Have you recently been invited to a Jewish wedding and aren’t quite sure of what to expect? Here’s everything you need to know about being a guest at a traditional Jewish wedding.
Jewish Wedding Ceremonies
When attending a Jewish wedding ceremony there are a few things you should know before you go. These tips will help you not only understand the ceremony itself but also how to respect the traditions of the couple’s religion.
What Side to Sit On
While it’s more common today for couples to invite guests to sit on whatever side they choose during the wedding ceremony traditionally the bride’s guests will sit on the right and the groom’s side will sit on the left. This is also true for Jewish weddings, however, if you know both the bride and groom or notice one side has more people than the other, it’s fine to sit on the opposite side.
During a Jewish wedding ceremony, the bridal party enters in a specific order for the procession. During the procession the rabbi and cantor will enter first followed by the grandparents of the bride and the then the groom.
Next up the groomsmen will usually enter with the best man and groom entering last. This will be followed by the bridesmaids, maid of honor, ring bearer, flower girl and finally the bride who is escorted by her parents.
For the recessional, the procession is simply reversed, but this time the groomsmen escort the bridesmaids away down the aisle.
During the ceremony, you’ll notice some cultural practices that are common to Jewish weddings. This includes the bride circling the groom seven times which is done to symbolize the creation of a new home and the intertwining of the lives of both partners.
Following this, there will be a blessing of the first of two cups of wine which represents joy in Judaism, and after reciting the blessing the rabbi invites the couple to sip from the cup. Then comes a second short blessing, called the shehecheyanu in Hebrew. This blessing gives thanks for the delight of reaching this wonderful moment. Commonly couples will also exchange rings, thought not all Jewish couples will choose to do so. Finally, the wedding ceremony will end with the smashing of a glass, which is usually the groom, though some couples will do it together.
Jewish Wedding Receptions
As with Jewish wedding ceremonies, there are a few things you should understand about Jewish wedding receptions. By having an understanding of the traditions that will be put into practice during the reception will allow you to enjoy and even participate in these fun cultural traditions.
Blessing The Challah
The meal begins with the blessing of the challah, which is a braided bread. Typically the couple’s parents or a guest close to the couple will make the blessing.
The Hora may be one of the most familiar moments of a Jewish wedding reception. This is commonly known as the chair dance during which guests will lift the bride and groom above the guests on the dance floor while the song Hava Nagila plays. It’s a fun and exciting moment for the couple and guests alike.
Mezinke Tanz or Krenzel Dance
This tradition is typically one of the concluding dances of the night and honors parents who have married off their last child. The parents are seated on chairs in the middle of the dance floor while friends and family dance around, kissing them as they pass in front.