All imagery by Blake Ezra Photography. This is part 5 of the 9-part Jewish Wedding Traditions Explained series.
The word ‘chuppah’ is used in two ways. Firstly, it’s the Hebrew name of the canopy under which Jewish couples get married. Secondly, it’s also colloquially used as another word for ‘ceremony’. So if someone asks you “When’s the chuppah?” don’t assume they’ve lost all grasp of how to put a sentence together, they’re not asking when the canopy is, but when the ceremony starts.
So what is a chuppah? Why do Jewish couples get married underneath one? What do they do when they get there?
The chuppah, like many elements of a Jewish wedding, is beautifully symbolic. It symbolises the home that the couple will build together in their married life, and is open on all sides like the biblical tent of Abraham and Sarah, signifying that everyone is welcome and that everyone will be treated hospitably.
For readers of this blog, who may be planning their own Jewish wedding, the chuppah is also one of the great opportunities to personalise your ceremony. It can range from a massively decadent, custom-designed piece of floral artistry, to four friends holding poles, upon which sits a custom made quilt or Jewish prayer shawl, called a Tallit.