In our last post, we dove into the history and logistics of some of the most easily recognizable Jewish wedding traditions, the Hora, the Chuppah, and the breaking of the glass. This post is devoted to the elements that are less frequently featured in film and TV, and therefore many who haven't had the privilege of planning or going to a Jewish wedding may be unfamiliar with them. For our second round of Jewish wedding traditions, we are exploring the Bedeken, the Yichud, and the Ketubah, some of the most sacred and official elements of the wedding.
In a traditional Jewish wedding, the ketubah is a symbolic contract, that is not specifically religious. It is instead a groom's responsibilities to his bride and is written according to Jewish Civil Law. Historically, the details of the contract range from the "protections and rights" given to the bride, and the "framework should the couple choose to divorce." Following the wedding, many couples will display the ketubah in their home, so while it's a more official document, many websites, including Etsy, have a wide variety of decorative versions.
This thousands of years old tradition can be modernized to fit the needs of today's couples, especially as it pertains to love and equality in the marriage. Brides notes that these days, "there are versions in multiple languages and ones specifically for interfaith or same-sex couples." Within the modern ketubah, many couples will include their wedding vows as well. Prior to the ceremony, the couple will sign the ketubah in front of two witnesses. Then, during the ceremony, the ketubah will be read out to the guests.
Sometimes called "the veiling," the bedeken can be compared in some ways to a first look. Traditionally, during the bedeken ceremony the groom will approach the bride and pull down her veil, reciting a blessing, symbolically showing that his love is for her inner beauty, not her physical beauty. The bedeken is one of the more traditional elements of a Jewish wedding that is less frequently seen today. Some couples choose to include it, but in a way that feels more true to a modern marriage and all that entails, opting into alternative versions of the practice.
Modern takes on the bedeken can include the bride and groom (or brides and grooms) both performing the "veiling" action. Some variations that still stick to the basic premise of the bedeken can include two brides veiling one another, a bride being veiled and then placing the kippah on her groom's head, or the grooms helping each other into their kittel, tallit, or placing kippahs on one another. Alternatively, a couple may stand back to back and turn to face each other for the first time on the wedding day, similar to a first look, but instead involving the families who can offer blessings before the ceremony.
For those who practice orthodox Judaism the bride and groom will never have physical contact prior to the wedding. From this, the tradition of the yichud was born as the moment when a bride and groom, now officially married, could have some time alone. Whether orthodox or reform, "tradition dictates that couples spend at least eight minutes in yichud (or seclusion)." Outside of sharing a first physical touch, this precious time together is used in a myriad of ways.
Couples, regardless of religion, tend to find that just grabbing a few moments alone together after the ceremony and before all of the hustle and bustle of the reception is a perfect way to bask in the beauty of their first moments as newlyweds. This time can be used to have a few snacks and a drink, exchange gifts, or to simply be together before kicking off the rest of the event. We recommend letting your planner and venue know that you would like to include this tradition so they can ensure there's a space to step away to and that it's built into the timeline.
With so many elements of Jewish weddings based on thousands of years of tradition, it can be hard to imagine how to incorporate them into modern events. We recommend that couples really look into various traditions, religious or not, to determine how or if they make sense in their wedding day. Once you've determined that something will be included there are ample ways to approach it, whether that is keeping it strictly by the books, or finding unique ways to modernize it for your wedding. For all wedding decisions, it's important to remember that you can take them or leave them or tweak them to make them best fit your day!
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