We like to think of ourselves as a company that helps you create a family heirloom that everyone will want to experience. Your family for generations and generations will be able to view your wedding day. Your great great grandchildren will essentially get to “meet” you after your long gone. Many things will change in the world from now until then. One thing that doesn’t change is our heritage.
Most of our values, passions, and big life decisions are all filtered by our culture past and present. If we could look back in time and watch our ancestors talk, walk, and move around we may have a completely different feeling towards our families history. We have such a great opportunity to capture ourselves today in such a way that our legacy doesn’t get lost in time. Memories Films was created to be a team of professional wedding videographers in DFW and Austin in order to capture the essence of you and the beginning of your love story. Our event videography has grown to include so much more than your wedding. Wouldn’t it be great to show your grandchildren your wife’s Bat Mitsvah or your husband’s Bar Mitsvah? Wouldn’t it be great to have the video lead right up into a love story of how these two young jewish kids finally came together and started a family? Maybe if we were able to hear how 50 year marriages started out then it would inspire us to love differently.
I want to take a moment every so often to focus on the importance of cultural ceremonies and bring a little awareness to those who may get the opportunity to experience them. Today I want to talk a little bit about what you might see at a Jewish Wedding in Dallas or a Jewish Wedding in Austin.
THE BRIDE AND GROOM
The correct term for the bride is Kallah and the correct term for the groom is Chatan. Every thing done at a jewish wedding has purpose with historical as well as spiritual meaning. The wedding ceremony itself is often likened to a Yom Kippur but on a smaller and more intimate scale. The wedding is a holy ceremony and a cleansing of each soul’s past sins must be conducted before the two individuals become one complete soul according to the laws of the Torah.
The bride and groom do not see each other for one week prior to the wedding day. You can imagine the suspense and excitement that builds during that week. It’s probably the longest week of their lives! The day of the wedding has finally arrived! The Kallah and the Chatan usually fast from dawn until they break the fast together as man and wife once the ceremony is complete.
Before the ceremony, also referred to as the “Chuppah“, there is customary pre-ceremony (pre-chuppah) called Kabbalat Panim. The friends and family of the Kallah and Chatan are separately greeted by the guests with a royal welcome. This reception is to simulate an induction of a new King and Queen who will now be reigning over their own lives with the help of God. All past sins are forgiven by God and He empowers them with His blessing of marriage. It’s a very big step into a new stage of adulthood for the Jewish Culture. The Kallah is usually seated in a chair that represents her thrown and the Chatan is surrounded by friends and family singing and toasting! It’s often a loud and joyous celebration that each family may have their own traditions to perform. It is at Kabbalat Panim that the mother of the Kallah and the mother of the Chatan come together and break a plate. Why do they break a plate at jewish receptions? This is to represent the severity of the commitment they are about to make. Once a plate is broken you will never piece it back together to be as strong as it once was. The same can be said about a relationship between two people. This ceremonial ritual is a beautiful reminder that relationships can be fragile and we are delicate beings. In a marriage you must treat each other with loving sensitivity and work hard not to break each other like the plate.
Badeken is the Yiddish word meaning “covering”. This ceremony is the veiling of the Kallah by the Chatan. You may have wondered where the veil came from and why is it such an icon of modern weddings. The veil, according to the jewish tradition, represents modesty. It is a symbolic gesture to communicate that the soul and personal character is far more important than beauty. It’s a gesture to communicate to God and the Bride that this commitment will be founded on love for the personal attributes of the Kallah and not founded upon lust or infatuation. The viel is often considered a physical representation of the Chatan’s promise to clothe her and protect her. In modern times it seems silly to promise to buy clothes for your wife. In today’s consumer driven society it’s almost impossible to even get to the point of marriage if you haven’t been buying her clothes already! However this tradition has been apart of jewish weddings for thousands of years. It’s not to be taken lightly and if you’ve ever experienced the moment you know what I mean. This is often times the first time the Chatan has seen his Kallah up close in 7 days! You can imagine that it’s a very emotional time that is concluded with bursts of “Mazal Tov!!, singing, and dancing.
THE CHUPPAH CEREMONY
The Chuppah Ceremony is to be performed under a canopy, which happens to the meaning of the word Chuppah. The canopy is to be open on all sides showing that everyone is welcome to join the celebration. It also doubles as the symbol of their new home they will be building together. Some customs are that the wedding ceremony is to happen outside under the stars to represent God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:5). You may also see certain customary restrictions such as no jewelry or flashy ornaments on the couple. This is another way to communicate to each other that they are marrying the person with no real interest in their material possessions.
