Before you attend any ceremony, you need to know what to expect, especially if it is a traditional ceremony like a wedding. Knowing this makes you better prepared to follow the entire event to not feel out of place. In case this is your first Jewish wedding, we researched the various traditions of the ceremony and how long it takes.
So, how long is a Jewish wedding? The ceremony’s length entirely depends on whether the ceremony is Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform, and whether the couple will go through all the rituals such as the Bedeken. The ceremony itself (Chuppah) can last up to 30 minutes, depending on the readings’ length. Altogether, the ceremony can take 5-6 hours, including the Bedeken, Chuppah, recitations, reception, and Jewish dancing.
Whether you are a guest or planning your first Jewish wedding, we demystify all the rules and traditions to help you better prepare. Read on to find out what these ceremonies entail from start to finish and how long these rituals can take.
Are Jewish weddings Long?
For a Jewish wedding, there is a particular line up to follow. We break down the ceremonies that you can expect and how long they may take.
The main wedding ceremony takes 25-45 minutes, depending on how long the readings will take. However, there are other ceremonies before and after. Before the wedding (Chuppah), the couples sign the Ketubah (marriage contract), then there is the Bedeken (veiling) that can take up to 30 minutes. Lastly, a typical wedding can have the Sheva B’rachot, and the breaking of glass as the ceremony draws to a close.
Afterward, the couple does the Yichud for around 15 minutes then they join their guests for the rest of the celebration. They can take pictures, do the Hora, then serve dinner and cocktails.
For a typical Jewish wedding, the whole line up from beginning to the end can take 5-7 hours. On the contrary, if the couple wishes to incorporate or do away with other aspects of Jewish rituals, the ceremony can take longer.
Whether you are a guest or a bride/groom, we introduce you to the most common Jewish traditions in their weddings. Note that not all marriages observe these traditions, and it is solely upon the bride and groom to decide whether to do it or not. It also depends on their religious affiliation, Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform.
What Is a Jewish Wedding?
A Jewish wedding obtains inspiration from the Bible, history, culture, and the law. The Jewish take pride in passing these traditions to the subsequent generations. They see marriage as one of the holiest days in an individual’s life, linking it to the covenants of God. They also consider it a mutual, legal, and spiritual binding agreement between a couple.
A wedding as one of the most sacred passages of any Jew’s life calls for a grand celebration. Hence, there are so many rituals to perform before and after the wedding ceremony. These rituals can go up to weeks before the actual wedding. From engagement to the breaking of the glass, the practices are systematic and elaborate, with each symbolizing a unique aspect of the Jewish traditions.
Various rituals take place before, during, and after the wedding. We break down these stages to highlight the most common traditions to expect in any Jewish wedding.
Before The Wedding
The groom arranges the Aufruf (Yiddish term meaning a “call up”), where he announces the wedding. The event may also involve the couple receiving blessings and the congregation throwing sweets at them as symbols of good wishes. Afterward, there may be food and drinks for the assembly as they celebrate with the soon to be newly-weds. The couple can also have a family celebration after the service.
At this point, the bride can choose to do a cleansing ritual (Mikveh) a week before the wedding to symbolize that she will get married when she is spiritually pure; she does so while chanting a prayer. Traditionally, the bride and groom would not see each other a week before the wedding, although this ritual has diminished with time.
The Wedding Ceremony
Since they consider the day holy, some couples may fast on their wedding day until they have their first meal as husband and wife after the ceremony. They deem it a way to cleanse themselves and start a fresh life together, getting married cleansed of sin and a fresh slate.
A rabbi or any other friend or family (with the rabbi’s permission) can conduct the wedding. The wedding kicks off with the signing of the Ketubah (marriage contract), which outlines that the groom accepts all responsibilities as the husband to protect the bride. Both parties and two witnesses sign the document, which they read to the guests.
The next step is the bride’s veiling by the groom (Bedeken), which means that the groom is not concerned with the outward, but the inward beauty of the bride. It may also symbolize that he will clothe and protect her in their marriage.
As the ceremony starts, the bride is walked to the Chuppah, either by the father or both parents. She then walks 1-7 times around the groom. In more traditional setups, all the bride and groom’s parents stand under the Chuppah together with their children and the officiating rabbi.
The bride and groom exchange rings on the left fore-finger to officially signify their union. The last ritual is the Sheva B’rachot (Seven Blessings), followed by the glass breaking; these blessings are often in Hebrew and English. This ritual involves sharing wine and speaking blessings upon their future life. To finish the ceremony, the groom steps on glass, to break it, to show that there will be both sorrow and joy in their marriage.
The last stage of the ceremony is the Mazel Tov. Here is where the guests congratulate the married couple and wish them well.
After The Ceremony
Once their union is official, the bride and groom can spend some time away from the rest of the guests and have their first meal together (Yichud). They can then join their guests later at the reception.
The reception is where the guests join the newly-weds in merry-making to eat, drink, and dance. The couple may decide to have the reception in the same place or elsewhere, either a hall or a hotel, which relies on their budget and guests’ number. As part of the festivities, the couple and the guests participate in the Hora. This practice is a traditional dance where they dance in circles, and the bride and groom are lifted while they sit in chairs.
Many people believe that Jewish weddings are longer than other typical marriages of other religions because there are certain rituals that a Jewish couple follows before, during, and after the wedding. However, it depends on the couple’s culture, beliefs, and general code of conduct, but most Jewish weddings follow certain practices not just on the wedding day but also some weeks prior.
As much as the Chuppah may take around 30 minutes, there are still other rituals that make Jewish weddings longer. The total time depends on the couple’s preferences and beliefs. On average, you can expect the entire ceremony to take 5-7 hours. If you are a guest, you can choose to stay for the Chuppah or join the couple in the other rituals. If you are the bride/groom, this is the time window you can use to prepare your line up of events.