One of the most beautiful customs of a traditional Ashkenazi wedding is the ceremony known as the badeken. The term badeken* is Yiddish for covering, as this is the moment when the bride is veiled in a brief, but poignant, ceremony that takes place shortly before the chuppah.

The badeken begins with the groom, escorted by his father and future father-in-law, the rabbi and any other chosen dignitaries, is brought to the bride, who often sits upon a regal chair. Friends and family form a secondary escort. Of course, the entire procession is accompanied by music.

When the procession reaches the bride, she is given a blessing by each father (and anyone else specified for this honor). The groom then takes the bride’s veil that is pinned to her hair, and places it over her face. The bride remains seated with the veil over her face as the groom is escorted out of the room. They will next see each other under the chuppah.

While the exact source of the badeken ceremony is unclear, it is often related to two separate biblical narratives. The first narrative, which perhaps relates to the reason for the veil itself, is the Biblical text describing the first meeting of Rebecca and Isaac. Since their marriage was arranged “long distance,” and the bride and groom had never met, when Rebecca realized that the man before her in the field was her husband-to-be, Isaac, Scripture reports that “she took her veil and covered herself” (Genesis 24:65).

The second narrative relates to the marriage of Jacob and Leah and explains why the groom places the veil over the bride. Jacob was supposed to marry Rachel, but, at the last moment, his wily father-in-law-to-be, switched his daughters, placing the wedding veil over Leah instead of Rachel (click here to read the full story). When the groom places the veil on the bride at the badeken, he is affirming that this is his intended bride.

*Badeken also derives from the Hebrew root B-D-K, which builds a word family meaning “to check.”

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