Walking Down the Aisle (the the Chuppah) at a Jewish Wedding

When a wedding is depicted in a Hollywood movie, it always seems as if the groom just kind of appears from some secret side door and stands in front of a priest or some kind of officiate.   The bride floats down an aisle, flanked on either side by rows of guests seated on benches or chairs, on the arm of her father; following a procession of some 15 bridesmaids in identical, horrific dresses.

Bizarrely, the mother of the bride is always shown sitting by herself on one side of the aisle, with tears of happiness streaming down her face.  In contrast, the groom’s parents are left to their own devices on the other side of the aisle.

The guests, as I understand, are seated according to their connection to the happy couple: either on “the groom’s side” or “the bride’s side” of the aisle.  This is NOT how a Jewish wedding is organized and weddings in Israel are even less similar.

In this article, I want to discuss how the bride and groom walk down the aisle at an Orthodox Jewish wedding.  Other parts of a Jewish wedding ceremony will be discussed in future articles.

Firstly and by definition, a Jewish wedding is a communal event.  The wedding is designed this way so that the marriage, and consequently the unavailability of the bride and groom to anyone else, become immediate public knowledge.

Why do we accompany the bride and groom to the Chuppah?
The tradition of accompanying the bride and the groom to the Chuppah is based on variety of social and religious customs, viewpoints and attitudes.  However, there seems to be a common basis or way of thinking that connects all these traditions and they include:

(1)        It is said that Ha’shem accompanied Chava down to the Chuppah, when she married Adam.  From this belief grew the idea of accompanying the bride and groom to their Chuppah.


(2)        Just as a king and queen are always surrounded by an entourage as a symbol of their importance, so the bride and groom, who are considered as a king and queen on their wedding day, must be surrounded and accompanied by an entourage. This entourage includes the perspective parents of the bride and groom, their closest relatives and friends.

Before the creation of Wedding Halls, weddings took place in the village’s or city’s open court yard or any area that could hold a large gathering.  The entire community of that village or city would join together and accompany the bride and groom down to the Chuppah. 
At the head of these processions would be the parents of the bride and of the groom.  Either each set of parents accompanied their own child or the mothers accompanied the bride and the fathers accompanied the groom.   Orphans would many times be accompanied to their Chuppah by prominent members of the community to help illustrate the importance of the mitzvot of Hachnasat Kallah and Mesa'meach Chatan V’Kallah.  

There is no ‘right way’ to accompany the bride and groom.  Each family has its own custom. 

In weddings held outside of Israel, all the guests are usually seated on either side of an aisle leading up to the Chuppah either wherever they wish or one side of the aisle is reserved for women, while the other side of the aisle is reserved for men.  Usually the first row or two of seats, closest to the Chuppah, are reserved for older guests, so they can see the ceremony more easily. 

Grandparents and great grandparents usually stand under the Chuppah with the rest of the family, but they can also be seated in those front rows.  In general, in Israel, there are only two or three rows of chairs (at most), reserved for people who will find standing during the Chuppah ceremony too much of a burden.  Everyone else stands around the Chuppah during the entire ceremony, thus the idea of an “aisle” disappears as soon as the bride and groom are standing under the Chuppah.
Procession without an aisle in Israel
The idea of a Jewish wedding procession has no true basis in Jewish tradition.  The idea of bridesmaids and flower girls has been adopted into some Jewish weddings in one form or other, but it does not have the importance or significance it has in gentile weddings.

Who accompanies the bride and groom?

ONLY the bride and groom and their procession to the Chuppah are important. The procession begins with the groom, as he is lead down the aisle either by his parents or both fathers and his closest friends and male relatives.  Once he and, usually, those who walked down with him are standing under the Chuppah, it’s the bride’s turn.  She may walk down the aisle, flanked by either her parents or both mothers and by close friends.  As she is lead down to the Chuppah, she may also recite prayers for people in need.

Procession of groom with the fathers and friends

Candles in holders with ribbons and flowers
Many Ashkenazi families have the minhag of the parents or mothers/fathers accompanying the bride and groom to the Chuppah to hold specially designed glass holders with lit candles in their hands. Sometimes they hold simple long havdala candles with a “handle” of tin foil to prevent hot wax from dripping on their hands.
Procession of bride with the mothers and friends
I have heard and read many reasons for this minhag; from lighting the way to the Chuppah to the gematria for the Hebrew word "aish" (fire) and the Hebrew words for "man" and "woman" and so on.  My feeling is that since nearly all weddings took place outside and in the evening, candles were needed to light the way for everyone.  As time went on and weddings began to take place indoors, the idea of 'lighting the way' for the Chatan and Kallah was preserved as part of the larger ceremony.

