There are five main honors in the Bris ceremony. All of the Honors can have two people except the Sandak, which is one person. That is a maximum of nine people. If you need to include more than nine people in the ceremony, we will have to get creative. I recommend not telling anyone their role until we are ready to start the ceremony.
In order of appearance, they are:
1. Kvatter and/or Kvatterin – someone to bring the baby into the room where the ceremony is taking place.
2. Chair of Elijah (Kise shel Eliyahu) – someone to place the baby on the Chair of Elijah and to take him from the Chair of Elijah. The Chair of Elijah honor may be given to one or two individuals. In addition to the Sandak, this honor should be performed by one who is Jewish. We welcome the spiritual presence of Elijah the Prophet to the Bris ceremony as we welcome Elijah the Prophet to the Passover Seder with the Cup of Elijah. According to one interpretation, Elijah the Prophet was rewarded with this seat of honor at all Brisses for during his time he re-established the performance of this mitzvah. This takes place before the Sandak holds the baby for the Bris.
3. Sandak – someone to hold the baby during the circumcision. (This is the only Honor that cannot be given to two people.)
4. Standing Sandak (Amidah le-berakhot) – someone to hold him during the Naming.
5. Kvatter and /or Kvatterin – someone to take the baby out of the room.
Traditionally, it is the parents of the baby who give out the honors at the Bris. Both men and women are included in the ceremony. I recommend that parents distribute select honors in a meaningful way, rather than pass the baby around just to include a lot of people.
The honor of bringing the baby into the room at the beginning of the ceremony and/or taking him out at the end of the ceremony is usually given to the grandmothers of the baby. Or, the honor may be given to a couple who have been married for a number of years, who have been trying to have a baby and have not yet been successful. If this is the first boy for the parents, the paternal grandfather of the baby holds for the Bris and the maternal grandfather of the baby holds for the Naming portion of the ceremony. (If one grandfather has already served as a Sandak previously, he can defer to the other grandfather.) Placing the baby on the Chair of Elijah and carrying him from Elijah’s chair are honors that can be given to other relatives. (The Chair of Elijah and Sandak honors do need to be performed by those of the Jewish faith.) There are many more permutations and possibilities (older siblings, stepparents, great-grandparents, etc.), so the best thing to do is prepare a list of those people whom you would like to include in the ceremony. I can help you decide the best way to distribute the honors. I also recommend keeping the honors a secret until the day of the event. When I arrive, I will review the details with you one more time and fill in any missing information or changes (Honors, Jewish names, etc.).
Older siblings of the Baby: Older siblings should not only attend the Bris, but they should be included in the ceremony! This is before the actual Bris takes place. Once they are finished with their part, we can distract them with a toy, a gift or a video so they are not present when the Bris actually happens. Years later, when they look at the photos, it will be a wonderful memory to see that they were there and participated in their brother’s Bris.