What to Expect at Your Wedding
By Bracha Cohen
The big day has arrived! Everyone is excited. For Chaya and Moishy though, this special day has the added dimension of being a private Yom Kippur. They fast until after the chuppah, add Yom Kippur confessions to their afternoon prayers, recite tehillim and ask for forgiveness for their sins, before starting their new life together.
Kabbalat Panim / Badeken
At the wedding, pre-ceremony receptions are held separately since the chosson and kallah do not see each other during the week prior to the wedding. Relatives and friends go to greet Chaya and Moishy individually, offering them their blessings.
During the kabbalat panim, the tena’im contract is most commonly signed. This written document, containing all the formal conditions of marriage, is read, reviewed and finalized. A plate is broken unless this has been done previously at the vort (engagement party).
Next, before the chuppah, the chosson, escorted by his father and father-in-law, and accompanied by relatives and friends, goes forward to veil the bride. This is called the badeken.
With a big grin on his face, Moishy slowly and carefully brings down the veil over Chaya’s face. This act is in remembrance of when Rivka Imeinu veiled her face before marrying Yitzchak. This ancient minhag indicates that the chosson promises to clothe and protect his future wife. The badeken also symbolizes covering a valuable treasure and impresses upon the kallah to value her status as a married woman.
Moishy solemnly puts on a kittel, the traditional Yom Kippur white robe, to remind him of the day’s seriousness and for spiritual purity. Ashes are placed on the chosson’s forehead as a reminder that the Beis Hamikdash is yet to be rebuilt.
Moishy is lovingly escorted by his father, father-in-law and others to the chuppah outside. They are followed closely by Chaya who is accompanied by her mother, mother-in-law and other women. This procession marks the kallah’s transition from her parents’ home to her husband’s. The chosson waits for the arrival of his kallah to welcome her into their new “home.” It is proper for the guests to rise upon the arrival of both the chosson and kallah, as befits royalty.
Moishy and Chaya’s chuppah takes place outside, under the open sky, in order to evoke Hashem’s blessing to Avraham Avinu that his children be as many as the stars. In more Yekkishe circles (Jews of German descent), the chuppah takes place inside the shul. The chuppah represents the fervent desire that their home be under Hashem’s guidance and protection.
Under the chuppah, Chaya and the mothers encircle Moishy seven times. Since the world was created in seven days, the kallah is metaphorically creating the walls of their new home. Other reasons for the seven circuits include; the seven-fold bond that will be established between the extended families and the seven times that tefillin straps are wrapped around a man’s arm.
Kiddushin and Nisuin
The chuppah ceremony now proceeds with two intrinsic parts: the kiddushin and nisuin. For the kiddushin, the rabbi recites a blessing over wine and a blessing concerning forbidden and permitted relationships. Then Chaya and Moishy sip from the wine cup.
Next, Moishy places the ring on Chaya’s finger and says, “Be sanctified (mekudeshes) to me with this ring in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel.” The couple is now officially married! Interestingly, a ring is not required for a Jewish wedding. Rather, the chosson must give the kallah an object worth more than one peruta, a small unit of value. However, the custom is to use a ring.
After the kiddushin is completed, the kesubah (marriage contract) is read aloud in the Aramaic text. The contract is then signed by two witnesses. The kesubah is Chaya’s property and she must have easy access to it throughout the marriage.
For the nisuin, chosen guests are called upon to recite sheva brachos (seven blessings) under the chuppah. A second cup of wine is drunk.
Finally, Moishy smashes a glass with his right foot to show that even at this jubilant time, we still mourn the Beis Hamikdash. Mazel tov! The chuppah is over, the music strikes up, hugs and kisses and good wishes to all the family!
Chaya and Moishy retire briefly to a completely private room, cheder yichud, and are left alone for the first time. This symbolizes the husband bringing his wife into his home.
After Yichud comes a festive meal, followed by another round of the sheva brachos. Exuberant music and dancing traditionally accompany the ceremony, reception and dinner banquet. Chassidishe weddings have a Mitzva Tanz. This dancing and singing with a gartel (belt) ends in the wee hours of the morning.
For seven consecutive evenings following the wedding, friends or relatives host festive meals in Chaya and Moishy’s honor. This mirrors the “seven-day celebration” after Yaakov Avinu married Leah Imeinu.
It is now the end of formal marriage celebrations, but for the new couple, Chaya and Moishy, it is only the beginning of the rest of their lives together. May you all merit to build a bayis ne’eman b’yisroel!