It is customary for the bride and groom to host pre-nuptial receptions shortly before the chupah ceremony. The bride hosts a women's reception in one room, and the groom hosts a reception for the men in a nearby room. Hors d'oeuvres, light refreshments, and l'chaims are served at both receptions. A more elaborate smorgasbord is traditionally arranged at the bride's reception.
At the Bridal Reception:
The bride sits on a distinctive, ornate throne-like chair. Her friends and family approach, wish her mazal tov and offer their heartfelt wishes and words of encouragement.
At the Groom's Reception:
Songs are sung, and often the groom -- or another person present -- delivers some words of Torah.
The bride sits on a distinctive, ornate throne-like chairIn many communities, the tena'im is written and signed at the groom's reception. The tena'im (literally: conditions) is a document which lists the various obligations of the bride's and groom's families towards the couple, such as the wedding expenses and the new household startup costs. After the document is signed, someone is honored with reading the tena'im. (This honor is given to someone who can read Aramaic fluently.) At the conclusion of this reading, the mothers of the bride and groom break a china or glass plate. In the absence of one or both of them, the women who will escort the bride or groom to the chupah do the honors.
By many weddings, the ketubah (marriage contract) is also completed, witnessed, and signed at this reception.
In Chabad circles, it is customary for the groom to deliver a chassidic discourse which discusses the mystical implications of marriage.
Separate Receptions: The custom whereby groom and bride do not see each other for the week prior to the wedding (until the veiling ceremony) necessitates the separate receptions.
Breaking the Plate: The irreversible act of breaking a plate is symbolic of the finality of the just-read tena'im.
Chassidic Discourse: The particular discourse recited contains ideas culled from the writings of all the Chabad Rebbes, and serves as an official "invitation" for these holy chassidic masters to join and bless the wedding ceremony.