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What to Expect at a Sheva Brachot

What to Expect at a Sheva Brachot

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Someone you know is getting married, and you are invited to one of the Sheva Brachot celebrations in the days following the wedding. What do you need to know?

What is a Sheva Brachot?

During the week following a wedding, festive get-togethers are held in honor of the couple. Each of these events—usually an elegant dinner—is called a Sheva Brachot ("Seven Blessings"), referring to the seven blessings that will be recited each time following the Grace After Meals. They are the same blessings that were recited at the wedding itself under the chuppah, expressing requests for G‑d's blessing for the newlywed couple.

Though not mandatory, it has become common to have a Sheva Brachot every day of that first week. Traditionally, family and close friends divvy up the honors of hosting them.

The size of the crowd may vary from an intimate tableful of guests to an entire community in a public hall, but there will always be at least a minyan—quorum of ten Jewish men—present so that the Seven Blessings can be recited.

In addition, there also needs to be at least one “new face” (panim chadashot) at each get-together—someone who did not attend the wedding or any of the previous Sheva Brachot. The reason for getting together now is to make the bride and groom happy, and having a new person there revs up the celebratory feeling. (On Shabbat there doesn’t need to be a new person, because the day of Shabbat itself is an important guest.)

What to wear, What to bring:

A Sheva Brachot is usually an elegant affair. Men will feel most comfortable in a suit or blazer and a kippah, and women, in a modest dress or a modest skirt and top.

Gifts are not expected at a Sheva Brachot. Your presence at the Sheva Brachot itself is a gift to the bride and groom.

What to expect:

One thing to know about attending a Sheva Brachot is that the bride and groom may come late—it is almost expected. You should still come on time, according the host’s invitation.

The Sheva Brachot meal itself will often feature separate seating for men and women. You may be directed to a specific spot, or you may be expected to just find a seat at the table (or part of the table) reserved for your gender.

The focus of a Sheva Brachot is a sit-down meal. In Judaism a meal is always anchored by bread, and it is common at a Sheva Brachot for each guest to find a little challah roll at his or her place. If you need help with the ritual washing for bread, your host or neighbor will be happy to help you.

The meal traditionally features a lot of singing and some words of Torah–often delivered by the groom, as well as others. Some of the speeches might be long… So settle in.

If the meal is being hosted in someone’s home, and there is no wait staff, feel free to try to lend a hand with clearing plates or passing food around.

Following the common custom, when the meal is over, two cups of wine are poured. The leader of the Grace After Meals recites the words while holding the first cup of wine. It is then time for the Sheva Brachot blessings themselves. Six of the men are invited to each recite a blessing of the Sheva Brachot while holding the second cup of wine (they don’t drink any). The leader of the Grace After Meals then says the seventh blessing over the first cup of wine, and drinks some of it.

Wine from both cups is mixed together, and the bride and groom are given some of the blended wine to drink.

One last thing to know: Sheva Brachot come in all shapes and sizes. Most commonly it is an elegant dinner, either home-made or catered, but if your hosts tell you that this is going to be a pizza bowling party, believe them, not us, and leave the elegant duds at home.

Did you find this informative? This is part of a series of “What to Expect” articles that offer visitors a basic understanding of Jewish rituals and traditions.

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