The Yichud Room or the Bride and Groom alone at last!

The minhag of the Yichud room, or simply known as “Yichud” is an interesting part of a Jewish wedding.  Yichud is both a "what" and a "where".  

Simply put, this minhag is carried out only by the bride and groom and immediately after the chuppah.  It’s kind of like sending the newly married couple to a deserted island immediately after the chuppah in order to enjoy the quiet of being all alone and together (at least for some ten or fifteen minutes).

There are many explanations for this minhag, including giving the newly married couple absolute privacy after the chuppah and allowing the new couple to share their first intimate moments of married life removed from the throng of family, guests and well-wishers and the whirlwind of the wedding celebration.  I read that it also helps teach the couple that in every situation they must make time to be together alone.

This is largely an Ashkenazi custom, but through the years it has been adopted by many Sephardim, as well.  

Like many other Jewish customs and traditions, Yichud involves a list of semi-formal actions established through the years and are followed by most orthodox Ashkenazi Jews. 

I think it is important for me to point out that the Hebrew word "Yichud" comes from the root for the Hebrew word יחד ‘together’.  In addition, it is important to point out that there is a prohibition for males and females, not closely related by blood (parents, siblings and such) or married, to be in closed/close proximity to prevent any untoward actions. This close proximity is simply described as Yichud.  Among the very orthodox, a couple, prior to their marriage, would not spend any time alone together; therefore the first time they are allowed to be alone together would be in the Yichud room, after the chuppah.

The Yichud room
The room used for Yichud may only have one door/entrance/exit in the room, so that the couple could meet in complete seclusion and they would be seen entering and leaving the room.  Most wedding venues in Israel have a small room or office set aside for this purpose.  In some venues the bride's room, used before the wedding for dressing, doubles as the Yichud room or sometimes it is the manager's office.

Discuss this with your venue in advance of the wedding date, to ensure that they do have a Yichud room or can provide for one and that on the day of the wedding it is cleaned and made presentable with at least a covered table and two chairs.  Request that drink and a light meal be placed in the room prior to the couple entering.  Even if the couple do not fast on their wedding day - the food they eat in this room may be the only "meal" the couple eat that day!

For couples that fast on the day of their wedding, the Yichud room is also the perfect place and the perfect time to break their fast together.  Usually drink and some food saved from the smorgasbord is placed in the room.  The couple is not meant to eat a whole meal at this time, as they (in theory) will eat their meal with all their wedding guests.

How does the couple get to the room?
Customarily the couple is lead, from the chuppah to the room, by an entourage of guests - singing and dancing in front of them.  Usually someone will enter the room first to ascertain that there is only one door to this room and then the couple will enter and then the door is shut behind them. 

The couple will usually stay in this room for about 10-15 minutes.  There is no stop watch here - so it is up to couple how long they stay.  Usually the photographer will wait outside the room and once they are ready to leave - he/she will enter the room and take the first photographs of the couple.  This is also the perfect time for me (the makeup artist/hairstylist) to do any touch ups for the imminent formal photos.   

The time immediately after Yichud is the PERFECT time to take all the posed family and combined family shots (especially if the couple did not see each other for the week before the wedding or the day of the wedding).  Once the family shots are taken, it's time for everyone to reenter the main hall and then the real dancing and celebration begins!

So what is everyone else doing while the couple is in the Yichud room?
While the couple is in Yichud, the guests will enter the dining room and begin the meal - which in Israel is usually a selection of salads already found on the tables and a choice of entrees to be served by the wait staff.

Once the couple enters the main hall, the band goes into high gear and the dancing begins and usually doesn't stop for air until the main part of the meal is served.  Mazal Tov!

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