Breaking the Glass – A Wonderful Tradition

There a certain wedding rituals and customs that come right at the end of the ceremony. There is something so appealing about that! Anything from blowing bubbles or confetti cannons, to Jumping the Broom, or the ringing of bells. Breaking the Glass is one of them, and it’s a great way to end a wedding. It is a Jewish custom that people of all faiths have come to admire and love, because it’s so memorable!

The groom getting into it! (Jeff Anderson Photography)

Many couples I speak with are surprised to learn that this Jewish ritual is not a religious rite at all. It is not required by the faith, nor is it an important part of the faith. Like Unity Candles in the church, it is merely a custom. The exact origins are unknown.

There are many stories about Breaking the Glass, the most prevalent and perhaps most important one say that it is to commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago. What does this have to do with a wedding? Well, its important to know one’s history, and even in times of joy, we might wish to reserve a moment for sadness. Some even say that joy must be tempered, but I don’t see why it should be.

Another interpretation of the destruction of the Temple story is to compare the Holy Temple to your own temple, your soul, and the life-changing event that has just taken place – your marriage. But I simply like to reference this historic explanation by saying that without our history we are incomplete.

There are several other strange and even silly stories about this custom. I’ve heard it said that the sound scares away evil spirits that threaten to steal the souls of the newlyweds. And others say the sound carries the couple’s love through time and space, to those who have moved beyond this earth. Neither of these appeal to me. Then there’s a great joke that it’s the last time the groom gets to put his foot down!

I prefer the idea that it symbolizes the irrevocable experience of the marriage commitment, and that the marriage should be as difficult to break apart, as it would be to put together the pieces of the glass once they are shattered. Ah ha! This I like!

Break, stomp or step... its all the same (Robert Burress Photography)

The custom requires that all the guests participate – by saying  (or joyously yelling) “Mozel Tov” which means congratulations – after the groom stomps on the glass. Today some brides also step on the glass, and really there is no reason why anyone getting married cannot do so if they wish. After all, remember, it is not a religiously prescribed ritual. Why just the man? Women want in on this great experience!

Another thing I love about this is that it as an end of the ceremony ritual and sends the couple off with a bang … literally! It’s frequently asked: kiss first, then break the glass, or break the glass and kiss? The answer is: it doesn’t really matter.

The glass should be wrapped in a cloth napkin or put in a little drawstring cloth pouch, for safety purposes. The bag also provides a great way to save the broken pieces.

A little pouch for the glass.

Sometimes a light bulb is used, because it makes a louder popping sound, but I’m a purist. Go for the glass! Some people even make a keepsake out of the pieces of glass through sculpture or other crafty ideas. Customs evolve and that’s as it should be. If you decide to Break the Glass, to that I say: ‘Mozel Tov!’


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Thank you Jeff Anderson and Robert Burress for the great photos! 

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