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.”
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!
Completely covered in flowers? Check!
Photo by Magnolia Pair Photography via Grey Likes Weddings
Suspended from above by tree branches? Do it!
Dripping with twinkle lights? OMG yes!
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!
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.
What sort of symbols or traditions did you include in your ceremony? How did you make them your own?