Everything You Need to Know About the Sheva Brachot (Seven Blessings)

Seven Blessings

PHOTO BY ANNA JONES PHOTOGRAPHY

The seven blessings, or Sheva Brachot as they are called in Hebrew, are the heart of the Jewish wedding ceremony. Seven different blessings are bestowed upon the couple when they are standing under the chuppah. They may be given by the officiant, the rabbi or the cantor, or friends and family members. Many couples recite English translations or alternative blessings in addition to the Hebrew text.

What Are the Seven Blessings?

The seven blessings (Sheva Brachot in Hebrew) are recited over a couple at their wedding ceremony and seven days to follow. Some couples use the traditional text while others write alternative, modern versions.

The seven blessings are repeated again at the wedding reception and then once a day for the next seven nights. Loved ones host meals or gatherings in the couple's honor, also called the Sheva Brachot, where the blessings are recited again. This is a way for the community to continue to celebrate with the newlyweds and sanctify their marriage.

The History and Meaning of the Sheva Brachot

The tradition of celebrating a marriage for seven days dates back to biblical times. In fact, scholars discussed the idea in the Talmud, a book of Jewish law written in the second century C.E. The blessings recited over the couple also come from ancient rabbinic teachings and express joy and hope for the new union. 

Brides and grooms are adding modern twists to this tradition. Many request the blessings be recited in both Hebrew and English during their ceremony. Some opt for alternative translations or ask people they love to write unique blessings for them. It’s also a new custom for the bride and groom to ask friends and family members to recite the blessings during their ceremony, rather than leave it to the rabbi or officiant. “One thing we are seeing a lot of is couples using the Sheva Brachot as an opportunity to honor special guests,” said expert Karen Cinnamon.

Meet the Expert

Karen Cinnamon is the Founder and Editor of Smashing The Glass, the world’s largest Jewish wedding platform.

While religious couples tend to have Sheva Brachot meals for seven days after their weddings, more modern couples skip it for their honeymoon. “However, with smaller weddings on the horizon for the foreseeable future in light of the pandemic, we’re predicting a revival of the custom as a way to include friends and family unable to make it to the main event,” said Cinnamon.

Seven Blessings (Sheva Brachot) FAQs

When are the seven blessings recited at the wedding?

The Sheva Brachot are first recited under the chuppah (the wedding canopy). At more traditional weddings they are recited again after the meal at the reception.

Who recites the seven blessings at the wedding?

“The blessings are often recited by a rabbi or cantor, but they don’t have to be,” said Cinnamon. “Couples can ask honored guests to join in the recitation of the blessings.” If you are asking someone to recite the blessing in Hebrew, make sure they are fluent in the language. If not, you can ask them to read an English translation.

Where are the seven blessings recited?

The seven blessings are recited twice during a Jewish wedding: once when the couple is standing under the wedding canopy and again during the blessings after the meal. The latter can take place in the reception hall or wherever the meal was served.

Do I need to prepare for the seven blessings at the wedding?

The blessings are usually chanted over a cup of wine, from which the couple then drinks. Make sure there is one present under the chuppah and next to the couple when grace is being said. It’s also important to determine early who is going to recite the seven blessings. Prepare honorees and let them know exactly when to approach the chuppah.

Do the seven blessings have to be in Hebrew?

It’s traditional to recite the blessings in Hebrew, but many couples also choose to have them read in English as well. Modern couples even have loved ones write their own blessings for the couple and recite those in place of or in addition to the traditional Hebrew blessings. “This is a nice way to make sure guests who don’t know Hebrew are included,” said Cinnamon.

Can I write my own seven blessings?

Absolutely. It’s a nice touch to have friends or family members write their own blessings for the couple (or have the couple write them for each other). There are also alternative versions that are easy to find on the internet.

Who plans a Sheva Brachot meal?

The Sheva Brachot meals are basically festive dinner parties. “Anyone who wants to help celebrate the couple can plan one, though they’ll need to coordinate with them,” said Cinnamon. “Anyone interested in holding a Sheva Brachot should try to be in touch with the couple early on once they’ve set their wedding date, so they can claim a night, as well as coordinate the guest list.”

How many people attend a Sheva Brachot meal?

“Traditionally, for the Sheva Brachot meals, there should be a minimum of ten guests including at least one person who did not attend the wedding or one of the previous Sheva Brachot,” said Cinnamon. There is no limit to how many people can attend, but remember, this is not another wedding. Because the couple might be going to seven of these meals, consider keeping it small and intimate.

What should be served at a Sheva Brachot meal?

“The meal can consist of just about anything, as long as it includes bread,” said Cinnamon. “Ideally it should be something special that the couple will enjoy. Hosts can opt to hold the meal in their home or at a restaurant or synagogue.”

Do I have to have all seven Sheva Brachot meals?

“Sheva Brachot meals are not required by Jewish law, and it’s perfectly acceptable to opt for one or two rather than the full seven,” said Cinnamon.

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