Sacred Moments before and after a Jewish Wedding
Jewish custom offers several special moments during a wedding. So many things happen on the day of a wedding that it’s easy to get distracted and end up with only a photograph or video of a ceremony from which you were mentally absent. The struggle, then, is to find sacred moments to refocus and remember what the wedding is really about.
For example, just before the ceremony, the kallah and chatan (bride and groom) meet face-to-face in a short ceremony called a bedeken (“covering”), in which the couple has a moment together to affirm their intentions just before entering the ceremony. Originally, this was when the groom made sure he was marrying the right woman before he pulled down her veil, which hid her face from view.
Similarly, Jewish couples traditionally retreat for a few minutes alone in a quiet room immediately after the wedding, a period called a yichud. Because the bride and groom customarily fast on their wedding day, the yichud is time for them to share their first meal together (perhaps a snack of fruit and cheese) while they mull over what they’ve just done.
In the old days, this was the time when the marriage was consummated, though fortunately couples no longer have to perform under that kind of pressure.
Finally, the celebration after the wedding is a good time to schmooze with relatives, eat, drink, and dance. However, Jewish sages have long taught that this is really a holy and sacred party. That explains why the newly married bride and groom are so often hoisted up in chairs and danced around like royalty by their friends and family, each holding one end of a handkerchief.