A traditional Jewish wedding ceremony is drastically different from a traditional American wedding. The Jewish wedding focuses on the religious significance of the marriage and is tied deeply into Jewish culture and religious tradition. Symbology plays a significant role in the entire event. In fact, a traditional Jewish wedding takes place over a period of several days.
The Jewish bride is different from a traditional secular bride, because there are many rules and traditions involved in a Jewish ceremony that are not present in other wedding ceremonies. The traditional Jewish ceremony consists of five or six symbolic parts.
The ketuvah is the signing of the marriage contract. This usually occurs before the actual wedding event, and could possibly take place up to a week in advance of the final wedding ceremony. At the event, both families meet and have a small reception where the ketuvah is signed. Next, the wedding progresses to the bedekin stage. At this point, the groom visits the bride to confirm her identity and then places the veil on her head. This is a traditional ceremony that originated from ancient times, when a father could trick a groom into marrying a different girl. The actual wedding ceremony is the chuppah ceremony. This takes place under a small enclosure and both sets of parents are present with the couple and the rabbi. Various prayers are recited, then the ketuvah blessing is given to the couple. The couple then is blessed with the sheva brachos by a Rabbi and then is allowed together in an enclosed room (traditionally for the first time). After this period of enclosure, the couple emerges and a traditional reception takes place.
Because the focus of a Jewish wedding is on the spiritual bond of the couple, the bride’s costume must be modest. Most synagogues have strict rules on the kinds of clothing that a bride can wear. These rules vary by the orthodoxy level of each synagogue. In most cases, however, basic requirements include covered shoulders or elbow-length sleeves, covered backs, higher necklines, and long skirts. Most brides are also required to wear a veil during the ceremony.
Since there are many Jewish brides, many bridal boutiques offer special Jewish wedding dresses designed for the different levels of orthodoxy. Options for the Jewish bride include long sleeves, elbow-length sleeves, boat neck bodices, high-neck bodices, traditional Middle Eastern gown styles, jackets and shoulder capes, and a variety of other style choices that can individualize a gown within the requirements.
One way that some Jewish brides modernize their outfits is by purchasing two separate gowns- one for the conservative ceremony and one for the reception afterwards. This allows a bride to meet the requirements of the synagogue but still showcase her individual style after the religious part of the ceremony is over.
Even though traditional wedding dress rules for Jewish brides are stricter than many other religions and cultures, there are still ways to modernize the look and make each dress unique to each bride. In fact, the trend of modest wedding dresses is growing, and there are now more modest dress options for brides than ever.