Under the Chuppah
Depending on the size of the actual Chuppah, the people that will stand under the Chuppah, in addition to the bride and the groom and the Rabbi, are the parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents and many times close friends. The witnesses and other honoraries usually stand to the side of the Chuppah, but that is the topic of future articles.

Once everyone is standing under the Chuppah, the wedding ceremonies formally begin.  I will discuss these ceremonies and rituals in future articles.

Do you have questions about a Jewish wedding, its customs, traditions and practices?  Please feel free to contact me today!


With Tisha B’Av this evening and thoughts of the destruction of both Ba’Tei Ha’Mikdash, I somehow always think about the minhag of not playing music at Yerushalmi weddings.  I had always assumed that this was a long standing minhag dating back directly to the time of the destruction. 
But as I did my research for this article I found out that this was not necessarily the case. It seems that Harav Meir Aeurbach zt”l decreed that no music be played at Yerushalmi weddings about 140 years ago, either due to an epidemic that broke out at that time or, as I had assumed, a sign of mourning for the destruction of the Ba’Tei Ha’Mikdash. 
I learned that this is a ‘strictly’ Ashkenazi minhag and that in most accounts, drums are allowed to be played at weddings, as drums are not halachikly considered musical instruments. Therefore weddings could be celebrated with the accompaniment of people singing and of the beating of drums.
It is interesting that playing music was prohibited immediately after the destruction; but that as music was and is recognized as a vital element to a Jewish wedding and to the very heart of the mitzvah of Mi’sameach Chatan V’Kallah as time went on, music re-entered Jewish wedding ceremonies.  It appears that as the centuries passed, music was played at Jewish weddings outside of Israel, then this practise travelled “back” to Israel, first to cities outside of Jerusalem and then to The City itself. 
Throughout the centuries music at Yerushalmi weddings was alternatingly permitted and then prohibited by our Rabbis for a variety of reasons, one of which of course was the destruction of the Ba’Tei Ha’Mikdash.  From what is understood, around the time of Ha’Rav Aeurbach’s proclamation, there was an outbreak of a terrible plague in Jerusalem that decimated thousands and this prohibition came in response to this tragedy.
I have also heard of and attended weddings where music is played throughout the weddings except during the procession to the chuppah and the chuppah itself.  At this time, the bride and groom are accompanied down to the chuppah by the singing of the guests.  I have to say that many times this is a much more poignant and personal scene, as everyone truly takes part in the mitzvah of Misameach Chatan V’Kallah.
May we all be Zoche to see the Beit Hamikdash rebuilt in our times.

Erev Tisha B’Av 2012
A photo showing just a very small corner of the Kotel where thousands upon thousands are praying and reading Eicha and Kinot.

The seventh of the Sheva Brachot:
ברוך אתה ה' אלקינו מלך העולם, אשר ברא ששון ושמחה, חתן וכלה, גילה רינה, דיצה וחדווה, אהבה ואחווה, ושלום ורעות, מהרה ה' אלקינו ישמע בערי יהודה ובחוצות ירושלים, קול ששון וקול שמחה, קול חתן וקול כלה, קול מצהלות חתנים מחופתם, ונערים ממשתה נגינתם. ברוך אתה ה', משמח חתן עם הכלה.

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Bridal Makeup Touch-up Bag

If you are not lucky enough to have your makeup artist at your beck and call for your bridal makeup touch-ups at your wedding venue, then you need to create your own touch-up makeup bag and emergency kit. 

This bag can be a GREAT PRESENT to the bride-to-be from a bridesmaid, mother of the bride or groom or a close friend.  Whether the bride or someone else creates this bag, make sure someone (other than the bride) is made responsible for carrying and using the bag as necessary.
I will list exactly what should be included in the bag, but there are some general rules you should keep in mind when creating this bag:
·        You need to balance the needs of the bride with the size, bulk and weight of the bag.  You may be tempted to create two smaller bags – big mistake – now you have two items to forget!
·        Small sample sizes of products are perfect for this bag, as they are usually cheap and sometimes free. Tell your favourite makeup store that you or a friend is getting married, they may be willing to give you some great sample items.
·        All the products should be kept in an inexpensive, zippered bag – no larger than absolutely necessary.
·        When adding products keep in mind that each item should be useful and inexpensive and that the bag and its contents can be left at the venue, forgotten or given away without any guilt at the end of the evening.

