Jewish wedding days are built on a number of unique traditions, and even these traditions vary within different branches of Judaism. Furthermore, some Jewish weddings only incorporate one or two traditions out of respect to the families, while others observe several. With such an array of nuances and elements, it is important that photographers know the important moments to capture.

fNote: The following is a Jewish Wedding, as understood from our experience and research. There are a variety of traditions based on the style of Jewish wedding you might cover (Orthodox, modern, etc.), so we would like to note this is just a general overview for covering a Jewish wedding.

Typical Structure/Events of a Jewish Wedding

  1. Ketubah Signing
  2. Processional
  3. Ceremony Under Chuppah
  4. Kiddushin – Wine Betrothal Blessing
  5. Ring Exchange
  6. Chuppah Stomp – Mazel Tov
  7. Recessional

Tips for Photographing a Jewish Wedding

Here are essential guidelines specifically for photographing a Jewish wedding, in addition to the universal wedding photography tips applicable to all weddings. Incorporate these specialized tips into your overall approach to ensure you are thoroughly prepared for capturing the unique aspects of a Jewish wedding ceremony.

Prepare for an Outdoor Ceremony

outdoor ceremony jewish

First and foremost, it is important to know that, in general, Jewish Wedding ceremonies are traditionally held outside as a sign of the blessings given by God to Abraham. This factor makes it important to check the weather for the day and make sure you’re properly equipped for the event.

Understand Cultural Rules Regarding Gender

A general note to first-time-photographers shooting Orthodox Jewish Weddings, don’t touch those of the opposite sex. While some Jewish Orthodox weddings may not be as traditional as others, it is a safe rule to just avoid making any physical contact with any person of the opposite sex at the wedding, this includes shaking their hands. The best way to know whether or not it is appropriate with your client, is to ask, or simply watch what others are doing.

Prepare for the Ketubah Signing

The marriage contract outlining the chatan’s (groom’s) various responsibilities is signed by the groom and witnessed by two people. Traditionally, this document was one of the first legal documents giving financial and legal rights to women. Today, the signing of this document is more symbolic as it represents the couple’s commitment to love, honor and respect one another.

Be prepared with flashes to cover the Ketubah signing, just in case it takes place in a darker room, which happens often. Also, don’t forget to get detail shots of the Ketubah, as well as images of everyone signing it, which includes the couple and a number of VIPs. As with most ceremony shots, capture both sides of the family as events unfold. During the Ketubah signing, for example, the families will stand around the table where the Ketubah is placed to watch the couple sign it. This signing constitutes the actual marriage. Any ceremony after this point is mostly symbolic.

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Understand the Significance of the Bedeken

Prior to the ceremony under the Chuppah (the wedding canopy, pronounced “hup – pah”), the groom, escorted by his father or father-in-law, enters the room where the bride is receiving guests and brings a veil over the bride’s face, symbolizing the bride’s new duties as a married woman.

Photograph the Chuppah

chuppahThe Chuppah, or wedding canopy, symbolizes the home to be built together by the bride and groom. After the bride arrives at the chuppah, the bride, her mother, and her mother-in-law circle the groom seven times.

Anticipate the Breaking the Glass

breaking glass jewish

After the blessings, the couple shares the cup of wine and the groom steps on a glass to the gleeful shouts of “Mazel tov!” Note: Immediately after the Chuppah Stomp, the couple may go for their first kiss. Don’t miss it!

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Cheder Yichud – The married couple is then escorted by two witnesses to the cheder yichud, “the room of privacy” where they share an intimate moment before proceeding to the reception (if there is one).

Be Prepared for the Hora Dance

The Hora Dance is a beautiful dance that typically kicks off the wedding reception.  Be prepared for lots of action and get yourself in position to capture their expressions when they are raised up in chairs.

Marisa Joy Photography
Image by Marissa Joy Daly
SMJ photography hora
Image by Scott Josuweit

More Information

For more information, see our Jewish Wedding Photography Guide.  We created this guide to help prepare photographers to successfully photograph Jewish weddings. To ensure success, this wedding guide explores several Jewish wedding traditions and provides specialized photography tips that will help you anticipate each of these significant moments and capture them when they happen.

We have included insightful photography tips for covering Jewish weddings, from the Ketubah signing to the hora dance, using our experience photographing countless Jewish weddings over the years. With recommendations on where to position team members, which angles to capture, and which lenses work best to capture those angles, the tips in this photography guide will give you the knowledge to anticipate moments and create artistic story-driven wedding photographs that honor the respective religions, traditions, and cultures of your clients.

In addition to the photography tips, the accompanying images featured in each section of this guide have been included for visual reference. Culled from the catalogs of Lin & Jirsa Photography, each image directly relates to the topic at hand and should serve to inspire you when you find yourself applying what you’ve learned under the constraints of a real working environment.

For more information on photographing weddings, you can check out the rest of our Wedding Workshop Series, available for streaming for SLR Lounge Premium members! Our comprehensive wedding workshop series covers everything from the initial consultation through to the end of the wedding day and provides the insight you’ll need to exceed your client’s expectations.