Parental Roles and Responsibilities
Parents of the bride and groom were traditionally involved a great deal in planning and paying for the wedding. For many couples this is still the case, but others may be more financially independent and may involve their parents less. It all depends on the individual's family situations and the parents' and the couple's desires. Sometimes the bride and groom might pay for much of the wedding, but the bride's mother will plan the wedding with her to support her and bond over a momentous event. Other times, parents will have a great deal of influence in the planning process.
At a lesser-known Jewish European wedding custom known as the muzinka dance, parents who are marrying off their last child are seated in the center of the dance floor and presented with wreaths. Guests then dance in a circle around them to the tune of the Yiddish song “Die Mezinke Oysgegeben” (“The Youngest Daughter Is Given”).
A Jewish wedding is not just the marriage of bride and groom, but a merging of two families. These families hopefully will be mechutonim for many years to come, so it is important that both sets of parents and their families feel that they are involved and honored equally. Sometimes one family may be less familiar with Jewish wedding ceremonies or Judaism in general, and the rabbi should be asked to work with those parents in familiarizing them with the Jewish wedding process and finding ways to involve them even with a limited knowledge of Judaism or Hebrew.
Within a Jewish wedding ceremony there are several places in which the parents of bride and groom should consider playing a significant role. In any wedding the parents of bride and groom may make a toast to thank relatives and friends and wish mazel tov to the bride and groom. At a Jewish wedding, parents traditionally play several other roles at the tish, kabalat panim, ceremony, and reception. There are fewer roles for siblings and extended family, but these family members might be given honors such as reciting some of the sheva berachot under the chuppah or the seven blessings after the grace after meals, or the making of the hamotzie blessing on the bread.
The following are the traditional parental roles at a Jewish wedding:
Bride's mother and groom's mother sit next to the bride at the kabalat panim (pre-wedding reception)
Groom's father and bride's father sit next to the groom at the tish
Groom's father and bride's father enter into the tanaim agreement together at the tish
Bride's mother and groom's mother break a plate together at the tish
Mother of the bride and mother of the groom walk behind the bride and help with her train during the seven circles under the chuppah
Mother of the bride helps lift her veil and drink from the cup of wine under the chuppah
Of course, beyond the specific ceremonial roles that parents and family may play at the wedding, they must also fulfull the general responsibility of being supportive and encouraging at this momentous time in the couple's life.