If you’ve been to a Jewish wedding, you may have witnessed the bride and groom being lifted on chairs and danced around by joyous well-wishers. Where did this custom come from?

It is considered a great mitzvah to make the bride and groom joyful at their wedding.1 Many of the great sages in the Talmud would dance and do all sorts of tricks to entertain the couple. For example, Rabbi Yehuda bar Ilai would take a myrtle branch and dance before the bride, calling her “a fair and attractive bride.” And Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak would dance while juggling three branches of myrtle.

One rabbi, Rabbi Zeira, felt it was demeaning for such an honorable person to caper about like that. But when Rav Shmuel passed away, Rabbi Zeira saw a heavenly pillar of fire appear before Rav Shmuel’s body. He then proclaimed that this was due to the great enthusiasm with which the deceased had fulfilled the mitzvah of bringing joy to the bride and groom.2

Dancing with Bride and Groom on a Chair

It appears that the “chair dance” is just another manifestation of this happy (and sometimes silly) expression of joy.

One possibility is that the chair recalls a royal throne, since the bride and groom are compared to a queen and king.3

Although there is no actual source for lifting the couple on chairs, the Talmud records that there was a custom for some to hoist the bride on their shoulders and dance.4 In fact we find that Rabbi Dovber of Lubavitch writes that one of the main ways of rejoicing and giving honor to the bride and groom is by lifting and carrying them as they are escorted by the crowd.5

At the same time, the Talmud6 as well as later rabbis7 advise against carrying the bride and groom on the shoulders. As a more respectable alternative, some lift them up on a chair.8

Adam and Eve’s Wedding Seat

We read in Proverbs: “She has sent forth her maidens; she calls upon the top of the highest places of the city9 . . . on a seat in the high places of the city.”10

The Talmud explains that these verses are a reference to Adam and Eve, the first couple. The metaphor of being “upon the top” versus “seated” implies a change in their status.11

Some explain that before the sin of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were on the greatest spiritual plane, and they were lowered down after the sin.12 Tosafot explains just the opposite: Initially, before being paired with Eve, Adam was aloof, alone and isolated. Once they married, they were ensconced on a seat specially set for a bride and groom.13 This is cited as a source for the custom of seating the bride and groom on special chairs.14

The Talmud tells us that those who bring joy to the bride and groom merit to acquire Torah, and it is as if they rebuilt part of Jerusalem and brought a thanksgiving offering there.15

May Jerusalem be completely rebuilt speedily in our days!