Whether you've been born and raised practicing Judaism or are marrying into the faith, there are many things to consider as you prepare to say I do. Planning a wedding that honors Jewish culture and traditions can be an opportunity to honor the faith and culture at varying levels. As with all religious weddings, couples will often choose to incorporate different elements of the faith based on how devout they are, the location of the wedding, and family expectations. We are breaking down the most common Jewish wedding traditions starting with a few of the most commonly seen elements: the chuppah, the breaking of the glass, and the hora.
You may have seen a chuppah at a wedding without realizing the significance of its presence. The structure itself is not dissimilar to a standard arbor or altarpiece from any varying denominations. Just like its non-denominational counterparts, a chuppah can range from something ultra-simple and pared back, to a highly elaborate statement piece. A rabbi whose wedding we coordinated summed up the chuppah as "four corners and a covered roof to symbolize the new home the bride and groom are building together."
Within this framework of symbolism, couples may choose to simply use a four-posted structure with a prayer shawl canopy. The prayer shawl also called a tallit, may be borrowed from a close family member or friend, which adds an additional layer of meaning and symbolism to the structure. For couples looking to add a little something fancy to the standard design, the sky's the limit. From lush floral arrangements like you'd find in many traditional altarpieces, to laser-cut paper, layers of fabric, and geometric wonders, the structure can be designed to be a perfect addition to your overall wedding design.
Breaking the Glass
Featured in films and TV shows alike, breaking the glass is a tradition that is likely familiar to many, even if they have not been to a Jewish or interfaith wedding. This tradition is particularly steeped with meaning. While the exact explanation of the tradition may vary depending on beliefs, there are a few explanations that are most frequently referenced. Some say its roots are historical, serving as a reminder of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, while others say it is representative of the full range of joy and sorrow that can exist in a marriage and the commitment to stay by each other through it all. Regardless of how each couple chooses to use this powerful tradition, it can be a really beautiful way to close the ceremony.
When planning to include the tradition in your wedding day, you'll want to ensure the officiant knows to include it in their notes. Additionally, you will want to arrange for the glass (of course) and cloth to be on hand. Make sure your planner and venue are aware of any plans you may have to use the glass and cloth after the event. Couples will frequently opt to have a keepsake of some sort created from these elements, so you want to be sure they're not accidentally thrown away!
Arguably one of the most recognizable elements of a Jewish wedding is the dancing of the hora. Whether it's an orthodox or an interfaith wedding, the hora is a staple of Jewish wedding traditions. The couple will be hoisted into the air on individual chairs as their nearest and dearest dance circles around them. Frequently the newlyweds will each hold onto one end of a napkin or piece of cloth which symbolizes their unity. For less traditional couples this may last for a few minutes, but for some, it can last hours.
There are a few things to consider when planning your wedding if you're going to include the hora. To pull this one off without a hitch, be sure you have sturdy and trustworthy chairs on standby and a well-suited group of guests to do the heavy lifting. You'll also want to be sure to have a big dance floor because it is impossible for guests to resist joining in on this one. And don't forget to let your DJ know when you want the hora to take place so they can plan their playlists and announcements accordingly.
As with so many things related to wedding planning, the level at which a couple chooses to incorporate or not incorporate the couple's faith and cultures is an opportunity to customize the day. When a couple chooses to include elements of their culture or their faith it can be a great way for the couple and guests alike to honor time-honored traditions, while learning more about what makes each couple unique. These Jewish wedding traditions are a few of the most commonly seen and experienced at both Jewish and interfaith weddings, but there are so many beautiful traditions to consider, which we will dive into further in our next post!
Click here for Jewish Wedding Traditions Part II
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