A practical guide and checklist
by Rabbi Shlomo Cohen
First, a Mazel Tov! Congratulations on becoming a Choson. You are entering a very special and exciting time in your life. Very suddenly, your time is filled with a hundred different things to do. This guide should assist you immeasurably.
1-Ohr Somayach has a set of two Choson tapes. Get them from the office and listen to them many times.[great advice]
2-You should have met your kalla’s parents before the engagement. It is important that your parents meet hers. Involve both sets of parents in Chasuna plans. There will probably be some Halachic issues that arise. Don’t get flustered or, Chas V’Sholom, breach Kibud Av V’Em (honoring your parents). Table the discussion and speak to your Rav.[critical] (One example of an issue would be Mechitza/mixed seating at the Chasuna. There are many simple solutions should the problem arise. Speak them over with your Rav before creating an unnecessary problem.)
3-Be sure you have a Rav! [Halachic obligation] At some point, you will need to choose a Rav in conjunction with your Kalla. She may not feel comfortable with your choice and it is imperative that you make her an integral part of this decision. [Shalom Bayis]
4-Check TaySachs compatibility before the engagement. If you, or the Kalla, have not yet been tested ask a She’ayla of a Rav. (Dor Yeshorim (718) 384-6060). [absolutely necessary]
5-Inform family and friends of your engagement. [crucial] Now is a good time to begin keeping a list of people and start collecting addresses for invitations. [good advice]
6-There is an obligation to pay the Shadchan for his/her services. A professional Shadchan has probably made you aware of the fee. If a good friend or family member made the Shidduch either money or a really nice gift may work. Ask a Rav about fees to be paid by you and/or the Kalla if you are unsure what to do.
7-Find out the Kalla’s preferences in shape and setting for her diamond. Purchase an engagement ring ASAP.[absolutely necessary]
8-Some people have a Minhag to make a L’Chaim or a Vort soon after the engagement. [optional] (Ohr Somayach has a Vort guide available.)
9-If you do make a Vort or L’Chaim, it is customary to purchase flowers for the Kalla. [good idea]. A cautionary word about flowers. Many women love getting them. Some have real preferences. Others don’t care for flowers at all and yet others may be allergic. Do some homework.[good advice]
10-Together with your Kalla and both sets of parents, choose a wedding date. The date will be contingent on several variables. Here are some to keep in mind:
a- The Kalla’s cycle is the single most important determinant. [Halachic implications] A Rav or Rebbitzen familiar with Hilchos Nidda should be consulted. [necessary]
b- Check with the Yeshiva office to avoid conflicts with other affairs. [good advice]
c- Availability of halls will place some constraints on your choices. Obviously, some times of the year are easier than others, as are different days of the week.
d- Schedules of family and friends enter the picture. If a large contingent will be coming from out of town, it will have some effect on your plans.
11-With your Kalla and parents, choose a hall and caterer. Check with your Rav regarding Kashrus standards. Inform the Yeshiva office of the date so it can be put on the calendar.
12-There are many ways of splitting wedding costs. The traditional method calls for the Choson’s side to pay “FLOP” – Flowers, Liquor, Orchestra, Photographer. Others split costs or pay based on financial ability.
13-The date of the hall now determines which bands and photographers are available. Get several quotes and discuss them with your parents (financial) and your Kalla (who may have preferences). Do this quickly and get contracts as soon as possible since the more popular ones are snapped up and you don’t want to miss because of procrastination.[crucial]
14-Learn Hilchos Nidda with a qualified person. [Halachic obligation] There is generally a fee for this. The fee may be as much as two or three hundred dollars. You will need at least a total of ten hours. Do this early on. Be sure your Kalla has also made arrangements with a qualified teacher (preferably one licensed by JME). Hilchos Tznius should also be learned by 2 –3 weeks before the Chasuna. [Halachic obligation]
15-Arrange for a Choson Shmooze the week before the Chasuna. [of extreme importance]
In Ohr Samayach, Rabbi Braun generally does this. Make an appointment early on.
