The differences between the Sephardic and the Ashkenazi traditions


Although the basic elements of the Jewish wedding are exactly the same , there are some customs which different from community to community and even from family to family.  In the following lines I will present very briefly a few examples of customs that vary between the Sephardic and the Ashkenazi tradition.



In many Ashkenazi communities the custom is that the groom fasts on the day of his wedding. This fast is part of the process of Teshuba that the bride and groom undergo, since according to the Gemara in Yebamot 63b and the Talmud Yerushalami in Bikurim 3:3, the transgressions of the Hatanim are forgiven when they get married, if they do Teshuba. The tradition of Sephardic Jews, particularly according to Rabbi Obadia Yosef, is that the groom should not fast because, among other reasons, for the groom his wedding day is like a Yom Tob, a festive day, and the process of Teshuba should be carried out in a different way,  for example, by praying and studying more intensely that day.



The Ashkenazi tradition is to celebrate the Shabbat Hatan, i.e, the Shabbat in which the groom is invited to be called up to the Torabefore the wedding. This Shabbat is called “Aufruf” , which in Yiddish means “calling up” (to the Tora). In Sephardic communities the groom’s Shabbat or Shabbat Hatan takes place the Shabbat after the wedding.   In many Sephardic communities it is also customary to call the Hatan to the Tora the day of the wedding, when the wedding is celebrated Monday or Thursday.



In the Ashkenazi tradition, prior to the actual wedding ceremony, the groom accompanied by his parents, friends, and the Rabbi amidst joyous singing of his friends, covers the bride’s face with a veil. The veiling and unveiling of the bride reminds the event in which Ya’aqob Abinu took Leah as his first wife believing that she was Rachel. The bride wears this veil until the conclusion of the Hupa ceremony. In Sephardic communities the bride enters to the Hupa veiled, but the veil is removed in the qiddushin, when the groom gives the ring to the bride and consecrates her as his wife, since the witnesses must be able to recognize the bride.



In many Ashkenazi communities the custom is to get married under the stars, i.e., weather permitting, the Hupa would take place outdoors and at night.  In Sephardic communities there is no such custom, and wedding ceremonies take place outdoors or indoors indistinctly. According to the Sephardic tradition (Minhag Yerushalayim) the wedding ceremony should take place preferably during the day, prior to sunset.



In most Ashkenazi communities, when the bride comes under the Hupa she walks around the groom seven times. According to Kabbalistic sources, the seven rounds represent the seven days of Creation: “Since every marriage is a re-enactment of the creative process, she walks around the groom to indicate that these seven cycles are now repeated”. Sephardic Jews do not practice this custom.



In the Ashkenazi tradition, immediately after the wedding, the groom and the bride seclude themselves in a heder yihud, a locked room in which they remain together and alone for a few minutes.  Most Sephardic Rabbis, and particularly Rabbi Obadia Yosef, reject this Minhag. They explain that the  yhud of the Hatan an the Kala takes place not after the Hupa ceremony but after the party ends, and the bride and the room go to their private room.