Last year, we provided some insight into the rituals of Indian and Hindu weddings. This time, we're turning our focus to another ceremony with a long tradition—the Jewish wedding, as celebrated by one Central Ohio couple, Gabrielle and Michael Wenter.
This story first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Columbus Weddings, published December 2018.
If you’ve never been to a Jewish wedding, you may find many of its traditions beautiful in their historical symbolism. Typically, the ceremony begins as the rabbi or leader reads aloud the Jewish wedding contract, called a ketubah, or ketubot in plural, traditionally written in Aramaic and specifying the groom’s commitments to the bride. Couples today usually add modern verbiage outlining both parties’ commitments to one another and commission elaborately decorated ketubot to later frame and display in their homes. The couple and two non-blood-related witnesses sign the ketubah.
The next ritual might be the badeken, during which the groom veils the bride’s face in a gesture recalling the Biblical story of Jacob’s first marriage to the wrong woman. Then comes the processional toward the chuppah, or wedding canopy, a symbol of the couple’s new home. The bride’s parents escort her down the aisle. Many couples take their own liberties with the processional, often including the groom and his parents.
Next, the bride may circle the groom three to seven times, representing virtues like righteousness, justice and loving kindness. Couples traditionally exchange rings worn on the right index finger, though the modern placement of left ring finger may also be used. The leader recites seven blessings, called sheva brachot, for a happy marriage and may wrap the couple in a prayer shawl to symbolize their unity. Following the sheva brachot, the couple shares a sip of wine.
At the end of the ceremony, the groom breaks a glass by stomping on it. The guests shout, “Mazel tov!” (Congratulations!) Interpretations of this well-known custom include a reference to the fragility of human relationships, a loud noise to drive away evil spirits and a break with the past.
Some couples choose to enjoy yichud, retreating to a quiet space to reflect on the commitment they have made before joining their guests. The reception features lots of dancing and gestures honoring the couple, including carrying each on a chair above the guests while everyone celebrates around them.