Lessons in Memory of my brother Dale Alan Konigsburg
September 13, 2004 – Number 5764-38
Wedding 7 – The Wedding Ceremony- Part IV: After the Ceremony
I mentioned three weeks ago that there are three ways a person gets married under Jewish Law; by contract, by money and by sexual relations for the purpose of marriage. All three have been made a part of the Jewish wedding ceremony. We have seen that the contract is fulfilled by the writing and signing of the Ketubah and when the groom hands this document to the bride under the huppah in front of proper witnesses and she accepts it from his hand. The money part of the wedding is when the groom hands the bride a ring and recites the marriage formula in front of proper witnesses. After the wedding ceremony is concluded, the bride and groom leave the room where the wedding takes place, leading the recessional of those in the wedding party. They go directly to a room where they can be alone and two witnesses are assigned to guard the door so that they will not be disturbed. This originally was when the marriage was consummated.
Today, in almost all cases, this time alone, called in Hebrew, “Yichud” meaning, “Alone,”is just symbolic time together. Since a wedding day is considered to be a mini Yom Kippur, many brides and grooms are fasting that day, and this time is when they break their fast. The food is placed in the room before they get there and they have some time together to break their fast. By Jewish Law, an unmarried man and an unmarried woman should not be alone together so this time is their first “official” time together as husband and wife. Since a modern wedding is a rather overwhelming and hectic day, this time alone allows the couple to pause and remember why they decided to get married in the first place. Even if the couple are ready to enjoy their wedding reception, they should still spend this time alone. Let the rest of the family and wedding party do the receiving line duty. The bride and groom require this time alone. A minimum of ten minutes is fine, it can be 20-30 minutes depending on if they need to eat. This is not time to check makeup, hair or fix the wedding dress. It is alone time, just the two of them, and everyone else who needs them, even the photographer, will have to settle for a picture of the two guards at the door. One last point of Jewish law: “Everyone knows why a bride and groom enter the room for Yihud, but it is not proper/polite to speak about it.” This applies to others at the reception or to make jokes about it to the bride and groom. It is a major act of impropriety to have this as a topic of discussion, or the punch line of some ribald humor.
The final part of the wedding is the reception. The wedding reception is called a “seudah mitzvah” a “meal in celebration of a mitzvah.” this makes it an integral part of the wedding. It is a great mitzvah to celebrate with a bride and groom on their wedding day. It is a bigger mitzvah to do something to increase their joy. This could be as simple as bringing a gift, or performing a dance, or skit or just having a good time in honor of the couple. Because the meal is part of the mitzvah, one should keep the festivities in good taste. Judaism sees food as holy so turning the sharing of the wedding cake into smearing the frosting on the bride and groom is not appropriate. While the bride throwing the flowers is OK, the garter/groom event is in poor taste. Toasting the bride and groom should be a sign of honor, not the occasion for blue humor. The Wedding feast should end with the Birkat HaMazon, the blessing after the meal and at a wedding this includes a repetition of the seven wedding blessings, and another opportunity to honor seven guests by having them each recite one of these blessings. During the wedding ceremony, the first blessing is the blessing over the wine. During Birkat HaMazon, the wine blessing is done last and the second blessing is recited first.
Traditionally, the bride and groom do not leave on their honeymoon after the wedding reception. The wedding festivities go on for a week. There is another Seudah Mitzvah each evening with a chance to honor seven more guests with the seven wedding blessings. At each of these meals, it is a great mitzvah to bring additional joy to the bride and groom.
Next week: Brit Milah