Jewish Wedding Photography is always a fascinating area of the wedding genre to be asked to document and the wedding of Gillian & Jamie was one of the more traditional Jewish Wedding Ceremonies I have covered. All the Jewish wedding traditions were covered. As a wedding photographer that spends most of his time covering christian church and civil ceremonies there was much Googling of “Jewish Wedding Photography” checking out some blogs and much looking on YouTube to make sure I didn’t miss anything. As the wedding was fairly large and there was the need to cover bride and groom preparations separately I broke my rule of usually photographing solo and used my second photographer of choice the amazing Andy Holdsworth so a few of these groom prep and dancing images may be ones he shot, without checking the serial numbers on the several Canon 5D MK2 and MK3 camera bodies we were both using between us I wouldn’t know!
In order to save other Jewish wedding photographers the time and endless searching online and to help people prepare for photographing a Jewish wedding I have detailed what happens here during the ceremony and the key parts of the day so hope it helps.
The Tisch and The Ketubah
Tisch literally means table in Yiddish. Prior to the main ceremony, the men gather around a table, drinking whisky and eating kettle chips, an occasion for which they spend many years rehearsing. During the Tisch, the groom will read and accept the terms of the Ketubah (marriage
contract). The signing of the Ketubah expresses the idea that any declaration of love must be accompanied by both legal obligations and moral commitments (fortunately for the groom the purchase of handbags is neither a legal obligation nor a moral commitment!). It is from the
Tisch that the groom is to be escorted to meet his bride.
With great fanfare, singing and dancing, the groom arrives in the Bedecken (checking) room where he will confirm that the girl under the veil sitting there is, indeed, his intended bride (a tradition that followed the Old Testament story in which Jacob marries the wrong sister). The groom then lowers the brides veil, setting her apart from everyone else and indicating that he is solely interested in her inner beauty. Once the bride is veiled, her father gives her a special blessing. The groom is then led away to prepare for the ceremony.
The Chuppah (wedding canopy) is the canopy the couple stand under during the ceremony and is said to be a spiritual and sanctified place. It is the symbol of the home that the happy couple will build together; open on all sides to welcome people in unconditional hospitality, just as their ancestors, Abraham and Sarah, built their home. The procession begins with the groom and his parents followed by the bridesmaids. Once everyone is in place and enough nervous looks have been exchanged, the bride will enter the room with her parents. The groom will then meet his bride to be half way (for the first and only time) and escort her to the Chuppah. Once under the Chuppah, the bride will encircle the groom seven times. Just as the world was built in seven days, the bride is figuratively building the walls of the couple’s new world together.
The Kiddushin and Nissuin
The marriage ceremony consists of two parts: Kiddushin (betrothel) and Nissuin (start of married life). The Kiddushin ceremony begins with greetings and a blessing over wine, a traditional symbol of joy. The groom then recites a Hebrew declaration of marriage as he places a
ring upon the forefinger of his brides’ right hand. The ring must be a solid band without blemishes or ornamentation, which symbolises the wholeness of marriage, the hope that the marriage will be one of simple beauty, and represents an unbroken union. The bride and groom are now married in accordance with Jewish law and take a sip of wine to mark this. To separate the blessings of Kiddushin from the blessings of Nissuin, it is traditional for the Ketubah to be read aloud in Aramaic and English. During Nissuin, the reading of the Sheva Brachot (Seven Blessings) are recited over the second cup of wine. The theme of these blessings links the bride and groom to our faith in Gd as creator of the world and bestower of joy and love.
The Breaking of the Glass
At the end of the Sheva Brachot, the psalm ‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem’ is sung. The traditional breaking of the glass follows, which is said to represent the destruction of the Temple, reminding the couple that times are not always so joyous, even in moments of great
happiness. As the groom puts his foot down (for the last time, as they say), the glass is broken, and everyone shouts ‘Mazel Tov!’ (Good luck!), which concludes the ceremony. As a photographer you HAVE to make sure you are in the right place to capture this and don’t miss it!!
After the ceremony the bride and groom both sign the register and are then escorted to a private room and left alone for a few minutes. These moments of seclusion (Yichud) signify their new status of living together as husband and wife.
The Israeli Dancing
The Israeli dancing is usually very crowded with lots bodies in a very small space, and everyone ending up in a sweaty mess in just 15 mins. Here is everything I can think of that can happen and has happened at Jewish Weddings I have photographed before:
- Bride and Groom are separately hoisted up on chairs (that’s ok, if not a little precarious)
- Groom is thrown up in the air on a table-cloth (bride can indulge too…)
- Groom is made to leap over several ushers lying down on the floor (not great news for the men on the floor is the groom turns out to be a terrible long jumper…!)
- Two rows of men link hands in pairs and catapult the groom along the row (and let him down gently at the end, hopefully!)
- Lots of dancing in circles (sometimes bride and groom will use a rope or tablecloth to skip over held and twirled by the wedding party)
- Lots of spinning around inside dancing circles.
My tip for photographing this part is to firstly get yourself positioned as high above the whirling crowd as possible on a chair (this will also save your feet getting stomped on!) and shoot as much as you possibly can with a 16-35mm wide angle lens freezing the fast action with flash, if you can use a battery pack to ensure super quick recycling times you should get some amazing action shots.
As you can see the images below it was a truly beautiful day to document and I ended it tired, exhausted (thankfully I opted to stay close by in a hotel rather than drive back to Oxford at midnight) but knowing I had captured some very special images for Gillian & Jamie
There were a couple of suppliers I would particularly like to mention and recommend to prospective brides and grroms that worked at this wedding:
Ellie Sanderson Bridal Boutique – Gillian found and bought her gorgeous bespoke Suzanne Neville gown ‘Classique’ which she wore with the Suzanne Neville Opulence jacket (no ribbon) from the one and only Ellie Sanderson Bridal Boutique in Oxford
Katie Reay Scott – Hair & Make up artisit to the stars I always love working with Katie and her team
Gorgeous Films – Gary & Jo head up an amazingly talented team of film and wedding videographers, these guys rock! they have posted up the highlights of their film of the day here http://www.gorgeousfilm.co.uk/blog/2015/04/22/bath-assembly-rooms-wedding-gillian-jamie/ PASSWORD TO VIEW THE CLIP: gorgeous
CHECK OUT MANY MORE IMAGES FROM THIS JEWISH WEDDING HERE:
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