All imagery by Blake Ezra Photography. This is part 6 of the 9-part Jewish Wedding Traditions Explained series.
In the last five weeks on Smashing The Glass we’ve made it through from waking up on the morning of the wedding to standing under the chuppah. One key part of the ceremony are The Seven Blessings, or as they’re known in Hebrew the Sheva Brachot.
Seven blessings are said (or sung) over a cup of wine, which the Bride and Groom then drink from, giving them these blessings for the rest of their life together. Sometimes the Rabbi, or Chazan, will sing these blessings to the Bride and Groom under the chuppah.
If you’re planning a wedding, an incredible way to make your service more personal and interactive, whilst also honouring those who are most important in your relationship, whether that’s a grandparent or the person who set you up on your first date, is to invite seven people each to give a blessing. Each one will come up to the chuppah, one-by-one, hold the cup of wine and say or sing their piece.
One other really beautiful touch is to invite those people bestowing the blessings upon the Bride and Groom to also write their own blessing, something personal which can be read out after the official blessing in whatever language is understood by most guests, which may or may not be Hebrew or Aramaic!
The final blessing is the one that is most specifically about the wedding, the Bride and the Groom, and in many communities it is encouraged for those who know the words to sing along. It’s also the longest, so if you are planning on asking friends or family members to read these in Hebrew, perhaps choose a fluent reader for this one! You may have heard this beautiful melody famous for the words ‘Kol Sasson v’Kol Simcha’, which means “the sound of joy and the sound of happiness”.
It blesses God for creating “joy and happiness, Groom and Bride, gladness, jubilation, cheer and delight, love, friendship, harmony and fellowship.” It also prays to G-d, to “let there speedily be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the sound of a Groom and the sound of a Bride, the sound of joy of Grooms from under their chuppah, and youths from their joyous banquets.” It ends with “Blessed are you who bestows happiness upon the Groom with the Bride.”
For couples who plan on doing Grace After Meals later on in their day, the Sheva Brachot are also traditionally sung again at the end of this prayer, so it’s another opportunity to get close friends and family involved, and to honour them by making them an important part of the wedding.
In next week’s instalment of Jewish wedding traditions explained, we’ll look at one of my very favourite of all the rituals, the smashing of the glass!