Question: Must a chasan and kallah fast on their wedding day?
Short Answer: While Ashkenazim follow the Rama that a chasan and kallah fast on their wedding day, some Sefardim do not fast. Further, certain poskim rule that only the chasan and not the kallah should fast.
I. The Minhag To Fast
The Rama (Even HaEzer 61:1) cites the minhag for the chasan and kallah to fast on the day of their wedding. Similarly, the Rama (Orach Chayim 573:1) rules that a chasan and kallah should fast on their wedding day, even if they get married in the month of Nisan, when we normally do not fast.
II. The Reasons
Numerous reasons are given for this minhag.
First, the Maharam Mintz (119), cited in the sefer Noheig Bam, siman 22, suggests that the reason for the fast is because a chasan’s sins are forgiven when he gets married. Thus, the day of marriage is like a mini-Yom Kippur for him.
Second, the Maharam Mintz (ibid) and the Mahari Bruna (93, see Noheig Bam, ibid) also suggest that the reason for the fast is to prevent the chasan from being drunk at the wedding, thereby invalidating the marriage.
Third, the Mahari Bruna (ibid) also states that a possible reason for the minhag is because there are often fights in connection with weddings, so we fast to remove any onesh (heavenly punishment) associated with these fights.
Fourth, the Mahari Bruna (ibid) also gives another reason: that a chasan is comparable to a king, and a king is judged in heaven every day. Thus, the chasan fasts to remove any heavenly punishment.
Fifth, the Rokeach (353) says that the reason for the fast is because the chasan is performing a mitzvah by entering into the marriage, and holy people fast before performing a mitzvah.
Sixth, the Tashbetz (cited in Nit’ei Gavriel, Nisuin 5:1) notes that many wedding customs stem from Matan Torah. Since the B’nei Yisrael fasted at Matan Torah, so, too, a chasan fasts before his wedding.
Seventh, the Nit’ei Gavriel (ibid) cites another reason: In order to show that there is no complete happiness nowadays, since we lack the Beis HaMikdash, the chasan fasts before the wedding.
Eighth, the Maagalei HaChayim (1, p. 271) cites the Zohar that the chasan and kallah’s deceased relatives attend the wedding. Therefore, the chasan and kallah fast, because they are embarrassed to appear full of aveiros before their deceased relatives.
III. Interesting Ramifications
The sefer P’ninim MiBei Midrasha (Parshas Chayei Sarah, p. 153) collects sources who discuss some ramifications between the first two reasons listed above. He cites the Ba’er Heiteiv (Even HaEzer ibid) who posits that according to the first reason, that a chasan is forgiven on his wedding day, a shaliach – messenger – performing Kiddushin for a friend would not need to fast, as it is not his wedding. However, according to the second reason, to ensure that the chasan is not drunk during the ceremony, even a messenger would have to fast, as he is the one performing the ceremony. I would add that even according to the fifth reason (before a mitzvah), the messenger would probably have to fast, as he is helping perform the mitzvah.
A second ramification cited by the P’ninim MiBei Midrasha is whether the chasan needs to fast until the wedding ceremony (i.e., until after the Chupah) or whether he must fast until the nighttime after the wedding. In other words, if the Chupah is finished at 6 p.m., but tzeis ha’kochavim is not until 8 p.m., does the chasan need to fast until 6 or 8? According to the first reason, that a chasan is forgiven on his wedding day, the chasan would have to fast until 8 p.m., the end of the day, like Yom Kippur. However, according to the second reason, to ensure that the chasan is not drunk during the ceremony, once the Chupah is over at 6 p.m., the chasan may eat and drink. I would add that according to the fifth and sixth reasons (before a mitzvah and simulating Matan Torah), the chasan likewise only needs to fast until 6 p.m., after the Chupah.
IV. The Kallah
What about the kallah? Does she also need to fast on her wedding day? Notably, the Rama (ibid) mentioned both the chasan and the kallah.
However, the sefer Kol Nidrei (4:34) cites numerous poskim who hold that only the chasan, but not the kallah, fasts on his wedding day. Indeed, he cites the Mahari Bruna, the Tashbetz, and the Rokeach who only require a chasan to fast. This fits nicely with their above-mentioned reasons for the fast. The Mahari Bruna, who suggested the fast was because the chasan was compared to a king who is judged daily, would only apply this reasoning to a chasan, as there is no source that a queen – the kallah – is judged daily. Note that the sefer Gam Ani Od’cha (Rav Lieberman, p. 344) doubts whether a kallah is even considered a queen, or whether this only applies to a chasan. [However, I am not sure how to reconcile the Mahari Bruna with his other reason – that the chasan fights in order to repent for the fights that take place in connection with the wedding. Presumably, this reason should apply with the kallah as well; so why does the Mahari Bruna only bring the minhag vis-à-vis the chasan? Also, the Pri M’gadim (cited in the sefer Kol Nidrei ibid) writes that according to the reason that the ceremony should not be performed when the chasan is drunk, this reason applies the same way to the kallah.]
Further, according to the Tashbetz’s reason, to simulate Matan Torah, perhaps only the men, who were obligated in limud haTorah, fasted at Matan Torah. Likewise, according to the Rokeach’s reason, fasting before a mitzvah, only the chasan fasts because having children/marriage is only his mitzvah, and not the kallah’s mitzvah.
The S’dei Chemed (cited in the Kol Nidrei ibid) notes that many Sefardim do not have this minhag to fast on their wedding day. Indeed, the sefer Maagalei HaChayim (ibid) cites Rav Ovadia Yosef zt”l as ruling that it is better for Sefardim to take upon themselves a taanis dibur and to learn Torah on their wedding day instead of fasting.
Next Week’s Topic: Should a minyan with a chasan getting married later that day recite Tachanun?