The Symbols and Rituals of Jewish Weddings
The Jewish faith teaches that a wedding ceremony transforms two souls into one new, complete soul. It is a ceremony filled with symbol and ritual. Curious? We were. This inspiration shoot will take you through the ceremony, starting with the Veiling, or Badeken, and ending with the Seudah, or Festive Meal, that celebrates the new union.
Before the ceremony, the groom goes to the bride’s room, accompanied by family and friends. There, according to ancient custom, at the prompt of the rabbi, the bride’s veil is removed by the groom. It is said to symbolize a number of things: modesty, the importance of character rather than physical appearance, and the groom’s commitment to clothe and protect his wife.
The couple stands under a canopy, symbolic of dwelling together. It’s open on all four sides, just as, according to the Hebrew Bible, Abraham and Sarah had their tent open to welcome people unconditionally. It’s also open to the sky to mark God’s blessing to Abraham that his children “should be as the stars of the heaven.” Acting as a backdrop is a portion of the well-known Song of Solomon from the Hebrew Bible, which tells of “the voices of two lovers, praising each other, yearning for each other, proffering invitations to enjoy.”
Ketubah, Kiddushin & Blessings
The Kiddushin makes formal and sanctifies the ceremony. A cup of wine, a symbol of joy in the Jewish tradition, is shared as a blessing of the betrothal. The groom places the ring on hte forefinger of the bride’s right hand, saying, “Behold, you are betrothed unto me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel.” Rings often have a verse from the Song of Solomon engraved in them. It reads: “I am my belovd’s and my beloved is mine; he feedeth among the lilies.”
A second cup of wine is poured and seven blessings — “Blessed art Thou Lord our God, king of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine” is one — are recited, often by several people chosen by the bride and groom. During the blessings, the bride circles the groom seven times to symbolize their new life together and the wholeness that they cannot attain separately.
After the Seven Blessings, the couple drinks from the cup again, and then the groom breaks the cup with his right foot to symbolize that even the most blessed moment is tempered by sorrow about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
The couple’s marriage is celebrated with a Seudat Mitzvah, or Festive Meal, as well as dancing. At this wedding feast, a table runner inscribed with a portion of the Song of Solomon runs the length of the table, with vibrant glass bottle accessories as statement centerpieces.