Israeli weddings

Jeff and I have been to three weddings in Israel, so I feel like we’ve gotten a bit of a sense of what a typical Israeli wedding is like.

First of all, and this almost goes without saying, a wedding between two Jews in Israel is by definition a religious Jewish wedding, even for secular couples. There’s a huppah, kabbalat panim (pre-huppah reception), sheva brachot, all the things you would expect at a Jewish wedding. No “tisch” (groom’s table) if the couple isn’t religious; the groom will just mingle with the guests. The event will be kosher if they have it at any standard wedding venue, and the bride will wear a cape or bolero for more coverage during the ceremony.

Cash is the standard gift. Jeff has been told that you’re allowed to crash a wedding if you bring a card with enough money to cover your plate (about 200-300 shekels). I’m using “plate” loosely because there are typically extensive fleishig appetizer stations during kabbalat panim, an open bar, steak for dinner, etc. There’s almost always a safe with a slot on the top near the place cards so nobody has to worry about the money being stolen or lost.

Israeli weddings are informal affairs, even if they’re swanky and expensive. The huppah ceremony is more or less standing-room only. There are chairs provided, but nowhere near the number of guests–just enough for the people who need to sit. Everyone stands on either side of the aisle while the very short procession passes. Flower girls seem to be a thing, but not bridesmaids and groomsmen. Siblings don’t always walk down the aisle either. After the procession is over, the aisle disappears as all the standing guests fill in the space to get a good view.

The fastest huppah ceremony we went to was done in about five minutes! The couple was secular but the bride came from a religious family, so the rabbi didn’t need to make any explanations that would be required for a secular crowd. (Just because you speak Hebrew doesn’t mean you know anything about Judaism! I’ve found that to be especially the case among Russians.) If you just rattle off the blessings one after another, it’s pretty short. The longest huppah ceremony we went to was for an American couple who had made aliyah. They had a long list of rabbis they wanted to honor with various brachot and speeches. It was a bit much for a standing-room ceremony.

At the end of the ceremony, there is no recessional. Instead, the guests storm the huppah to say mazal tov to the bride and groom and give them hugs and kisses! There are no formal, posed pictures to dampen the momentum of the moment. Then the bride and groom disappear briefly for yichud, join the party, and dance the night away!


3 thoughts on “Israeli weddings

  1. I hate cash gifts and generally refuse to give them. If I am invited to a wedding I assume it is because the family wants me to celebrate with them. I do not pay for my meal when I am invited to someone’s home. I give the bride and groom a gift (sometimes even when I don’t go to the ceremony) because I want to help them start their new lives together. Similarly I give gifts to family’s with new babies, not because they’ve invited me to a meal (most times they haven’t) but because I choose to welcome the baby to the world.

  2. Seeing as we got married in Israel I’d say this is a pretty good description! Though seeing as my husband and I were the ones paying for the wedding the money from our guests helped tremendously – we covered more then half of our expenses!

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