A traditional ultra-Orthodox Jewish wedding

A traditional ultra-Orthodox Jewish wedding

The marriage ceremony is perhaps the greatest highlight in the life of an ultra-Orthodox Jew. And when it comes to the community's most prominent members, it turns into a public spectacle.

On Tuesday, thousands gathered to mark the wedding of the grandson of the Rabbi of the Tzanz Hasidic dynasty community in the coastal Israeli city of Netanya. Family members arrived in horse-drawn carriages for a ceremony that included dancing into the night.

The weeklong celebration culminates with the traditional seven blessing ceremony and draws thousands to witness the couple wed under a canopy known as a huppah. Festivities continued in a wedding hall, where bleachers were set up and a curtain separated men and women.

At the center of the celebration is the Mitzvah Tantz, in which family members and honored rabbis are invited to dance in front of the bride and then dance with the groom.

The ultra-Orthodox make up about eight percent of Israel's 8.5 million residents and largely stay close to their own community. They generally observe strict religious guidelines and abide by traditional dress and practices.

Text from the AP news story, AP PHOTOS: A traditional ultra-Orthodox Jewish wedding, by Oded Balilty.

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