16-Speak with your Rav regarding frequency of contact with your Kalla during the engagement. Proximity permitting, go out with her regularly. Gifts and flowers are always thoughtful.[solid advice]
17-Invitations should be in the mail approximately one month prior to the Chasuna. Should you want a monogram, it needs to have been designed. The invitations must be chosen, ordered, addressed, stuffed and stamped. Normally, the Kalla’s side pays for invitations. You can order thank you cards at the same time. (You will need to get them at some point, it might as well be now. One less worry later.) Ask a Rav before putting any Torah verses on the invitation.
a- check them carefully for errors
b- have your lists prepared well in advance. (Ohr Samayach –related printout lists are available from the office for a nominal fee.)
c- You can save a lot of time by computerizing your address list and printing the envelopes off the computer. (Be sure the outer envelope takes the toner ink without smearing.)
d- Each side can address their own envelopes.
e- Reply cards can all be sent back to one side only or to each side receiving their own guest list. Reply card envelopes must be printed accordingly. (If they are all sent to one place, a little letter or number on each reply card will help identify if the respondent is from the Chosen’s parents, the Kalla’s parents, the Choson’s friends or the Kalla’s friends.)
f- Determine who you will be inviting to the entire Simcha, just the Chuppa, or just the dancing afterwards. Be sure to address the invitations to spouses as well.
g- Weigh the stuffed envelope. Some get heavy and require additional postage. Be sure to stamp the return envelope as well.
h- Purchase sufficient stamps.
18- Flowers for the Chasuna are usually paid for by the Choson. There are several alternatives. Discuss them with your Kalla.
1- Use one florist for everything.
2- Go to a flower G’mach . For a fee they will supply the Chasuna with centerpieces, Chuppa decorations etc. These will be artificial and/or dried flower arrangements.
3- Some fresh flowers will still be needed. Bride’s flowers, corsages etc. for family (if desired).
19-Begin apartment-hunting ASAP if necessary. (Determine if the apartment needs any work before you move in!)
20-Begin selecting furniture. (Second-hand may be a good option, but only if the Kalla is agreeable.) Remember that furniture often takes weeks to be delivered. Plan accordingly.
21-Discuss with Kalla what will be needed in the apartment. Obviously you can expect some gifts, however, you will be needing dishes, pots, appliances, towels, sheets, pillows, blankets, broom, mop, cleaning supplies, etc.etc.etc.
22-Plan for several trips to the Mikva to Toivel your utensils.[Halacha]
a-Be sure you know what has to be, or doesn’t have to be toiveled. Ask your Rav how to Toivel electric appliances.
b-Make sure you know the Bracha.
c- If you wet your hand in the Mikva, you need not let go of the thing you’re Toiveling.
d- Use a basket to Toivel numerous small items, like silverware, together.
23-Don’t forget a basic food supply as well. There is a Minhag Yisroel to have bread and salt in the house when you move in.
24-Check the number of doors, which will need Mezuzos. Ask a Rav since different configurations of doorways have different Halachos. If you are renting, you have up to thirty days to put on Mezuzos. [Mitzva]
25-Order phone service. This may take several weeks. [plan ahead] If necessary in your apt. put utilities in your name.
26-Purchase a Chasuna suit, shirt, tie, shoes etc. Check your wardrobe to see what else you need (eg new PJ’s, decent bathrobe etc.) [necessary]
27- Go to a Municipal Hall with the Kalla for a marriage license. [must do] Don’t leave it for the last minute. On the other hand, a license is only good for thirty days.
28-Arrange dates and hosts for Sheva Brachos for the week after the Chasuna. (The number of Sheva Brachos needed may vary in the summer and winter. Discuss this with your Rav.) It is not necessary to have Sheva Brachos every day that week.
