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Before commencing with the wedding, the practice is to write a contract between the families of the bride and groom to agree to certain gifts that they will be giving each other's children in honor of the marriage, and to agree to paying a fine if the parties do not follow through.[1]

When the Tenayim is done

  1. In many communities, the practice of signing and reading the "Tenayim" was done to finalize the intent of the couple to marry each other, and so a meal is made in honor of the engagement.[2] According to some, this meal is a "se'udas mitzvah" and obligatory,[3] but most Ashkenazim seem to pasken that this meal is optional.[4]
  2. Some have the practice to sign the "tenaim" immediately before the wedding ceremony, in addition to the one at the engagement[5] but today many sign only a symbolic contract at the wedding itself.[6] If this is done, R. Moshe Feinstein recommends altering the text of the contract to reflect this timing (see below).
  3. Customs differ as to whether or not to write a "Tenaim" contract for a second marriage[7]

Procedure of Tenayim

  1. Today, many have the custom not to detail any of the actual responsibilities to the couple or the fine imposed for backing out of the marriage, but merely to hint to them by writing the "chapter headings".[8]
  2. If the "Tenayim" is not signed or written until the time of the marriage, as is the custom in many communities today,[9] the text should reflect the contract's symbolic nature.[10]
  3. The contract is made between the two fathers or guardians of bride and groom, and so they lift a kerchief or any item in order to finalize their agreement with an action,[11] but if the contract is symbolic then no monetary obligation is affected by this transaction.[12]
  4. The accepted custom is to have the contract (or at least its headings) read aloud in public when it is signed by the parties and witnesses, so that all of those signing know the content of the contract.[13]
  5. It is a nice practice for the groom (or someone else) to say some words of Torah at the signing of the Tenayim, whether immediately before the wedding or at the engagement.[14]
  6. After the reading of the Tenayim, the custom has developed for the mothers of the bride and groom to break a utensil (usually a plate).[15]


  1. See Rama E.H. 50:5-6. Many poskim, including the Rama, refer to this contract as the קנסות; see She'elos U'Teshuvos Maharam Mintz no. 31
  2. Minhageim d'K.K. Vermeiza (Machon Yerushalayim, 1988) no. 227 (see notes there), Taz O.C. 546:2, Magen Avraham O.C. 444:9, Aruch Hashulchan E.H. 50:26
  3. Chok Ya'akov O.C. 444:10 and Kaf HaChayim there
  4. She'elot U'Teshuvot Chavos Yair no. 70 (end), Pri Megadim to Taz O.C. 444:8, Mishnah Berurah 444:9. One of the earliest references to such a meal is in Minhageim d'K.K. Vermeiza, where it is stated that the custom is to have lokshen but not necessarily bread. This is also implied by Mishnah Berurah 551:16
  5. See Nachalas Shiva no. 9-11. These two versions differed in text, particularly regarding the fine that would have to be paid if the engagement was broken off due to inappropriate behavior.
  6. Rav Schachter in "Seder Kiddushin and Nesuin" (min 1-2)., Rabbi Mordechai Willig. See She'elot UTeshuvot Maharsham 3:127, Nitei Gavriel Nisuin I 12:8
  7. Nitei Gavriel Nisuin 49:2
  8. Taz E.H. 50:12, Beis Shmuel E.H. 50:15, Aruch Hashulchan E.H. 50:26
  9. Rav Schachter in "Seder Kiddushin and Nesuin" (min 1-2)
  10. The text according to Rav Moshe Feinstein (and that of other gedolim) can be found inNitei Gavriel Nesuin v. 1 p. 377.
  11. As evidenced by the phrase וקנינא mentioned in even Rav Moshe's version of the contract.
  12. See Rama E.H. 50:6 and poskim there. R. Moshe Feinstein wrote (Iggeros Moshe E.H. 1:91) regarding this practice, דמה שכותבין בשעת החופה אינו כלום
  13. Noda Bi'Yhudah Kama Y.D. 66, Aruch Hashulchan E.H. 50:26
  14. Magen Avraham O.C. 306:15
  15. Eliyah Rabba O.C. 560:7 writes that this is to remember Jerusalem, but Pri Migeadim to Taz O.C. 560:4 and Aruch Hashulchan E.H. 50:26 offer other reasons.