“That was an amazing wedding!”
I still hear it when friends gather, and it’s been over 35 years since David and I got married. The food, the dancing and, to be honest, the abundant alcohol brought out the party animal in everyone, from Grandma Rose to the mah-jongg mavens. But I can’t take the credit. It was my mother’s wedding.
My mom and I hit wedding plan impasse almost immediately. My parents were footing the whole bill, and David and I had a long guest list. The ceremony would be at Neveh Shalom, and we suggested a casual reception that fit our style: beer and wine, finger food, a disc jockey and no reception line.
That was not my parents’ style, however. We went mano a mano on point after point until I caved. I would manage the wedding details but the reception? Just tell me when and where to show up. The “where” was Tualatin Country Club. I never saw the bill, thank goodness, but my mom was right. It was a gorgeous, extravagant and very memorable party for 250 people. I still get teary.
Weddings are still memorable and brides still get teary, but today’s a different world. Marriage numbers are steadily declining in Oregon. Brides wait longer before marrying; by then they know what they want and they probably don’t cave so fast. The costs are often shared between the families and the couple themselves; some kids foot the whole bill. In today’s financial climate, brides still want the wedding of their dreams but they prioritize the details, strategically splurge on what is important to them and economize or cut what doesn’t matter.
Jemi Kostiner Mansfield agrees. She has coordinated the weddings at Portland’s Congregation Beth Israel for 20 years. The trends? Many brides just tell their bridesmaids “black, no cleavage” rather than buying identical dresses. They save the wedding planner and flowers for the reception because the temple already provides both. Where to splurge? You will look at the photos your whole life, Jemi says. Don’t leave the photography to Uncle Joe.
Beth Israel’s Rabbi Michael Cahana and Cantor Judy Schiff officiated at the January 2011 wedding of Lindsay Kantor and Joel Krivosha at The Resort at the Mountain in Welches. They incorporated many Jewish traditions into their ceremony, including The Seven Circles and the Sheva Brachot, which they were careful to explain in the program for their non-Jewish friends. They retreated for a quiet Yichud before the reception.
While the young couple was in a position to do some splurging for the celebration, they did not have carte blanche. They managed the details so that 350 guests and 16 attendants would have a weekend to remember. Many of their choices fell into one of three categories: economize, splurge or make it look like you splurged.
They are both grateful for the help of relatives and friends. The Friday night blow-out party was a generous gift from Joel’s aunt. They chose simple invitations, more candles than flowers and dessert instead of cake. They shopped the Nordstrom Half-Yearly sale for dresses and suits and attendants’ gifts. The bridesmaids received matching wool coats, a choice that paid off big time when a deluge threatened the scenic group shots they’d hoped for.
They did not, however, cut corners on the food. They hired the best photographer they could find. And they went all out with a seven-piece band that played into the wee hours. “I don’t care what it costs,” Joel said. “Keep this party happy!”
Lindsay and Joel are particularly satisfied with low-cost touches that made the weekend special and fun. Joel wanted a room for cigars and football, and Lindsay wanted a mah jongg tournament. Cost: negligible. A video booth where guests could mug for the camera augmented a basic videography package. And they imported 300 Voodoo Doughnuts to serve at 1 a.m., a big hit for only $150.
“If I were to do it again, I would not have stressed so much about the little things,” Lindsay says. But, they both agree, “Everything was perfect.”
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Rabbi Arthur Zuckerman of Shaarie Torah officiated at the wedding of Brendan Good and Shoshana McClellan last August with 100 guests in attendance. The bride and groom were both raised in observant homes and incorporating “Conservadox” traditions throughout the ceremony was important to both of them. They, too, spent time dining together before making their big entrance at the reception, with music by James Brown that segued into traditional Jewish music and chairs raised overhead.
Is Chinese food another Jewish tradition? In a fun twist, Brendan proposed to Shoshana with a “Will you marry me?” fortune he put in a Chinese takeout cookie. Luck continued as a theme when newly engaged Shoshana won a catering package at the Oregon Golf Club in West Linn, the first step for a “look like you splurged” celebration. Shoshana found her dress at David’s Bridal’s annual sale and the bridesmaids found their dresses at a killer sale on
The rest of the wedding budget, though, owes much of its success to Brendan’s attention to every little detail. Shoshana had lots of input, but she had classes at school to finish. So, Brendan? He had spreadsheets. He monitored the price and progress of every line item with every vendor, making sure that they were getting what they wanted without paying for things they didn’t care about. He always knew exactly how much to shave from something when another item went over budget.
Going with “kosher style” food coincidentally turned out to be economical. They chose fish rather than meat, which would have been difficult as well as expensive to manage, and the club halved its corkage fees because it could not provide kosher wine. Brendan then ordered the wine online at a discount from Harry & David, where his father works.
One month before the big day, they were enough under budget that they could go back and revisit areas where they’d cut back. They upgraded both the flowers and the photographer, and they made wedding albums for their parents. They all danced the night away to playlists Brendan had assembled personally. Shoshana and Brendan agree: it was the wedding they’d dreamed of.
Their advice? Prioritize.
My advice? Prioritize, but also … listen to your mother.
Liz Rabiner Lippoff is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in Portland. She has yet to plan a wedding. When her daughter got married two years ago in Philadelphia, Liz volunteered an opinion or two in the planning process but basically showed up when and where she was told to. The wedding was spectacular.