A practical guide and checklist
Edited and revised by Rabbi Shlomo Cohen
First, a Mazel Tov! Congratulations on becoming a Kalla. 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- You should have met your Choson’s parents before the engagement. It is important that your parents meet his. 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]
2- Be sure you have a Rav! [Halachic obligation] At some point, you will need to choose a Rav in conjunction with your Choson. Both of you need to feel comfortable with your choice and it is imperative that you are both an integral part of this decision. [Shalom Bayis]
3- Check TaySachs compatibility before the engagement. If you, or the Choson, have not yet been tested, call Dor Yeshorim at (718) 384-6060.[absolutely necessary]
4- 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]
5- 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 Choson if you are unsure what to do.
6- Let your Choson know your preferences in shape and setting for your diamond. [good idea]
7- 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.) This may be done by either side.
8- Together with your Choson 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-Your cycle is the single most important determinant. [Halachic implications] A Rav or Rebbitzen familiar with Hilchos Nidda should be consulted. [necessary]
b- Try 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.
9-With your Choson and parents, choose a hall and caterer. Check with your Rav regarding Kashrus standards.
10-There are many ways of splitting wedding costs. The traditional method calls for the Choson’s side to pay “FLOP” – Flowers, Liquor, Orchestra, Photographer. The Kalla’s side pays for hall and caterer.
11-The date of the hall now determines which bands and photographers are available. Discuss them with your Choson (let him know if you have any 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]
12-Learn Hilchos Nidda with a qualified person. [Halachic obligation] (preferably one licensed by JME). There is generally a fee for this. Hilchos Tznius should also be learned by 2 –3 weeks before the Chasuna. [Halachic obligation]
13-Be in daily contact with your Choson. Proximity permitting, go out with him regularly. Gifts are always thoughtful.[solid advice]
14- Arrange to purchase Shaitels, snoods etc.
15-Invitations should be in the mail approximately one month prior to the Chasuna. The monogram 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.)
a- check them carefully for errors
b- have your lists prepared well in advance.
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.)
Each side can address their own envelopes.
a- 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.
b- 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.
c- Weigh the stuffed envelope. Some get heavy and require additional postage. Be sure to stamp the return envelope as well.
d- Purchase sufficient stamps.
16- Flowers for the Chasuna are paid for by the Choson. There are several alternatives. Discuss them together.
1- Use one florist for everything.
2- Go to a flower G’mach. For a nominal fee they will supply the Chasuna with centerpieces, Chuppa decorations etc. These will be artificial and/or dried flower arrangements.
3- Some flowers will still be needed. Bride’s flowers, corsages etc. for family (if desired). Let your Choson know your preferences.
17-Begin apartment hunting ASAP. Determine if the apartment needs any work before you move in!
18-Begin selecting furniture. (Second-hand may be a good option, but only if the Choson is agreeable.) Remember that furniture often takes weeks to be delivered. Plan accordingly.
19-Discuss with Choson 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.
20-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.
21-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.
22-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]
23-Order phone service. This may take several weeks. [plan ahead] If necessary, in your apt., put utilities in your name.
24- Shop for a bridal gown. Check your wardrobe to see what else you need (eg new PJ’s, decent bathrobe etc.) [necessary]
25- Go to a Municipal Hall with the Choson for a marriage license. [must do] (Make a list of things that will require name and address changes [eg driver’s license, credit cards, bank accounts etc.])
26-Arrange dates and hosts for Sheva Brachos.[necessary]
27-The Kalla usually pays for the Talis and Kitel. It is nice to have a special Shabbos Talis but not necessary.
28-Be sure of the spelling of your Hebrew name and your father’s. [required] If you aren’t sure, ask your Mesader Kiddushin..
29- The Kalla does not usually attend the Aufruf. Arrange for a Shabbos Kalla with family and/or friends.
