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One of the really great parts about being Orange County Wedding Photographers is the opportunity to photograph so many different types of weddings. Orange County, as well as Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California, is full of diverse people with different backgrounds and cultures. One type of wedding ceremony and reception that we have had the opportunity to witness on more than one occasion are Jewish Weddings, and all the traditions that come along with them. Three16 Photography honors the Jewish Wedding Ceremony, as well as all Jewish Wedding Traditions throughout the world.

We truly appreciate the opportunities we get when we can witness and be part of their special day. It’s very special. One might wonder about where all the various traditions come from in a Jewish Wedding. So, we thought we would introduce you to a little of history and more modern traditions of the Jewish Wedding.

Some of the more traditional wedding traits have been modernized, a Jewish wedding ceremony and reception isn’t that far off from the old traditions. In some cases, the tradition continues, while other traditions still have the foundation to it, but are slightly altered.

Going back, wedding traditions of a Jewish wedding is steeped in history and religious beliefs. Many of their traditions are similar to the rest of the world’s, while other customs have started in Israel and are special to the locals of that region. Regardless, a Jewish wedding is a time for bliss and happiness to be shared by all. Mazel Tov (or Good Luck)!

Prior to the start of the wedding, the welcoming of the guests, known as Kabbalat Panim, takes place and this is done by the Chatan (groom) and Kallah (bride) separately, as they themselves have not seen each other for the entire week. After the Kabbalat Panim is completed, the groom performs the Badeken, otherwise known as veiling of the bride. The veil represents modesty and teaches that physical attractiveness is not as important as their character and soul.

It is also Jewish custom for the groom to be presented with a Tallit from the bride to be worn for his Aufruf, also known as the reading of the Torah (the five books of Moses). A Tallit is a garment worn that creates personal space during the prayer and takes place just prior to the ceremony. It is also customary for all the Jewish men to have their heads covered throughout and particularly during prayers. This shows a sign of respect and acknowledges that God is in their presence. For some congregations, Jewish women may also cover their heads when praying.

Some other traditions that take place during the ceremony and/or reception include:

• It is common for the groom’s family to present the new bride with candlesticks that are used during the wedding ceremony.

• The bride may “Circle the Groom” seven times. This happens as the ceremony begins and is in observance of a biblical custom. It represents the act of definition. Circling seven times also completes their search for one another.

• There are two parts to a Jewish ceremony. It is the celebration of Erusin (pre-engagement) and Nissuin (marriage). Erusin starts with Kiddush, which is the blessing over the wine. Erusin ends with the exchanging of the wedding rings. More and more these celebrations are being performed together, whereas in the past they were celebrated a year apart from one another.

• Just like with Yom Kippur, both the bride and the groom will fast. This usually starts at dawn and will last until the end of the marriage ceremony.

• During the ceremony, the groom will wear a Kittel, which is a white robe that is traditionally worn on Yom Kippur.

• During the wedding ceremony, two cups of wine are used. The first goes with the betrothal blessings that are recited by the rabbi. After the recital, the bride and groom will drink from the other cup.

• Once the verbal commitments are complete, the marriage remains incomplete until Kinyan takes place. Kinyan is the where the physical acceptance has taken place in front of two witnesses that watches the bride accepting the ring from her groom. This is done while the groom recites the marriage words.

• Once the Ketubah (marriage contract) is read, wine is then poured into a glass. Then the Sheva Berakhot is read over the glass of wine, followed by the drinking of the wine by the new couple. Sheva Berakhot is the core moment of a Jewish wedding as the groom recites a blessing in Hebrew, while the bride reads the English translation.

• At the end of the ceremony, the groom will wrap the empty glass and stomp on it. The stomping of the glass represents the Holy Temple in Israel and its destruction. It also reminds the guests that love can be fragile.

• One of the more special moments of a Jewish wedding is that it can also be one of the holiest days of the couple’s lives. The couple’s mistakes from their past are considered forgiven.

• A Jewish wedding may also take place under the Chuppah (a canopy type of tent). The chuppah represents that a new home will be built by the new couple.

• After the ceremony, the bride and groom are taken to a Yichud room. This is a private room where the couple is left alone for a few moments. The time alone represents the couple’s new status as husband and wife living together.

• Upon completion of the meal, the Birkat Hamazon is recited. Birkat Hamazon is the saying of grace after a meal. After the recital, Sheva Brachot begins again.

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