Judaism and Marriage
Jews consider marriage a holy institution. From the name "kiddushi," meaning sanctification, the wedding ceremony dates back to the earliest days and is associated with the giving of the Torah at Sinai.
The essence of marriage in the Jewish faith is for the couple to establish a faithful Jewish home.
The wedding rituals can be viewed as a series of events beginning with the reading of the Torah by the groom on the Shabbat or sabbath of the week before the wedding. The readings are chosen to express the teachings of the Torah as guide for a successful marriage.
On the day of the wedding, the couple, having fasted, recite the Book of Psalms and ask for forgiveness for any transgressions of their youth. Because on one's wedding day, God forgives those transgressions, the ceremony is thought of as a private Yom Kippur for the couple.
In a written commitment document composed by the couple and their parents, the conditions of the union are expressed and agreed upon. Once this document is signed and read aloud, a plate is broken symbolizing that just as the breaking of the plate is irreversible, the agreement for the engagement is also irreversible.
Just prior to the ceremony, the groom, along with the groom's father, veil the bride, an act symbolic of the modesty and chastity of the Jewish woman. This veiling also signifies the bride's duty as a Jewish woman and shows others her faithfulness and devotion to her husband.
The wedding ceremony is performed under a canopy. The bride circles the groom seven times and, as consecration of the woman, the groom gives the bride a wedding ring and the marriage contract, after which the married couple leave to break their fast in private.
It is traditional to include blessings and the exchange of wine as symbolic of the sanctity of marriage.
As a legally binding marriage, tradition dictates that at least two witnesses, unrelated to the couple, attest that all the aspects of the marriage have taken place.
Marriage in the Jewish tradition is an expression of confidence and trust in each other. It signifies the legal and moral commitments as detailed in Jewish law and customs and is a declaration of the dignified status of the woman. It should be noted that as a legal and consensual private contract between the bride and groom, there is no requirement for clergy to be present although today, to satisfy civil laws, a rabbi usually participates.
It is customary to conclude the wedding ceremony with the recitation of the Seven Blessings. These blessings are said in the presence of ten men and acknowledge God as the creator of mankind, joy, the bride and the groom.
Finally, after these blessings have been offered, the couple drinks from a glass and the groom breaks the glass under his right foot, symbolizing the destruction of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.