As a cantor who officiates weddings for Jewish couples, one the most discussed wedding customs with couples is the 7 circles the Bride typically does around the groom to begin the ceremony. Brides will ask me: “do I really have to do it? It seems so male chauvinist”. It can appear to everyone that the groom is the king and the bride is making him the centre of her universe when what she really wants is an equal partnership in marriage.
I totally get the optics of how it looks but I always try my best to give context to why we do certain customs in a wedding ceremony. I don’t believe that we should blindly do things without understanding why we do them. And I believe part of the Jewish people has always been to discuss and debate. The Talmud is full of Rabbis arguing and debating. Board meetings at Synagogues are often full of spirited debates “should we serve honey cake or sponge cake at kiddush”.
I love when brides and grooms ask me about Jewish wedding customs. As a Cantor educator for over 20 years, it makes me so happy and so fulfilled to be able to give context to a custom.
Years ago, a Rabbi shared with me the following and I in turn share it with brides and grooms.
So why does a bride typically circle a groom 7 times ? Sometimes 3?
Both 3 and 7 are lucky numbers in Judaism. And one of the reasons why a bride circles her husband is to build a wall around him protecting him from other women who may try to tempt him or for whom he may be tempted.
Another reason, and the one I prefer, is that in Judaism, A woman is on a much higher spiritual plane than a man. In Judaism, a man is supposed to pray three times a day, while a woman is not obliged to. That is because a woman is on a much higher level spiritually than the man. This is because a woman is able to bring a child to term and give birth. This sets her on a much higher ground. So on the night of the wedding, by circling her husband, she is sharing some of her spiritual goodness and essence with her future husband.
Which reason do you prefer? And by the way, many brides and grooms want to do variations of the traditional seven circles. I’ve had brides and grooms who each do 3 circles around each other and then they take each other by the hand and do the 7th circle together. And I have had a bride tell me that she just cannot do it because she suffers from vertigo.
When a bride and groom come to see me to consider having me officiate their wedding, just know that I will explain everything that is part of a Jewish wedding because you have the right to know what all of the elements mean and their significance. What parts of a Jewish Wedding Ceremony would you like me to explain - ask me anything !