Ashkenazi and Sephardic Differences
In the early Middle Ages when the Jewish people left Babylonia and spread out across the globe, some went to Eastern Europe, mostly Germany, and some to Spain and North Africa. The Jewish communities that were in Eastern Europe for about 1,000 years are referred to as Ashkenazi Jews (literally, “German Jews”), and the Jewish communities of Spain, North Africa, and the Middle East are known as Sephardic Jews (literally, “Spanish Jews”).
Since these major Jewish communities were separated by many miles for a millennium with little easy communication, they developed differing customs with regard to many aspects of Jewish life. They were vastly different in the languages they spoke and the dress they wore, as well as in some Jewish legal decisions and the form of the customs they observed.
If one partner in a couple comes from a family of Ashkenazi descent and one from a Sephardic family, you will find that some of the customs your families expect at a wedding are slightly different.
Some Sephardic Jews, depending on their particular land of origin, have a henna ceremony for the bride and her female friends and relatives the night before the wedding. Henna is a temporary plant-based dye used in some countries to create complex patterns on the skin. In Sephardic countries such as India and Kurdistan, the bride's hands and feet are intricately colored with the henna dye the night before the wedding as part of a great pre-wedding celebration. This custom does not exist among Ashkenazi Jews.
Some Sephardic Jews also have a custom of wrapping the bride and groom in a talit under the chuppah, which many Ashkenazi Jews do not. Some Sephardic Jews do not use the yichud room at all for the bride and groom to retreat into after the ceremony, though almost all traditional Ashkenazi weddings would require this. Some Sephardic weddings include customs such as the eating of sugar under the chuppah or the offering of gifts of clothing. In addition, though many traditional Ashkenazi Jews fast on the day of their wedding and almost all have a bedekin, not all Sephardic Jews do.