Religion & Beliefs

Wedding Etiquette, and Where to Find Rockin’ A Klezmer Band

June is almost over, but the Jewish wedding season is just getting started. I have a number of friends with weddings almost every weekend from now until Labor day. I only have to buy one blender this summer, but it … Read More

By / June 28, 2007
Jewcy loves trees! Please don't print!

June is almost over, but the Jewish wedding season is just getting started. I have a number of friends with weddings almost every weekend from now until Labor day. I only have to buy one blender this summer, but it seems like wedding talk is all over the place, so I thought I’d give some tips on what to expect at different kinds of weddings, and some customs to consider if you’re thinking of tying the knot sometime soon-ish. This is obviously not a comprehensive listing, just a few helpful tips. There are about a billion books about wedding planning, and even Jewish wedding planning (most notably The New Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant of The Red Tent fame), so I’m just going to list some things those books might overlook. Planning If you’re not already aware of it, ask if there’s a gemach for wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, mother of the bride dresses, table linens, centerpieces…you get the picture. Gemachs are basically libraries of items available for rent or even for free if someone can’t otherwise afford something. We hear about tefillin gemachs, and wedding dress gemachs, but many large communities have gemachs for everything from sheitels to chuppas. These are available to you even if you’re not Orthodox, and they can help you save tons of money, though you should be aware that if you’re looking for a sleeveless wedding dress you won’t find it at a frum gemach You probably want to check out Calm Kallahs. When it starts to gross you out, head over to Only Simchas and set up your engagement home page. Wait for all your friends from high school to post giggly messages. Gloat. The Week Before My favorite wedding custom is rarely practiced by my friends, but is no less cool in my eyes. Basically, the bride and groom are forbidden from seeing or speaking to each other for a full week before the wedding. I’ve never seen a source brought to support this, the reasons seems to be simply that they’ll miss each other so much it will make the wedding that much more exciting. Though logistically I imagine it’s a nightmare, what with rehearsal dinners being something of an impossibility, it strikes me as incredibly cool. A couple of friends of mine did this before their wedding, and every night they left each other voicemail messages…it’s pretty seriously cute. At the Wedding

You probably want a little printed out guide/program to let everyone know what’s going on. I came across an amazing one for a couple I’ve never met, Jen and Seth. It’s really funny and informative in a clever fun way. Awesome excerpt:

Now we get into the ceremony itself – finally! The marriage ceremony, while solemnizing the holy joining of man and woman into a new Jewish household, is also a business deal. As such, it must conform to three rules: (1) don't touch the merchandise before you buy it; (2) don't pay for the merchandise before you see it; (3) NEVER PAY RETAIL.


Jewish weddings have two parts, kiddushin (betrothal) and nissuin (marriage). These parts were historically separated by a time period up to a year long. However, since Jewish history, particularly in Europe, was never very peaceful, it became risky to have too long a time between betrothal and marriage, since the groom might end up dead in a pogrom or something in the meantime. So now the two parts are done consecutively in one day.

You may not want to copy Jen and Seth (and you should probably get their permission if you do want to copy them) but try to put together something for Aunt Ida to fan herself with while the bride is circling the groom. At many weddings while the Bride is waiting to be veiled the groom gives a tisch, or a little sermon, to his friends and family (traditionally only the men are invited, but I’ve been to a number of coed pre-chuppa tisches in my day). The talk is accompanied by many l’chaims, and it’s customary to interrupt him as much as possible, and to constantly be lightening the mood, because it’s supposed to be such a happy day for him. A good pre-chuppa tisch is key. At most observant weddings the groom wears a kittel, that white robe that he’s supposed to wear on the high holidays, and I know of at least one wedding where the bride wore one over her dress while they were under the chuppa. It’s a little silly looking, but I’m all for it. Part of most Jewish weddings is the reading of the ketubah. Since the text of the ketubah is in Aramaic some people think it’s boring (I have a weird obsession with Aramaic, so I dig it, but whatev) but I encourage you to do it, and to make sure you have a woman do the public reading. Why? Because a little while back Rabbi Hershel Schacter of Yeshiva University made the following statement about whether or not it’s okay for women to read the ketubah at a wedding:

Since the whole purpose of krias hekesuba is to introduce a pause between the brachos over the two cups of wine, the longer the pause – the better! (See Beikvei Hatzohn pg. 268.)So it is a correct observation that if one only studies Even Hoezer Hilchos Kiddushin and Hilchos Nisuin there's absolutely no mention whatsoever that anything is wrong with a woman reading the kesuba. Yes, a monkey could also read the kesuba!

Monkeys, women, talking parrots, a gorilla using Aramaic sign language—they’re all fine! If that wasn’t offensive enough, Rav Shachter goes on to say that even though it’s permissible for women to read the ketuba, they shouldn’t because it’s a public thing, and such a display would be immodest. Since I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the world who’s actually turned on by someone reading in Aramaic, I feel like I can go ahead and say Shachter is being ridiculous. I’m not attracted to girls, so we’re out of the woods. Anyway, I say have a chick with a miniskirt read your ketubah just to stick it to our monkey loving YU posek. Also, after the groom breaks the glass I am strongly in favor of tongue kissing under the chuppa.

Bring In Da Noise, Bring in Da Klezmer We’ve already established that I have a crush on all things Sephardic, but at a Jewish wedding, there’s nothing like getting down to some seriously rockin’ klezmer music. I am slightly obsessed with the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band in Chicago, but I’m sure there’s an excellent klezmer band near you (even if you live in Denmark). Klezmershack has a nice listing of hundreds of bands that you can search by location, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding someone who’s handy with a clarinet. A lot of these bands have people they can bring in to do regular wedding songs (I’m looking to marry a man who will be totally cool with a wedding song that’s totally inappropriate. Sex and Candy by Marcy Playground, maybe? Just cause it would be hilarious), so don’t feel like you need to hire multiple bands to satisfy both Jewish and regular dancing requirements. But I really feel the klezmer part is not optional. Mazel tov!

Go have awesome sex, already.