Ask Hudson Valley: What Is the Tradition of the Yichud Room?

The Wedding Guru Judy Lewis fields this week’s wedding questions. Today: A guest witnesses an odd tradition at a coworker’s wedding

We’re fortunate to be living in a country where different rituals and traditions are not only tolerated, but encouraged. More brides than ever include religious and cultural elements into their weddings. Sometimes, these customs are strange to us and need explaining.

A wedding guest asks: “I recently attended a coworker’s wedding. It was an Orthodox Jewish wedding with all the trimmings, most of which I knew about and understood — except for one thing: Immediately after the ceremony, the two ‘disappeared’ and didn’t reappear until quite a while into the reception. Can you tell me what that’s about?”

Dear wedding guest: I commend you for wanting to understand traditions that are unusual and strange to you! What you witnessed is called “yichud.” It refers to the first truly private time that a newly married couple can be together. According to Ashkenazic tradition, the couple is led by a singing and dancing throng to the yichud, or seclusion room after the ceremony. They’re permitted to be in seclusion together because they’re now married; this is how they’ll announce their union to their family and friends.

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Many Jewish wedding halls have a special room set aside as the yichud room. In others, the rabbi’s study or the bridal room is used. The couple’s entrance into the room is usually watched by two witnesses, whose role it is to ensure that the couple have complete privacy.

The yichud room is a lovely custom in that it gives the newlyweds a few minutes to get away from the excitement of family and friends and be alone together, in peace. Because Orthodox Jewish bridal couples must fast the day of their wedding, the yichud room also serves as the first time during the day that they can eat. Usually a light bite consisting of hors d’oeuvres, fruit, cakes, wine, or champagne is brought to them. In some communities, honey and cheese are a traditional yichud meal and, in others, chicken and eggs are eaten.

Readers, what unusual wedding traditions have you witnessed? Share your thoughts to edit@hvmag.com.

Related: This Couple’s First Look in the Hudson Valley Is So Sweet

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