On the Shabbat before her wedding, it is customary for a bride to enjoy an elegant social gathering with her friends, female relatives, and other women in her community. This event is known as a Shabbat kallah or Shabbos kallah.

(On the same day, the groom will be enjoying an aufrufwhen he iscalled to recite the blessing over the Torah at the Shabbat service, and then pelted with candy—an event that the bride will not attend, in keeping with the custom that bride and groom do not see each other for the entire week preceding the wedding.)

You do not need to be personally invited to come to a Shabbos kallah. In fact, you don’t even need to know the bride well. If you hear an announcement for a Shabbat kallah in your synagogue, you can consider yourself invited. (This open invitation does not necessarily apply to the wedding itself.) Women only!

There are no set customs or ceremonies for a Shabbat kallah. It usually takes place on Shabbat late in the afternoon, often in the bride’s own home, or the home of a close friend or relative.

When to come:

While a start time will usually be given, it is generally a flexible suggestion and coming late is okay. A Shabbat kallah is more of an open house event than one with a set program.

What to wear:

Since it is Shabbat, wear clothing that is a notch or two dressier than what you would wear on an ordinary weekday. To best fit in, make it a modest dress or modest skirt and top.

What to bring:

Don’t bring anything! Gifts are not in any way expected and would in fact be inappropriate, since it is Shabbat and on this day observant Jews do not carry or give gifts.

What to expect:

When you enter the home, expect to see an elegant array of cakes, pastries, and fresh fruit arranged buffet-style. Seating will be available on couches, around the dining room table, or on additional chairs brought in for the occasion.

There is usually little set program. At some point someone (the bride herself, a friend of hers, or her mother) will take the floor to share a Torah thought, but other than that attendees will mostly socialize and chit-chat. Very often the friends of the bride will sing. Some of the songs may be specific to the theme of a wedding, but many will just be general Jewish songs—whatever songs are currently popular and lend themselves to enjoyable singing and harmonizing.

What to do:

Find a spot to sit and eat something. Socialize. At some point, give your good wishes to the bride. Stay for a while and then leave… Unless you are a close friend of the bride, don’t stay until Shabbat is over.