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Home > Weddings > Jewish Weddings - A Guide By Harry Nelson

Chah-what? Chatan!: A Jewish Wedding Guide for Grooms By Harry Nelson

Much has been written about planning a Jewish wedding. Far less help is available to the chatan (pronounced “hah-tahn” with a guttural first “h”) – the groom in a Jewish wedding. The purpose of this guide is to offer a planning guide for grooms to think about groom-oriented traditions in a Jewish wedding.

General Suggestions

Every wedding involves a different mix of traditions. Coordinate with your bride and rabbi (or whoever is officiating at your wedding) to make sure everyone agrees on which traditions you’re including and the details of how you’re doing them.

In addition to the standard wedding day worries (e.g. making sure someone has the rings), Jewish weddings involve plenty of “stuff” to keep track of on the wedding day, including: the ketubah (wedding contract) a pen to sign the ketubah with the chuppah and poles kiddush cup(s) for the wine used during the ceremony the glass to break a kittel (if you’re going to wear one) kippah, and of course, the rings.

You’ve got enough to worry about. Find out who has what and make sure someone reliable is responsible for getting all of the above where they need to be.

Traditional weddings require some written and spoken Hebrew on your part. Make sure that you’re ready to sign your name in Hebrew, if the wedding officiant expects you to sign the ketubah in Hebrew. Make sure that you’re ready to recite the Hebrew blessings and the haray aht formula (discussed below) as well.

Relax and enjoy the ride. It’s over too quickly, it’s a pinnacle moment in your life, and you have to savor it. On to the details . . .

The Aufruf The Aufruf (pronounced “oof-roof”) refers to the calling up of the groom (or, in egalitarian congregations, the bride and groom) to the Torah on the Shabbat before the wedding. The word “aufruf” means “calling up” in Yiddish. The aufruf is an opportunity for the community to publicly recognize, congratulate, and share in the joy of the wedding to come. It is customary to throw candy (after the recitation of the blessing after the Torah reading) to shower the bride and groom with wishes for a sweet marriage. According to Sephardic custom, the groom is called up on the Shabbat after the wedding.

Aufruf Suggestions

1. Months in advance--Decide (with your bride, of course) whether to have an aufruf.

2. Months in advance--Make arrangements with your synagogue to ensure that they reserve an aliyah (the honor of being called up to the Torah) for the date of your aufruf.

3. Weeks in advance--If it’s been a while (like since your bar mitzvah) since you last recited the blessings before and after the Torah reading, find someone to help you brush up on the blessings. On the other hand, if you know how to read Torah or to lead part of the service, make arrangements to do so for your aufruf. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate your commitment to Judaism in building a life together. You can also honor friends and family by arranging their participation in the service.

4. Day of the Aufruf—When the candy starts to fly, don’t just stand there (or worse, run for cover). Seize the opportunity to be chivalrous and shield your bride from the inevitable, overly aggressive candy hurlers.

The Tish

The tish (or chatan’s tish) refers to the groom’s table. This is the tradition that, before the wedding, the men gather around the groom for the tish, or groom's "table." At the tish, the nervous groom traditionally attempts to deliver some words about the Torah portion while his friends and family take the pressure off by constantly interrupting him with jokes, toasts, singing, and dancing. At the end of the tish, family and friends carry the groom into the bedeken for veiling. Even if there are aspects of these customs that seem to be based on anachronistic values, such as the separation of men and women and the contrast of the bride sitting to be admired for her beauty, while the groom tries to teach, the tish offers a way to start the celebration early and to get everyone in the right, festive frame of mind. If the gender separation is not something you feel comfortable with, the two ceremonies can be combined in one place. We've also known couples who did a joint tish; and brides who had a women's tish.

Tish Suggestions

1. Months in advance—Decide whether you are going to have a tish, and, if so, whether it will be just them men, or, in an updated tradition, with the bride as well. Coordinate where it will be and what refreshments will be served with the caterer. It is not uncommon to have liquor present.

2. Weeks in advance--Work on what you’re going to say. Traditionally, the presentation talks about the week’s Torah portion. Many grooms try to draw connections to between the Torah portion and their impending nuptials.

3. Weeks in advance—Make sure your friends, family, and wedding guests know what to do, ie. to heckle, interrupt, sing, and create an environment of fun before the wedding.

