Modern progressive couples have adapted the ritual to make it egalitarian, with each partner circling the other. Some couples view circling as a symbol of the way they'll define the home space for the couple, each seeing themselves responsible for protecting and supporting the other. A typical mutual-circling ritual with seven circles would see one circle the other three times in a clockwise manner, followed by the other circling the first one three times in a counter-clockwise manner. They then complete one last circle together. The circling is often done while music is playing.
Traditional couples have the bride circle the groom three or seven times. This ritual typically occurs either before entering the huppah or sometime during the wedding ceremony. In traditional terms, circling is a way for the bride to create an invisible wall around the groom, "to protect him from evil spirits, from the glances of other women and from the temptations of the world," says Anita Diamant in The New Jewish Wedding, Revised. Traditionally, circling has also been seen as the symbolic transfer of the bride from her father's house to her husband's house.
Sample Program Definition
In Jewish tradition, the bride circles the groom seven times, symbolizing the creation of a new family circle and forming a "wall" of protection for the groom. We are adapting this ritual for our ceremony by each circling the other three times and then we will circle once together. This circling symbolizes the creation of a new and protective home and the intertwining of our lives.
The Guide to Wedding Ceremonies for Interfaith Couples is also available in PDF and Word formats.