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Jewish wedding music guide

by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2012-09-30

dancing to Jewish wedding music

Dancing to Jewish wedding music

Music plays an important part in the Jewish life cycle, and no more so than when it comes to weddings - and although the concept of Jewish wedding celebrations may conjure up images of the folk tunes and Russian dancing seen in Fiddler On The Roof, there's more to it than that.

These days, the music used at Jewish weddings tends to lean more towards contemporary, secular songs and tunes, but the vast majority still include some traditional Jewish music and dancing. However, the ceremony itself remains the part of the wedding where Jewish music is most likely to feature. There are a number of different tunes which are used to mark the entrance of the bride; the most popular include a choral song, Baruch Chaba (which translates as: 'blessed is he') and the instrumental piece Eshet Chayil (translated as 'a woman of valour'). Other religious music may be used, often sung by a choir or a Chazan (cantor). However, the Wedding March which is commonly used by other religions is generally avoided as its composer Wagner was well-known for his anti-Semitic beliefs.

How much Jewish music is used at the wedding party depends largely on the couple; however, it is traditional to include a section of Hebrew music and dancing known as a 'Hora'. This generally comprises a medley of popular Jewish tunes, including Hava Nagila ('come let us be glad'), and Siman Tov U Mazleltov ('may good luck come to us').

During this section of the dancing it's also traditional for the guests to dance together in a big circle, with the newly married couple hoisted into the air on chairs - they then hold opposite ends of a handkerchief and 'dance' with each other. The more Orthodox (religious) the wedding, the more traditional Jewish music and dancing is used; at more religious weddings men and women still dance separately, on opposite sides of a curtain. However, a less Orthodox wedding may use very little Jewish music and may not include a Hora. Another custom popular in American Jewish weddings is a mazinka, a traditional Jewish dance performed at weddings where one of the newly-weds is the youngest child in their family. The parents of both sit in the middle of the dance floor wearing headdresses made out of leaves, while guests greet them and dance round them to traditional music.

Although DJs have become more popular in recent years, bands have always taken centre stage when it comes to Jewish wedding music - usually they are of Jewish origin themselves, meaning they are familiar with both traditional Jewish songs as well as contemporary music. Other types of music used at weddings include klezmer - a traditional type of Jewish folk music which is currently undergoing a revival.