A Halachic Guide to Sheva Brachos

Chazal tell us that Moshe Rabeinu established the “shivas y’mai hamishteh”, the seven days during which the choson and kallah rejoice together following their wedding.1 During this time, family and friends come together and prepare beautiful seudos, followed by the recitation of the “Sheva Brochos” at the conclusion of Birchas Hamazon. Such seudos are quite common, and it is important to review the various applicable halachos.2

What is Necessary For Sheva Brochos

If a choson and kallah are at a meal held in their honor during the first seven days of their marriage, and there is a minyan present, including a panim chadashos, Sheva Brochos are recited. The following is an explanation of what is required:

1. Minyan – At least seven adult males over the age of Bar Mitzvah eat enough bread that requires Birchas Hamazon,3 and at least three others eat enough food (e.g., cake, fruit, etc.) or drink a beverage (except water or seltzer) that requires a Brocha Acharona.4 The choson can be counted as one of the ten men.5 The choson and kallah should also eat enough bread that requires Birchas Hamazon.6

2. The Choson and Kallah are present – If the choson and kallah arrive late to their Sheva Brochos, the Sheva Brochos can be recited as long as they eat with everyone else, or at least when everyone can still potentially partake of the seudah or dessert. However, if they walk in after the guests have decided to recite Birchas Hamazon, or have washed mayim acharonim, it is too late.7 Sheva Brochos may be recited even if the choson and kallah ate in different rooms in the same house (e.g., the choson is with the men and the kallah is with the women), however, the kallah should be with the choson during Birchas Hamazon and Sheva Brochos.8#8

3. Panim Chadashos9 – This is someone who was not at the seudah of the wedding10 and was not at a previous seudas Sheva Brochos held in honor of this choson and kallah. He can be a panim chadashos even if he attended the chupah. However, if he attended any part of the wedding seudah or dancing (even without eating), or any previous Sheva Brochos seudah for this chosson and kallah, he cannot be considered a panim chadashos.11 Ideally, he should partake of the seudah, or at least eat chameishes minei dagan that requires a Mezonos.12 On Shabbos or Yom Tov,13 a panim chadashos is not required14 at the first two meals. A panim chadashos is also not required at seudah shlishis15 on Shabbos if divrei Torah are delivered.16 Ideally, the panim chadashos is someone who increases the simcha of the choson and kallah. B’dieved, we consider anyone attending to be a panim chadashos, as long as he is not an “adam bazoy”.17

4. Seven Days – If it is the first marriage18 for either the choson or kallah, the y’mai hamishteh take place for seven days.19 During this time, the choson or kallah do not work, but rather spend the time together for the duration of Sheva Brochos.20 A Sheva Brochos seudah can be made any time during these shivas y’mai hamishteh.21 It should be noted that there is no obligation to have Sheva Brochos for the choson or kallah every day.

The way to calculate seven days is as follows: The day of the chupah is Day #1, regardless of what time of day22 the chupah takes place. Sheva Brochos may be recited until sunset of Day #7. For example, if the wedding takes place on Sunday night in the winter, Monday is considered Day #1 and Sheva Brochos may be recited until sunset of the following Sunday.23 If the wedding is on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. (i.e., before sunset), Sunday is considered Day #1 and Shabbos is Day #7. Therefore, in such a case the Sheva Brochos of seudah shlishis must be completed before sunset on Shabbos (i.e., before the end of Day #7). This is true, even if seudah shlishis begins before sunset. This is different than reciting “Retzai” (or Yaaleh v’Yavo), which is recited even after it gets dark, provided the meal started before sunset on Shabbos (or Yom Tov).

If Shabbos is not Day #7 (i.e., it is between Days #2 and #6), regular Sheva Brochos are recited even after tzais hakochavim on Motzai Shabbos, and the mezamen and choson or kallah may drink the wine.24

In regards to other halachos of shivas y’mai hamishteh, including not going to work and exempting the tzibur from Tachanun, the seven days are “mei’ays l’ays” until exactly one week after the chupah.25 For example, assume someone got married on a Thursday in the summer and the chupah ended at 7:30 p.m. (i.e., before sunset). If the choson is in shul for Shacharis on the following Thursday morning, the entire minyan would not say Tachnun. Furthermore, Tachnun at Mincha that day would also not be recited by those who are at the minyan that the choson attends, if it is before 7:30 p.m.26 This is true, even though Sheva Brachos can only be recited until shkia the night before (i.e., until sunset on Wednesday).

