The custom of celebrating Jewish weddings on Friday afternoon has a fascinating history. At one point it was quite common, and it has since become quite rare.

Is It Allowed?

Let us first address the question of whether it is even permitted in the first place.

The Code of Jewish Law1 records a disagreement as to whether one is permitted to marry on Friday. Some halachic authorities are of the opinion (based on their understanding of the Talmud) that one is forbidden to do so, as there is a concern that the wedding feast and its preparations could lead to the desecration of Shabbat. Others, however, are of the opinion that it is permitted, and indeed the Code of Jewish Law concludes that the established custom is to make weddings on Friday.2

What changed? Some explain that in earlier times it was the custom for the groom to host the wedding, as opposed to later times when it became the widespread custom for the bride to take responsibility. As such, there was more of a concern that the groom, in his great effort to please the bride, may come to desecrate Shabbat. However, his concern lessened when it became the responsibility of the bride and her family.3

Why Friday?

One factor that popularized Friday weddings was rampant poverty. By having the wedding on Friday, they could merge the wedding feast with the Shabbat meal that evening. If they would choose to hold the wedding feast in the afternoon, it was understood that the guest list would be limited so as not to interfere with the enjoyment of Shabbat that evening.4

Beyond the practicalities, some of the followers of the Baal Shem Tov preferred Friday due to mystical reasons.5 Indeed, the very first wedding, that of Adam and Eve, took place on Friday, the day they were created.6

The Shabbat Wedding of Krakow

While Friday weddings are open for discussion, all agree that weddings should generally not take place on Shabbat, for a variety of reasons.7

Nevertheless, we find that no less a personage than Rabbi Moshe Isserlis, known as the Rama, author of the glosses on the Code of Jewish Law, once performed a wedding on Shabbat when he was the rabbi of Krakow.

It happened that a widower arranged that his daughter should marry a certain individual, promising a large dowry. However, tragedy struck, and during the engagement the father of the bride died, leaving her alone. An uncle of the bride attempted to come up with the dowry, but it was quite challenging. The wedding was scheduled for Friday. The day of the wedding came, and friends and neighbors helped the bride prepare for her wedding. However, the groom refused to go on with the wedding until all financial arrangements were complete.

Shabbat was approaching, and they tried persuading the groom to agree to the wedding, but to no avail. When night fell and Shabbat arrived, Rabbi Moshe instructed that the Shabbat prayers not be held until the wedding happened.

As the girl was an orphan, he sensed that if the wedding was postponed, there was a good chance of the match falling through and the girl never marrying. As such, Rabbi Isserlis insisted that the entire congregation wait until the wedding ceremony was conducted.

Two hours into Shabbat, the groom finally agreed. Rabbi Moshe conducted the wedding ceremony, and permission was granted for the congregation to recite the Shabbat prayers.8

Despite the extenuating circumstances, this ruling generated a controversy. To avoid any future problems, the rabbis of Krakow decreed that no weddings were to take place on Friday in their city.

Yet, up until World War II and even a bit afterward, Friday weddings were quite common. These were usually small affairs, and there wasn’t great concern that the celebration would lead to the desecration of Shabbat.9


As communities grew and most weddings moved to large halls, the allure of a very small and intimate (pre-)Shabbat feast has diminished. At the same time, with motor vehicles becoming the primary means of transportation, and it becoming easier to travel in general, the concern of Shabbat desecration has grown exponentially.

As such, the common practice is to avoid having weddings on Friday, and some communities have even enacted guidelines prohibiting them.