29-Select a Talis and Kittel. [necessary] Ask a married friend for help on size and weight of Talis. Be sure to learn how to put it on properly. [Halacha]
Some have the Minhag for the Kalla to purchase the Talis and Kitel and give them to the Choson on the day of the wedding.. It is nice to have a special Shabbos Talis but not necessary.
30-Purchase at least two, preferably three, copies of Tannaim and Kesubos. [required] They can be bought at any Seforim Store. Ask your Mesader Kiddushin if he has any preferences or if he will be bringing them, otherwise ask for Rav Moshe’s’ Nusach of the Tannaim. These printed copies come in a wide price range, from several dollars to forty or more. Handwritten Kesubos can run into the hundreds of dollars. If you are going with a hand-written Kesuba, check with your Mesader Kiddushin on every word.
31-Select a Mesader Kiddushin ASAP. Be sure he is available.
32-Be sure of the spelling of your Hebrew name and your father’s. Find out the Kalla’s name and her father’s with correct spellings. [required] If you aren’t sure, ask your Mesader Kiddushin..
33- Purchase a wedding ring with your own money. Checks and charge cards may be problematical if the check hasn’t cleared before the Chasuna. [Halachic obligation] There are several points you must be aware of:
a- The ring must be yours.[Halacha]
b- It must be a plain band.[Halacha]
c- Have your Mesader Kiddushin approve your choice.[good advice]
34-Generally, the choson gives the Kalla a gift in the Yichud room. [optional, but suggested]. A nice piece of jewelry, usually pearls, is often given.
35- Arrange for your Aufruf. Where will it be?
a- Practice, or learn the Brachos for the Haftorah. (Necessary if you wish to have Maftir. It is a Minhag to have Maftir, but not required. Any Aliya will do.)
b- Have ‘peklach’ made. Ensure that all items are kosher according to the standards of the Shul.
c- Be sure that hard candies or sharp edged items are not included and that the ‘pecklach’ are tied well.[great advice]
d- Give the Gabbai a written list of Hebrew names for all Kibbudim you would like for Aliyos.
38-Many couples choose to go to a hotel on the wedding night. If you wish to do this make reservations several weeks prior.[optional] Purchase a tube of K-Y Jelly and have it wherever you will be spending the first night. Any pharmacy will carry it. If you don’t know what it is for, ask your Choson teacher.
39-Make a list of Kibbudim (honors) you wish to bestow at your Chasuna. Generally the Choson arranges this together with the Kalla and her parents.
There are up to 24 Kibbudim.
6 at Kabalas Panim,
11 under the Chuppa and
7 after the meal.
These are usually split between the two families unless one side has fewer honorees. Sholom Bayis and sensitivities are important considerations.
These are the Kibbudim:
Arrange for a Chazan with a nice voice to sing under the Chuppa. Be sure he is experienced.
Announcer to call out the Kibbudim. (There is a particular way this is done. Be sure the person you choose is aware of the proper protocol.)
a- Eidei Tannain 1]_____________ 2]____________
b- Krias Tannaim 3]_____________ expert at reading Aramaic text.
c- Two witnesses for the Kesuba. (Of the six witnesses needed, none may be related to you or the Kalla or each other.) 4]_____________ 5]_______________
d- Mesader Kiddushin 6]____________
e- Two witnesses for Kiddushin under the Chuppa 7]___________ 8]_____________
f- Reading the Kesuba 9]____________
g- Two Brachos of Nissu’in. Usually, both are said by the Mesader Kiddushin but can be said by someone else. 10]__________
h- Sheva Brachos – may all be said by one person or split between any number of people up to seven. 11]______________ 12]___________ 13]__________ 14]______________ 15]____________
i- Two witnesses to Yichud, usually the witnesses to Kiddushin, but may be two others. 16]____________ 17]____________
j- One to lead the Bentching after the meal. 18]_________
k- Six others (the seventh Bracha is HaGofen made by the one who led the Bentching) for Sheva Brachos after bentching. 19]_____________ 20]___________21]__________ 22]_____________ 23]____________ 24]__________ The greatest honor is Mesader Kiddusin then Krias Kesuba, then the last Bracha, then the first two Brachos, then any of the other Brachos, then Eidei Kiddushin. The Eidei Kiddushin should be devout and pious people. They are required to do Tshuva before being Eidim.
