If you are Jewish, and you are planning a wedding, or if you are a participant in a Jewish wedding, it’s possible that you’re unfamiliar with the customs. I took some time to find out about Jewish wedding rehearsal dinners.
Do Jewish Weddings Have Rehearsal Dinners? Traditionally Jewish weddings don’t have rehearsal dinners. When the groom and the bride are Jewish, it’s tradition that there isn’t a rehearsal dinner since the bride and groom don’t usually see one another before the wedding. It’s customary for them not to see one another for a week before their wedding.
The reason for this is that it increases the excitement and anticipation of their wedding. Therefore, before their wedding, they each greet their guests separately. This is known as called “Kabbalat Panim.”
In Jewish tradition, the couple is likened to a king and queen. The kallah sits upon a throne for receiving her guests and the chatan’s surrounded by his guests who toast and sing to him. Although this may be unusual for people who have only been to non-Jewish weddings and been in non-Jewish weddings and who expect a wedding rehearsal, this is traditionally how it goes.
The other thing about Jewish weddings is that they generally don’t have a run through like other weddings do. In fact, the rabbi will often tell the couple what they are supposed to say or do just a few minutes before the wedding.
Although it’s not traditional for Jewish couples to have a rehearsal dinner, many couples these days use the time the day before the wedding to get together with their friends and family and greet the guests that they may not have seen for ages since they are from out of town. It’s just a fun time for them to spend with their guests and get ready for one of the biggest days of their lives.
If you do decide to have a rehearsal dinner, if your wedding is on a Sunday, then doing the rehearsal dinner on a Saturday night is probably a good idea. It’s best to make sure it later in the day preferably after Shabbat ends.
Another option is to do the rehearsal dinner on a Thursday night, if your guests aren’t out of town and are local. You could even decide to do it over lunch on a Friday, making sure it’s completed before Shabbat starts.
Generally, the rehearsal won’t be a full rehearsal, instead it will just be simple walk-through, overseen by the wedding coordinator. Please don’t expect your Rabbi to attend the rehearsal dinner or lunch.
Now that we know a bit about rehearsal dinners and what the tradition is with them in Jewish culture, we’re going to look at some more interesting things about Jewish weddings that you may not know about.
Frequently Asked Questions About Jewish Weddings
Different religions have different traditions when it comes to weddings and what is done, expected and seen there, and Jewish weddings are no exception. Are you going to attend your first Jewish wedding? Below are some frequently asked questions about Jewish weddings you may want to know.
- What’s the Proper Attire for a Jewish Wedding? For the actual ceremony, women should wear something that will cover their shoulders. Men should wear Yarmulkes or Kippahs to so that their heads are covered.
- Are Men & Women Required to Sit Separately? At an Orthodox Jewish wedding, it’s customary for women and men to sit on the opposite sides during the ceremony. At ultra-Orthodox Weddings, they celebrate separately as well, and there’s a partition between them.
- How Long are Jewish Wedding Ceremonies? The ceremony will typically last anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes, based on the amount of embellishments the couple has regarding rituals, music and readings.
- Will a Jewish Wedding Happen on Shabbat? Traditionally, there are no weddings that happen on a High Holy Day or Shabbat.
- Should a Gift Be Brought? It’s customary to give a gift to a Jewish couple either as one of the Jewish ritual objects or money in $18 increments. This symbolizes Chai, a Hebrew word meaning Life.
These are some of the things that you may want to know about when you are going to a Jewish wedding. The traditions and what you see are likely to be new to you, especially if this is your first Jewish wedding. However, what you see, and experience will also depend on the couple and how much they follow their faith. Some couples follow the traditions more closely than others.
Now that we have answered some of the common questions that people ask when it comes to a Jewish wedding, we’ll talk about some of the traditions that you may see.
Traditions During Jewish Weddings
There are many interesting and unique traditions that are a part of a Jewish wedding. We are going to look at some of them below.
- Aufruf – Before the ceremony, the groom and bride will be called up to the Torah where they receive a blessing known as the alivah. After this, the rabbis offers the blessing known as misheberach. This is when it’s customary for the congregation to throw pieces of candy at them. This shows you’re wishing that they have a life that’s sweet.
- Fasting – Wedding days are considered days of forgiveness, and some couples choose to fast, like they do on Yom Kippur. This will last until they have the first meal as man and wife after their ceremony.
- Ketubah Signing – A ketubah’s a symbolic marriage contract in the Jewish faith that outlines the responsibilities of the groom to the bride. It is what dictates the conditions he’s going to provide in their marriage, her rights and protections, and the framework if they divorce. They’re not really religious documents but they’re part of the civil Jewish law. There isn’t any mention of God blessing the marriage. It’s signed by two witnesses along with the couple prior to the ceremony taking place, and it’s then read to their guests during their ceremony.
- Bedeken – While the ketubah is being signed, the groom will approach his bride for her bedeken, which is the veiling. He will look at her before veiling her face. This shows that he loves her for the beauty she has inside and that they are both individuals even once they’re married. This tradition stems from Jacob being tricked into marrying Leah in the Bible because she was veiled. If he does it on his own, the trickery doesn’t happen.
- Chuppah Walk – In the Jewish ceremonies, the order for the recessional and processional are a bit different than the non-Jewish ceremonies. The parents of the groom walk him to the alter where he and his bride exchange their vows. The bride follows with her parents. In traditional ceremonies, both the bride and the groom’s parents will stand beneath the chuppah beside the groom, bride, and rabbi.
- Circling – In Ashkenazi tradition, a bride will traditionally circle her groom 3 or 7 times beneath the chuppah. Some people believe it’s for creating protection from evil spirits, glances of some other women and temptation. Other people believe it’s creating the family circle symbolically.
- Sheva B’rachot or the Seven Blessings – These come from the ancient teachings. They often are read in English as well as Hebrew, and they’re shared by friends or family, similar to how friends and family do readings in other religions. These blessings focus on celebration, joy, and love’s power. They begin with a blessing over a cup of wine, and then progress to more celebratory and grand statements. They end with a blessing of peace, joy, companionship, and the ability for the couple to rejoice with one another.
- Breaking of Glass – As their ceremony ends, the groom, or sometimes the couple, will step upon and shatter a glass inside a bag of cloth. There are multiple meanings for this. Some people have said it represents the temple being destroyed. Others say that it shows that sorrow and joy are in marriage and that the couple should stand by each other even when the times are hard. The bag that holds the glass shards is then collected and a lot of couples will make a memento out of it.
As you can see, there are many interesting and exciting traditions that are observed during Jewish weddings. If you have never been to one, it’s truly something to remember.