A Wedding Tradition Unveiled
You’ve heard of wedding horror stories. You’ve probably even had wedding nightmares.
The flowers were dead.
The bride’s dress didn’t fit.
The food was inedible.
While planning my own wedding, I kept having this recurring bad dream that we forgot to send out the invitations and no one showed up on the day of the wedding! What a random worry to have. And this dream kept happening even after I actually did send out the invitations. Of course, everything was fine and we didn’t even have any RSVP issues! Phew!
But the worst wedding faux pas happened long ago. The bad news is not that the chair covers were the wrong color or that the DJ was a drunk… but the groom married the wrong bride!
It was the wedding of Jacob and Rachel and the groom thought he was marrying the right gal. Turns out, he didn’t check whose punim was hiding under the veil and, oops! It was Leah, Rachel’s sister, instead!
And this is why one of the oldest Jewish wedding traditions calls for a bedeken, or veiling. This ceremony occurs after the Ketubah has been signed and before the chuppah portion. The groom approaches the bride and places the veil over her face to personally guarantee that it is, in fact, the face of the woman he intends to marry.
The bedeken ceremony is also a happy time! The bride sits in a throne-like chair and everyone around her dances and sings. The other women admire the bride for her beauty and offer her words of advice. Sounds like fun, right? A few umbrella drinks and a pedicure, and you have yourselves a real party!
The veil over the bride makes her “hekdesh,” which literally translates to “set apart in holiness.” Beauty may fade in time (although future Chanukah presents to the bride’s self may be a lunch time trip to Dr. Botox…. shh, don’t tell), but a woman’s spiritual appreciation is a quality that never leaves. The veil physically separates the bride from the groom, which is a little way of noting that even in marriage, the two partners still remain unique, distinct individuals.
Remembering this helps the couple work as a team as they aim for success in whatever they do.