4 Jewish Wedding Traditions and What They Signify
If you’re heading to your first Jewish wedding, it can be helpful to understand and appreciate some of the traditions you’ll see beforehand. No matter if you’re attending a reformed ceremony or a ceremony between strict orthodox members of the Jewish faith, you’ll probably see these four traditions:
- The bedeken. One of the first traditions you may see is the bedeken, or “veiling” of the bride. Before the ceremony, the groom will look at his bride and place a veil over her head. This gentle gesture is meant to represent the groom’s love for his bride’s inner beauty and to signify that the bride and the groom are both individuals, even after they are wed.
- The seven blessings. The Sheva B’rachot, or “seven blessings,” is a series of blessings that are at the heart of every Jewish wedding ceremony. The blessings wish love, peace, and generosity upon the couple’s marriage, and friends and family members may also participate in reciting the seven blessings. The blessings are often recited in both Hebrew and English.
- The smashing of the glass. As the ceremony comes to a close, the groom (or occasionally, the bride and groom together) will be invited to step on a glass wrapped in a cloth bag to shatter it. There is a debate over where the exact meaning of the smashing of the glass comes from. Some say that it is intended to represent the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, while others say that it represents the hardships and pain that come alongside joy during a marriage. After the glass has been shattered, the couple will take home the remains of the glass wrapped in the bag. Many couples create mementos and home decorations using the fragments of glass after the ceremony.
- “Mazel tov!” One of the most famous Yiddish phrases, you’ll hear a loud cry of “mazel tov!” after the glass has been shattered. Though most people believe that “mazel tov” translates to “congratulations,” the true meaning of the phrase is closer to “we wish you a bright future.” “Mazel tov” is a very appropriate phrase for a wedding, so don’t be afraid to wish the bride and groom a hearty “mazel tov” yourself during the reception!
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