A series of coincidences led to my taking another look at the Chabad-run site Askmoses.com. A couple of friends of mine are getting married this fall and, partly as a result, this question and answer by Rabbi Moshe Miller caught my eye. The questioner asked, “Why do people throw sweets at the groom [at the synagogue] on the Shabbat [Sabbath] before his wedding?
The candy throwing ritual is known as an “Aufruf.”
It is customary to call up (aufruf = the Yiddish word which means to call up) the groom to the Torah on the Shabbat before the wedding. After his portion is read and he has recited the blessing after reading the Torah it is customary to sing and rejoice together with him. The congregation then throws nuts and candies at the groom as a blessing that the couple should be fruitful and have a sweet life together. (The candies are soft so no one will be injured).
I’ve heard it said that they pelt the young man with bags of nuts and candies so that any hard knocks due to him are already fulfilled by those who love and respect him, and even those have a sweet ending!
According to the Zohar, the blessings for the entire week emanate from the Shabbat beforehand. Furthermore, since Torah is the root of all blessings, we call up the groom to the Torah on the Shabbat before his wedding, to shower Torah-blessings on the auspicious upcoming week.
The entire ancient custom seems to be related to the statement in the Talmud [Berachot 6b] that everyone who brings joy to a groom is worthy of Torah (and this is why it is done when he is called up to the Torah).
After the services, it is customary for the family of the groom to sponsor a sumptuous Kiddush in honor of the soon-to-be-married couple.
The bride does not join the groom’s festivities because the bride and groom do not see each other for an entire week before the wedding. Instead, it is customary for the bride to have a festive gathering for her friends on this same Shabbat. This event is known as the “Shabbat Kallah,” or in Yiddish it is known as a fahrshpil.
Sephardic Jews generally do not observe the aufruf custom.