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The Procession

The Procession

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Jump to: How | Why | Kabbalistic Meaning

How:

The bride and groom are escorted to the chupah by their designated escorts. Usually the escorts are the couple's parents.1 In most communities, the groom is escorted by his parents and the bride by hers. In chassidic and certain other communities, the groom is escorted by his father and father-in-law (with his father to his right), and the bride is escorted by her mother and mother-in-law (with her mother to her right). The escorts lock elbows with the bride and groom while leading them to the chupah. Some have the custom for all the grandparents of the bride and groom to join the entourage as well.

All the escorts -- including the grandparents, in those communities where they too serve as escorts -- hold candles.

The groom is led to the chupah first. Customarily, the band plays a slow moving melody while the bride and groom walk down the aisle. The bride and groom usually notify the band in advance the song (or songs) they wish to be playing when they are walking to the chupah. At Chabad weddings, a hauntingly beautiful and holy melody composed by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi is played -- and sung by those in attendance -- during these holy moments.

Upon arriving at the chupah the bride circles the groomIn most communities, after the groom arrives at the chupah, the cantor (or another who is honored with this duty) welcomes the groom on behalf of all gathered by singing Baruch Haba and Mi Adir, a brief Hebrew greeting which also includes a request for G‑d's blessings for the new couple.

The bride is then escorted to the chupah. In Ashkenazi circles, upon arriving at the chupah the bride circles the groom in counterclockwise direction. Some circle three times, others circle seven times. In some communities the bride alone circles the groom; in others, she is accompanied by all the escorts -- both hers and the grooms. Sephardic brides do not circle their grooms at all.

While the bride is circling the groom, it is customary in many Jewish communities for the cantor to sing Mi Ban Siach. This short hymn extols the bride's modesty and fidelity, and again appeals to G‑d to bless the bride and groom. At Chabad weddings, the Mi Ban Siach liturgy is not recited; instead Rabbi Schneur Zalman's song plays continuously until the bride completes her circuits around the groom, and only after the bride is standing beside the groom does the cantor sing the Mi Adir and Baruch Haba

If any of the parents of the bride or groom are deceased, it is customary in many communities for the cantor to chant an E-l male rachamim (traditional prayer asking G‑d to kindly remember the soul of the deceased) at this juncture of the ceremony. This is an especially appropriate moment for this prayer considering that the souls of the departed parents are certainly present, joining their children on their wedding day.

At Chabad weddings, someone is honored with reading aloud the letter which the Rebbe would customarily send to every bride and groom in honor of the wedding -- a letter which includes his blessings for this special occasion. Some then have the custom of requesting all the Kohanim (priests) who are present -- or a designated representative Kohain -- to bless the bride and groom with the Priestly Blessing.

Why:

Escorts: The escorts support and encourage the young couple who are on their way to the most momentous moment of their lifetimes; preventing them from becoming emotionally overwhelmed on their way to be wed.

Additionally, royalty are always escorted by an entourage. On the day when they are likened to king and queen, the bride and groom are accompanied by a personal "honor guard."

The candles symbolize the wish that the couple's life together be one of light and joyCandles: The candles held by the escorting couples are reminiscent of the flickering light and fire which occurred at the time of the giving of the Torah -- the marriage of G‑d (the groom) and Israel (the bride) under the "chupah" of Mount Sinai.

The candles also symbolizing the fervent wish that the couple's life together be one of light and joy.

Order of arrival: The technical reason for the groom arriving before the bride is a textbook example of the lengths taken to ensure that every detail of the wedding be incontestable. The willingness of the groom to marry his bride is evidenced by that fact that he voluntarily puts the ring on her finger while reciting: "You are betrothed to me..." The bride, however, is a "silent" partner in the wedding ceremony. She expresses her consent to the proceedings -- without which the marriage is null and void -- simply by showing up. If the bride were to arrive at the chupah before the groom, it wouldn't be amply clear that she showed up with the intent to marry this man.

Furthermore, the chupah is symbolic of the groom inviting his bride to join him in his domain.2 The fact that the chupah is the groom's domain is reinforced by the fact that he is the one who arrives first to welcome the bride.

Circling: The tradition of the bride circling the male is an allusion to the prophecy regarding the Messianic Era: "The female will surround [and protect] the male."3 With these circles the bride is creating an invisible wall around her husband; into which she will step -- to the exclusion of all others.

