At the first Jewish wedding I ever went to, there was a separate, sacred space where the women gathered before the ceremony. We sang a nigun (wordless melody) on loop, drummed on our laps, and came up to the bride individually to offer her a blessing or whisper words of encouragement.
The magic in the room was palpable. As we focused our song, energy, and intention on supporting the bride, we were spiritually, mentally, and emotionally preparing her in the moments before crossing this threshold into marriage.
Jewish tradition teaches that the bride is like a queen. She is imbued with special powers on her wedding day. In some cases, she sits on an elevated chair, like a throne, during this reception. She can offer blessings of her own to her family, friends, and guests.
In many weddings, this time before the ceremony is referred to as the kabbalat panim (a kind of pre-ceremony reception) and it’s an opportunity for people to welcome and greet the bride and/or groom, offer well wishes, eat some light food, and arrive before the more formal ceremony under the chuppah (wedding canopy).
Regardless of how traditional (or not!) the wedding is, I love the concept of a dedicated space to support the person about to be married. And regardless of how you relate to marriage, it can be extremely powerful to support your friend as they transition into this new chapter in their life.
When a good friend of mine got married last winter, I helped to adapt this tradition to the context of her group of dear friends from multiple religious backgrounds. This is naturally a very accessible ritual. By simply explaining in advance what people can expect (and perhaps choosing wordless melodies rather than Hebrew songs, if you choose to include singing), this pre-wedding blessing circle can be a welcoming and wonderful space for all of the person’s closest friends.
A note on gender: This pre-wedding blessing circle would be a grounding ritual for anyone getting married, of any gender. While there is a tradition of women gathering before a wedding, I encourage you to open the gathering to the closest friends (Jewish or not, women or not) of the person about to be married.
Here are my suggestions for crafting a meaningful interfaith pre-wedding blessing circle:
Weaving together different faith and spiritual traditions is an incredible way to draw on the wisdom of community as your friend navigates across the threshold toward marriage. In that spirit, I also suggest enlisting the help of everyone who is coming to contribute something vital, whether that’s preparing the food, hosting in their home, bringing materials, or driving the engaged person to the circle.
Remember, this gathering is about marking a life passage with a group who all care deeply about the engaged person — so don’t worry about it doing it perfectly! Set a clear intention and purpose for the circle first (such as honoring your friend, or helping them feel at ease before a big moment), and then get into planning the logistics.
Lastly — if you are engaged and like this idea, I encourage you to ask a friend to plan this pre-wedding blessing circle, rather than planning it yourself. Yes, this may feel like a vulnerable request! Share this article with a good friend and ask if they’d be willing to organize. The gathering will ideally feel like a gift for you to receive, rather than an event for you to orchestrate.
May this gathering of friends bring care, sweetness, and connection to a very special day. Mazal tov!
At The Well uplifts many approaches to Jewish practice. Our community draws on ancient Jewish wisdom, sometimes adapting longstanding practices to more deeply support the well-being of women and nonbinary people. See this article’s sources below. We believe Torah (sacred teachings) are always unfolding to help answer the needs of the present moment.
Liturgy, Rituals, and Customs of Jewish Weddings, My Jewish Learning
Being a Guest at a Jewish Wedding, My Jewish Learning