A Special Gift: Hachnasat Kallah
Hachnasat kallah, attending to the bride or assisting her in entering her wedding, is a great Jewish mitzvah. There are many aspects to hachnasat kallah, ranging from actually leading her to the wedding ceremony with dancing and music to attending to the things she needs on her wedding day. In some situations, anonymous charitable donations are given to the bride and groom by their community to help a needy couple defray modest wedding costs. Many Jewish communities have assistance even for brides who are not very needy. One example is a wedding dress gemach, a bank of wedding dresses that can be borrowed at no cost and returned after the wedding is over.
In Judaism, in many ways it is the bride who is considered the star of the wedding day. The Talmud tells us that the mitzvah of hachnasat kallah is one for which a person is rewarded in this world as well as in the next (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 127a), and it takes precedence over many other holy acts. Though it is less true today, in more ancient times it was not the groom who was led singing and dancing to see his bride, but the bride who was led with great fanfare to her chuppah.
The Talmud tells of such great joy that accompanied the dancing before the bride that one of the rabbis of the Talmud actually carried the bride on his shoulders dancing.
Often the mitzvah of hachnasat kallah takes the form of helping a needy bride and her family to pay for the costs of the wedding. Jewish law relates that hachnasat kallah is perhaps the greatest form of charity that there is since it not only saves a bride from embarrassment on her big day but actually facilitates the development of the world, since the first commandment in the bible is to marry and have children.