstly, it’s the Hebrew name of a canopy under which Jewish couples get married and secondly colloquially as another word for the ceremony so if someone asks you when’s the chuppah? don’t assume they have lost all grasp on how to put sentences together because what your friend means by this question is actually: When does the ceremony start?
Walk to the Chuppah
Tradition holds it that the groom and his parents walk down the aisle and then the bride and her parents follow. Both fathers then bless the bride. Both sets of parents stand under the chuppah during the ceremony.
It means “To Call Up” in Yiddish. The couple is called up to the Torah for a blessing, an “aliyah”. Then, family and friends throw candies and other sweats at the couple to wish them a sweet life.
Kiddushin ring exchange
In Jewish weddings, the groom always places a ring on his bride’s index finger and recites a Hebrew phrase that consecrates their union. Though this exchange is common in most wedding ceremonies, what sets it apart is its origin: kiddushin means “to sanctify” or “dedicate something to God (Hashem).” As newlyweds recite these words together with hope for a long marriage full of happiness ahead of them, they become one!
The Sheva B’rachot are blessings that are recited for a bride and her groom as part of their Jewish wedding ceremony. The meaning behind the Hebrew word “Sheva Brachot” is literally translated to “seven joys,” referring to the seven different types of happiness one may experience on such an occasion: rejoicing with Hashem; being happy about finding a partner in this world; feeling contentment at having found someone who can provide love and companionship through thick or thin emotionally, financially, physically – everyone deserves it! The most important blessing discussed here includes thanking Hashem for bringing these two people together so they could be blessed with children.
Breaking of the glass
The groom steps on a glass inside a cloth bag to shatter it, before walking down the aisle as husband and wife. This has multiple meanings. The most popular is that it represents the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Another is that it shows the commitment to be with one another in difficult times. This is one of my favorite Jewish wedding ceremony photos to photograph!
This means “Congratulations”!
Immediately following the ceremony, the couples spend time together in seclusion. This allows the coupes to reflect on their relationship, to bond, and celebrate together. They can share their first meal together.
It is customary for the person leading the final blessing to bless the wine before pouring it. Wine represents many important things in Judaism.
During the reception
Hora and Mezinke
This Jewish Wedding Tradition is a dance that typically opens up the reception. The hora is a dance performed at Jewish weddings where the bride and groom are seated upon a chair and lifted into the air while music plays and their family and friends circle them, making it symbolic of an eternal bond. During this time, they each hold one end of a handkerchief or napkin to signify unity with their partner. Nicole’s tip: Use chairs with arms for the Hora!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT BOSTON JEWISH WEDDINGS
What is that big braided bread?
It’s not every day that we get the chance to enjoy delicious, well-made Jewish challah. The recipe for this bread dates back centuries and has been passed down through generations of Jewish families with love and care. It is traditionally braided before being baked which makes it easier to slice up into individual portions after baking so that each table can partake! The blessing of the challah is done by the rabbi.
What is a Yarmulke or a Yamaka?
The Kippah is a brimless cap worn by Jewish men for religious purposes to cover their heads. The word “Kippah” comes from the Hebrew words meaning to cover, and this piece of headgear does just that.
The kippa or yarmulke covers the top part of men’s heads, usually made out of cotton like material as well as other materials such as silk. It may also be decorated with embroidery in different colors which can express one’s personality if it is not being hidden under clothing when at work or socializing outside but alternatively could signify modesty inside (such an example would include wearing it during prayer). A traditional symbol on some kipot are 4 lines – two vertical ones side-by-side.
What should guests wear to a Jewish wedding?
It is important for a woman to cover her shoulders. For men, wear a kippah or a yarmulke to cover their heads. Many weddings will provide kippahs to guests.
Are Jewish weddings performed on Shabbat?
Traditionally, no. It is not typical for a Jewish Wedding to be conducted on High Holy Days.
What should I bring as a gift?
It is customary to bring the married couple a gift in increments of $18, which symbolizes the Hebrew word “Chai” meaning life.
Do men and women sit separately?
In orthodox synagogues, men and women are seated separately in the room. But this is only seen at orthodox ceremonies.
BOSTON JEWISH WEDDING TIMELINE
1:30-3:00pm Photographer arrives for Getting Ready
3:00-4:00pm First look (or separate pre-ceremony portraits if not seeing each other before the ceremony)
4:30 – 5:30pm Ketubah signing
5:00 – 6:00pm Ceremony
6:00- 7:00pm Cocktail Hour / Portraits of family, bridal party, extended family
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