Why do Jewish bride’s circle the groom?
You may notice that the Kallah circles the Chatan seven times. The number seven has biblical meaning of “wholeness” or “perfection”. In the story of Genesis God created the world in seven days if we include the day of rest (Sabbath or Shabbat). In regards to this jewish wedding custom it is to paralel that story with the new couple becoming one complete soul. As the bride circles the groom she is metaphorically building the walls of their new world together. It is very important to the Jewish Culture that they, in all things, remember God and what He has done for them. Even in the midst of marriage it all points back to the one God of Abraham.
This portion of the ceremony requires two cups of wine and is often referred to in the wedding program as “Blessings of Betrothal”. Wine has been a long standing symbol of joy, merriment, and celebration to this ancient culture. Before drinking from the first glass the Rabbi recites the betrothal blessings. This excerpt from an online article from aish.com explains;
“Wine, a symbol of joy in Jewish tradition, is associated with Kiddush, the sanctification prayer recited on Shabbat and festivals. Marriage, called Kiddushin, is the sanctification of a man and woman to each other.”
DO YOU HAVE THE RINGS…I MEAN RING?
There is one more step in the Jewish law that must be taken before the couple is formally married. The Chatan must now give a token of devotion to his Kallah. For many centuries this was merely an object of value from the devout young man. Over time it has become a tradition to give a solid gold band to wear on the finger. You guessed it… the wedding ring! It is not necessary for the Kallah to give the Chatan anything at all. After all he gets her right? Most couples in the united states, and I’d venture out to say the rest of the world, still lets the man receive a ring as well. However in a traditional ceremony the bride must wait until after the ceremony to give her token of love to her husband. As a people who take the law very seriously they don’t want to confuse anyone by adding this to the official ceremony as it has no devine meaning. Once the ring is placed on her hand the couple is now officially joined together as man and wife! “MAZAL TOV!!!!”
Don’t break the glass quite yet! There are still a couple of things to take care of. There is still the Marriage Contract to be signed. This is called the Ketubah. The Ketubah was in ancient times an integral part of the finalization of the marriage. It was a contract that detailed the requirements and responsibilities were for the groom. While not dishonoring the depth of commitment and deep love for each other, the families were often promised dowries and inheritances. The bride’s family wanted to insure that the groom was in fact able to take care of her and was fully committed to fulfill her needs. It was an extremely heinous crime to trick families onto allowing their daughter to be “bought” or “schemed” into a marriage. The Elders of the tribes and regions were to help families protect their young virgins against the sometimes ill will of the dishonest young men. Thus the contracts came about. It’s no offense to a loving man to sign a contract promising to keep his word and the families involved would have the protection of the Elders. Our modern day court systems do not always honor this contract and it is rare that the contract is ever used against anyone. However the act of signing it is often still administered as it created another opportunity for the Jewish Culture to teach the Chatan what is truly expected of him according to God. The Ketubah is often decorated with beautiful art work and is written in Arabic.
DID I MISS SOMETHING?
What a minute!! What ever happened to that 2nd cup of wine! Now, after the signing of the Ketubah, is the time to recite the Seven Blessings (Sheva Brachot). These blessings are read by either the Rabbi or guests. Traditionally this custom did not happen at the end of the formal ceremony. It was common to wait from one week to one month before these blessings were recited.
BREAKING THE GLASS
Now it is time for the most recognizable part of the jewish wedding ceremony; Breaking the Glass
A glass is set down on the ground in order for it to be smashed and shattered by the Chatan’s foot. It’s often the source of jokes likes “That the last time he’ll be able to put his foot down!”. Many Rabbi’s and family members embrace this humor even though it comes from a very serious decree by David, the Psalmist King, to “set Jerusalem above my highest joy.”. Just as we’ve already discussed there is a deep faith that plays a major role into the customs and traditions of the jewish wedding. At this joyous moment as a new husband and wife, it is repsectful to remember the sadness and destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem and distinguishes this new couple’s spiritual priorities as well as the faith that God will rebuild and strengthen them as He will do for the Jewish people.
MAZAL TOV! The Chuppah Ceremony is over and then the parties and receptions begin! What a wonderful culture with a deep rooted faith and the discipline to take these moments to strengthen their beliefs. We at Memories Films consider it an enriching experience to be a videographer for a jewish wedding. It’s in our hands to capture traditions that have been done for thousands of years! Many of the same texts and words were declared over King David himself! When we’re invited to be a part of a day like this, we get excited! I hope this article was informative and helpful! Next time you are invited to a Jewish Wedding you will be able to answer a lot of questions to your other non-jewish friends.