Perhaps the most iconic moment in a Jewish wedding is the smashing of a glass at the conclusion of the ceremony. Historically this was done by the groom, although in many contemporary weddings the bride and groom do this together.
The breaking of a glass at this time is meant to remind those present of the destruction of the Temples, and other hardships suffered by the Jewish people. Even amidst the great joy of a wedding Jewish tradition teaches that we must always take a moment to acknowledge these tragedies. At traditional weddings, for instance, it is customary to recite Psalm 137 – “If I forget thee O Jerusalem…” – when the glass is smashed.
The practice of smashing a glass during a wedding celebration is sometimes said to have origins in a similar incident described in the Talmud. It relates the story of Rabbi Mar de-Rabina, who felt that the guests at his son’s wedding were not appropriately mindful of the significance of the occasion and were being too cavalier in their celebrations. He grabbed an expensive goblet off the table and smashed it on the floor, giving the guests a moment’s pause and causing them to settle down. This reminded them that a wedding should be marked by solemnity and awe, and not just mindless carousing.
“Historically this was done by the groom, although in many contemporary weddings the bride and groom do this together.”
In some weddings the glass used for kiddush, the blessing of wine during the ceremony, is the one that is broken later on. Most often, though, a separate glass is set aside for this purpose. There is also a growing custom of turning the broken glass into a keepsake – there are many artists that have come up with interesting and beautiful ways of working with the shards and creating wedding mementos out of them.
Read up on more Jewish Wedding Traditions here.