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All About Huppas
(updated 02/12/09)

  • Jewish, Jewish Interfaith & even non-Jewish couples today will often want to use a four-pole huppa (variously spelled huppah, chuppa or chuppah) during their wedding ceremony. A huppa is a canopy, supported by four poles that the bride and groom and rabbi stand under during the ceremony. Many times the Best Man, Maid/Matron of Honor, and parents also stand under the huppa, if there is enough room.

  • In ancient Israel, Jewish weddings were held outside. They were frequently conducted in the late afternoon, or in the evening under the stars. The stars were especially symbolic, since they relate to the the blessing given by G-d to the Patriarch Abraham that his children shall be "as the stars of the heavens." Ritually, the huppa is used to separate the sanctified wedding space from the area around it, which symbolizes G-d's presence and symbolizes the couple's new home that they will build together.
  • The huppa is open on all sides, just as Abraham & Sarah had their tent open on all sides to welcome friends and relatives in unconditional hospitality.

  • Traditionally, the bride and groom are supposed to wear no jewelry under the huppa. Their mutual commitment to one another is based on who they are as people not on their respective material possessions. This requirement is often ignored in today's weddings.

  • In traditional wedding processions, the rabbi ascends the wedding platform or area first, followed by the huppa, which is carried atop poles. Upon reaching the wedding platform, the huppa is then spread out and held aloft by family or friends, awaiting the arrival of the new couple.
  • Jewish tradition allows a wide range of options when creating a huppa, although the traditional four-pole huppa is most often used. In many weddings, a huppa will be made from large frames made of metal and interwound with flowers and ribbons, to simple pieces of cloth held aloft by friends and family. I suggest that families of the bride and groom conspire together to create a joint huppa; this is an excellent way for both sides to get to know each other well and to begin to act as a unified whole.

  • If you're on a tight budget, you can easily make your own huppa. If you have a tallis (a Jewish prayer shawl), then you're all set. You can use four poles to suspend it. Or, you can use a large piece of cloth, decorated with home-made embroidery or tie-dyed designs. My preference is the traditional tallis suspended by four poles, but some of my couples have used variously a quilt, or even a table cloth.
  • Although the traditional four-pole huppa is help aloft by friends, some couples want a huppa that stands on its own. For these, the support poles can be made of a variety of materials. Some folks use 8-foot wooden curtain rods or PVC pipe. Carved and uncarved tree branches have sometimes been used - for instance, the now-famous "Birch Branch Huppa," first used at my weddings on Long Island. The huppa at left uses garden trellis material covered in lace. Supports can be decorated with leafy garlands, vines, flowers or strings of lights. Sometimes the poles are fixed to the floor or placed inside large, weighted ceramic flower tubs so they stay upright by themselves.
  • While some florists offer to assemble a floral wedding canopy, created out of interwoven metal wire, flowers and ribbons, these can be costly. A floral wedding canopy can cost upwards of $1500 or more. I have more to say about this on my blog (see below).

  • Sometimes couples substitute an arch for a huppa at their ceremony. A wedding arch, usually created by a florist and made of the same types of materials as a floral canopy, is placed behind the officiant(s) during the wedding ceremony. I don't consider wedding arches to be a huppa.

  • Other couples have planned on using a gazebo as a huppa. Gazebos are not considered huppas by Jewish tradition. In cases where a couple is considering using a gazebo instead of a huppa, I suggest that they consider alternately using a Sefardic "wrap-around" huppa (see below) under the gazebo during their ceremony.
  • A synagogue may have a huppa that can be rented for a fee, typically in the neighborhood of USD $1000.

  • A huppa can also be custom-made for you. This can be a good, but expensive, idea: have an artist create a huppa for you that can be reused in your new home together and passed on as an heirloom.

  • A traditional huppa is supported by four poles held by friends and family. Several like this are shown on this page. It has been used by generations of Jews around the world. Each pole is held aloft by an honored guest at a wedding. These types of huppas are used today at Ashkenazi (Jews of northern European descent) weddings in Israel and the U.S. The huppa at left is a traditional four-pole huppa. The fabric suspended by the poles is a tallis. I have a few pictures of these types of huppas on my blog (see below).

  • Sephardic Jews don't use the traditional four-pole huppa, Instead, they use a large tallis, which is wrapped around the couple. These types of "wrap-around" huppas are used today at Sephardic weddings in Europe, Israel and the U.S. I have several pictures of these types of huppas on my blog (see below).

Using a huppa does not make your wedding ceremony a Jewish ceremony, nor your marriage a Jewish marriage (a common misconception by couples). For your wedding ceremony to be a Jewish ceremony you must use the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony. For your marriage to be a Jewish marriage, you both must believe in the principles and beliefs of Judaism.

Many couples, especially Jewish-Interfaith couples, think by using a huppa and having a rabbi officiate at their wedding that their guests and their relatives will be fooled into thinking the ceremony is somehow legitimately Jewish; believe me, they won't and they'll see right though you, especially at the reception as you bite into your scallops wrapped with bacon hors d'œuvres.

If you're going to have an interfaith or non-traditional wedding ceremony, skip the posturing and the pretending and work with your officiant(s) to create a ceremony that truly reflects what the two of you and your relationship is about, as opposed to what you want to appear to be. It will work out much better for the two of you in the long term.

Need more info on huppas, huppahs, chuppas or chuppahs?
I have lots and lots more information about huppahs on my Blog Article On Chuppahs. Check it out!

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