Author Archives: Barbara Binder Kadden

Barbara Binder Kadden

About Barbara Binder Kadden

Barbara Binder Kadden is the Director of the Jewish Educational Council of Seattle, Washington.

Time & Place for a Jewish Wedding

For videos on Jewish weddings, scroll to the bottom of this article.

Excerpted with permission from Teaching Jewish Life Cycle: Insights and Activities (A.R.E. Publishing, Inc.).

For much of Jewish history, the third day of the week (Tuesday) was considered an especially auspicious day for a wedding. This was so because, concerning the account of the third day of creation, the phrase “… and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:10,12) appears twice. Therefore, Tuesday is a doubly good day for a wedding.

In some communities couples would choose Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the month (when it did not conflict with Shabbat or other prohibited days), perhaps because the moon waxing in the sky was considered “a symbol of growth and fertility” (The New Jewish Wedding, Anita Diamant, p. 51). In talmudic times, Sunday and Wednesday were especially good marriage days because the court met on Monday and Thursday and any contention as to virginity of the bride could be lodged immediately after the wedding night.

Time and place for a Jewish wedding, under the huppahWhile some days may have been preferred for one reason or another, certain days were explicitly prohibited. Jewish weddings are not held on Shabbat [Sabbath], because work and travel are not permitted then. Also, a new agreement may not be entered into on that day. Further, each opportunity for joy and celebration is to be observed individually, and not combined with another. For this last reason also, two members of the same family could not be married on the same day.

Similarly, weddings are forbidden on the holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Pesach [Passover], Shavuot, and the first and last days of Sukkot. But weddings may be held on Purim, the intermediate days of Sukkot, and during Hanukkah.

Limitations Around Fast Days

Traditionally, the entire three-week period between the 17th of Tammuz through Tisha B’Av is considered a period of semi-mourning for the destruction of the Temple; therefore, weddings are not held then. Similarly, the seven-week period from Pesach through Shavuot [called the Omer period] is a time of mourning for the death of Rabbi Akiba’s students. However, there [are] a variety of traditions as to which days during this period are acceptable for marriages and which are not. Usually the two Rosh Chodesh dates (of Iyar and Sivan) and Lag B’Omer [the 33rd day of the Omer] are permitted days for weddings. Some rabbis permit weddings on Yom Ha’atzmaut [Israel Independence Day] also. Still other rabbis take an even less stringent approach as to which days during these semi-mourning periods are permissible for weddings.

[Customs vary widely as to which days of the Omer are not considered days of semi-mourning and are, therefore, acceptable for weddings. Although generally Sephardic Jews permit weddings beginning the day after Lag B’Omer and most Ashkenazic Jews allow weddings on Lag B’Omer itself, permitted days vary by community and by rabbi, not always following a neat Ashkenazic/Sephardic or liberal/traditional split. It is advisable, therefore, to consult a rabbi when making wedding plans. For further details on the genesis of mourning during the Omer period, consult the article on Counting the Omer.]

Location up to Bride and Groom

Weddings may take place anywhere, but it has been customary to hold them in certain locations. They were sometimes held in the home of the groom or the bride. In fact, in ancient times, “the groom’s father built special quarters in the family for the married couple” (The Jewish Way in Love & Marriage, Maurice Lamm, p. 183). They are also often held in the synagogue grounds, or in a courtyard.

The Tombstone, the Unveiling and Visiting the Grave

A tombstone serves to identify the grave so that relatives will find it when they visit, honor the memory of the deceased, and identify a place of burial so that kohanim (descendants of ancient Jewish priests) will avoid it as required by Jewish law.

Jewish tradition makes no stipulation as to the size or type of marker or monument, but most cemeteries have specific guidelines. The Jewish teaching that all are equal in death often serves as a guide to choosing an appropriate headstone.


The marker usually includes: the English and Hebrew name of the deceased, the dates of birth and death in English and Hebrew, and the relationship to other family members (i.e., father/mother, husband/wife, grandfather/grandmother, sister/ brother, etc.). Also, one often finds the Hebrew letters pay nun, standing for “po nikbar(ah), here is buried,” and the letters tav, nun, tzadee, bet, hay, standing for the phrase “May his/her soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.”

Unveiling

It is customary for the grave marker to be put in place and for an unveiling ceremony to be held after the Kaddish period [11 months for parents and 30 days for other close relatives] is over, but no later than one year after the death. While many families wait until almost the full year has passed to do the unveiling, it may be done sooner; in Israel the stone is usually placed soon after sheloshim [the first 30 days of mourning].

The unveiling ceremony consists of the recitation of Psalms, a very brief eulogy encapsulating the most salient characteristics of the deceased, removing the cloth covering the headstone, the El Maleh Rahamim prayer and the Mourner’s Kaddish. Traditionally, the Kaddish is not recited aloud if no minyan [quorum of 10] is present.

READ: Why Do Jews Put Stones on Graves?

It is customary, before leaving the gravesite, to place a small stone on the marker to indicate that someone has visited the grave. (For a a short video about this, scroll to the bottom of the page.) This tradition may also reflect the biblical practice of marking the grave with a pile of stones. Or, it may be the end result of the custom of writing notes to the deceased and pushing them into crevices in the headstone just as notes are pushed into the Western Wall in Jerusalem. When no crevice could be found, the note was weighted down with a stone. In time, the paper disintegrated or blew away leaving only the stone. Thus, some began to think that the leaving of a stone was the custom… and so it became the custom.

Visiting the Grave

While visitation of the grave is permitted at almost any time, excessive visits are discouraged. “The rabbis were apprehensive that frequent visiting to the cemetery might become a pattern of living thus preventing the bereaved from placing their dead in proper perspective” Maurice Lamm noted in The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning.

READ: Yahrzeit, Remembering on the Anniversary of a Death

It is considered especially appropriate to visit the graves of loved ones on the last day of shiva [the first seven days of intensive mourning] and the last day of sheloshim, on Yahrzeit [the yearly anniversary of a person’s death], on Jewish fast days, and before or between the High Holy Days. Traditional Jews will often recite psalms while visiting, study a short passage from the Mishnah [an early rabbinic legal code], or recite El Maleh Rahamim.”

Reprinted with permission from Teaching Jewish Life Cycle: Insights and Activities (A.R.E. Publishing, Inc.).