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If someone who's not familiar with Jewish customs is invited to a Jewish wedding and comes to you to ask how long to plan to be there, how do you respond?

It's easy enough to say "It can vary a great deal; ask the people who invited you," but that's not terribly helpful. Is there a clear, brief way to explain how long to expect to stay, perhaps taking into account what parts of the wedding the asker is [likely] most interested in being there for?


I don't recall having received such a query personally, but I believe that it's not an uncommon one. Our treatment of a similar question about funerals that I was asked become one of our few "Notable" questions recently, indicating that it's something that people search for on the Internet. If you go to Google and start typing How long is a Jewish, Google suggests completions of first wedding and then funeral, indicating that people tend to search even more for answers to this question about weddings. It therefore seems worthwhile to be prepared to answer this question as well.

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So much of this is community/culture and other variable based. A room is often rented for 4-5 hours so maybe that is a good number. or 1 hour for the shmorg, 1 for the entire chupah and 2-3 for the meal/dancing? But some weddings are structured differently so there can't be a universal answer. For the parts that make it a "Jewish" wedding, i bet you can get it all done in under 30 minutes, no frills, beginning to end. –  Danno Jun 26 '13 at 15:59
    
@Danno, so are you proposing an answer or answering "no"? –  Isaac Moses Jun 26 '13 at 16:03
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I think the meta section is out of scope. Worthy of a comment, definitely. +1 –  Seth J Jun 26 '13 at 16:08
    
@SethJ, It goes to the motivation of the question. I haven't dealt with the question personally (that I recall), but I have evidence that it's one worth being prepared for. –  Isaac Moses Jun 26 '13 at 16:10
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@IsaacMoses, with all due respect to Rabbi Google, I don't think the fact that people search for a question is a good indicator that the question is, in fact, a good one. If you search "Do Jews", Google insta-search gives you "go to Heaven" as one of the top search terms. Add the word "have" to your search, and you get a long list of searches that could inspire protests in Mountainview, CA. –  Seth J Jun 26 '13 at 16:34
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1 Answer

(I'm sure that different communities vary wildly, so I'll answer for the one I'm most familiar with, the Chabad community. Even in narrowing it to this, there will still be quite a bit of variation depending on locale, time of year, etc. If it's just the rabbi that's Chabad, and not the family, these rules will likely not apply.)

TL;DR
A Chabad wedding can last between 3 and 6 hours, and occasionally more. You are not required to stay all the way.


There are four main parts to the wedding. Kabbalas Panim, Chupa, dinner, and dancing. Some people stay for all four, others, for just the second or third, and still others come for just the fourth. From start to finish, a wedding can run from 3 to 6 hours. Generally, family and close friends stick it all the way out, while others (especially those with children) often leave earlier. There are exceptions to both, and you're unlikely to offend anyone either way.

Kabbalas Panim is the reception. Usually held in two separate rooms, one each for men and women. Light refreshments are often served, the groom will repeat a maamar and the tenaim are read.

Chupa! is the actual wedding ceremony. Very solemn until breaking the glass, then very happy. Usually takes place outside, and lasts anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes, depending on a number of factors (location, singing, weather, etc.) You won't get a chance to speak to the groom or bride, so if you want to wish them "Mazel Tov!" you'll have to stick around for the next part.

Dinner! !רצה לבנינו, על כן התחתנו, בוא נאכל
While the bride and groom head to the yichud room to break their fast, you'll head to the dining hall. May be just inside the building, down the block, or across town. Usually one of the first two. Dinner feels like it must be between 45 and 75 minutes (I've never checked); the groom and bride will come out near the beginning. This may be your chance to wish them "Mazel Tov!" Often, the groom will go around the men's side with a bottle, offering people a L'chaim.

Dancing! The part we've all been waiting for. As the band kicks up, everyone will head to the middle of the room for some serious hora. Ok, fine, it's not the hora. This part can get a little crazy, and by now you've probably lost your chance to speak to either of the couple, unless you're willing to stick it out till benching at the end. Dancing can run anywhere from 2 hours to 4+ (people will drop out of the circle throughout to rest and refresh). Since Chabad weddings usually start mid to late afternoon, the dancing often ends between 11 and 1 o'clock. There is no obligation to stick it out, and often by the end of it, many of the people remaining are relatives and close friends. Often there are bochurim, and others, still around, waiting to bentch and say sheva brachos at the end.


Note: This is my experience, garnered from the weddings to which I've been. Feel free to correct anything I've gotten wrong or missed, or to broaden it to include your experience (for example, I have little knowledge of the kabbolas panim and what's going on on the women's side). If you feel this is similar enough to other customs and want include those, go ahead; just make sure to edit in which groups it applies to.

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Why doesn't Chupa get an exclamation? To some, this is what we've all been waiting for! –  Seth J Jun 26 '13 at 18:30
    
@SethJ Fixed :) Originally I left it out since it's a very solemn event. –  HodofHod Jun 26 '13 at 18:43
    
To my knowledge at most weddings one eats or breaks his/her fast in the yichud room. I am surprised that chabad dont have this minhag. Perhaps you can tell us what they do in the yichud room. –  user2800 Jun 26 '13 at 19:15
    
In Belz although they have separated rooms for men and women. The groom eats with his bride in the ladies room before going into the mens room. –  user2800 Jun 26 '13 at 19:17
    
At the kabolas ponim the kesuba is read witnessed and signed. I find the chabad minhag of the tanoim instead remarkable. –  user2800 Jun 26 '13 at 19:19
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