Bridal Makeup Touch-up bag contents:
(1)      Straws: These lovelies help keep the bride hydrated (if she is not fasting), without ruining her lipstick and makeup or for that matter, help protect the bridal gown from spills.
(2)      Stain removal wipes: Remember to always blot, never rub a stain!
(3)      Regular wet wipes: The alcohol-free variety, this way, if they are used on the face or hands, they be less likely to dry out the skin.  Remember to always blot sweat, dirt, tears, stains or makeup; never rub!  A small pack will do!
(4)      White tissues: Remember to always blot sweat, dirt, tears, stains or makeup; never rub!  A small pack will do!
(5)      Cotton swabs: You should pack them in a separate small plastic baggie packed inside the touch-up bag, to ensure they stay clean.
(6)      Powder puff: The powder puff can be used in two capacities: to take down shine from your face (shoulders, etc.) and to gently retouch makeup.  Remember to always blot sweat, dirt, tears, stains, or makeup; never rub!
To understand this fully, please read the following table:
What use?
How to use it?
Plain, clean powder puff
Blot out any oily/sweaty areas of the skin
Pack the puff in a separate small plastic baggie, inside your touch-up bag.
Powder puff with white baby powder  **
Blot out any oily/sweaty areas of the skin and fix base makeup smears
Dip powder puff in baby powder and then carefully place in separate small plastic baggie.  Some baby powder will stick to the puff and some will seep into the baggie.
When you want to use the puff, re-dip it into the baggie and then gently shake off excess powder into the baggie and then carefully blot any offending areas on the face.
In small amounts, white baby powder can be used on dark, as well as light skin tones, as the powder will be absorbed into the skin.
Powder puff with powder makeup (a bit lighter than the makeup color used).
Blot out any oily/sweaty areas of the skin and fix base makeup smears
Dip powder puff into the powder makeup and then carefully place in separate small plastic baggie.  Some powder makeup will stick to the puff and some will seep into the baggie.
When you want to use the puff, re-dip it into the baggie and then gently shake off excess powder into the baggie and then carefully blot any offending areas on the face.
Be very careful using makeup powder, as it can dirty the wedding gown and any dress, blouse, veil in close proximity.  Makeup stains are very hard to clean!

I believe that white baby powder is the safer, and therefore better option, given that any powder that may accidently fall on the gown will be invisible.
** An alternative is to pack a small bottle of baby powder and a separate powder puff and apply powder carefully and directly to the puff.
(7)      Lip gloss: I recommend packing a colorless gloss, as it is safer for the bride’s gown and for those around her.  Also you must consider the fact that if you reapply lipstick, it may get wiped on the dress, sleeve, and worse, the color may bleed into the skin surrounding the lip and make a very unappealing picture
(8)      Inexpensive, light scented eau de cologne: This is a great item to pack and is a good freshener and mood lifter.  But remember the rule, the eau de cologne bottle must be small and light to carry and inexpensive.
Just a spritz or two on the wrists and behind the ears can be wonderful and refreshing after a long, hot pre-chuppah photo shoot, just before the chuppah and after yechud.
Be careful not to spritz near eyes, directly on gown or even in the hair (although I do this sometimes).
(9)      Blush: I am including blush in this list, as a very optional item that is important only if the bride is naturally very pale.  You can buy a very cheap, small container of blush or eye shadow in a shade close to the original blush shade used.  If you are not sure what color will be used go for a light pinky/bronzy shade.  In addition, buy a cheap blush brush.  The key here is small and cheap.
Be careful opening the container near the bride, as well as when applying the blush.  An unsure, nervous hand - yours or the bride's -can create clown cheeks that will look worse in a picture than no blush - believe me!  Place napkins or tissues around the top of the bride’s gown before applying any color!  Once again if you include blush, place it first in a small plastic baggie.
(10)  Safety pins
(11)  Sewing kit: While everyone’s first thought would be to include one of those handy small sewing kits; all that you really need is a few already-threaded needles; two or three threaded with white thread and one threaded with black thread.  You can stick the pre-threaded needles into spools of thread and pack them in your kit.
(12)  Small nail scissors: Great for cutting loose threads from gowns, shirts, etc.  Never pull threads!!!!!
(13)  Double-back tape: Great to instantly fix tears WITHOUT sewing. (Not in photograph)
(14)  Panty liners
(15)  Nail file: A jagged nail can play havoc on a gown!
(16)  Few extra bobby pins: Just in case you want to pin back a few strands of way-ward hair for your hairstyle.
(17)  Band-Aids