First the chuppah's origins. We find two biblical references to chuppot: Psalm 19:6, which you can find at www.breslov.com/ref/ Psalms19.htm, compares the rising sun to a groom's radiance as he exits his chuppah. In addition, Joel 2:16, at www.breslov.com/ref/ Joel2.htm, exhorts a bride to leave her chuppah, and the groom his wedding "room," to ask Divine forgiveness and avert national disaster.
According to the Jewish Wedding site at http://dcubed.com/ ajw/four.html, the chuppah open on all four sides, "is reminiscent of Abraham, our forefather's house which had entrances on all four sides in order to warmly welcome any approaching guests."
In his essay "The Huppah: From Eden to Today," Eliezer Segal explains that today's weddings under the chuppah hearken back to the "paradigm of all weddings: the Revelation of Torah at Mount Sinai.." The essay is at www.acs.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/Weddings_Index.html.
Although couples dream for perfection under the chuppah, reality often is more difficult. Rabbi Ari Cartun, spiritual leader of Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto and former Stanford Hillel rabbi, looks at those issues in "Under the Chuppah: Divorced Parents, Non-Jews, and Photographers." The essay is at www.stanford.edu/group/hillel/Being_Jewish/weddings.html.
Cartun, who is the former Stanford Hillel rabbi and executive director, suggests that "There are two ways to approach the problem of divorced parents and the chuppah: keep everyone out or bring everyone in. You can have no one stand under the chuppah but the officiant(s), the couple, and maybe the best man and woman…Or, should you want your parents there with you, then add siblings and friends, too. It is good to place siblings between squabbling divorced parents.."
As anyone who is married can attest, just getting to the chuppah can be a taxing affair, especially while trying to keep track of all the wedding details. SimchaGuide's Pre-Wedding Checklist tries to help you remind you of all the minutiae. It's at www.simchaguide.com/simcha/a-checklist.htm. Geared to more traditional weddings, it lists everything from ordering the invitations to deciding who will be honored with reciting the Sheva Brachot under the chuppah.
If you are the one being honored with reciting one of the Sheva Brachot and are a bit rusty about the pronunciation of some of the words or the tune, then take a listen at the Orthodox Union site, www.ou.org/wedding/7brachot.htm. There, you'll find the seven blessings transliterated into English accompanied by a RealAudio button, which you can click on to listen to the brachot being sung.
Music, of course, is critical to the wedding ceremony. If you are trying to pick the right tune to set the mood, Jewishmusic has a massive selection of classics like "Dodi Li" and "Tumbalalaika." The site is at www.jewishmusic.com/rawdrecs.htm. If you are still searching for the perfect tune, then check out the Jewish-Yiddish-Hebrew Folk-Cultural Music Midi Free Library at http://members.aol.com/israelmdi/index.html. You'll find an eclectic assortment of songs ranging from "Erev Shel Shoshanim" to "Bashana Haba'ah" and even "Sunrise, Sunset."
There are many on-line sites where you can view and order your chuppah. Among them: e-chuppah at www.e-chuppah.com/chuppah_home.htm and chuppah.com at www.chuppah.com. But Marc Cardinalli and his wife found a more personal approach. The Las Vegas couple's story is on the Ask the Rabbi site at www.ohr.org.il/ ask/ask269.htm#PD.
"We asked our friends to decorate a one foot square piece of 100 percent cotton cloth with any memories, thoughts, words, pictures, whatever they thought. My bride-to-be took the squares to a seamstress who put them all together onto an old family heirloom square about eight foot by eight foot.
"We lost my mother last year, but her chuppah square remains as a lasting memory of her. We have hung our chuppah on our wall so we can see it every day. Someday, perhaps, our children will get married under the family chuppah."
In a future column, I'll write about another enduring tradition from the chuppah: the ketubah.