Not all newly married couples head straight for the airport for a romantic honeymoon at some exotic location.
Among the observant, the week following one’s wedding often is a journey from the home of one friend or family member to another where the happy couple is wined, dined and entertained. Known as sheva brachot (seven blessings), these weeklong celebratory feasts also can take place in restaurants and synagogues.
The tradition calls for the bride and groom to be treated as royalty and the target of much attention and affection for the week following their wedding.
Seven days is a common cycle in the Torah, explained Rabbi Herzel Kranz of Silver Spring Jewish Center. This particular wedding tradition is carried out because God celebrated with Adam and Eve, he said, adding that it is a special mitzvah to make the bride and groom happy.
“Everything has to be done to bring happiness to the couple starting out in life,” he said.
The same seven blessings recited while the couple stands under the chuppah are recited after each meal as long as there is one new person at the meal who did not attend the wedding and did not hear the prayers recited, the rabbi said.
Wilhelmina Gottschalk recalled the week of good food and friendship following her own wedding in August 2011. The first night she invited people to her home and served the leftover food from her wedding celebration, which was at the Woodend Nature Sanctuary in Chevy Chase.
The following evening, she and her husband, Stefan, went to a friend’s apartment in Van Ness for another celebration. The couple also traveled to New York during that week to attend a friend’s wedding. While there, they hosted a dinner at their former synagogue in New York and another evening at a kosher restaurant.
Another festive meal was held at Beth Emeth in Herndon, where Wilhelmina was the religious school director at the time.
“It’s not a weeklong wedding, but certainly a weeklong party,” she said. It’s a lot of fun but “at the same time, it’s a lot to plan,” she noted. “It’s extra work, but it’s a lot of fun,” and many spend the seven post-wedding days among friends and family.
Gottschalk pointed out that she didn’t abstain from a honeymoon. First, she considered the few days in New York a great vacation. Then, the summer following her wedding, she and her husband spent two weeks in Japan.
This summer, she planned “a very casual outdoor” celebration in Silver Spring for a friend that included a pinata filled with candy.
Gottschalk described her religious observance as “on the cusp of Orthodoxy and Conservatism,” with an egalitarian tradition and noted that she and her husband are affiliated with several synagogues and now live in D.C.