Engagement and Signing of Conditions
In ancient times, families would engage their children years before the actual wedding. At an engagement party, the families would sign a contract obligating each party if his child withdrew from the marriage. Nowadays, the document of ‘condition’, t’naim, is signed in few circles.
Text of Tenaim
|May He to whom past and future are one, bestow a good name and longevity to the terms of this covenant and its undertakings, as agreed upon by these two parties,
________________________________on behalf of his son
________________________________the groom, and
________________________________on behalf of his daughter
Both parties affirm that all past obligations due the bride from the groom as well as all past obligations due the groom from the bride have been honored, so that there are no outstanding claims or demands on each other.
The groom will, God willing, marry the bride according to the laws of Moses and Israel on the ______ day of the week the ______ day of the month, in the year _________.
Neither party will conceal from each other any of their material possessions but will indeed share equal ownership of all their worldly assets, in peace and tranquility, as befits bnei torah and God fearing people.
All the above is accepted and agreed to without reservation
We hereby witness that the respective parties have affirmed the terms via a proper kinyan reflecting all the above stipulations as written and duly explained, so as to ensure the correct assumptions of these obligations.
All that is duly established and confirmed on this date, ______________ at _____________________
Engagement and Henna Party
In some Eastern communities a ’henna‘ party is held a few days before the wedding. A party of song and dance is generally held at the home of the bride with the company of the groom and his family, relatives and friends. Special delicacies are served, candles and incense vessels are lit and the young couple appears dressed in traditional colorful costumes and ornamentation of beautiful heavy jewels. The central event is the coloring of the palms of the bride with the henna material. After the coloring of the bride, it is also customary to color the hands of the groom and the hands of the bride's friends and the other guests. Henna is a fragrant green powder ground from cypress leaves dried for some days. The cypress is a large shrub that grows in the Jericho region, and in the Bible it symbolizes love (Song of Songs 1:14). Originally the henna custom took place the day before the wedding as the coloring was also credited with protection against the ‘evil eye’. Nowadays coloring is only in the form of circles like a coin representing success and a good income. The word ‘henna’ is related to chen which means charm; it is also an acronym for commandments incumbent on women after marriage according to Jewish tradition: The challa, the laws relating to family purity and candle lighting.
The Sabbath of the Groom and the Sabbath of the Bride
The Sabbath before the wedding is celebrated by Ashkenazim as the ‘Sabbath of the groom’. The custom originated when the Temple stood and grooms passed through the ‘gate of grooms’ and received the greetings of the public. The custom is that the groom is called up to the Torah (generally for maftir). It is customary to throw candies and sweets on the groom as a symbol of a sweet life for the couple. At times the groom himself reads the Torah or the Haftarah (from the Prophets). According to one widespread Ashkenazic custom, the groom and bride do not see each other in the days preceding their wedding. For those who have chosen to adopt this custom, the bride will be unable to participate in this celebration. In some circles, the bride invites her friends to her home on this Sabbath. This private Sabbath grants the bride quality time with her friends. Nowadays there are brides who want to participate in the ‘Sabbath of the groom’ without relinquishing the ‘Sabbath of the Bride’ and the two celebrations are separated by a week.
In Eastern communities the ‘Sabbath of the Groom’ is the one after the wedding. In these communities it is customary for the family of the bride to be hosted at the groom's home. The groom is called up to the Torah. In some communities, an additional Torah scroll is brought out from which is read the verses describing the instructions of the patriarch Abraham in his old age regarding the manner of choosing a bride for his son (Genesis 24:1–7).