The institution of marriage is a Biblical innovation. Before the Tora was given to the Jewish people, explains Maimonides, a man would find a woman, bring her to his home and they would live together and bring children without any previous public commitment or formal ceremony. Also, since there was no institution of marriage there was no formal process of divorce. If one of them wished to leave, he or she could do so at any moment.
Once the Tora was given, the Mitzva of marriage was established: when a man and a woman wish to live together, first, they should get married . This is learned from the Pasuq in Debarim 22:13 "When a man marries a wife ..." . (The Tora also established that once married, if the couple wanted to separate, they must do so by a process called: girushin or get keritut: formal separation or divorce).
Jewish marriage is a ceremony of a public nature and therefore it requires, at least, the presence of two witnesses.
The wedding process consists of two steps: Kiddushin and Chupa. The first one, Kiddushin (also known as Irusin) is a formal consecration or engagement (not to be confused with the engagements we have today!!!). At this step, and to establish the formality of the bond and commitment between the man and the woman, the groom consecrates the bride. This consecration is performed by a legal process of acquisition or qinyan. The standard custom today is doing this qinyan under the Chupa by giving a ring to the bride. When the groom gives the ring to the bride he consecrates her saying: "Behold, you are consecrated to me (to be my wife ) by this ring according to the law of Moshe and Israel". Upon receiving the ring the couple are formally engaged or consecrated to each other. However, the couple will be considered formally married only after the Chupa.
(To be continued....)