Jewish Wedding Traditions
A wedding is an event in which two individuals are legally bound in matrimony to be with each other forever. Wedding traditions and customs greatly vary between various cultures, religious groups, societies, and ethnic groups. For instance, in India a wedding occurs after a groom presents his bride with a white sugar cane made of pure silk. In the Philippines and Indonesia a wedding involves a presentation of a piece of jewelry. In China a wedding involves a banquet that involves dance, food, songs, poetry, and other elements. It also involves the exchange of gifts among the two families and friends that have come together to celebrate the union.
The wedding ceremony in most cultures is considered sacred and is usually performed by a priest or a member of the clergy. A bride’s family might also conduct a separate ceremony for her. After the wedding ceremony has taken place, the wedding feast usually consists of fruits, nuts, and other products symbolic of fertility. A variety of foods are eaten during the reception occasion; typically, meat and fish are served to symbolize life. The wedding feast is broken up by each family member with a glass of wine for the bride and one or two glasses for the groom. This ritual is meant to honor the blessings of nature upon the newlyweds.
Chinese traditional wedding ceremonies are characterized by extravagant dress occasions and elaborate decorations. Traditionally, only men are required to dress for these occasions. Men opt for long, form-fitting dresses and long hair. The groom usually has a blue suit and a white face and scalp covered with a small hat. These days, the Chinese groom is expected to also wear a jacket and tie.
Chinese wedding customs also include some very special, symbolic gestures. They are commonly referred to as “urses” or “signs”. These customs began as a way for the couple to show each other their love and respect for each other’s culture. Over time, these gestures have developed into very meaningful visual displays that symbolize the couple’s vows to each other and their love for their community.
One tradition that started in western cultures has several days set aside for the wedding. The term “elopement” is thought to be from early Chinese wedding ceremonies. Instead of a traditional wedding, elopement is when the bride and groom free themselves from their respective marriages to start a new marriage away from their old lives. For a destination wedding, this could take several days with several hotel nights being spent at various locations.
A Jewish wedding can be rather simple and quite ceremonial. There are no Hebrew wedding ceremonies involved at all. The couple will have a reading performed in the synagogue prior to their ceremony. The chuppah, which is the Jewish wedding canopy, is used to protect the couple and their guests during their meal. After the ceremony, the chuppah is draped over the banquet hall to symbolize the Jewish blessing that is passed along to the guests as food is eaten. While most of these Jewish customs originated in ancient Jewish history, there are still many modern-day Jewish customs that have been adapted to fit the wishes of modern couples.