Groom with Parents
Bride with Parents
“A woman shall go around a man” (Jeremiah 31:22)
The bride’s circling of the groom prior to entering the Chuppah is not a part of the wedding liturgy, but rather a very old custom. One explanation is the bride’s circle may be seen as a way of binding the groom to her. Her circuits symbolically create a new family circle, demonstrating her primary allegiance has shifted from her parents to her husband and her husband is now bound more intimately to her. Modern Jewish Wedding updates to this tradition include both bride and groom circling one another.
The Marriage Ceremony
The traditional Jewish wedding ceremony is composed of two separate and distinct parts. The first part of the ceremony is generally known as erusin (betrothal) or kiddushin (holiness) and this ceremony calls on the groom to recite a certain formula and then give his bride something of value (the ring). The second part of the marriage ceremony, known as nisuin (Hebrew for “marriage” from the verb “to carry”), contrasts greatly from the legal nature of erusin. This is the ceremony where love, spirituality and connection to God are mentioned.
Wine is the Jewish people’s symbol for joy and celebration. Therefore, it is the first blessing recited in the Betrothal ceremony. Reciting a blessing over wine sanctifies it and thus changes it from ordinary into something sacred and holy. Traditionally, the wine is not drunk after the Kiddush but is held until after the betrothal blessing.
The final part of the Erusin ceremony is the act that legally makes the two individuals standing under the Chuppah into a married couple, the exchange of rings. The wedding ring is a symbol of perfection and eternity. The ring is a perfect circle, having no beginning or end and make of pure metal without any precious stones. Traditionally, the ring is placed on the index finger of the right hand that, according to ancient folklore, is thought to contain an artery that runs directly to the heart.
It is customary to make a clear separation between the two parts of the wedding ceremony with the reading of the ketubah and brief words from the rabbi.
Nisuin/Shevra Brachot (7 Blessings)
During this part of the ceremony the focus shifts from legalities to the sacred relationship of two partners joining together in a loving commitment. It begins with the chanting of the Shevra Brachot (Seven Blessings). The set of blessings begin with the Kiddush, the blessing over the wine and from there each blessing enlarges the circle to include not only the couple standing under the Chuppah but also the entire Jewish community – past, present and future.