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Jewish Wedding Traditions in Russia

18. November 2009 by Marie 0 Comments

In many ways, a Jewish wedding in Russia (which once had Europe's highest populations of Jews) is like other Jewish weddings. But withits own speical twists.

The engagement period and the signing of a marriage contract (Ketubah) often preceeds a Jewish wedding in Russia.

The chuppah, or marriage canopy, is set up under a starry night sky, as God promised Abraham that his people would multiply like stars. The bride and groom are escorted to the chuppah by both sets of parents. The canopy itself is held up on poles by single Jewish men.

The ceremony starts with the reading of the Ketubah. The groom hands a symbolic gift or dowry to the bride’s father. Depending on the couple's circumstances, it can be a piece of bread or a sum of cash. Most often, it's a nice piece of jewelry.

Only the bride wears a wedding ring, and this must be perfectly smooth and free from flaws or scratches. The rabbi and witnesses even have to check its smoothness.

The groom then puts the ring on the bride’s finger and pronounces: “You are hereby dedicated to me by the Law of Moses and Israel.”

As is typical in all traditional Jewish weddings, the groom smashes an empty wine glass with his foot to end the ceremony (see photo). This ritual symbolizes memories of the destruction of Jerusalem.

When the ceremony itself is over, the newlyweds spend about 15 minutes together alone in a special room. There's no sex involved here, just more symbolism. Once the bride emerges from that room, she is officially considered a married lady!

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