August 09, 2011

My First Jewish Wedding

In my last post, I told you about a wedding we did on June 25. A week later, on July 3, I assisted a more seasoned wedding planner with a 300-guest traditional Jewish wedding at the Hyatt at Penns Landing. Not only was this a ginormous wedding, it was was my very first Jewish wedding EVER.

Side note: I am not too full of myself to step back and recognize that I don't know everything about everything. Big Thanks to Mark Kingsdorf for allowing me to learn from him.

So here I am at this wedding getting a crash course in Jewish wedding customs and a little taste of Hebrew and Yiddish too.

Bride = Kallah
Groom = Chatan

The kallah and chatan are literally treated like a king and queen. The bride sits on a throne to receive her guests and the groom is surrounded by guests who sing and toast to him. This is called "Kabbalat Panim."

There is a custom called a tish where the groom attempts to deliver some words about the Torah while his friends and family take the pressure off by constantly interrupting him with jokes, toasts, singing, and dancing. At the end of the tish, family and friends carry the groom into the badeken for veiling. Next comes the badeken, the veiling of the kallah by the chatan. This symbolizes modesty.

The wedding ceremony takes place under a chuppah, which symbolizes the home the couple will build together.

Photo by Unique Concepts Studio, Inc.
(NOTE: This is not the same wedding I worked on.
I just really like this chuppah.)

After walking down the aisle with both of her parents, the bride circles the groom 7 times to symbolize building their new world together.

The ketubah (marriage contract) outlines the husband's duties in the marriage. Protecting the wife is so important that the wedding will not continue until the ketubah has been signed. It is often made into artwork that can be hung and displayed prominantly in their home.

Two cups of wine are used during the ceremony. One during the Kiddushin when the rabbi blesses the marriage. The other is saved until after the rabbi recites the Seven Blessings.

The ceremony ends with the groom shattering a glass on the floor with his foot. Some jokingly say this is the last time the groom gets to put his foot down, but it actually symbolizes sadness at the destruction of Jerusalem and identifies the couple with the destiny of the Jewish people.

The bride and groom are escorted off to a private room to be alone for a little while to enjoy the first moments of being married and to eat something (because they are supposed to fast all day until they are married).

The most mindblowing part of the entire evening was the reception. I've never seen a more festive wedding celebration in all of my years as a wedding planner... heck... all of my years on the planet. They only take breaks for food and formalities, such as blessing the challah (a beautifully braided bread) and the hora (aka chair dance). At this wedding, the grooms parents were also honored with a special ritual for marrying off their last child.

Another fabulous photo by Unique Concepts Studio, Inc.
(Again... not the wedding I worked on.)