Nissuin: The Second of the Two Ceremonies
The substance of nissuin, the actual marriage ceremony, are seven blessings that reflect the themes of creation, joy, and bride and groom.
The contemporary Jewish wedding ceremony comprises two ancient ceremonies that used to be separated by about a year--erusin, or betrothal, and nissuin, the actual marriage. Excerpted with permission from Celebration and Renewal: Rites of Passage in Judaism edited by Rela Mintz Geffen (Jewish Publication Society).
Immediately following the reading of the ketubah [the marriage contract], the second ceremony begins. This ceremony involves the recitation of seven blessings and hence is commonly referred to as the Sheva Berakhot. The text of the liturgy is as follows:
The Seven Blessings
1. Praised are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
2. Praised are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who created all things for Your glory.
3. Praised are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of man.
4. Praised are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who created man and woman in Your image, fashioning woman from man as his mate, that together they might perpetuate life. Praised are You, O Lord, Creator of man.
5. May Zion rejoice as her children are restored to her in joy. Praised are You, O Lord, Who causes Zion to rejoice at her children's return.
6. Grant perfect joy to these loving companions, as You did to the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden. Praised are You, O Lord, who grants the joy of bride and groom.
7. Praised are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who created joy and gladness, bride and groom, mirth, song, delight and rejoicing, love and harmony, peace and companionship. O Lord our God, may there ever be heard in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem voices of joy and gladness, voices of bride and groom, the jubilant voices of those joined in marriage under the bridal canopy, the voices of young people feasting and singing. Praised are You, O Lord, Who causes the groom to rejoice with his bride.
After the Blessings Are Recited
During the recitation of these blessings, as was the case in the first ceremony, the rabbi holds a cup of wine aloft. And once again, upon completion of the blessings, groom and bride drink from the cup.
The most striking characteristic of the blessings is that, with the exception of the last one, they focus not on love, but on the theme of creation. In addition to referring to God as "Creator of the fruit of the vine" in the omnipresent blessing over wine, the liturgy refers to God as creator of all things, creator of man, creator of man and woman, and creator of the peace of the Garden of Eden. The theme of creation plays several significant roles in the ceremony. First, it relates to the Jewish conception of marriage as a natural state and suggests that, by marrying, the couple now enters this appropriate condition. Second, it suggests that the marriage furthers God's process of creation, furthering a project the tradition sees as yet unfulfilled.