Weddings in Israel – A guide for the perplexed

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Recently we celebrated the wedding of my daughter! She was lovely, sweet, excited and happy. The groom is someone we love very much. The families have become close. We couldn’t ask for more.

Planning a wedding is a consuming and full time experience. My daughter planned everything with precision and thought. The place was picked and a date was set. The officiant (a close family friend and Messianic leader) was chosen. The guest list was compiled. The DJ was selected, along with the videographer and photographer. There was a separate photographer for the magnets that now adorn our refrigerator. To add some lovely extras, a young woman making flower braclets, wreaths and boutonnières was hired.

The lovely wedding place charged extra for equally lovely table center pieces and the adornment of the chuppah.

The dress was also chosen, tailor made to the bride with fittings and alterations. 

Invitations were created and printed and sent, and then came the task of making sure that everyone had received theirs and were placed at tables where they knew someone and could have a good time.

There is always something to add and add we did. It was magical, beautiful, glorious and like a dream.

Since many of our friends from the Messianic community are from out of the country, some have asked how much or what to give. Is a gift proper or a check? What are they to expect at the wedding? How are they to behave?

In the interest of simply bridging some cultural gaps, I propose the following. I am sure I will have left something out, but this is more designed as a framework.

DO RSVP. You have been invited and you need to acknowledge that you either will or won’t be coming. If the envelope says “Mr. and Mrs.” this means you were invited without your children. If the envelope says “Family”, this means that you were invited with your children. When you respond, please indicate how many are coming. This helps with planning the table arrangements and letting the wedding place know  the number of attendees. It is sad and expensive to see a great many empty places. It is embarrassing to not have a place to sit! So let the couple know your plans and how many are attending.

DO give cash. You were invited because you are important to the bride or groom and/or their parents and your presence will bless them. Unlike in America, cash is not considered impersonal. Cash is required to pay the exorbitant costs of the wedding. Each meal costs the couple approximately 300 NIS, on an average. This is not including all the extras. Many Israelis try to “cover the cost of their plate” and add a bit extra to bless the couple.  If you are unable to do this, COME ANYWAY and give what you can. You were invited for you, not your gift. Do not let finances deter you from showing your love and support to the new couple. 

DO approach the bride and groom, after the Chuppah and on the dance floor. This is the time to “make the bride happy” and it is a great mitzvah! Hug, kiss, smile and dance. A wedding is a joyous milestone in the life of a person. Be joyous and participate and you will increase their joy and your own! 

DO NOT expect any deep or meaningful conversation with those participating in the wedding. This is a time to dance and make merry. If you need to discuss something serious, wait until later.

DO NOT expect anyone to arrange transportation for you, either to or from the wedding. If you choose to come, you need to provide your own transportation or talk to some other guests and car pool. The days leading up to the wedding are a frenzy of activity for the bride and groom and their families. 

DO NOT expect a personal thank you note! The bride and her parents may post a general “thank you” to all who participated and shared the joy with them. But the days of personal, hand written notes have, unfortunately, passed. You may receive a text. This is not something I particularly like, but it is reality. 

DO PRAY FOR AND CONTACT the new couple. Real life has begun and they will need good friends and family around them to encourage, guide, bless and nurture. Close friends and family provide scaffolding around the new structure that is being built. By all means, offer non intrusive support and encouragement.

May God guide you in this important and profound act of kindness!