Stellar Guest Guide #2: Jewish Weddings

May 22, 2013    |    By +
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Wedding-Thumbnail_jewish_finalSometimes we get invited to an event and have no idea what to expect or what is expected of us. We’ve all been there; confused, bumbling and ultimately embarrassed. But, it doesn’t have to be that way! I’m doing a whole series on weddings so that no matter what kind of wedding you get invited to, you’ll show up like a pro. This go-round, I’m focusing on Jewish weddings. What’s going to happen? What are you supposed to wear? Will anything weird go on that I have to participate in? Read on and get rid of your wedding attendee jitters.

There are three major denominations in Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform, and numerous small denominations, as well, but lucky for you, most Jewish wedding traditions are consistent among the denominations.

The Gifts:

Money - One gift that’s common at a Jewish wedding is money, but not just any money, money in multiples of the number eighteen, which is the numerical equivalent to the Hebrew word chai, pronounced “hai” with the “h” as a sort of gurgle in the back of your throat. Chai means “life” in English.

Depending on your relationship to the couple at hand you might want to give $144, which is eight times chai, or eleven times chai, which is $198, or any other variation you feel comfortable with.

Registry – If you aren’t Jewish, don’t feel obligated to buy something Jewish. That can be as awkward as wearing a kilt to a Scottish wedding if you’re not Scottish. Instead, look up the happy couple’s registry using our wedding registry finder. Or, if you can’t find a registry, you can reach out to other attendees or family of the bride or groom to find out where they are registered. Registries are always a safe bet. So, when in doubt, buy off of the registry!

The Rules:

Dress Appropriately – When attending a Jewish wedding, make sure to dress with an appropriate sense of modesty, which of course doesn’t mean to put on your best turtleneck and floor-length skirt, but try to avoid dresses that are too low-cut, overly revealing, or very short. It’s distracting.

Don’t Dance (sort of) - If the wedding you’re going to is Orthodox (a stricter sect), don’t expect to have a romantic dance with your husband. At Orthodox weddings, kind of like at a junior high dance, dancing is separated—men on one side and women on the other. At most non-Orthodox weddings, however, dancing is pretty much dancing as we know it in Western culture.

Hamotzi! – Another Jewish tradition to be made aware of is the hamotzi, which is the blessing of the challah (braided egg bread similar to brioche), and more importantly for you, the signal of when you can eat. Once this delicious bread has been blessed, usually by a grandfather or an uncle, everyone can eat, but usually not before that.

Dinner Don’ts – Speaking of food, the Jewish religion forbids milk and meat to be served together, and doesn’t permit shellfish either. So, don’t expect to be served milk in your coffee when it’s time for dessert. It will most likely be soy or pareve and save that hankering for oysters for the following night!

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 Have a question about a specific type of wedding? Comment here and we’ll do a future post on the topic just for you!

Stay tuned for more wedding guest etiquette.

And, if you want to go rogue and buy a wedding gift without consulting their registry or their traditions…see all of our favorite wedding gifts !



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Meet the Gurus


Kathryn D.W.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is the senior manager of content at Gifts.com. She was formerly the executive editor at Honolulu Magazine, and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping on Oahu. Her career has included staff positions at Country Living Gardener and Power & Motoryacht. Her latest book is "Hawaii's Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!"

Gwen P.
Gwen is the Editorial Curator at Gifts.com. In addition to writing blogs, she creates gift guides, curates the site, and produces content for our social media channels. As a freelance writer, she created blogs on fashion, art, travel, health and lifestyle. A talented jewelry designer, she's also a yogi and a hospital volunteer with her therapy dog, Lilo, a Pomeranian.