The Ring

The wedding ring is an important part of your responsibility as groom. According to tradition, the central act of erusin (the first part of the wedding ceremony) is the groom's giving and the bride's acceptance of the ring, coupled with the recitation of the Hebrew formula known as haray aht (described below). According to halachah (Jewish law), you, the groom, complete the erusin ceremony by placing the ring on your bride's hand, traditionally on her right index finger, which stems from the ancient belief that the index finger was directly connected to the heart.

Jewish law requires the band to be simple, without piercings or precious stones. One explanation is for this is that the smooth and circular shape of the ring symbolizes the unbroken union of your marriage.

You should also discuss with your bride and whoever is officiating at the wedding when and how your bride will give you a ring. In order to comply with the requirements of Jewish law, more traditional officiants prefer to separate the bride’s placement of a ring on the groom’s finger, either having it take place later in the ceremony or the day, or while the couple is enjoying post-wedding privacy (yichud). In contrast, more liberal practice permits the exchange of rings to be immediate and for the bride to recite the same (haray aht) formula as the groom (haray atah when corrected for gender).

Ring Suggestions

1. Months before—buy a ring for your bride. The ring should be simple, unpierced, and without stones. . If the ring is more than a simple band, you may want to consult with whoever is officiating. Some people choose to have the ring engraved on the inside. You should consult with your officiant before doing this, too.

2. Months before—talk with your bride and officiant about the ring ceremony to make sure everyone is comfortable with the details of how rings will be exchanged and the accompanying language. 3. Day of the wedding—entrust the rings to someone reliable to have available under the chuppah.

Haray Aht

Haray Aht is the legal formula you recite as you place the ring on your bride’s finger. The entire phrase, transliterated is: "Haray aht m'kudeshet li b'taba'at zo k'dat Moshe v'Yisrael." Translated, the phrase declares, "By this ring, you are consecrated to me, in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel." It is the central, legally operative phrase of the erusin (betrothal)ceremony, which forms the first half of the wedding ceremony.

Haray Aht Suggestions

1. Weeks before--Practice your pronunciation of the phrase. No matter how well you learn it, make sure your wedding officiant is ready to help whisper the words to you. After all, you’re entitled to be a little nervous under the chuppah.

The Kittel

In the months before the wedding, be grateful for the relative simplicity of your wedding apparel choices, as you sympathize with your fiancee’s travails in finding a wedding dress. But one Jewish wedding tradition – wearing a kittel – is worth considering consider. A kittel is a white linen cloak that Jewish men traditionally wear for the first time during the wedding ceremony (worn over your clothes) as a symbol of purity and holiness as we stand in the presence of the Divine. (The kittel is also worn after the wedding on the High Holy Days and on Passover and, ultimately, as a burial garment for the same symbolic reasons.) A related, more contemporary explanation for wearing a kittel is to join your bride in wearing white to symbolizes the purity of the “rebirth” with which you begin your new life together. Wearing a kittel is a simple yet powerful reminder of the sacred nature of the day.

Kittel Suggestions

1. Months before -- Decide whether or not to wear a kittel.

2. Months before -- arrange to get one or drop subtle or not-so-subtle hints that you'd like someone to get you one.

3. Wear your kittel over, not instead of a tux. You can wear it for the wedding ceremony and then remove it before you break the glass or after the ceremony.

Breaking the Glass

Breaking the glass is your final ceremonial responsibility to complete the wedding. There are more explanations for why we break a glass than pieces of glass after the average breaking. The rabbi may talk about the destruction of the Temple, the fragility of your relationship, remembering sadness at the height of joyous celebration, scaring off demons, or even how many children you’re union will produce. Your job here is to stay focused on getting it done and to give everyone present what they want: an enthusiastic and effective stomping.

Breaking the Glass Suggestions

1. Shameless Plug for AllThingsJewish—Think about having the glass you break turned into a keepsake. Browse the AllThingsJewish store for ideas under wedding glass.

2. Shameless Plug, continued–Drop hints to friends and family that you’d like them to get you that really cool wedding glass ________ from AllThingsJewish.

3. Make sure the glass is in a bag to make the breaking clean.

4. Stomp hard and smart—avoid the stem to ensure loud and cool-sounding breakage.

The Hora

The ceremony’s over, but your most important responsibility remains. Within minutes of the band beginning to play a hora, your friends are sure to lift you and your bride on chairs. .

Hora Suggestions

1. Days in advance—ask the coordinator to have chairs with arms available for this ritual. You're entitled to a throne-like chair. More to the point, though, it will give you and your bride something to hold onto and minimize the serious risk of injury if one of you loses your balance.

2. Hold on tight.

Mazel tov!


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