Reciting Birchas Hamazon and Sheva Brochos

Before Birchas HaMazon, place three kosos (cups)27 on the table. One kos is for the one who leads Birchas Hamazon and the second one is for Sheva Brochos.28 The third kos will be used to mix Kos #1 with Kos #2.29 The first kos is filled and the mezamen leads the bentching, adding D’vai Hasair.30 However, most do not say D’vai Hasair on Shabbos, Yom Tov or Chol Hamoed.31 This is because it relates to the churban Bais Hamikdash.32 The words “She’hasimcha Bimono33 as found in the bentcher are also added by the mezamen and those who respond.34

When Birchas Hamazon is over, the second kos is filled35 and brought36 to six different men (over Bar Mitzvah) each of whom holds the kos and recites a different brocha.37 The first brocha is “Shehakol Barah Lichvodo”. The last brocha of these six is “Asher Barah”. One should not speak during or between Sheva Brochos; this ideally applies to everyone present.38 L’chatchila, the person reciting Sheva Brochos should have eaten. B’dieved, even one who did not partake of the meal may recite a brocha. The custom is that the choson does not recite the Sheva Brochos.39

After the brocha of “Asher Barah” is completed, the mezamen then recites “Borei Pri Hagafen” on the first kos and has in mind to be motzi the choson or kallah, in addition to anyone else who wants to drink.40 The wine in the cups is then mixed41 using the third kos. The mezamen should ideally drink a rov reviis (2 fl. oz.). The minhag is that the choson or kallah also drink at least a little wine.

It is important to note that the order of brochos is different under the chupah. Under the chupah, “Borei Pri Hagafen” is recited first, followed by “Shehakol Barah Lichvodo”. The last brocha (i.e., “bracha achrita”) is “Asher Barah”. At the seudah of the wedding, and during the shivas y’mei hamishteh, “Shehakol Barah” is recited first, “Asher Barah42 is the sixth brocha recited, and “Borei Pri Hagafen” is recited last. When using “Sheva Brochos cards”, it is advisable to ensure the cards are distributed in the correct order, as indicated above.

In the z’chus of our participation in being m’sameach each new choson or kallah, may they be zocheh to build a binyan aday ad and bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel. May we also merit yasis alayich Elokayich kimsos choson al kallah with the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.

