The Jewish wedding is an ancient ceremony that dates back thousands of years. It incorporates many distinct elements- biblical, historical, mystical, cultural and legal – which unify a couple in the bonds of marriage.
At its core the Jewish wedding ceremony includes a marriage contract known as a ketubah. The ketubah is written in Aramaic and is singed by two witnesses. The ketubah is a legally binding contract which enumerates the husband’s obligations to his wife during the marriage and also after it (in situations of divorce or the husband’s death).
The wedding ceremony itself takes place under the open sky as the couple stand under a canopy known as a chuppah or huppa. The canopy is held up by four poles and is symbolic of the Jewish home the couple is going to build – just as the chuppa is open on all four sides, so too their home should be open and hospitable to guests.
Under the chuppa the groom places a ring on his bride’s finger. As part of the Jewish wedding, the groom must prove that he purchased the ring and once the bride accepts it, the marriage is actualized. Jewish tradition insists on a simple wedding band and prohibits the ring to be decorated with gems or stones.
The Jewish wedding ceremony comes to an end when the groom breaks a glass with his foot. This act is an expression of sadness over the destruction of the holy Jewish temple in Jerusalem. The act also reinforces that the couple’s marriage is not a private affair but rather that they are now part of the greater Jewish nation.
Following the chuppa, and prior to the celebration with friends and family, the newlywed couple go into a room where they can be alone for the first time (yichud). Traditionally the couple don’t meet for a week before the wedding and the yichud gives them an opportunity to bond for the first time.