Jewish Wedding Traditions | Your Guide to Customs and Rituals
Jewish wedding days are comprised of a collection of special and unique moments that are sure to make great photographic memories that will last for years to come.
Jewish wedding days constitute one of the holiest days of the bride and groom’s lives and are often compared to the holiday of Yom Kippur (or “day of atonement”), which is one of the most important holy days of the Jewish year. Traditionally, within the Jewish faith, it is believed the wedding day cleanses the bride and groom of all their past mistakes as the couple is merged into a new, complete and singular soul.
The journey towards this unification of souls is built on a number of unique traditions that make up a Jewish wedding day, and even these traditions vary within different branches of Judaism. Every wedding is different. Furthermore, some Jewish weddings only incorporate one or two traditions out of respect to the families, while others observe several. With such an array of nuances and elements, it is important that photographers know the important moments to capture.
In this guide, you will learn about several Jewish wedding traditions, from the ketubah signing to the hora dance, among others.
PLEASE NOTE: We created this guide to help prepare photographers to successfully photograph Jewish weddings. The information shared in this guide has been culled from our own experiences photographing Jewish American weddings and does not proclaim to be a definitive guide that includes every possible Jewish wedding tradition. We recognize there may and likely will be traditions, however frequently or infrequently observed, that are not represented within this guide.
Jewish Wedding TIMELINE
While photographers do not usually create wedding timelines (a job handled more often by wedding planners & coordinators), they should familiarize themselves with the timeline so that they can anticipate the major events that are scheduled to occur throughout the day and plan accordingly.
PLEASE NOTE: The timeline presented below is intended to serve only as an example of what a timeline might look like for a Jewish wedding. Actual timelines for all weddings will vary.
09:00 am – Bridal party hair and makeup begins
12:00 pm – Photographer arrives | Prep portraits & details
12:45 pm – Individual portraits of bride & groom
01:30 pm – First look/Couple’s daytime session
02:15 pm – Bridal party portraits
02:45 pm – Photographs of ceremony details
03:00 pm – Ketubah signing
03:30 pm – Ceremony
04:30 pm – Family formals
05:00 pm – Couples session
05:00 pm – Cocktail details & guests mingling
05:30 pm – Reception details
06:00 pm – Doors open to reception
06:15 pm – Grand entrance
06:30 pm – Dinner, speeches
08:00 pm – Open dance floor
08:30 pm – Sneak away session
09:00 pm – Cake cutting ceremony/dessert
09:10 pm – Dancing continues until conclusion
**There may be a grand exit, but not always.
Jewish Wedding Glossary
Here is a quick reference list of terms you should know before photographing a Jewish wedding:
A loaf of rich white bread leavened with yeast and containing eggs, often braided before baking, prepared especially for the Jewish Sabbath.
A canopy under which the Jewish marriage ceremony is performed.
A traditional Romanian and Israeli round/circle dance. The bride and groom are commonly lifted on chairs into the center of the circle.
The formal contract in a Jewish religious marriage that includes specific financial protection for the wife in the event that the husband dies or divorces her.
A betrothal ceremony preceding the Jewish marriage ceremony; it is accomplished when the groom and bride exchange rings.
An expression of congratulations and best wishes.
A shawl-like garment of wool, silk, or the like, with fringes, or zizith, at the four corners, worn around the shoulders by Orthodox and Conservative (sometimes also Reform) Jews.
A skullcap worn, especially during prayer and religious study, by Jewish males, especially those adhering to Orthodox or Conservative tradition.