Time & Place for a Jewish Wedding

Jewish weddings may be held anywhere, but not at any time.

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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.

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Barbara Binder Kadden

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