Glossary of Jewish Wedding Terms

Ketubah

The marriage contract (ketubah) specifies the couple’s commitment to each other. The ketubah is signed during a ceremony before the wedding service and contains the signatures of two witnesses who are Jewish and not relatives, the bride and groom and the officiant.

 

Bedeken

The bedeken is the veiling ceremony during which the groom placed a veil over the bride. This ceremony took place privately and is considered one of the most moving elements of a traditional Jewish wedding. By covering his bride with a veil, the groom ascertained her identity, and confirmed that he is marrying the woman of his heart’s desire.

 

Chuppah

The chuppah is a canopy that symbolizes the home that the bride and groom will build together. The chuppah is open on all sides, also symbolizing that friends and family are always welcome in the newlyweds’ home.

 

Hakafot

The bride circles the groom (hakafot) seven times. Two interpretations of the significance: seven is the number of days of creation, and the wedding ceremony is the creation of a new household; seven is the number of times the phrase “when a man takes a wife” occurs in the Torah. Some brides choose to circle the groom three times and some couples choose to circle one another.

 

Breaking the Glass

The wedding ceremony concludes with the groom breaking a glass under his foot. There are many significances behind this custom. One of them is that it is a reminder that relationships are as fragile as glass and must always be treated with care, love and respect. After the breaking of the glass, the guests shout “Mazel Tov!” which means good luck/congratulations.

 

Yichud

After the chuppah ceremony, the couple is escorted to a private room and left alone for a few minutes. These moments of seclusion signify their new status of living together as husband and wife.

Jewish Wedding Glossary