The First-Century Jewish Custom of a Groom Proposing With a Cup of Wine


The First Century Jewish marriage proposal was no small undertaking. It involved protocols and traditions that were centuries old. Each participant engaged in at least one type of premarital rite. Engagement and marriage were not single acts. Instead, they were a progression that could last up to a year. The Jewish engagement was just as binding as the marriage, requiring a divorce decree to break the engagement bond.


  • A bride would be selected by the groom's father after carefully considering the bride's family and lineage. The groom and his father would travel to the home of the bride. Losing a daughter to marriage was considered a significant loss to a bride's family; hence, they established the bride price. After the two fathers had negotiated the bride price, the groom would then pay it to the bride's father.

The Erusin

  • The Erusin or wine ceremony then would be performed. The prospective bride and groom would sit at a table, facing each other. The groom's father would pour a glass of wine and hand it to his son. Then the groom would hold up the glass and say to the bride, "This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which I offer to you." He would hand the cup to the bride. If the woman accepted the man's proposal, she would then take the cup and drink. If not, she would push the cup away.

Sealing the Deal

  • After drinking from the groom's cup, the bride would pass it back to the groom. He would then take the cup and drink from it. At this point in the ceremony, the couple would be considered "betrothed," which was as binding as marriage. The groom would give his fiancée a ring as a symbol of his love. He would then say, "Behold, you are consecrated unto me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel."

The Promise

  • The groom would promise to build the bride a place where the two of them would live after they were married. Usually the groom would build an addition onto his parents' house. While this was being done, the bride would prepare her trousseau, which was the wardrobe she would take to her new home after marriage. The actual wedding ceremony would be conducted approximately a year after the wine-ceremony proposal.

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