By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008

Bedecken is the part of the Jewish wedding ceremony when the groom places the veil over the bride's face. The Yiddish term means to "cover up" and has an obvious English cognate, bedeck.

There is a powerful romantic charge at the bedecken; the groom is danced into the room where the bride sits surrounded by friends and family. Often it is the first time the couple has seen one another in a week or a day, depending on one's custom. The first Jewish bride to don a veil bedecked herself. Rebecca rode on camel back to meet Isaac for the first time and marry him. On seeing him, she fell off her camel and then "took the veil and covered herself" . Was this to hide her nervousness or an act of modesty? A fearful act, or one of empowerment?

Beyond the great photo-op, the bedecken has halachic implications: it is the beginning of the couple's shared life and therefore counts as a marriage ritual.

Last updated: 10:28am, October 28 2008