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wedding feast

Before the time of Moses, when the proposal was accepted, the marriage price paid, and the gifts distributed, the bridegroom was at liberty to move the bride at once to his own home. Usually the marriage took place at the home of the bride's parents and was celebrated by a feast to which friends and neighbors were invited and which lasted seven days.

The word wedding does not occur in the OT but there was the oath (Prov 2:17; Ezek 16:8; Mal 2:14), and the blessing that was pronounced (Gen 24:60; Ruth 4:10-12), etc. But the essence of the ceremony consisted in the removal of the bride from her father's house to that of the bridegroom or his father. There seems to be a literal truth in the Heb. expression "to take" a wife (Gen 21:21; 24:3,38; 26:34), for the ceremony appears to have mainly consisted in the taking.

After putting on festive dress, placing a "garland" or "wreath"on his head (Isa. 61:10; "crown," Song of Sol 3:11), the bridegroom set forth from his house, attended by his groomsmen (Judg 14:11; Mt 9:15), preceded by a band of musicians or singers (Gen 31:27; Jer 7:34; 16:9; 1 Macc. 9:39), and accompanied by persons bearing lamps (2 Esd 10:2; Mt 25:7; Jer 25:10; Rev 18:23).

Having reached the house of the bride, who with her companions anxiously expected his arrival (Mt 25:1,6), he conducted the whole party back to his own or his father's house, with every demonstration of gladness (Ps 45:15). On their way back they were joined by a party of young girls (virgins), friends of the bride and bridegroom, who were in waiting to catch the procession as it passed (Mt 25:6). The inhabitants of the place pressed out into the streets to watch the procession (Song of Sol 3:11).

At the house a feast was prepared, to which all the friends and neighbors were invited (Gen 29:22; Mt 22:1-10; Lk 14:8; Jn 2:2), and the festivities were protracted for seven or even fourteen days (Judg. 14:12; Tobit 8:19). The guests were provided by the host with wedding clothes (Mt 22:11), and the feast sometimes was enlivened with riddles (Judg 14:12) and other amusements.

The bridegroom now entered into direct communication with the bride, and the "FRIEND OF THE BRIDEGROOM . . . rejoices greatly" at hearing the voice of the bridegroom conversing with her (Jn 3:29), which he regarded as a satisfactory testimony of the success of his share in the work. The last act in the ceremony was the conducting of the bride to the bridal chamber (Heb. cheder, (Judg 15:1; Joel 2:16), where a canopy, named a chuppa, was prepared (Ps 19:5; Joel 2:16). The bride was still completely veiled, explaining the deception practiced on Jacob (Gen 29:23,25).

A newly married man was exempt from military service, or from any public business that might draw him away from his home, for the space of a year (Deut. 24:5). A similar privilege was granted to one who was betrothed (20:7).

This of course is a picture of the greater marriage and ceremony that will one day happen with Christ and His bride (the church).