All imagery by Blake Ezra Photography. This is part 7 of the 9-part Jewish Wedding Traditions Explained series.
This is it, the time has come. With so much preparation carried out for this very moment, the ring placed upon the finger, every guest in the room hurriedly preparing their iPhones to take a shot, and clearing their vocal chords to shout “Mazal Tov”, it’s time to break the glass!
Such is the synonymy between Jewish weddings and smashing a glass, that we hear the most uber-cool Jewish wedding blog has been named after this very tradition. This site wasn’t named ‘Dancing the Hora’ or ‘Eating the Canapés’, but Smashing The Glass, as this is THE moment of the Jewish wedding.
The glass, usually wrapped up in a cloth or napkin, is placed on the floor in front of the groom. However before it is smashed, it’s traditional at most Jewish weddings for the Rabbi or Chazan (Cantor) to sing a Hebrew song called Im Eshkakech Yerushalayim, or in English… ‘If I forget you, Jerusalem’. This commemorates the falling of Jerusalem and destruction of the two Jewish temples that once stood there.
It’s said that whenever Jewish people experience immense joy, they should also remember the less joyous times in their ancestry. With celebration comes commemoration. So once the less beautiful times have been remembered, the time comes for the groom to break the glass. Why is this done? Great question.
There are many reasons that Jewish grooms break a glass at the end of their ceremony, sealing the marriage to their Bride. The first being, in keeping with the song that had just been sung, to commemorate the destruction faced by Jewish people over the past two thousand years, a nod to the suffering that had come before. After all, if you can remember the dark times even on the brightest of days, you’ll never allow them to be forgotten.
Beyond that, the interpretations range from the humorous, such as this is probably the last time the groom will ever get to put his foot down, to the much more beautiful reason (a personal favourite) that smashing a valuable item symbolises a marriage is not about material goods, but about two people being together and committed to each other.
Another great interpretation of this tradition is that by breaking the glass, all potential cracks in the relationship go onto the glass, and the relationship should remain seamless and wonderful always.
So the foot goes down, the glass is smashed, the couple is married, two families have come together, everyone shouts ‘Mazal Tov’ and gets ready to party. What next? What becomes of this heap of broken glass, lying alone in a cloth on the floor beneath the chuppah? Many couples choose to have something made from their glass, a mosaic in a frame or something equally decorative. Many artists, showcasing their work online, offer to create a beautiful piece to be displayed in the marital home, so the couple gets to see their glass every day. For this reason, many couples choose to have a coloured or even multi-coloured vessel, knowing that it’ll look great above the fireplace or up in the hallway a few months after the wedding.
Smashing the glass is a wonderful tradition, and one which can mean a different thing to many couples. Personalise it, make it your own, and know that this moment truly marks the start of your married life together.
In next week’s instalment of Jewish wedding traditions explained, we’ll look at ‘Yichud’, which is when the newly married couple spend a few moments alone together in private before joining their guests. In fact, in times past, this is when the marriage would have been consummated. Learn everything there is to know about this very special ritual next week.