The three bridal circuits symbolize the three expressions of betrothal between G‑d and Israel:4 "I will betroth you unto Me forever. I will betroth you unto Me in mercy, in judgment, in loving kindness, and in righteousness: I will betroth you unto me in faithfulness..."

As mentioned, in many communities -- particularly those which closely follow kabbalistic traditions -- the bride circles the groom seven times. This recalls the seven times Joshua and the Israelites circled the walls of Jericho to bring down its walls. Similarly, the bride circles her groom seven times to break down any remaining walls or barriers between them.

The seven circles also allude to the seven chupahs which G‑d erected in the Garden of Eden in honor of the wedding of Adam and Eve.

The counterclockwise circuits mean that the bride is circling towards her right side. According to kabbalah, the right side is symbolic of G‑d's loving-kindness.

Kabbalistic Meaning:

The bride circles her groom, rising higher and higher until she becomes a crown on his headGroom First: Our lives are but a commentary on the spiritual reality of which this physical world is a mirror image. The groom is a commentary on G‑d, the bride reflects the Jewish Nation, and the chupah is Mount Sinai. The wedding ceremony is a reflection of the wedding between G‑d and the Jewish people. First G‑d makes Himself accessible at Mount Sinai, then Moses escorts the Jewish people to discover Him there. That is why first the groom comes to the chupah, then the bride.

Circling: According to Kabbalah, the bride circling the groom symbolizes the lofty "encompassing" G‑dly light which dwells upon the married couple. (See Kabbalistic Meanings in the following section for more on this topic.)

Seven signifies completion, like the seven days of creation; a passage beyond the physical into the spiritual. Just as the seventh day of creation was the Shabbat, the completion of the world, so do the seven circles signify the couple's completed quest for each other. The bride circles her groom seven times, rising higher and higher until she becomes a crown on his head, as the Shabbat is a crown to the seven days of the week.

Footnotes
1.

If the bride and/or groom's parents cannot perform this duty, any other Jewish married couple may be honored with this task. Click here for a discussion regarding who is eligible to escort the bride and groom.

2.

Click here for more information on this topic.

Artwork by David Brook. David lives in Sydney, Australia, and has been selling his art since he was in high school. He is currently painting and doing web illustrations.
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Mir'yam Texas June 18, 2013

Re: Marriage procession (music in particular) To Jon Ross
There is no such thing as "First Century Palestine"!!! It has always been ISRAEL in the eyes of HaShem, the name was changed to erase Israel from all remembrance by her enemies in the 2nd or 3rd century!

Thank you for this site it's been a great help in learning the history and culture behind all the Feasts, and especially the Celebration of Marriage. Reply

Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin via mychabad.org September 16, 2011

Re:bride on the right, why ? There are differences of custom as to which side the bride stands during the Chupah ceremony. Some point to the verse in Psalms 45:10 “Kings' daughters are among thy favourites; at thy right hand doth stand the queen in gold of Ophir.” The Hebrew words for “at thy right hand doth stand” is “נִצְּבָה שֵׁגַל לִימִינְךָ” taking the last letter of each of this words spells out the word כלה - bride. Thus it is saying that the bride stand on the right side.

Others have the custom that the groom is on the right symbolizing what it says in Laminations 2:1-3 “How has the Lord in His anger brought darkness upon the daughter of Zion! He has cast down from heaven to earth the glory of Israel, and has not remembered His footstool on the day of His anger. The Lord has destroyed and has had no pity on all the habitations of Jacob; in His wrath He has broken down the strongholds of Judah; He has struck [them] to the ground; He has profaned the kingdom and its princes. He has cut down in fierce anger Reply

Deborah Toronto, Ontrio September 12, 2011

bride on the right, why ? The question of why the bride is on the right was not answered from a kabbalistic perspective. The Right side of the Tree of Life is the Source of Light. Could it be that the marriage ceremony is re-creating the story of Creation and that the world to come is to bring us back to this initial perfect state but with us having earned this perfection ? Peace is a female value. A world in which female values prevail is perfection. Is the story of humanity really the story not of His-tory but of Her-story, the ascendance of female energy, thus the bride (unlike in Christianity) is on the Right, her place in a perfect world, while the male is on the Left, the position of Receiving Light ? Reply

Jon Ross Halifax, England December 31, 2008

Marriage procession (music in particular) Was the marriage procession carried out in this manner in first century palestine? (solemn moving music as suppose to a joyful noisy procession as claimed by a BBC documentary)
This site has been a great help in my studies on the Bible at Sheffield uni, thanks! Reply

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