One of my favorite traditions at a Jewish wedding is the hora.
The hora (or "horah") is a circle dance typically performed to Hava Nagilah. I love the wild exuberance of the dance and I especially love the expressions on the newly married couple when they are raised in the air on the chairs and the expressions of the brave souls lifting the chairs!
It’s usually also one of the times at a wedding reception when the majority of guests are on the dance floor so it’s a great opportunity to take photographs of their interaction. During the hora I am typically giving most of my focus to the couple, their parents, and their family members.
Some horas feature only the newly married couple up on the chairs but others raise the mothers and fathers as well. Sometimes even their siblings go up in the chairs!
There are other beautiful traditions at Jewish weddings that I am honored to document. I love that every Jewish wedding I have photographed has incorporated many, some, all, very few, or even more of the traditions than the one before. I love seeing families customize their day in a way that honors their religion and culture, and how every family expresses that differently.
I am not Jewish. My husband is. We crafted our day to honor both of us, discarding some elements and adding others. The end result was a day that was uniquely us.
If you're not Jewish and find yourself at a Jewish wedding, here are some traditions that you might see. If you are Jewish, here are many things you might be incorporating in the days and weeks leading up to your event, as well as at your wedding itself.
At a heterosexual Jewish wedding, the bride and groom are held separate before the ceremony to celebrate, welcome their guests, and pray. During the tisch, the groom traditionally sings songs and reads aloud from the Torah with his family and friends. I especially love when the mothers break a plate during this part of the day!
At a same-sex wedding, the tisch and bedeken can be carried out in a number of amazing, inclusive ways. You can celebrate together or separately however you choose, and I'm always so honored to document the way that every couple makes this part of the day their own. From dual tisch's to a bedeken that involved putting on kippuh instead of veils, the glory and honor that you give to this part of your day can be customized to represent you, your families, and your love.
If the wedding consists of a bride and a groom, the ceremony veiling the bride is one of my favorites. The veiling has a wonderful history dating back to Laban tricking Jacob to marry Leah instead of his beloved Rachel. This moment is sometimes funny, sometimes awkwardly charming, sometimes elegant and reverent, but always so very sweet.
Sometimes this moment happens at the end of the kabbalat panim, sometimes it happens at the end of the ketubah signing if there is no formal kabbalat panim beforehand.
The ketubah, or Jewish marriage license, is traditionally signed before the official ceremony. The ketubah puts in writing the responsibilities that grooms traditionally had to their brides. I especially love modern ketubahs that cite their responsibility to each other, or for one bride to another or one groom to another.
I love the beauty of the ketubah and what it represents. I love seeing the gorgeous art that my clients choose as their marriage license, knowing that art will be framed and hung in their homes.
I love seeing each ketubah personalized for each client, from interfaith ketubot to LGBTQIA ketubot. Personalizing such an important document is such a crucial part to making your day uniquely yours.
Amongst the many beautiful traditions during a Jewish wedding ceremony, my favorites include:
I've mentioned the hora already for good reason - it's amazing fun! I also love when they have a mezinka for the parents when their child is the last child in their home to be married. The mezinka is when the parents sit in a circle of their family and friends, and everyone dances up to congratulate them. This often happens towards the end of the night, and is an amazingly joyous ceremony full of incredible moments to document.
Other things that you might see at a Jewish wedding reception, or include into your own wedding day, include:
If you are planning a Jewish wedding, I'd love to hear from you. I'd love to learn about what traditions you are incorporating into your day, as well as what you are doing to personalize your day to reflect you both as a couple. I'd love to talk with you about your wedding photography, and I'd love to document your day!
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