In pre-War Europe, going back for centuries, there were a number of Jewish wedding traditions that guided proper protocol between an engaged couple, some of which remain in one form or another to the present day, primarily among the Orthodox.
To this day, in charedi circles, there is a widespread custom at the vort (engagement party) for the kallah’s family to give the groom a complete set of the Talmud and for the chassan’s family to buy the bride a gold watch or a similar piece of jewelry.
If the chassan intends to wear a tallit under the chuppah, generally the kallah provides it.
When she and her husband got married, writes one blogger, “I bought him a wedding tallit. He wore it first under the chuppah and has worn it every single Shabbat and chag since we’ve been married. I gave this to him as a wedding gift, together with a tallit bag that I embroidered over the months of our engagement.”
The Chuppah Tallit: Let the Kallah Decide
Of course this custom gives the bride considerable say in the way her husband-to-be will look under their wedding chuppah. If the kallah chooses a traditional, black-on-white wool tallit, it definitely sets a certain tone. Likewise if she opts for a dapper, solid ivory hand-woven tallit or a bold, royal blue tallit with glittery stripes it sends a clear message.
Clothes make the man, and it makes quite a difference if he later steps into shul wearing a plain, traditional tallit or an heirloom quality chuppah tallit with a pomegranate or Jerusalem motif. In some ways perhaps this particular Jewish wedding tradition is a prelude to marriage, where the wife often works behind the scenes to subtly mold her husband into the kind of man she wants and needs.