After the Wedding Ceremony

After the wedding, bride and groom retreat to a seclusion room, rejoin their guests for a festive meal, and then celebrate with friends and family for the next seven days.

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According to Midrash, God and his angels served as exalted exponents of this mitzvah when they participated in the wedding celebration of Adam and Eve and caused the couple to rejoice:

"The Holy One, Blessed be He, made 10 wedding canopies for them in the Garden of Eden, of precious stones, pearls, and gold... the angels were playing upon timbrels and dancing with pipes... the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to the ministering angels, 'Come, let us descend and render acts of love to the first man and his wife, for the world rests upon acts of love...' And the ministering angels went to and fro, [dancing] before Adam..."

Ketsad m'rakdin lifnei hakalah?--"How does one dance before the bride?"--asks the Mishnah. Following the example of the talmudic sages Hillel and Shammai, Torah scholars usually take the lead in actively participating in the dancing in honor of bride and groom. Friends of the couple vie with one another to enliven the festivities through acts designed to make the bride and groom rejoice at their wedding.

In the words of R. Shlomo Ganzfried, author of the Kitzur Shulhan Arukh, the Condensed Code of Jewish Law, "It is a mitzvah to gladden a groom and bride, and to dance before the bride, and to declare that she is attractive and performs acts of lovingkindness, and indeed we find that [the talmudic sage] R. Ilai would dance before the bride."

Grace After the Meal

Upon the conclusion of the wedding feast, Birkat Hamazon, Grace after Meals, is recited by the assembled guests, concluding with the recitation once again of the Sheva Berakhot, the Seven Blessings [recited previously in the second part of the wedding ceremony].

Two cups of wine are required, one of which is held while the grace is recited, and the other for the Seven Blessings. Like the earlier Seven Blessings recited under the huppah [wedding canopy], these may either be recited by the person who leads the Grace after Meals, or they may be treated as honors that are distributed among different guests.

The person who leads the guests in the grace then recites the blessing over the wine, pours wine from the two cups into a third one, and drinks from the original cup, while the other two cups are given to bride and groom to sip from them.

It is customary in some circles for those closest to the married couple to remain with them after the other guests leave and have a "mitzvah dance" with the bride and groom. Rabbis and other dignitaries take turns dancing with the bride, with the rabbi holding one end of a handkerchief and the bride the other. This custom, which may relate to the mishnah [a section of an early rabbinic legal code] that discusses "dancing before the bride," is ascribed by some as a means by which the rabbis and scholars express to the groom their confidence in his choice of a bride.

The Week After the Wedding

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Dr. Michael Kaufman studied at Yeshiva and Mesivta Torah Vodaath, Telshe Yeshiva, Brookyn College, and the University of Louisville. His books include The Art of Judaism, A Timeless Judaism for Our Time, and A Guide to Jewish Art. He lives with his family in Jerusalem.