Life on the Other Side

About the only thing I recognize about weddings in Israel com- pared to weddings in the U.S. is the stomping of the glass and the loud chorus of “Mazel Tov!” The rest – OH MY GOD!

Let’s start with the time. When the invitation says 8 pm with chuppah at 9 pm, you can be certain that the chuppah ceremony won’t take place before 10:30 or 11 pm. That’s just the way it is – Israeli weddings never start on time. The bride and groom have to make a grand entrance – and that can range from being escorted by young women wearing hot pants and halter tops bearing lit torches to appearing behind a gigantic puff of smoke. My favorite scene took place not when I was a guest, but rather a surprised bystander. Standing outside a movie theater in a local mall, I watched a bride and groom playing on a pinball machine. They were obviously biding time until they could make their grand entrance into the wedding banquet hall on the second floor.

The food? Endless! You arrive at your table and there are carafes of soft drinks, baskets of rolls, and plates and plates of salads. Humus and tehina of course, and roasted eggplant with tehina, roasted eggplant with mayonnaise, roasted eggplant with onion and peppers, spicy carrot salad, coleslaw, potato salad, her- ring, ikra (fish roe), spicy tomato salad, pickles, olives, etc. Then, after the chuppah, the waiters come out and ask you what you would like: salmon, St. Peter’s fish or pastry stuffed with mush- rooms. When you finish that, the main course comes out (by now you’re so full you can’t see straight, and it’s probably way after midnight). There’s chicken, fish, steak or kebab. A bottle of wine is opened and put on the table, more drinks are offered and the music is pounding in your ears.

Let’s talk about music. If the bride and groom come from Ashkenazi backgrounds, you can be sure there will be no “Jewish” wedding music (forget a hora – unheard of !) and certainly no, and I mean absolutely no, Mizrahi music! I love Mizrahi music and at my stepson’s wedding, I tried to bribe him and his future wife to allow some songs of the popular Oriental style. They wouldn’t hear of it. After pleading and pleading and promising them that the minute those songs are played, every- one will jump up to dance – they agreed to a total of three songs. Apparently Mizrahi music has ridiculous lyrics. (I’ve got to admit – the lyrics are pretty pathetic, but I so love the melodies.)

If the couple is from a Mizrahi background – naturally the music will have lots of soul.

Wedding wardrobe? Everything! From shorts to cut-off jeans to bejeweled evening gowns – there is no dress code here and anything goes. When an invitation indicates black tie – maybe, just maybe, the men will wear jackets. But it’s not certain. When I first visited Israel 40 years ago, wedding gowns were a joke – froufrou and ridiculous. But now some are truly stunning, and I must admit I’ve never yet seen an unattractive bride in this country – the girls are gorgeous!

The couples love to take photographs before the wedding in all kinds of places – so you’ll see them posing at the beach, in the middle of fields, on horses, at archaeological sites, in parks. The funniest took place in my B&B, where a bride was posed stretched across the bed with a half-empty bottle of red wine dangling out of her hand. The photographer thought it was cute to hint that the groom did not show up, and here’s what the bride was left with. I only worried about that bottle spilling out on the white bedspread – but all ended well (including the groom showing up as expected).

Wedding presents are usually checks, often written out right at the entrance to the wedding hall where envelopes and a safe are provided. The most bizarre thing I ever experienced was when we were asked at the entrance if we were with the bride’s or the groom’s side. Then we were directed to the correct safe box. Apparently, the caterer is paid after the money is collected, and one must make sure that the amounts are even from both sets of families. And considering that a medium-sized wedding in Israel is 500 people, we’re talking a lot of money here!

I could go on and on, but you get it. There are weddings that take place in hotels – totally elegant and first class – and wed- dings that take place on the beach with small intimate crowds, and even a lesbian wedding that recently took place at Casa Caesarea.

The bottom line is that they are fun to attend, full of love and happiness and abundance and celebration. I love them all!

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