Symbol of a Home: The Chuppah

When planning our wedding ceremony, we started by researching the history and modern interpretations of each traditional element to decide if it was meaningful enough to us to include in our ceremony. I’ve mentioned before about weddings in general that we don’t want to include anything just because “that’s what people do when they get married.”

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Photo by Michele M. Waite via Green Wedding Shoes

Perhaps the most iconic image of a Jewish wedding is the scene of the bride and groom sharing a kiss under the chuppah, or Jewish wedding canopy. The chuppah symbolizes the home that the couple will create together. I knew this much before we started, but the deeper we dug into the symbolism, the more it gave me happy chills imagining standing under it on our wedding day. Here is a passage that we chose to reflect our personal interpretation; we will have our officiating rabbi read a version of this, as well as include a condensed version in our programs. It’s a bit long, but stick with me—you’re all wedding saps like me, so I know you’ll enjoy it.

We are here at a time of happiness to celebrate K and M’s love and the commitment they have made to marriage. They stand together under the chuppah, or bridal canopy. The chuppah is a multifaceted symbol that represents the promise of the home they will create together. The chuppah is that which we take for our home when we are promising each other everything. It is raised, for most of us, once in a lifetime. It is not permanent, but it is the promise of a home.

The four sides of the chuppah are open. The openness pledges that there will be no secrets. Members of their families and their closest friends stand at the corners to anchor the fragile structure down. Friends and family fill the home. For the roof of their chuppah, K and M have chosen a beautiful tablecloth that was handmade by M’s late grandmother, Nona. This symbolizes the importance of what is beyond ourselves and our presence, in our hearts, of those whom we love who cannot rejoice with us today.

The chuppah does not promise that love or hope or pledges will keep out weather or catastrophe. But its few lines are a sketch for what might be. The flimsiness of the chuppah reminds us that the only thing that is real about a home is the people in it who love and choose to be together, to be a family. The only anchor that they will have will be holding each other’s hands. The chuppah is the house of promises. It is the home of hope.

The above is adapted from Celebrating Interfaith Marriages by Rabbi Devon A. Lerner.

Such a beautiful symbol, right?? There are just a few rules to made a chuppah kosher:

  • The chuppah must be a temporary structure and should be handmade.
  • The chuppah cannot be entirely made of trees or flowers.

Other than that, pretty much anything goes. If you want a super modern laser-cut chuppah like the one pictured above, go for it!

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Photo by Luna Photo via Style Me Pretty

Completely covered in flowers? Check!

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Photo by Magnolia Pair Photography via Grey Likes Weddings

Suspended from above by tree branches? Do it!

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Photo by Jennifer Blair via Style Me Pretty

Dripping with twinkle lights? OMG yes!

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L: Photo by Marta Locklear via United With Love; R: Photo by Lauren & Abby Ross via 100 Layer Cake

The look we are most drawn to is this: natural materials, simple style, fresh, and green. We looked into renting a chuppah structure, but the ones we found were pricey ($500-750)! So, of course, we are DIYing. I will post the details when we figure them out!

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Photo by Braedon Photography via Green Wedding Shoes

Chuppahs are often covered with a tallit (or tallis), a Jewish prayer shawl, usually from a cherished family member who has passed. Mr. T lost his grandmother, whom he called Nona, last year, and we wanted to honor her by using a beautiful and intricate tablecloth that she handmade as the cover for our chuppah. This photo does not do its beauty justice, but we are so glad that we can give it a place of honor on such as special day.

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What sort of symbols or traditions did you include in your ceremony? How did you make them your own?

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Mrs. Tractor

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  1. mscrab Bee
    Mrs. Crab 60 posts, Worker bee @ 10:43 am

    Even though I am prone to hyperbole, I am being 100% truthful when I say that I find the symbolism behind the chuppah overwhelmingly beautiful. It is so exciting to have a tradition that confers such meaning and beauty simultaneously to your wedding. Gorgeous!

  2. tractor Bee
    Mrs. Tractor 32 posts, Newbee @ 11:10 am

    @mscrab I’m totally with you on that – I thought about editing some of the portion above for length but I just couldn’t cut out any of it, I love it so so much.

  3. Member
    whitemochi622 676 posts, Busy bee @ 1:06 pm

    I never knew this about the chuppah! I actually read the whole thing–really beautiful and touching!

  4. msnarwhalbee Bee
    Mrs. Narwhal 82 posts, Worker bee @ 3:41 pm

    So beautiful!! I absolutely love the symbolism, and definitely see what you’re keeping it with tradition!

    Also – that first chuppah is incredible.

  5. pyramid Bee
    Mrs. Pyramid 104 posts, Blushing bee @ 6:52 am

    That is a really lovely reading! I’ve never attended a jewish wedding, so I really like reading the details that you and Mrs. Goose provide – everything is so meaningful! Can’t wait to see how you DIY the chuppuh!

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