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Kaufman describes traditional wedding customs, some of which may not be observed by the liberal Jewish movements and others like the Yichud (seclusion) Room or Birkat Hamazon (grace after meals) are observed differently. Reprinted with permission from Love, Marriage, and Family in Jewish Law and Tradition, published by Jason Aronson Publishers.
The Seclusion Room
Amidst singing and dancing, the bride and groom… weave their way through the congratulating guests to the yihud (seclusion) room. It is customary for bride and groom to be alone for a period of time immediately following the marriage ceremony.
The complete seclusion of the couple in a closed room is a public act symbolizing their new status as husband and wife. Since this act, more than any other, signifies that they are truly married, a public awareness of their seclusion is required, and it must be attested to by qualified witnesses. The witnesses remain outside the door to ensure that no one enters until the couple have been alone for a reasonable period of time.
Yihud provides a period of respite for the newly married couple, an interval of tranquility for them to enjoy together in total solitude amidst the turmoil of the wedding. It is customary for the two to have their first meal as husband and wife together in the yihud room. Both will have been fasting all day, and this food will be their first of the day.
It is important that the yihud room be prepared before the wedding. It should provide absolute privacy. It should also have food for a light repast for the couple.
The Festive Wedding Meal
The wedding feast is a seudat mitzvah, a festive religious meal integral to a wedding, participation in which is considered to be a mitzvah [commandment]. In many areas, it is customary for a table to be set aside at the wedding feast for the poor and indigent of the community, so they can participate fully in the wedding. It is also customary for the poor to be allowed to collect alms from the wedding guests, or for the parents of the new couple to give them a substantial sum.
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