Let's face it: planning a wedding can quickly escalate into a whirlwind of guest list negotiations, figuring out what menu items will satisfy your gluten-free Aunt Louise and coordinating with dozens of vendors. Carving out time with your partner to choose a chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy) can be a great opportunity to take a step back and re-focus on the most important part of your wedding: the celebration of your love and commitment.
A chuppah is beautiful wedding tradition that symbolizes the home that you will build together with your new spouse. With all four sides open, it welcomes the community to be part of your new life together, while the fabric overhead offers a protective and beautiful shelter.
For some couples, the process of figuring out what to use as a chuppah causes some anxiety. How do we make sure it's a Kosher chuppah? And how big should a chuppah be, and where should we get a chuppah, and how will we set it up, and what will we possibly do with it after the wedding?
Have no fear! These five tips will help you tame that anxiety, and even enjoy the process of coming up with chuppah ideas and choosing a chuppah together with your partner.
1. First, before you get into any practical considerations, decide together what would make the chuppah meaningful to both of you. Would you like to use your chuppah as a way to honor family traditions? Couples interested in doing this often choose a family tallit (prayer shawl) to use as a chuppah, or they find a way to incorporate an heirloom tablecloth or blanket into their chuppah. Do you want to ask your friends to contribute squares that could be quilted together into a unique chuppah? Or would you like to find a chuppah that is a work of art that you both find beautiful (perhaps inspired by a meaningful poem), that you could hang in your home after the wedding as a powerful reminder of the love and community that surrounded you on your wedding day? Any of these options can be a meaningful way to adapt the chuppah tradition to your own wedding ceremony.
2. You don't need to worry much about the chuppah being kosher. While it is a traditional custom to use a tallit as a chuppah, this is not required. The primary requirement for a chuppah in Jewish law is that it be supported by four poles, open on four sides, and covered above. After you incorporate these basic requirements, the sky is the limit–decorate with it with grape vines, drape it with lace, use branches from a favorite tree to serve as chuppah poles. Choose a chuppah that is a beautiful and meaningful symbol of the love you share, and don't worry about whether it fits into anyone's traditional ideas of what a chuppah should be.
3. Decide whether you'd like to use a freestanding or hand-held chuppah, and plan accordingly. There are two main types of chuppah frames–freestanding or hand-held, and there are advantages to each option. A freestanding chuppah can be set up and put in place prior to the ceremony, and it doesn't have to be held in place by people at the four poles. This is a great option if you would prefer not to have a lot of people right next to you during the ceremony. It is also easiest to add flowers or other decorations, as you can put it up and start decorating hours before the ceremony starts. Using hand-held chuppah poles is a great option for couples who would like to choose four important people to them to stand with them at the chuppah throughout the ceremony. This can be a moving and symbolic way to bring important people in your lives into your ceremony–they are literally holding up the chuppah that symbolizes your new home together.
4. Make sure you choose a chuppah that's the right size. One of the most common mistakes people make when choosing a chuppah is that they forget to ensure that it's tall enough. You don't want to be hunched over under the chuppah at your wedding. Any kind of fabric will drape somewhat, and if you have friends holding the chuppah poles, it's only natural that they will start to move in closer to the action, causing the fabric to drape a bit more. It's generally a good idea to select chuppah poles that are at least two feet taller than the tallest person who will be standing under the chuppah. If you're making your own chuppah poles, 8 feet is standard.
5. Find a meaningful way to incorporate your chuppah into your lives after the wedding. In the midst of planning a wedding, it can sometimes be hard to see past the big day. But soon your wedding will be a fond memory, and you'll want tangible reminders of the joy and love that filled you both on your wedding day. Finding a way to incorporate your chuppah into your life together can be a symbolic way to bring a memory of your wedding into your home. For example, a quilted chuppah can use it as a bedspread, and a tallit can be used to wrap a baby in during their brit mila or naming ceremony. Each Advah chuppah is designed to easily hang as a tapestry on the wall of your home, serving as a beautiful reminder of the love and community that surrounded you on your wedding day.
I hope these tips helped to calm any chuppah anxiety that might be brewing. If you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to be in touch. And check back soon for a behind-the-scenes look at the process of designing and making an Advah chuppah!