The Jewish Wedding is a ritual in which a Jewish groom ("Chatan" in Hebrew) and a Jewish bride ("Kallah" in Hebrew) are united as a married couple. According to the Talmud, Adam and Eve were initially created as one, and then split. Therefore, the Jewish wedding is a lot more than a social and financial agreement: It is the reunion of one whole soul. This is also the reason why it is customary for the bride and the groom to fast on their wedding day: This day is in a way a private "Yom Kippur", for both souls must be forgiven for all their mistakes before merging into a new complete soul.
Unlike the wedding ceremony, which has its own guide lines, the marriage proposal does not have any rules. The featured Hatan need to be creative while pumping the question and showing her the engagement ring. A Jewish wedding is surrounded by layers of customs and traditions. For example, often the Chatan and Kallah don't see each other during the week preceding the wedding. Before the wedding ceremony begins, a Ketubah (marriage contract) is signed. Next, the Chatan veils the bride, a custom called "Badekin". Covering the bride's face by her future husband is a symbol for protecting her. In addition, it is a way for the Chatan to identify his bride before actually marrying her?
The Wedding Ceremony
The Chatan and Kallah are married underneath a Chuppah (wedding canopy). In most cases they are both escorted to the Chuppah by their parents. Then the bride circles the groom seven times, as a symbol for "building" their new home (the same way that God created the world in seven days). At this point the Rabbi begins the ceremony.
The ceremony itself is a conglomeration of legal recitations and customs. The wedding ceremony consists of two parts, Erusin (also called Kiddushin), which is the legal agreement by which the bride and groom are betrothed to each other, and Nissuin, the nuptials and the active beginning of the new union between the bride and groom.
The Rabbi says a blessing of betrothal, and the Chatan and Kalla drink wine. The meaning of it is sanctification of man and woman to each other. It is comparable to the Kiddush blessing on Sabbath, in which we drink wine to sanctify the Sabbath.
The next step is the giving of the ring: The ring is a simple gold ring, with no additional decorations (such as stones). It expresses the hope for a marriage of simple, pure beauty. There must be at least two witnesses who hear the Chatan saying "Behold, you are sanctified to me with this ring, according to the laws of Moses and Israel". He puts the ring on the Kallah's right hand forefinger. This is the highlight of the ceremony. After the ring, the Ketubah is read, and then given to the bride.
The second part of the ceremony begins with the "Sheva Berachot" (The seven blessings), which are recited either by the Rabbi or by honored guests. These blessings praise God, his creation, and specifically the creation of man and woman as one whole human being. They express the hope for a happy future for the couple, and a prayer for Jerusalem to be fully rebuilt and the temple reconstructed. At this point the Chatan breaks a glass by stamping on it, quoting Psalms, 137, 5-6: "If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill; Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I don't remember you, if I don't prefer Jerusalem above my chief joy". This custom represents the couple's belonging to the Jewish people and its destiny. It shows that Jerusalem is in our minds even at times of great joy, and we do not forget the destruction of the temple.
The ceremony is now over, and the couple is escorted the "Yichud Room" (The room of Privacy"), where they can be together alone. If they have been fasting since morning, now is the time when they can finally eat. Meanwhile, a festive meal (a Seudah, in Hebrew) is going on outside, accompanied by music and dancing. Often there are jugglers, acrobats, etc., whose purpose is to entertain the newlyweds. The wedding celebration continues for seven days, with meals each day at which the Sheva Berachot (seven blessings) are recited.