Being a Guest at a Jewish Wedding: A Guide

From dress code to dancing.

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So you've been invited to a Jewish wedding but don't know exactly what to expect? Here is a quick guide about what to do and how to act at the joyous occasion.

Keep in mind that every Jewish wedding differs slightly from the next, depending on the religious and cultural background of the couple--and of course their personalities. The particulars of the guidelines below will vary depending on the celebration you attend.

What to Wear

Like most weddings, the dress code for a Jewish wedding can be influenced by location and time of day. At many Jewish weddings, men wear kippot (skullcaps), and they will most likely be provided at the wedding. In some circles, you may see women a jewish wedding, guests and allwearing kippot too. Women at more traditional Jewish weddings wear skirts or dresses that fall below the knee, and cover their shoulders--or elbows, in even more traditional circles. Sometimes women wear wraps or jackets that cover their shoulders just for the ceremony, and then they uncover for the party. 

Before the Ceremony

You might have received an invitation with two different start times. The first time listed refers to the start of the kabbalat panim--the time for greeting the bride and groom before the ceremony--and the second time refers to the actual start time of the ceremony. Though it is nice for close friends and family to arrive at the beginning of the kabbalat panim, you can consider all of the kabbalat panim as an appropriate window for showing up. If there is only one start time listed, that is probably when the ceremony is scheduled to begin, so be on time.

The kabbalat panim prepares the bride and groom for the wedding, and a lot of different things might take place there. At a more traditional kabbalat panim, the bride and groom in different rooms or areas, and guests greet them and often enjoy some light--or not so light--refreshments. Some brides and grooms fast on their wedding day until after the ceremony. It's completely fine to eat in front of them at the kabbalat panim, but you may want to think twice before offering them refreshments.

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Rachel Lerner

Rachel Lerner is a doctoral student in Jewish education at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She lives in NYC with her husband, Aaron, and their daughter, Lily.