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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.


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.