A Jewish bride immerses in the mikvah (a uniquely built pool of purifying water) before her wedding. This is usually a private event, attended only by the bride, the mikvah attendant and perhaps her mother or a close friend. In some communities, however, it is an opportunity for female family members to gather and bestow their blessings on the soon-to-be couple and to bond together in celebrating the upcoming marriage.

The pre-marriage mikvah is a spiritual and uplifting preparation for the sanctity of the wedding day, likened to the bride’s own personal Yom Kippur, the day she is “reborn” as a unit together with her new husband, approaching life with a fresh slate.

This beautiful immersion, it is hoped, will be the first of many such experiences throughout their married life. After a woman has had her period, she and her husband may not be intimate until she has immersed in the mikvah. Since the bride and groom will be intimate after the wedding, the bride immerses in anticipation of that special night.

During the week before her wedding, the bride carefully checks herself to ensure that she is free of all menstrual discharge. In some mikvahs, an especially beautiful section is reserved for the bride, where she can prepare for this major moment in her life in extra comfort and serenity. After soaking in a luxurious warm bath and removing all external barriers, she immerses in the waters of the mikvah, ensuring that every part of her body will touch the purifying water.

There is a difference between this immersion and all others. A married woman must wait five days from the beginning of her menstrual flow, and then count seven “spot-free” days before she immerses in the mikvah. A woman immersing before her wedding need not wait the initial five days but may count seven days as soon as she is spot-free.

The specifics on how to properly prepare for the mikvah and wedding is traditionally studied with a “kallah teacher” (bridal teacher) or rebbetzin before marriage.

In the event that a woman is unable to immerse before the wedding, perhaps due to the wedding taking place during (or immediately after) her period, marital relations cannot happen until after the bride (now wife) immerses. The officiating rabbi should be notified of the situation to advise the couple regarding the appropriate protocol, but the wedding should not be postponed due to this concern.

For more on immersion in the mikvah, please see What to Expect at the Mikvah.