The clothing of the Chosson under the Chupah

1. In most communities, the chosson wears a a kittel (white robe) under the chuppah (see Shulchan Haezer page 27, Maharam Mintz 109 and Radvaz 1:693). There are many reasons given for this custom. Some explain that the white kittel is meant to remind the chosson of the white shrouds that he will wear when he dies. In addition, the color white symbolizes purity, and on their wedding day, the chosson and kallah are forgiven and pure of sins. As a sign of this spiritual purity, it is customary for them both to wear white. The chosson also wears white because white is the color of royalty, and the chosson is like a king (Taamei Haminhagim 957).

2. Many have the custom that the chosson does not put the kittel on himself, but has it put on by his attendants or parents. Because the kittel represents shrouds, the chosson does not dress himself, just as a dead person does not dress himself (Taamei Haminhagim 978). The chosson also wears white because white is the color of royalty, and the chosson is like a king. Just as a king is dressed by his attendants, so is the chosson. The custom of Vizhnitz Chassidim, however, is that the chosson dons the kittel by himself (Netai Gavriel page 113).

3. Many wear the kittel under a jacket or coat. The custom of Chabad Chassidim is that the chosson wears the kittel over a silk kapote (long coat), but under a coat (Shaarei Halacha Uminhag vol.3 page 118).

4. The Gemara in Moed Katan 22b states that when one loses a parent, he should “bare one’s shoulder.” Wearing his clothing in a way that reveals his shoulder is a form of mourning. Therefore, some have added the custom that the chosson’s left hand should not be put into the sleeve. The poskim explain that this serves as a reminder of the fact that the Temple is destroyed. By deviating from the normal way of wearing one’s jacket, the chosson is attempting to resemble the concept of “baring one’s shoulder.” However, some poskim note that because the Rama rules that nowadays, after losing a parent, we do not “bare” the shoulder, it is hard to believe that one must do so at the chuppah. For normative halacha, a rabbi should be consulted.

כן טען בספר הנישואין כהלכתם פרק י”ב ס’ כ”ח בהג”ה, וז”ל: “כתב במנהגי מהריי”ו עמוד קמ”ח, שיש נוהגים שהחתן בחופתו אינו לבוש את השרוול השמאלי שבמלבושו העליון, ומקורו ממועד קטן דף כ”ד: [צ”ל כ”ב:], וש”ע יו”ד ס’ ש”מ סעי’ ט”ו, בענין חליצת הכתף לאבל, ולפי זה עושים כן לחתן, מפני אבילות ירושלים (כמו שמשימין אפר במקום התפילין ושבירת הכוס), אמנם לפי פסק הרמ”א שם סעיף י”ז, שאנו אין נוהגין בחליצת כתף לאבל, ואם כן אין שום טעם לחליצתו אצל החתן”. ועיין בקובץ מסורה ח”ח דף נ”ב אות ז’, שכתב וז”ל: “אחד מהתלמידים לבש קיטל ועל גביו מעיל (הקו”ט) שלו (כמנהג מקצת מן החסידים, שלא יראה הקיטל מבחוץ), והי’ חם לו מאוד, וחשב אולי להסיר את הזאקע”ט שלו, שלא יזיע, ואמר לו רבינו (הגרי”ד זצ”ל) שאין זה נכון לעמוד תחת החופה בלי ז’עקע”טּ, אע”פ שאינו ניכר לאחרים העומדים שם, כי חתן דינו כיו”ט [ע’ גמ’ ריש כתובות], וביו”ט צריכים ללבוש מלבושי יו”ט, אפילו אם אין שמה אחרים הרואים אותו”.

5. The custom of Chabad Chassidim is that the chosson should wear a gartel (belt for prayer) under the chuppah. (Sefer Haminhagim Chabad 76)

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