For my wedding, I wanted to create a pamphlet for the guests to use to familiarize themselves with the ceremony. We had many non-religious and non-Jewish guests, and it was important to my wife and I that they be able to follow the ceremony and understand the underlying symbolism.
It was especially important to me that the transitions between the events be clearly laid out – something that I found was lacking in some of the pamphlets I’ve read. It’s all well and good that the chuppah symbolizes one thing and the yichud room symbolizes something else, but if you don’t tell people that the room will go crazy when the groom steps on the glass and the crowd will dance the couple from the chuppah to the yichud room, the uninitiated guests in the crowd may be very surprised!
Below are images of the wedding pamphlet we used, and also a downloadable Adobe Photoshop file which can be customized. If this is outside of your wheelhouse, feel free to contact me via the “Send a Message” form at the bottom of the site, and I’ll be happy to do it for you.
Rules for using the pamphlet:
Note: I highlighted all of the areas of the inside document that you’ll want to change from my information to yours. For the outside, you’ll want to change the entire thing!
Welcome to Gabby and Jake’s wedding! We are onored and delighted that you are able to celebrate with us. If you don’t know who Gabby and Jake are, don’t worry – Lakewood is a big place, the Bar Mitzvah you’re looking for is probably one street over.
This pamphlet should hopefully give you a timeline of what to expect at our wedding.
Three rules for our wedding:
Kabbalas Panim (literally “Receiving of Faces”, although it’s much more poetic in Hebrew) is the stage of the wedding where Gabby and Jake greet their wedding guests – separately. It is customary for the bride and groom not to see each other for one week prior to the wedding – this increases the anticipation and excitement of the day, as well as enabling alone time for introspection and reflection.
The bride and groom are compared to royalty on the day of their wedding, and their positioning at this stage reflects that idea. The bride will be seated on a “throne” to receive her guests, and bless them – a bride’s prayers are immensely powerful on her wedding day, so feel free to wish her a mazel tov and ask for a blessing! The groom will be in another room hosting a Chosson’s Tisch (“Groom’s Table”), where guests will sing and toast him.
The bride and groom will have fasted the entire day, because the wedding day represents a personal Yom Kippur for the couple – just as one chapter of an individual’s life is sealed and a new one begins each Yom Kippur, on the wedding day the bride and groom mark the end of their separate lives and are renewed as they start a new life together.
The Bedeken (“Covering” in Yiddish) comes next. The men on the groom’s side will dance Jake away from his tisch and over to where Gabby is seated. At this point, Jake and Gabby will be seeing each other for the first time in a week. Break out the tissues. Jake will then place Gabby’s veil over her face, symbolizing that while physical appearances may be attractive, the soul and character are also paramount. This also signals the groom’s commitment to clothe and protect his wife, both physically and spiritually. We are also reminded of Rebecca covering her face before marrying Isaac (Genesis ch. 24). Jake will then be danced out of the room – because otherwise, if given the choice, he would never leave Gabby’s side.
The Chuppah (“Canopy”) is a modest structure under which the wedding ceremony will take place. It consists of white fabric held up by four poles, and represents the home that will be built and shared by the couple. It is open on all sides to welcome guests with their unconditional hospitality.
The groom will be wearing a kittel, which is a pure white garment that is normally worn on Yom Kippur. The bride and groom will wear no jewelry under the chuppah, emphasizing that their mutual commitment is to each other as people, and not to any material possessions. Gabby will circle around Jake seven times, symbolizing that she is creating a separate space for just the two of them, apart from all other family and friends. The number seven also represents completion in Judaism, and with their marriage, the couple is now complete.
The first stage of the wedding ceremony is Erusin (“Betrothal”). The Rabbi will recite a blessing over wine, a symbol that marriage should become better and better with time. This is followed by the betrothal blessing which thanks G-d for creating the sanctity of marriage. Jake and Gabby will both take a sip from the wine. The wedding ring will be inspected to make sure that it meets all Jewish legal requirements, and then Jake will present it to Gabby, stating the following legal proclamation: “Behold, you are betrothed to me with this ring, according to the laws of Moses and Israel.”
The kesubah (“marriage contract”), written in Aramaic, will then be read aloud.
The second stage of the wedding ceremony is Nisu’in (“Nuptials”). During this time, seven blessings are said by family and friends. The couple sips from a second cup of wine. Jake will then break a glass, which reminds us that our joy cannot be truly complete until the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt.
This concludes the ceremony, and the couple is then escorted out with much dancing and singing.
The couple is danced to a private room so that they can experience Yichud (“Togetherness”). Yichud represents the first time the bride and groom will be alone together. These few moments of seclusion signify their new status of being married, and allow them to savor the beginning of their new life together. This is also when the couple will break their fast (finally). During this time, guests will go straight to the ballroom for appetizers. Don’t bother waiting for us – you’ll need all those carbs for dancing!
The Se’udas Nesu’in is the wedding meal. This will be marked by eating, dancing, and shtick (which doesn’t translate well, but you’ll know it when you see it). Dancing is separated by gender – this is for spiritual reasons, but also because after 2.5 hours of dancing, not even the men will want to stand next to the men.
It is a mitzvah (“commandment”) to join in the festivities and bring the bride and groom simcha (“joy”), and that is the main focus of the remainder of the evening. Dance, eat, repeat!
Thank you again for celebrating with us!
Gabby & Jake