1. Rambam, Hilchos Avel 1:1 based on Yerushalmi Kesubos 1:1, which also says that Moshe
Rabbeinu established the seven days of mourning.
2. This article is based on the psak of Harav Moshe Heinemann, shlita, Rabbinic Administrator
of STAR-K, and covers the halachos of the seudas Sheva Brochos, not the Sheva Brochos recited
under the chupah which is beyond the scope of this article. An additional discussion regarding
various aspects of Sheva Brochos can be found in STAR-K’s Insights from the Institute by Rabbi
Mordechai Frankel, Spring 2013.
3. K’zayis b’chdai achilas pras, 1.33 fl. oz. (40 ml), within a span of less than 4 minutes.
4. Sefer Sova S’machos 1:6. This is the same requirement necessary at a regular meal for the
one who leads Birchas Hamazon, and those who respond to add the word “Elokainu”. This is
not to be confused with the requirement for a “minyan” for davening (e.g., to recite Chazaras
Hashatz), when only six mispallelim are required and four additional adult males who are not
currently davening can be mitztaref. For example, after Sheva Brochos a minyan to daven can
be formed even if four of the ten males present already davened that tefilah.
5. Shulchan Aruch Even Ha’ezer [E.H.] 62:4
6. If this is not possible (e.g., due to an illness or allergy), consult a rav. See Sefer Birchas
Chasanim (S.B.C.) 3:5 by Harav Nissan Kaplan, shlit”a.
7. S.B.C. 3:f13. If there are only between 3 and 9 men in attendance (i.e., no minyan), or if either of the following individuals leaves before or during the recitation of the Sheva Brochos, a rav
should be consulted as to how to proceed: The choson or kallah, the panim chadashos, or the
“10th man” (i.e., there is no longer a minyan)
8. Yam Shel Shlomo (Ksubos Perek 1, Siman 20)
9. Literally meaning “new faces”. Although a panim chadashos must be present, he is not required to recite any of the Sheva Brochos.
10. Shulchan Aruch E.H. 62:7
11. S.B.C. 4:6-9
12. If he does not eat, he must be someone who will definitely increase the simcha of the choson and kallah (S.B.C. 4:f13).
13. A panim chadashos is necessary on Chol Hamoed, Rosh Chodesh, Purim and Chanukah.
14. Shulchan Aruch E.H. 62:8. This is because Shabbos itself is a panim chadashos (Tosfos Ksubos 7b-V’hu). If there is no panim chadashos on a weekday, under certain conditions only the brocha of “Asher Barah” is recited (in addition to “Borei Pri Hagafen”).
15. This is true, even if Birchas Hamazon (i.e., with Retzai) is recited after shkia (See S.B.C. 4:11).
16. In this case, some are makpid that the choson says divrei Torah (S.B.C. 4:11 in the name of Rav Elyashiv zt”l).
17. A non-desirable individual. For a full discussion of who can be considered panim chadashos, see Sefer Hanisuin K’hilchasa 14:49-69.
18. This means that either the choson or kallah was never previously married. Furthermore, the following condition is also required: Before they met, the kallah was a bsula and/or the choson had the same status (see S.B.C. 14:f3 in the name of Harav Elyashiv, zt”l). See there for a for a full discussion of the opinions regarding this issue. When such shaalos arise, consult a rav.
19. These are commonly known as the days of “Sheva Brochos”.
20. If this is not possible at any time during the week following the chasunah, a rav should be consulted.
21. If it is a second marriage (for an expanded definition of this, see footnote 18) for both the choson and kallah, the y’mai hamishteh are only for three days, and Sheva Brochos is only recited following the seudah at the chasuna if the meal began on the same Hebrew day as the chasuna (Chochmas Adam 129:4).
22. Day #1 is determined at the moment the Brocha Acharita ends under the chupah. If it is bain hashemashos, the day before sunset is Day #1 (see S.B.C. 9:1-2).
23. Sheva Brochos may not be recited in the middle of the seudah without Birchas Hamazon. If a Sheva Brochos was scheduled for Day #7 and sunset is early, how can Sheva Brochos be recited in a halachically permissible manner? For example, assume the seudah begins at 6:45 p.m. on Day #7 and sunset is at 8:00 p.m. One option is as follows: Everyone should wash, and the main course should be served as soon as possible. At 7:45 p.m., Birchas Hamazon is recited and the Sheva Brochos are completed before sunset. Following Birchas Hamazon, speeches (or some other break) takes place followed by dessert (if it is a weeknight, and not after shkia going into Motzai Shabbos). It is not permitted to serve more food immediately after Birchas Hamazon, as this would cause a brocha she’ayna tzreecha. It should be noted, to make the above scenario a bit easier the chosson,
kallah, plus six additional adult males can recite Birchas Hamazon after the main course, followed by Sheva Brochos before sunset. Everyone else present would respond to the mezamen, but would recite Birchas Hamazon after dessert.
24. See Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchaso 59:17. This is unlike a regular mezuman, after shkia on Shabbos, when the general minhag nowadays is not to drink from the wine but rather save the kos for the recitation of Havdalah.
25. This means that if the choson is in shul for Shacharis or Mincha within the first 168 hours after the end of the chupah, the entire tzibur does not recite Tachanun at the minyan he attends.
26. Mishna Brura 131:26
27. The kosos upon which Birchas Hamazon and Sheva Brochos are recited should be fit for Kiddush (i.e., hold a reviis, etc.).
28. We do not recite both sets of brochos on one kos because of the rule “ayn osen mitzvos chavilos chavilos” – we do not cheapen the mitzvah by “bundling together” more than one mitzvah onto one kos.
29. The third kos is not halachically necessary – just advisable to make it easier to mix the wine of the two kosos.
30. Taz E.H. 62:7. It is the prevalent minhag for the mezamen to add this piyut after “Yehi shem… v’ad olam”.
31. See L’kutay Maharich vol. 3 pg 135b-“Vheenay yaish” – 1st opinion.
32. Sefer Yesodai Yeshurun vol. 5, pg. 457, as it says in Eicha 5:17, “Al zeh haya daveh lebanu.”
33. The mezamen adds these words (even on Shabbos and Yom Tov) twice – first, when he says “Birshus … Nevareich Elokeinu, Shehasimcha…”, and second when the responders finish and he says “Boruch Elokainu, She’hasimcha…” Those in attendance add, “Shehasimcha Bimono” once (after Boruch Elokainu).
34. An additional person present who did not eat or drink should recite, “Boruch Elokainu u’movrach shmo tamid l’olam va’ed, shehasimcha bimono” (Mishna Brura 198:6). Alternatively, some say that someone who did not eat should add the words, “She’hasimcha bimono” immediately after “Boruch Elokainu” and then say “umovrach shmo…” (Maamer Mordechai O.C. 198:2).
35. Alternatively, the second kos can be filled before Birchas Hamazon.
36. Another option is that they come to the table where the second kos has been placed and recite the Sheva Brochos there.
37. Alternatively, one person recites all six brochos on the second kos.
38. S.B.C. 6:5. However, one may speak if it relates to the Sheva Brochos procedures (e.g., “Give ‘Ploni’ the next brocha.”).
39. Minchas Yitzchak 3:114
40. The choson and kallah, and anyone else who wants to drink, should have in mind to be yotzei with the mezamen, and the mezamen should have “everyone” present in mind when reciting Borei Pri Hagafen.
41. One method of mixing is as follows: Pour some of Kos #1 into an empty Kos #3. Then pour some of Kos #2 into Kos #3. Now pour some of Kos #3 back into Kos #1 and then more of Kos #3 into Kos #2. Now all three cups have wine from both kosos. The Baal Haseudah should give Kos #1 to the mezamen to drink, Kos #2 to the choson, and Kos #3 directly to the kallah.
42. Those who wish to sing “Asher Barah” and “Kol Sasson” should note the following: When singing during the recitation of the brochos, the one who recites the brocha should recite “Asher Barah…” and “Kol Sasson…” after the participants have completed their singing (e.g., he says “…Elokeinu melech haolam…” and they sing “Asher Barah…v’shalom v’reyus”, then he says “Asher Barah…”). This ensures that everyone hears the recitation of the brocha. If the assembled wish to sing “Asher Barah” after the last brocha, they should ideally wait to sing until after the mezamen, choson and kallah begin to drink. This will avoid an inadvertent hefsek between the brocha and drinking. See also S.B.C. Siman 35:3, Os 3.