Based on a talk by Rabbi Manis Friedman and published in the Under The Chuppa Magazine:
Throughout the spring and summer months, many a chupah is held outside, taking advantage of the beautiful weather and picturesque scenery. Come the winter months and rainy days, however, there are many who choose to get married indoors for the sake of physical comfort, but from a purely hashkafic perspective, a marriage that takes place outside, under the stars, is one whose first steps are taken under the most auspicious conditions.
To understand the infinite blessings that are present under the open sky, you have to look back to our nation’s defining moment, when Hashem took Avraham Avinu outside for bris ben hab’sarim, the eternal covenant that established the Jewish nation. At that pivotal moment in Jewish history, Avraham Avinu, the very first link in the eternal chain of klal yisroel, was showered with a promise of children as numerous as the stars of the sky.
Jewish weddings have been held outdoors under the open sky for generations in order to take advantage of those same blessings and, in fact, the Chasam Sofer noted the importance of continuing that tradition in order to distinguish ourselves from members of the Reform movement who began holding their wedding ceremonies indoors.
While chupahs in Lubavitch and other Chasidic circles continue to be conducted outside today no matter the weather, there are many who choose a more comfortable indoor setting (albeit under an open skylight) for that milestone moment in their lives.
And so the question arises: Where is the best place to hold a chupah?
There are many brides and grooms who choose to have a halachically permissible indoor chupah for a variety of reasons. The weather may be too cold. It may be raining. Or it may be incredibly hot and humid outside. So why not get married inside under an open skylight and let everyone be more comfortable?
The question practically answers itself. Is our goal in life to be more comfortable? Are physical niceties and temperate conditions the pinnacle of our existence? Clearly that cannot be who we are and what we are all about, leaving us to evaluate our priorities and decide which is of greater importance in our lives: our ruchniyus or our gashmiyus. We run into a comparable situation when it rains on Succos. Yes, technically, we can go inside if it is raining, but is getting a little wet really such a big deal? Does our value system teach us that physical comfort is more important than the bracha of being able to perform the mitzvah of dwelling in the Succah? Similarly, it goes without saying that a chupah should not be drawn out when the temperature hovers at 20 degrees out of sensitivity for both the guests and the bride and groom. But the concept of prioritizing physical comfort over the immense spiritual blessings that can be reaped at an outdoor chupah just doesn’t sit well.
A wedding is an event that is literally awesome, connecting the choson and kallah to both the past and the future generations. Like the bris ben hab’sarim, the moments at a chupah are a fleeting opportunity where the bride and groom can access infinite brachos that are truly himmeldik in every sense of the word and are simply not available on any other day.
An open sky also conveys the notion that at this moment in time the choson and kallah are truly free of all boundaries, an idea further demonstrated by the choson untying his shoes and his tie, symbolically rising above his old habits as he takes his first steps into his new life. As they stand under the open sky, it is as if the choson and kallah are standing under a succah where Hashem is their sole source of security. In that instant, they are showing the world that they are prioritizing their ruchniyus over their gashmiyus and putting their full trust in the Aybishter. What an incredible way for a couple to start a marriage, by publicly sacrificing their personal comfort for the benefit of their future together.
The Gemara in Brachos (48a) tells over the story of Rava and Abaye, who, as children, were asked by Rabba where Hashem dwells. While Rava pointed up towards the ceiling to show where the Aybishter could be found, Abaye went outside and then pointed upwards at the sky. The difference between the two answers is very significant.
Abaye and Rava had two very different upbringings. Rava came from a rich, prominent and distinguished family. Abaye had a completely different experience. His father died while his mother was still pregnant with him; shortly after his birth, his mother passed away. He was a ’round’ orphan, with no father or mother. Abaye lived in poverty throughout his life. The orphan has no place to call ‘home’. If the orphan is to find healing, he must discover the G-d of the heavens. He must be able to look at the sky and see the love of a G-d Whose reality is far beyond. Rava, on the other hand, lived a life of security and prosperity. Home was a solid place. He had the luxury of relating to G-d as the “roof over his head”, the protector of his turf, his friend to Whom he can relate on his own terms. G-d could be seen as close, intimate and personable; G-d could be embraced like a close friend.
Yes, bracha comes from above, but something that is indoors is restricted by the daled amos around us and the ceiling over our heads. But the bracha that comes outdoors, as Abaye indicated? That is a bracha that is truly limitless and one that is available to every couple as they stand under the chupah.
Yes, you are halachically allowed to get married indoors. Yes, you can have a chupah under an open skylight. But being partially under the stars likely yields just a fractional bracha instead of an infinite, overflowing one. Why would anyone want to settle for that when they can easily have so much more?
While Sefardim customarily marry indoors, Ashkenazic Jews have conducted their chupahs beneath the open sky for centuries. I would caution anyone not to be quick to dismiss something as “just a minhag” because it is well known that in some ways minhagim are considered to be even more strict than din and wield power that is beyond words.
Clearly much sensitivity is required to conduct an outdoor chupah in adverse weather conditions. But we shouldn’t be afraid of a little rain or having to put on a coat for a chupah. Being uncomfortable for a few minutes is a small price to pay compared to the cornucopia of blessings that is available to the choson and kallah for the few short moments of their chupah. Every couple should have full access to the heavens so that they, too, can be the recipients of unlimited bracha at this incredible moment in their lives. Quite frankly, those who choose to get married inside are missing out on something great.
So yes, hold your chupah outdoors, no matter what the weather. I guarantee you, you’ll be glad you did.