30-Many couples choose to go to a hotel on the wedding night. If you wish to do this make reservations several weeks prior.[optional]
34-Make a list of Kibbudim (honors) you wish to bestow at your Chasuna. Generally the Choson arranges this. The Kalla’s side has a right to a number of the honors. These are the Kibbudim:
a- Mesader Kiddushin (usually the Choson’s choice)
b- Chazan to sing under the Chuppa (usually the Choson’s choice)
c- Announcer to call out the Kibbudim. (usually the Choson’s choice) There is a particular way this is done. Be sure the person you choose is aware of the proper protocol.
d- Krias Tannaim
e- Two witnesses for the Kesuba
f- Krias Kesuba
g- Two witnesses for Kiddushin under the Chuppa
h- Two Brachos of Nissu’in. Usually both are said by the Mesader Kiddushin.
i- Sheva Brachos – may all be said by one person or split between any number of people, up to seven.
j- Two witnesses to Yichud, usually the witnesses to Kiddushin, but may be two others.
k- One to lead the Bentching after the meal.
l- Six others (the seventh Bracha is HaGofen made by the one who led the Bentching.) for Sheva Brachos after bentching.
31- Inform people prior to the Chasuna of their specific Kibud to ensure they will be there and ready. Have several alternatives prepared. [good idea]
32- Do the seating arrangements.
33- Go to a Tzaddik for a Bracha. [optional]
34- Arrange to go to the Mikva prior to the Chasuna. [Mitzva-Absolutely necessary]
35- 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.
36-Checklist of things to be brought to the Chasuna:
a- cosmetics, hairbrush etc. a little sewing kit, Shout, Wipes, safety pins
a- A Yom Kippur Machzor and a Siddur.
b- A suitcase with those items you will need if you will be spending the first night elsewhere. Changes of clothes, toiletries, some snacks and drinks.
37- Arrange to have someone else take home all the checks and gifts from the Chasuna.
38-Costs of a Chasuna vary widely. Here is some idea of how the finances may look for the Kalla:
1- Shadchan – $1,000 is the usual fee but can vary.
2- Cost of ‘Vort’ or L’chaim- will vary.
3-Halls and caterers vary widely. The cost will depend on the number of people who come, the menu chosen and the cost per person.
3- Cost of printing invitations and thank-you cards. Will vary
5- Stamps to mail your invitations. Minimally, $.74 x the number of invitations.
6- Gifts to Choson – will vary, at least several hundred, minimum.
7- The Kalla usually buys the Choson a Shas. Depending upon which Shas he wants the cost may be $300 or up.
8- Bridal gown – costs will vary. You may wish to use your mother’s if it fits and is Tzniusdig. [Sentimental, yet cost effective]
9-Wardrobe- will vary, at least several hundred.
10-Shaitels can vary in cost from thousands for human hair to hundreds for synthetics. Your kalla teacher or married friends can assist you.
11-First night hotel room option – $100 or more
12-Kalla teacher – figure on $250 – $300
13-Security and first month’s rent on an apartment
14-Mezuzos run from about $25 and up apiece
15-Connecting phone service -$100
19-Basic food costs
20-Appliances, pots, silverware & dishes
21-You may need to buy a car. Remember to figure in costs of licensing, registering & insuring.
THE DAY OF THE WEDDING
A- Regular Shachris
B- Get to the hall early.
C- Daven Mincha with Viduy as early as possible.
Have your family there on time for the photographer. (A lot of time can be wasted if people don’t cooperate).
D- Kabalas Panim- Tannaim are filled out and signed by the Choson, the Kalla and two witnesses and then read aloud. The Kesuba is filled in.
E- 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.
F- 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 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 the Kalla, your Mesader Kiddushin and your parents. The main goal is to keep everybody happy.
G- 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”.
H- 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.
I- She stops and stands on the Choson’s right side. The Choson and Kalla are facing the guests.
J- 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.
K- The Mesader Kiddushin and two witnesses are called up. The Mesader makes the Bracha over the wine and the Birchas Erusin. 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 lifted slightly so she may sip the wine. (Both parents should be careful not to drip any on the Choson or Kalla).
L- 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 Kalla and the witnesses must hear each word.
M- 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.
N- 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).
O- The Choson breaks a glass.
P- The music and dancing start.
Q- The Choson and Kalla are escorted to the Yichud room.
R- The Choson and Kalla usually wash, make HaMotzei and eat something both to break their fast as well as they can expect to eat very little at the meal.
S- From there back to the photographer. Once again, have someone in charge of rounding up family to minimize wasted time.
T- From there to dancing.
U- Birchas HaMazone – Sheva Brachos
V- Change and leave to begin your life together. Have someone else take home gifts and checks.
W- There are different Minhagim as to when the Kalla must begin covering her hair. Speak with your Rav.