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Jewish Wedding Glossary

What's a Ketubah (keh -tube-ah)?

The ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) is an ancient, and beautiful element of the Jewish marriage ceremony. In its most traditional form it is a prenuptial agreement, outlining the responsibilities of the groom to his bride, to protect her in case of divorce. Though a great advance for its time (the end of the first century, C.E.), today most couples prefer a more egalitarian ketubah, expressing their mutual commitments to one another.

Judaism has a precept known as hiddur mitzvah (lit: "beautification of the commandment"), which states that if an object is required for ritual purposes, it should be made as beautiful as possible--hence the custom of highly illuminated ketubot. A decorated ketubah, with images, motifs and colors that represent the bride and groom's personal style and symbolizes their relationship, is one of the few parts of the wedding that actually endures beyond the wedding day. Whether it is a unique piece of commissioned fine art, or a limited edition print, a ketubah is an instant heirloom.

ketubah.jpg
This is just one example...

What's that thing their standing under?

The huppah or canopy, which is made of cloth stretched between poles, symbolizes the new home of the couple and is often carried by the attendants to the position where the marriage ceremony will take place. In many weddings the huppah is already in place. The groom's parents walk him to the huppah, where they stand together awaiting the bride. While a cantor sings from the Song of Songs, the bride is accompanied to the huppah by her parents. When she arrives, the bride circles the groom. In some traditions, the mothers of the bride and groom circle him as well. The circles are thought to protect the groom from evil. It's also a way for the bride to symbolically bind herself to the groom and begin a new family circle. Some brides circle three times, others seven times, according to different interpretations.

Why smoosh a perfectly good glass?
This custom dates back to Talmudic times, and symbolizes the idea of our keeping Jerusalem and Israel in our minds even at times of our joy. Just as the Temple in Jerusalem is destroyed, so we break a utensil to show our identification with the sorrow of Jewish exile.

Still More!
Aliyah: "To go up" in Hebrew, common term for the honor of reciting a blessing before and after a Torah reading.
Aufruf: Ceremony in which the groom (and bride) are honored with an aliyah on the Shabbat before the wedding.
Aramaic: Semitic language related to Hebrew.
Ashkenazi: Jews of Eastern and Central European descent.
Badchan: Emcee of wedding celebration.
B'deken: Veiling of bride before the wedding ceremony.
Benchers: Prayer booklets containing the blessings for a meal.
Birkat Hamazon: Blessings recited after a meal.
Chatan: Hebrew word for groom.
Challah: Braided bread used at celebrations.
Chossen: Yiddish word for groom.
Erusin: Betrothal ceremony.
Ha-Motzi: Blessing recited over bread.
Haray Aht: Aramaic phrase recited during the ring ceremony.
Hava Nagila: Traditional Klezmer song played at Jewish weddings.
Hazzan: Cantor.
Henna: A plant dye used to stain the skin of brides.
Hiddur Mitzvah: The beautification of a ritual object.
Hora: Celebratory dance in which bride and groom are lifted up on chairs.
Huppah: Wedding canopy.
Kallah: Hebrew word for bride.
Kashrut: Jewish dietary law.
Ketubah: Marriage contract.
Kiddush: Blessing said over wine.
Kiddushin: Betrothal ceremony.
Kinyan: An act to demonstrate one's free will.
Kippot: Head coverings.
Kittel: Short, white ceremonial robe worn by groom on wedding day, also worn on holy days.
Klezmer: Traditional Yiddish celebratory music.
Kosher: Food that meets Jewish dietary restrictions.
Krenzel: Yiddish word for crown. Common term for the honorary dance Mezinke Tanz in reference to the crown of flowers placed in the mother of the brides hair during the dance.
Mazel Tov: Exclamation meaning, "Good Luck!"
Mesader Kiddushin: One who officated or leads the wedding ceremony.
Mezinke Tanz: Dance to honor parents who have married off their last child.
Mikvah: Ritual bath.
Minhag: Jewish customs.
Mitzvah: A good deed.
Mizrahi: Jews of Middle Eastern descent.
Nissuin: Nuptial ceremony.
Noche de Bano: Sephardic celebration after the bride visits a mikvah before her wedding.
Sephardi: Jews of Spanish, Portuguese, and North African descent.
S'eudah Mitzvah: Celebratory meal following a religious ritual.
Shabbat: Jewish Sabbath beginning Friday at sundown and ending Saturday at sundown.
Sheva Brachot: Seven marriage blessings recited under the huppah.
Simcha: Celebration of joy.
Tallis: Prayer shawl.
Tenaim: Formal engagement contract.
Tish: Yiddish for table, the light-hearted discussion held before the wedding ceremony.
Torah: First five books of the Hebrew Bible.
Yarmulkes: Head coverings.
Yihud: Brief seclusion of bride and groom immediately following wedding ceremony.