First dates often involve breaking the ice -- and if the couple happens to be of the Jewish faith, hopefully some breaking the glass at a wedding a little down the line. Glass-breaking is one of the most familiar and celebrated of all Jewish wedding rituals.
Breaking the Glass Etiquette
The breaking of the glass traditionally takes place right before a Jewish wedding comes to a close. Grooms are responsible for actually shattering the glasses, which are usually covered in napkins -- a means of preventing all of the tiny shards from flying everywhere and getting on all of the guests. The grooms typically step on the glasses to break them, but they also sometimes fling them onto walls.
Although Jewish law doesn't deem glass-breaking as an absolute must, it still is an extremely widespread practice at weddings around the world.
Recalling the Temple of Jerusalem
The breaking of the glass is performed as a dedication to the havoc of the Temple in Jerusalem roughly 2,000 years ago. The purpose of the tradition is to stress that it's important to think about the sadness of the event even during the most special occasions life has to offer. The shattering of the glass is, essentially, a token of melancholy. Quiet moments often precede glass-breaking, allowing everyone the chance to think about things in life that are not whole or complete.
The wedding glass tradition is also frequently assigned another significant meaning outside of the Temple of Jerusalem. The noise of the shattering glass is sometimes thought of as a means of discouraging malevolent spirits. The action is also often thought of as way to deconstruct any obstructions that might exist between the bride and the groom -- enabling them to firmly be "one" in marriage. It is believed to illustrate how delicate the connections between people can be, too.
The glass-breaking functions as kind of a cue to get all of the festivities in full swing. Once the groom does the task, all of the attendees merrily shout out "Mazel tov," a Hebrew phrase meaning “good luck.” The couples' relatives and close friends all then proceed to sing and be merry. The couple then temporarily moves to the secluded yichud (or seclusion) room, where they spend some quiet time as a twosome for approximately 10 minutes.
Light Bulb as a Substitute
Some couples opt to break old light bulbs instead of glasses. They do this to avoid needlessly breaking a perfectly fine glass that can be used again. Jewish law has no special rules regarding the glass.