A chuppah (חוּפָּה) (also spelled hupah, chupah, or chuppa - plural: chuppot or chuppahs, Hebrew: חוּפּוֹת) is a canopy traditionally used in Jewish weddings. It consists of a cloth or sheet, sometimes a tallit, stretched or supported over four poles, or sometimes carried by attendants to the ceremony. A chuppah symbolizes the home the couple will build together. Chuppah literally means a canopy or a covering.
Historically, in Talmudic times, Jewish weddings comprised two separate parts, the betrothal ceremony and the actual wedding ceremony. These two ceremonies usually took place about a year apart. The bride lived with her parents until the actual marriage ceremony, which would take place in a room or tent that the groom had set up for her. Later in history, the two ceremonies were combined and the marriage ceremony started to be performed publicly. At this new ceremony, the chuppah, or the portable marriage canopy, was included as a symbol of the chamber within which marriages originally took place.
The "chuppah" may also represent the home of Abraham and serve as a reminder that he was a foreigner in a strange land, looking for the place God had promised to him.
Before going under the chuppah the groom covers the bride's face with a veil, known as the badeken (in Yiddish). The origin of this tradition is in the dispute of what exactly is the chuppah. There are opinions that the chuppah means covering the bride's face, and that by this covering the couple is to be married. Thus, some insist that the marriage witnesses also see this act of covering, as it is a formal part of the wedding.
The groom enters the chuppah first to represent his ownership of the home on behalf of the couple. When the bride then enters the chuppah it is as though the groom is providing her with shelter or clothing, and he thus publicly demonstrates his new responsibilities toward her.