Ancient Jewish Weddings (The Wedding Ceremony)
PART THREE: Nissuin The wedding (nissuin) was the next stage of the marriage process. It was always a surprise for the bride, she never knew when the groom was going to come. Finally, the groom's father would approve all the preparations his son had made and would release him to go get his bride.
A great processional would be made, to the bride's home. Typically, this processional would happen at night. The groomsmen and other attendants would carry large torches through the streets to illuminate their path, with lots of noise, horns blowing and fanfare.
The bride and her attendants would be able to hear the approaching party giving her a few minutes to get ready. (This is where the parable of the ten virgins takes place, in Matthew 25). In the final minutes of readiness, the bride was to put on her veil. The bridal veil was a symbol of authority. By placing the veil on her head she was demonstrating to herself and the whole world that she was coming under her husband's authority.
Genesis 24:64-65 "And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel and said to the servant, 'Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?' The servant said, 'It is my master.' So she took her veil and covered herself." (ESV)
For Rebekah the surprise was that her betrothal would last only one night, but the processional would last nearly two months across 600 miles of desert.
Ancient wedding ceremonies were actually very simple. Before witnesses the bride accepted gifts from her groom, and the groom spoke a few words of acceptance and consecration to his bride. During the wedding ceremony the bride's veil was placed on her husband's shoulder. This signified the bride yielding to her husband's authority.
After this the husband drew his wife into the bridal chamber for seven days of celebration.
When the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, it was this wedding ceremony he was thinking of when he said,
“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” (2 Corinthians 11:2 ESV)
Paul was concerned that during the long betrothal time, the believers in Corinth would drift back into other religions, rather than remain devoted to the Lord Jesus, in happy anticipation of His return for them.