The beauty of the relationship of a husband and wife as well as their obligations to each other and to their people are symbolized by an intricate series of rituals and traditions which are followed while taking Jewish marriage vows. The wedding day is seen as one of the happiest and holiest days in the life of the bride and groom as their past is forgiven and they merge into a new and complete soul. Traditionally, in order to heighten the excitement and anticipation, the happy couple do not see each other for one week prior to taking their Jewish wedding vows.
Jewish rituals on the wedding day
When the day arrives, the couple is treated like a king and queen. The bride is seated on a throne while the groom is surrounded by guests who are singing and toasting him. The groom then proceeds to place a veil over his bride symbolizing modesty as well as his commitment to clothe and protect his wife. The wedding ceremony then takes place under a canopy which is called the chuppa and is symbolic of the new home the couple will build together. The open sides represent Abraham and Sarah’s tent and their openness to hospitality.
Once they are under the chuppa, one of the Jewish rituals for the wedding day is that the bride will circle around the groom seven times. This is symbolic of building a new world together and the number seven represents wholeness and completion. The bride then settles besides the groom at his right hand side. This is followed by the rabbi reciting the betrothal blessings after which the couple drinks from the first of two cups of wine which are used during traditional Jewish vows.
The groom then takes a plain gold ring and places it on his bride’s forefinger of her right hand saying, “Behold, you are betrothed unto me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel.” This is the central point of the ceremony when the marriage becomes official. Now the marriage contract is read out and signed by two witnesses and then the seven blessings are recited while the second cup of wine is taken.
The moment comes when a glass is placed on the floor and the groom crushes it with his foot symbolizing the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and identifying the couple with the destiny of their people. This marks the end of the Jewish vows and everyone shouts “Mazel Tov” (congratulations) as the newlyweds are given an enthusiastic reception.