1 Tammuz 5759
Is it Halacha to have a mechitza at a wedding, or any other time that there will be dancing? I have been asked this question many times, and I really have nothing to answer. I know the Tznius aspect, but years ago did they have walls separating the dancing? I assume they had separate circles, but did they have a mechitza? And do they same halachic status of a mechitza in shul apply to a mechitza at a wedding?
Thank you in advance for answering my question. Also thank you in general for giving of your time to answer the questions sent to you through JEMSEM.
[Name withheld upon request]
B'not Torah Institute 5758
The law requiring a mechitza between men and women during times of dancing and other types of merriment goes back, at the very least, to the Beis HaMikdash. The Mishna describes that on the evening after the first Yom Tov of Succos they created a special separation between the men and the women for the dancing of the Simchas Beis HaSho'eva. This was even though the women weren't dancing! All the more so is the requirement if the women are dancing themselves, as is the case in a wedding. The Gemara in Succah goes further and says that any time there is a gathering of men and women where they will be together for some length of time (the Gemara discusses a funeral) there needs to be a separation between them. It isn't clear if in this circumstance we need to go so far as to place a mechitza, but the Gemara is clear that for occasions that will lend themselves to "Kalos HaRosh" or "light-headedness" it is imperative that there be one. HaRav Moshe Feinstein zatza"l even considers the possibility that this obligation might be D'Oraisa in nature.
I can't claim a knowledge of what was done in Europe but it is clear the accepted custom in all Orthodox circles is to have a mechitza during the dancing at weddings, and this is certainly backed up by the halachos presented in the Gemara.
It is important to point out, though, that weddings are very emotion-laden experiences that often accentuate differences in religious observance between children and their parents. It is crucial to discuss these issues in detail with a Gadol so as to insure the appropriate observance of Halacha and at the same time balance the protection of Shalom between children and their parents.
Thanks for asking.