Chuppahs, also known as huppahs, chupahs, chuppas, are a canopy held or suspended over a couples’ heads in Jewish wedding ceremonies. It is typically made of cloth or a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) and supported by four poles. If it is held over the couples’ heads, then it is usually done by bridal attendants. The chuppah represents the home that the soon-to-be married couple will build together. It is a basic requirement for a Jewish wedding.
The chuppah also symbolizes the second stage of Jewish marriage being accomplished. In Orthodox Jewish ceremonies such as the Hasidic ceremonies, the chuppah is placed beneath the sky itself, while other less traditional Jews do not mind having their ceremony indoors and building a chuppah to fit inside the designated building.
“Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber…” (KJV Psalm 19:5 emphasis mine).
“…let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet,” (KJV Joel 2:16 emphasis mine).
The word chuppah also represents the marriage chamber, where the couple consummates their love. And although the appearance of the chuppah has changed over the years, the symbolism is the same.
As the time changed, so did the tradition of the chuppah. Where as, initially, the bride and groom would become betrothed in a separate ceremony preceding the actual wedding ceremony and the day of their wedding the couple would consummate their wedding vows within an actual chamber, the ceremonies have been combined and all performed under the chuppah, of course, without the marital consummation.
Another ceremony performed under the modern chuppah is the Sheva Brachot, also known as “the seven blessings”, wherein the blessings are recited over a cup of wine at the end of the ceremony.
The chuppah itself represents the Jewish home. Its four poles and four open sides are reminiscent of Abraham’s tent’s poles which represents hospitality to guests. The chuppah’s emptiness, much like Abraham’s tent when first was erected, had nothing in it which symbolized that the basis of the Jewish home is the people within it, not its possessions. The covering of the chuppah also represents God’s diving covering over the covenant and institution of marriage.
The groom enters the chuppah first to signify his ownership of their home. Then, before the bride enters the covering of the chuppah, the groom covers her face with a badeken (Yiddish) or hinuma (Hebrew), better known as a veil. The bride is then brought under the chuppah to represent the groom’s acknowledgement of his new responsibilities to care and provide for his new wife. This very likely is in concert with the repetitive imagery of a groom covering his new bride with his skirts (see Ezekiel 16:8; Ruth 3).
Chuppahs are a wonderful way of honouring one’s Jewish tradition and even a lovely ceremony to have just for the symbolism alone. Not to mention, they make an absolutely divine design element.
Look through our gallery of chuppahs and see if you’re not inspired to create your own for your wedding. To learn more about chuppahs, click here or to discover some exciting DIY chuppah projects here.