Getting Married to a Jewish Groom? Here’s What to Expect

Welcome to a brief guide to wedding customs for the groom, also known as the chatan. Whether you're excited or a bit nervous

Feb 28, 2024 - 19:29
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Getting Married to a Jewish Groom? Here’s What to Expect
Getting Married to a Jewish Groom? Here’s What to Expect

Welcome to a brief guide to wedding customs for the groom, also known as the chatan. Whether you're excited or a bit nervous, especially if you're new to Jewish wedding traditions, don't worry! This guide is here to help non-Jewish partners understand and navigate the diverse set of customs and ceremonies that come with traditional Jewish weddings.

Pre-Wedding Ceremonies                  

1. Ketubah Signing: A Pivotal Moment

Before the main event, you might partake in the wedding ketubah signing. This is the Jewish marriage contract, emphasizing the commitment between the couple. Take this moment to appreciate the significance of this document, symbolizing the promises made by the bride and groom to each other.

2. Mikveh Immersion            

For certain couples, the mikveh immersion serves as a pre-wedding ritual. Though not obligatory, it carries significant spiritual symbolism. Taking a dip in a ritual bath symbolizes purification and a fresh start. It's crucial to show respect for this practice, acknowledging its importance in the couple's spiritual journey.

Ceremony Traditions

3. Chuppah: Symbol of Unity

The chuppah, which is a canopy where the wedding ceremony happens, symbolizes the couple's new home. As a non-Jewish partner, observing the vows being exchanged beneath the chuppah gives a glimpse into the deep unity being created.

4. Bedeken: Veiling of the Bride

During the bedeken, the groom covers the bride with a veil, symbolizing his commitment to her inner beauty. Embrace this lovely tradition as a symbol of respect for the essence of the bride.

5. Breaking the Glass: Embracing Fragility

When the groom breaks the glass, it symbolizes the fragility of life and the commitment to facing challenges together. This poignant moment serves as a reminder for everyone present, irrespective of faith, about the profound nature of the commitment being made.

 

This ritual has lots of meanings: it scares away demons, reminds us of the Temple's fall, and shows that sudden joy can be shattered. The broken glass symbolizes the permanence of marriage – once done, it can't be undone, just like the glass can't be put back together. It's also the official cue to shout, "Mazel Tov!"

Reception Customs

6. Hora Dance: Join the Celebration

The hora dance is a lively and communal celebration, often involving lifting the newlyweds on chairs. As a non-Jewish guest, feel free to participate, contributing to the joyous atmosphere of the reception.

7. Blessings and Breaking Bread

Take part in the blessings, especially the one over the challah. This braided bread symbolizes sustenance and abundance. Join in this act of unity, recognizing the cultural richness it adds to the meal.

Cultural Insights

8. Dietary Restrictions and Dress Code

Respect dietary restrictions, which may include kosher guidelines. Additionally, be mindful of the dress code, usually conservative for both men and women. Understanding and acting towards these cultural nuances showcase your respect for the couple's traditions.

9. Family Dynamics: Respect and Inclusivity

Jewish weddings often emphasize family ties. Be open to engaging with family members, understanding the significance they hold in the couple's lives. Embrace the sense of community and inclusivity.

10. Wedding Bands

In Jewish weddings, it's a tradition for the groom to give the bride a wedding ring. This has been happening for a really long time, like 1,400 years! But there's a rule - the ring has to be worth at least a penny. The ring is not just any ring, though. It has to be a simple band without any holes or fancy stones. The round shape of the ring symbolizes the unbroken union of marriage. You can still make it special by getting something sweet engraved inside the ring.

11. The Haray Aht Ceremony

When you're putting the ring on your sweetheart's finger in a Jewish wedding, you'll say something important called the Haray Aht. It's a declaration from the Talmud. You need to remember this sentence, but don't worry, your rabbi might quietly remind you just in case.

 

In Aramaic, it goes like this: "Haray aht m'kudeshhet li b'taba'at zu k'dat Moshe v'Yisrael." In English, it means, "By this ring, you are consecrated to me, as my wife, following the traditions of Moses and Israel." Here's a cool fact: there are 32 letters in the phrase, and in Hebrew, 32 is written with the same letters that spell the word "heart."

 

So, when you say these words, you're symbolically giving your heart. Oh, and remember, the ring goes on the bride's right index finger first, not her ring finger (she can switch it later). This comes from the old belief that the right index finger is directly connected to the heart.

12. The Aufruf Tradition

Jewish couples get a special recognition called an aufruf, which means "calling up" in Yiddish. On the Sabbath before the wedding (or after for Sephardic weddings), you get to say blessings before and after the first Torah reading. Sephardic grooms also read a part from Genesis about finding a wife for Isaac.

 

Usually, someone from the congregation reads the Torah part, but you can arrange to read it yourself and impress your in-laws with your Hebrew skills. If you don't want to read, you just need to remember the blessings, the same ones you said at your Bar Mitzvah. It might feel a bit like Bar Mitzvah again as people throw nuts and candy at you when you're done. Just a heads up, this time, you're all grown up, so be ready for it!

13. The Groom’s Table

Immediately before the wedding, the groom and his male family and friends gather at the tish, or table. Traditionally, the groom attempts to present a lecture on the week's Torah portion, while his friends and family heckle and interrupt him to prevent him from finishing.

 

The tish should be humorous and fun, which relaxes the invariably nervous groom before the wedding. If you're uncomfortable with public speaking, recruit your bride and do the tish together.

Conclusion

Being a non-Jewish partner at a Jewish wedding can be an enlightening and enriching experience. Embrace the traditions, from the solemnity of the ketubah signing to the joy of the hora dance. Your respect for these customs not only enhances your experience but also adds to the overall celebration of love and unity.

 

 

 

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