So what do those funny-sounding Yiddishe/ Aramaic/Hebrew words associated with a Jewish Wedding really mean? It’s all laid out below for you complete with some all-important insights if you want to be really in the know…
AUFRUF: A short ceremony during the Shabbat (Sabbath) synagogue service that normally takes place on the Saturday morning before the wedding. The groom (and sometimes the bride) are honoured in front of their community. This is often followed by a small party or lunch (any excuse to add some food into a ritual).
ARAMAIC: A semitic language related to Hebrew that is often used as the wording in the ketubah (and a near-unpronouncable dialect that only rabbis seem to be able to enunciate / read).
ASHKENAZI: Jews of Eastern and Central European descent.
BADEKEN: A short but meaningful ceremony where the groom covers the bride’s face with her veil. It occurs just before the actual wedding ceremony and is a custom that derives from the biblical account of Jacob’s first marriage, when he was deceived to marry the heavily veiled Leah instead of Rachel, his intended bride.
The badeken is often emotionally charged as the bride and groom may not have seen each other for 24 hours or longer (as much as 7 days) until this moment.
The Badeken ceremony as seen at Karen & Jeremy’s wedding [image by Earthy Photography]
BENCHERS / BENCHING: A small booklet containing the Jewish blessings for a meal (or a Jewish songbook for dinner – we love singing!)
BIRKAT HAMAZON: Jewish blessings recited after a meal – known in English as Grace after Meals (or a Jewish songbook for after dinner jollity).
CHATAN: Hebrew word for groom or a son-in-law. It comes from the verb meaning to tie, connect or covenant.
CHAZAN: A cantor – often a trained musician – who plays an active role in the ceremony in prayers said as songs (and he more often that not sings better than the rabbi).
CHALLAH: Delicious sweet plaited white bread eaten on Shabbat and at celebrations (a bit like a brioche – absolutely scrumptious toasted with a little butter).
CHUPPAH: The wedding canopy which sits atop four poles that represents the couple’s future home(often mistakenly pronounced as ‘Chopper’ as in the bike , or ‘Chupa [Chups]’ as in the lollipops).
A Jewish Chuppah as seen at Lee Ann & Andre’s’ wedding [image by Gavin Hart Photography]
HA MOTZI: A Jewish blessing recited over bread.
HAVA NAGILA: A traditional Hebrew folk song played at Jewish weddings (it’s become the absolute staple of Jewish wedding bands).
HENNA: A plant dye used to stain the skin of brides in the Sephardi tradition. Sephardi Jews sometimes make henna parties for the bride and groom in the week before the wedding. During the henna party, the oldest member of the family smudges henna on the palms of the bride and groom’s hands with the intention of bestowing upon the couple elements of a happy life. See Rachel and Emile’s engagement party for an example of a Henna Party.
HORA: Celebratory dance in which bride and groom are lifted up on chairs (don’t eat too much beforehand or it really can be a horror).
‘The Hora Dance’ as seen at Karen & Jeremy’s wedding [image by Earthy Photography]
KABBALAT PANIM: A pre-nuptial reception in honour of the bride and groom shortly before the chuppah ceremony
KALLAH: Hebrew word for bride
KASHRUT: Jewish dietary law (often gets in the way of serving a ‘seafood feast’ at a Jewish wedding).
KETUBAH: The Jewish marriage contract.
Jewish Wedding Ketubah as seen at Lee Ann & Andre’s wedding [image by Gavin Hart Photography]
KIDDUSH: The traditional Jewish blessing and prayer recited over wine.
KIDDUSH CUP: The Jewish wine glass or goblet which is used on Shabbat, Jewish holiday meals, and under the chuppah. It’s often an heirloom that has been passed down through the generations, but any cup can function as a Kiddush cup if necessary.
KIPPAH / KIPPOT Head coverings for men. Alternative words are ‘yarmulkas’ or ‘cupples’ (and extremely handy for covering up premature bald patches).
KITTEL: A white linen robe worn by male Jews in some Ashkenazi communities on special occasions to signify purity, holiness and new beginnings. Traditionally, a Jewish man first wears a kittel on his wedding day, thereafter on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover, and ultimately as a burial shroud.
The groom wearing a ‘kittel’ as worn by Ben in Sara & Ben’s wedding [image: ByCherry Photography]
KLEZMER: Traditional Yiddish celebratory music often danced to at Jewish weddings (a lot of clarinet).
KOSHER: Food that meets Jewish dietary restrictions (which means that lobster and langoustine are off the menu).
MAZAL TOV: Exclamation meaning, “Good Luck / Woo Hoo / Fantastic news!”
MECHITZA: A partition used to separate men and women in some more Orthodox Jewish weddings.
MIKVAH: A ritual purification and cleansing bath that orthodox Jewish brides-to-be take shortly before their wedding day.
MITZVAH: A good deed. (Some say it’s a mitzvah to be mighty with your wife or husband on a Friday night).
MIZRAHI: Jews of Middle Eastern descent.
SHTICK: A segment of orthodox weddings where the bride and groom are entertained by the guests
SEPHARDI: Jews of Spanish, Portuguese, and North African descent.
SHABBAT: Jewish Sabbath beginning Friday at sundown and ending Saturday at sundown (basically a weekly get-together with lots of food, chit-chat and family).
SHEVA BRACHOT: The seven marriage blessings recited under the chuppah, also known in Hebrew as ‘birkot nissuin’.
SIMCHA: A Jewish party or celebration (and never complete without food).
TALLIT / TALLIS / TALIT / TALIS: A prayer shawl – often white in colour with fringed corners – worn over the head and shoulders by Jewish males during religious services. It is sometimes also used as a symbolic chuppah canopy.
TISH: Yiddish for table, it’s a light-hearted discussion held before the wedding ceremony for Orthodox Jews
TORAH: The first five books of the Hebrew Bible. (otherwise known as the Old Testament).
YICHUD: The brief seclusion of bride and groom immediately following the wedding ceremony (in times past this is when the marriage would have been consummated, or in modern day parlance, a good reason for a ‘quickie’.)
A peek into the ‘Yichud’ as seen at Karen & Jeremy’s wedding [image by Earthy Photography]
Have I missed anything out? Let me know any additional words or definitions that might be of help for the ultimate Jewish wedding glossary, in the comments section below.