40-Inform people prior to the Chasuna of their specific Kibud to ensure they will be there and ready. Have several alternatives prepared.[good idea]
41-Prepare some Divrei Torah for the Aufruf and Sheva Brachos.[necessary] Be sure to thank your hosts.
42- Arrange for a Shomer at least for the day of the Chasuna. [Halacha]
43- Send flowers or a gift to the Kalla the Shabbos before the Chasuna. [crucial]
44-Go to a Tzaddik for a Bracha. [optional]
45- Go to the Mikva the morning of the Chusuna. [strong Minhag]
46- The Minhag is to fast the day of the Chasuna. Mincha the day of the Chasuna is the same as recited Erev Yom Kippur, complete with Viduy as well as ‘Aneinu’ in Shema Koleinu as in any fast day. As you will probably be at the hall early, be sure to have a Yom Kippur Machzor and a Siddur with you. If your wedding is early this should be done at Shachris.
47-Checklist of things to be brought to the Chasuna:
a- Several copies of blank Tannaim and Kesubos.
b- The marriage license. It must be filled out, signed by the Mesader and two witnesses. (Make a copy before mailing it in. You will need it to open a joint account to deposit Chasuna checks.)
c- The wedding ring
d- A Yom Kippur Machzor and a Siddur.
e- Your Kittel if the Kalla isn’t bringing it.
f- A written list of Kibbudim.
g- A suitcase with those items you will need if you will be spending the first night elsewhere. Changes of clothes, Talis and Tefilin, toiletries, some snacks and drinks.
48- Arrange to have someone else take home all the checks and gifts from the Chasuna.
THE COSTS ( note: THESE COSTS ARE DATED)
Costs of a Chasuna vary widely. Here is some idea of how the finances may look for the Choson:
1- Shadchan – $1,000 is the usual fee but can vary.
2- Engagement ring – can run to thousands.
3- Cost of ‘Vort’ or L’chaim- will vary.
4- Flowers for Chasuna – figure $750 and up.
5-Kiddush for the Aufruf – will depend, figure $100+
6-Copies of Tannaim and Kesubos – $10 and up for all
7- Wedding ring- will vary, $30 and up
8-Stamps to mail your invitations. Minimally, $.74 x the number of invitations.
9- Gifts to Kalla – will vary, at least several hundred, minimum.
10-Wardrobe- will vary, at least several hundred. (Your father may have to figure on a lot more depending on the size of family, costs of gowns for wife and daughters etc. etc. etc.)
11-Photographer- packages vary, figure around $3,000 or more.
12-Music- packages vary, figure around $3,000.
13-First night hotel room option – $100 or more
14-Hilchos Nidda Rebbe – figure on $200 – $300
15-Security and first month’s rent on an apartment
16-Mezuzos run from about $35 and up apiece
17-Connecting phone service -$100
21-Basic food costs
22-Appliances, pots, silverware & dishes
23-You may need to buy a car. Remember to figure in costs of licensing, registering & insuring.
Just the Chasuna, without the costs of setting up the apartment will run about $15,000 or more for the Choson’s side.
THE DAY OF THE WEDDING
A- Regular Shachris with a Minyon. Inform the Gabbai as you are an obligated Aliya if the Torah is read that day. Also the Minyon you Daven with may not have to say Tachanun depending on the time of year and time of the Chuppa.
B- Go to the Mikva.
C- Have your Shomer with you wherever you go.
D- Get to the hall early.
E- Daven Mincha with Viduy as early as possible.
F- Have your family there on time for the photographer. (A lot of time can be wasted if people don’t cooperate).
