Jewish weddings are marriage ceremonies which adhere to the practices of Judaism. Some of the things which make this event distinct from non-Jewish weddings include the signing of the “ketubah,” the shattering of glass and the “Chuppa” or wedding canopy. A Jewish wedding has two broad phases, the first of which is called kiddushin or betrothal (where the woman becomes unavailable to other men), and nissuin which occurs when the couple begins their lives as one.
The ketubah is a type of Jewish prenuptial agreement that was first established during ancient times. It specifies the obligations that the husband has to his wife, and will usually offer her some type of provision in the event that the marriage ends. The groom must accept the terms of the contract before two witnesses who will then sign it, and the ketubah is considered to be legally binding.
The Shattering of Glass
The shattering or breaking of glass is another essential component of a Jewish marriage. Once the bride has been provided a ring by the groom, or the ceremony is complete, the groom must then use his right foot to shatter a piece of glass. The guests who are present will then say the words “Mazel Tov” out loud, which means congratulations. In modern Jewish weddings it has become common to use a light bulb, because it is comprised of thin glass that can be broken easily and producers a sharp cracking sound. The origin of the Jewish custom of glass breaking during weddings is unknown and is the subject of debate.
The Wedding Canopy
A classical Jewish wedding is always held beneath a canopy, which is also known as a chuppah. The chuppah is meant to represent the new home that the couple will build once they become married. The chuppah is usually comprised of a sheet of cloth, often a tallit, which will be stretched out and supported above four poles, which in some ceremonies may be held manually by guests. While Jewish weddings are sometimes held without a wedding canopy, for many Jews it is considered a basic and fundamental part of the event.
In Orthodox Judaism the open sky must be above the chuppah during the ceremony, which means the event will usually be held outdoors. However, this practice may not always be adhered to by Sephardic Jews. Hasidim often prefer for their weddings to be completely held outdoors, as it is believed that the ancestors of the couple are present.
As with many Jewish customs, the chuppah is a concept that was developed during Biblical times. Due to the passage of time, the appearance of the chuppah and the religious significance associated with it have changed. During the time of the Talmud, the chuppah was considered to be the appropriate place for the marriage to be consummated. Among Jews there are differing opinions on specifically how the chuppah event should be held. What is agreed upon is that the chuppah ceremony is associated with the seven blessings that are recited before a cup of wine.