7 Things to Know If You’re Invited to an Israeli Wedding
Each year as summer comes around many of us are inundated with invitations to attend weddings. Weddings are a wonderful time to joyfully celebrate and see people you haven’t seen in years. The customs in Israel, particularly for Jewish weddings, are unlike what I know in Europe or North America. Here are some pertinent facts to help you when you are invited to an Israeli wedding.
1. Do not bring a gift – only money will do.
Israeli weddings are frightfully expensive affairs unless you’re a hippie and do-it-yourself on the beach or in a forest and you have a pot-luck where everyone brings something to eat. The guests are expected to pay for the wedding and the current expected rate is a minimum of 500 NIS per couple or 300 NIS for a single person. If you are close friends or relatives, you are expected to give more. Note: You may have to judiciously choose which weddings to attend since attending them all can seriously destroy your monthly budget.
2. Never come on time.
If you do, you will be the first persons there and it’s likely the food will not yet be set out. Israeli events are known for being fashionably late. If you are invited to an Ethiopian wedding it’s even more important to come later than the time written on the invitation. I’ve attended Ethiopian weddings that actually begin three hours after the time set for the wedding. Once, the wedding venue wasn’t even open when we arrived 30 minutes “late.” These weddings regularly begin between 90 minutes to three hours late.
3. Don’t expect to have a deep conversation with anyone.
Music is almost always very loud and is played during the sit down dinner so that you will be hard pressed to hear the person next to you unless you are both shouting. Just smile a lot.
4. If it’s a daytime wedding, wear a hat or get sunburned.
Daytime weddings are usually held in special venues with lovely gardens. The problem is that during the actual wedding ceremony, held outside under a wedding canopy – huppa (for the bride and groom, the rabbi or clergyman, and the immediate family), there are only enough chairs for about 10% of the invitees and all the guests are either sitting (if you’re lucky) or standing in the sun. There is never enough shade. Depending on how long the ceremony lasts, you can suffer heat stroke.
5. Eat a lot of the pre-wedding appetizers (before the actual wedding ceremony).
Israeli weddings have a pre-wedding reception that serves food. This is always the best food at the wedding. What’s served after the ceremony is never as good as the pre-wedding food. The food after the ceremony is either buffet style or served at tables. If it’s a buffet, make sure to take as much as you want since the buffet usually closes before you can get seconds. If the meal is brought to the table, be patient; it can take well over an hour for the meal to be served. Salads are usually on the tables, but the rest of the food comes bit-by-bit with the meat coming at the end. At some weddings I’ve attended, the meat course came over an hour after the guests sat down at the table. And the deserts come even later, if at all.
6. Don’t expect to see the actual ceremony.
Israelis love their wedding albums and their wedding videos. This means that the bridal couple is attended by at least two photographers who photograph and film every word and every step from different angles. The guests usually see the backs of the photographers for most of the ceremony. Don’t worry though, after the ceremony there’s opportunity to see and greet the newlyweds.
7. Finally – enjoy yourselves.
Your friends only get married once.