G- Kabalas Panim- Tannaim are filled out and signed by two witnesses and then read aloud. The two mothers break a plate. The Kesuba is filled in and the Choson makes a Kinyon by lifting an object. (It should be lifted up 3 Tefachim, about a foot.)
I- The Choson is danced in to the Kalla. Generally, the Kalla’s father gives her a Bracha, Then, the Choson places the veil over the Kalla’s face. (Speak with your Mesader Kiddushin regarding the thickness of the veil.) The Choson is then danced out.
J- Minhagim differ, often radically, between Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Chassidim, Yekkes, etc
K- Some people have the Choson’s side walk down before the Choson. Others prefer to have the Choson walk down first, followed by his party. Still others prefer to have only the Choson followed by the Kalla with nobody else walking down. (Discuss this with your Rav & family and be sure to take sensitivities into account) In any event, The Choson is usually accompanied by his parents and the Kalla by hers. Both sets of parents carry a candle down the aisle. The Minhag is to use a braided candle (i.e.- a Havdala candle). Some have a Minhag whereby the Choson is accompanied by both fathers and the Kalla by both mothers. Where parental divorces, remarriages or deaths are involved there are many alternatives. Discuss them with your Mesader Kiddushin and your Kalla. The main goal is to keep everybody happy.
L- Some Chasanim wear the Kittel down the aisle, others put it on under the Chuppa. Some wear an overcoat over the Kittel. When the Choson is under the Chuppa the Chazan sings “Boruch HaBa”.
M- When the Kalla comes close to the Chuppa, the Choson should take several steps forward to greet her. He then steps back and she walks around him seven times (some have a Minhag of three times around). The Chazan sings “Brucha HaBa’ah”. The fathers step to the side and the two mothers escort the Kalla around the Choson.
N- She stops and stands on the Choson’s right side. The Choson and Kalla are facing the guests. Preferably they should be facing East, but this will depend on the orientation of the hall. Yekkes and Sephardim have a Minhag where the Choson and Kalla have their backs to the guests.
O- As this is an extremely propitious time for the Choson and Kalla, there is a strong Minhag to Daven under the Chuppa. Many choose to recite the names of unmarried friends for a Shidduch. This is very nice, but limit that list and Daven for Sholom Bayis, Parnassa, do T’shuva, etc.
M_The Mesader asks for the ring, shows it to the two witnesses, ascertains, in front of the witnesses that it belongs to the Choson. The Choson takes the ring, recites “Ha’ray At Mekudeshes Li B’Taba’as Zu K’Das Moshe V’Yisroel.” and places the ring on the Kalla’s right index finger. “HaRay…” should be recited clearly, loudly and slowly as the witnesses must hear each word. It is recommended that the Choson practice before the Chasuna.
N- The Kesuba is read aloud. The Kesuba is taken by the Choson, he gives it to the Kalla. She then gives it to her mother for safekeeping, usually until a few days after the Chasuna. The Kalla must know where her Kesuba is at all times for the rest of her married life.
O- Sheva Brachos are made. Once again, The Mesader hands the wine to the Choson’s father who holds the cup while the Choson takes a sip. The cup is returned to the Mesader who then gives it to the Kalla’s mother. The Kalla’s veil is then lifted all the way off so she may sip the wine. (Both parents should be careful not to drip any on the Choson or Kalla).
P- The Choson breaks a glass.
Q- The music and dancing start.
R- The Choson and Kalla are escorted to the Yichud room.
S- There is a Minhag for the Choson to give the Kalla a gift in the Yichud room. The Choson and Kalla eat something to break their fast. Sometimes you can end up eating very little at the meal.
T- From there back to the photographer. Once again, have someone in charge of rounding up family to minimize wasted time.
U- From there to dancing.
V- Birchas HaMazone – Sheva Brachos
W- Change and leave to begin your life together. Have someone else take home gifts and checks.
X- There are different Minhagim as to when the Kalla must begin covering her hair. Speak with your Rav.