A wedding is a momentous occasion, both as a milestone in a couple’s life and a unique moment for their extended families. We, at Beth Shalom, want to be a helpful resource to you as you make decisions about your wedding. Just as each couple is unique, we will help make your wedding ceremony comfortable and meaningful for you and your family.
If you are interested in having a wedding at Beth Shalom or having a wedding officiated by Rabbi Edery, please contact our office. An initial conversation with our Rabbi will be set to discuss your wedding needs and plans, and the special circumstances of your event.
In order to guarantee our space and our Rabbi’s availability, we suggest you speak with us just before you commit to a date, time, and venue.
There are many rituals connected to a Jewish wedding, and thus many decisions for each couple to make about the ceremony with the rabbi’s guidance. Here is a brief description of the Jewish wedding ceremony, with some explanations of its rituals. Rabbi Edery will discuss with you the ways in which you may have your loved ones participate in the ceremony, and how you may include your own personal elements in it.
The Jewish Wedding Ceremony
The marriage ceremony begins as the couple enters together under the Hupah – a marriage canopy (literally in Hebrew, “covering”). It usually consists of a square cloth (or a Tallit) supported by staves or held by four people. The Hupah is already mentioned in the Bible in association with marriage: “… as a bridegroom goes forth from his Hupah.”
The Hupah symbolizes the new home which the couple is now beginning to build. In this context, the appearance of the bride and groom together under a Hupah before an assembly who have come to witness the event is in itself a public proclamation by them that they are now bonded together as husband and wife.
Formalizing the Marriage with a Ring
At this point in the traditional ceremony, the groom performs the specific act that formalizes the marriage. Today it is customary for the groom to place a ring on the index finger of his bride’s right hand and to recite in Hebrew a phrase that means, “By this ring you are consecrated to me as my wife according to the tradition of Moses and Israel.” The bride then reciprocates the groom’s gesture and pronounces the same words. The words “according to the tradition of Moses and Israel” suggest the themes of covenant, community and continuity, which are expressed throughout the ceremony.
The Seven Blessings Are Recited
During the recitation of these blessings, as was the case in the first ceremony, the rabbi raises a cup of wine. And once again, upon completion of the blessings, groom and bride drink from the cup. Wine is an element of joy, which emerges from God’s creation – grapes – but only when people care for it and add to it their own creative work. This is a fitting metaphor for love and marriage.
After praising God for the creation of the fruit of the vine, the blessings contain praise and thanks to God for creating the world, humanity, man and woman; we pray for the restoration of Jerusalem to a joyful and peaceful life; we ask God to grant perfect joy to these loving companions, as God did to the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden; and we hope for the day when all the world will know only happiness, love and joy.
The theme of creation in these blessings expresses the Jewish conception of marriage as a natural state and suggests that, by marrying, the couple now furthers God’s process of creation, initiated with the first couple in Eden. The blessings also allude to the future era when God’s purpose for humankind will be fully realized. By mentioning Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and young men and women in a rebuilt Jerusalem, the couple’s union is placed in a wider context, within the people Israel and its history, and the striving to lead a life dedicated to higher human and religious values.
Addressing The Couple
The rabbi speaks to address the couple under the Hupah.
The ketubah is the traditional and legal marriage document, which is read aloud and signed. The traditional [early Medieval] document was conceived and used as a legal document, and so it enumerated the promises the groom makes to the bride and the obligations he assumes towards her as she becomes his wife. Modern texts emphasize the love and affection between bride and groom, and express their commitment to respect and cherish each other, and to build together a home guided by the values of Jewish tradition, such as study, justice, compassion, and the performance of good deeds.
Breaking The Glass
The next, and final, ritual element of the ceremony is the shattering of a glass. Traditionally, it is the groom who shatters the glass with his foot. The origins and rationale for this tradition are uncertain. One interpretation suggests that the broken glass reminds Jews assembled at a joyous occasion of the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple. Another suggests that the glass represents the couple, and that just as the glass, when it is broken, enters a new state from which there is no turning back – it is the hope of the community that this couple will always remain in their married state. Others suggest that the shattered glass is a reminder to the couple of the fragility and the delicate nature of their relationship and love, urging them to be always caring and kind with each other. With this ‘step’, the ceremony is completed, and we wish the couple, “Mazal Tov!!” (good fortune, congratulations!).