Jewish Marriage in the 21st Century

Keeping the Traditions

Revitalizing the Meanings

Marrying in the 21st Century

Marriage in 21st century Judaism is a sublime promise made between two human beings in love with each other.

Matrimony initiates not a mere change of lifestyle, but an opening into higher dimension of existence. Each spouse becomes acutely aware of the other’s wants and their fundamental  role in the community.

The promise to be sensitive to the other’s needs as one would be to one’s own; the opening of trust that allows for shared intimacy; and,  the understanding that marriage is far from being solely a private affair, opens a new world ruled by the Jewish principle of “hesed.”

The untranslatable word “hesed” encapsulates all those interpersonal character qualities that Judaism considers to be the highest in life: Love, respect, care, trust, loyalty.

Whereas in the past Jewish weddings were rituals sealing a legal transaction, in the 21st century the Jewish marriage ceremony reflects the couple’s inner feelings expressing their highest values and deepest hopes.

The Jewish wedding ceremony is a joyous and transcendental experience that calls to be approached with a sense of trepidation and awe.

The Jewish Wedding Ceremony


The huppah (“canopy”)is the most conspicuos symbol in the Jewish ceremony.

Having many levels of meaning, it symbolizes the home that the newlyweds will establish together. it is “the house of promises, the home of hope.” 

The flimsiness of the four poles structure without walls and just a cloth as a covering it’s a reminder  that the only thing that is real about a home is the people in it who love and choose to be together, to be a family.

Usually, the couple’s family members form the wedding canopy’s walls, symbolizing the love and warmth the couple is surrounded with.

The huppah, in a sense is also a metaphor for the womb:  when the couple step out of it they are said to be born anew.


In Judaism Wine symbolizes life. It starts out just fine as grape juice, fermentation sets in and the process goes on to become sweet and joyful.

Present at all joyful Jewish rituals and all occasions where future happiness is anticipated the ceremonial blessing over the wine transfigure the wedding moment bringing awe and reverence.

During the ceremony groom and bride drink twice from the same cup, indicating their commitment to sharing their lives from that moment on.

the bridal blessings

Among all the good wishes showered upon bride and groom on the occasion of their marriage, none is as significative as the “Bridal Blessings.”

These seven blessings offered by family members or friends give thanks for  the creation of the world, the creation of humanity, the perpetuation of life, the continuation of the Jewish community, the joy of marriage, and the couple’s happiness

The recitation of these seven benedictions for the bride and groom marks the beginning of their married life together.

the processional

Whereas the processional is a part of virtually every Jewish and Christian wedding around the world in Judaism accompanying the bride and groom to the hupah it is a religious experience. Judaism considers this a honor and privilege, a “mitzvah,” the kind of action that transforms the ordinary into an act that transcends daily life.

Though the tradition has nothing to say about which members of the bridal party march it gives importance to how the bride and groom arrive at the huppah

Because the groom awaits his bride at the threshold of the huppah for them to enter together, it is traditional for the groom to be ushered first.

Though there is no Jewish tradition of a father “giving away the bride,” mystic tradition says “the father and mother of the bride bring her”

A common practice today is the following:

-Rabbi and/or cantor (stands beneath the huppah in the center)

-Grandparents of the bride (they are seated in the first row on the right side)

-Grandparents of the groom (they are seated in the first row on the left side)

-Groomsmen (in pairs)

-Best man

-The groom, escorted by his parents (father on his right, mother on his left)

-Bridesmaids (starting with she who will stand farthest from the bride)

-Maid/matron of honor

-Ring bearer and/or flower girl

-The bride, escorted by her parents (father on her right, mother on her left)

It is an old custom for those escorting the bride and groom to the huppah to carry candles in order symbolically light the way of the bride and groom as they begin their future life together.

the ketubbah

A marriage is the voicing in public, in fact, in front of witnesses, of the promises two people in love make to each other. 

In former days the ketubah was an effective document of rights and guarantees that today have been replaced by a series of other legal instruments provided by the state.

Yet, its function of being a documented declaration of love attested by the very public signature of two witnesses, keeps the ketubah in its very preeminent role in the Jewish wedding.

The ketubbah is thus a private document expressing the feelings and commitments of the couple.

Though standard documents can be purchased online, your rabbi can help you to customize your own.

The document may be simple or artistic and colorful. In many homes today it has become one more Jewish symbol on a home wall.


The Jewish wedding ceremony is a mix of symbols, customs, and liturgical elements neatly designed alongside distinct sections that easily allow for interpolations of poetry, declarations, songs, and like in every great symphony, silences. 

The structural backbone of the ceremony consists in an invocation, a benediction over engagement promises, the ring ceremony, the reading of the ketubah, seven blessings recited over a second cup of wine which have a primary purpose to bless the couple with success, joy, and happiness and the ancient priestly blessing. The ceremony concludes with  the stepping on a glass cup.

The dominant liturgical form here is the “berakha” (blessing), the quintessential form of expressing gratitude in Judaism.

Derived from the root-word “BeReKh”, (the current word in modern Hebrew for “knee,”) “berakha” originally meant “to bend one’s knee” in gratitude.

Gratitude is more than a feeling, it contains an element of recognition, a force that compels the return of the benefit received. Gratitude is an I. O. U. that in Judaism is made public at every momentous passage in life.

The Jewish wedding ceremony proclaims that a couple’s life together begins by expressing gratitude for having encountered each other, for the myriad of hopes this union engenders, for family, friends, for being a responsible part of the world’s continuation.

The “berakhot” (blessings) of the Jewish ceremony express the gratitude of two individuals now becoming one family, a new creative force in the world, members of the communities that  preceded them.

the rings

Just as a ring has no beginning and no end the exchange of rings during the wedding ceremony symbolize the wish of the newlywed couple that the devotion and love for each other never end

The same way that a chain is formed by interlocking rings the exchange also symbolizes the new link which the newlywed are just about to add to the long chain of human generations.

breaking of the glass

The epilogue to the ceremony is the breaking of the glass.

Many agreements in the past were made by breaking or cutting something. It is inspiring, however, to consider that the breaking of glass at the end of the Jewish wedding ceremony may invite the newlyweds to crush any obstacles they may face.


21st Century Judaism

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Marrying in the 21st Century

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