he morning after I attended a wedding, I saw on Facebook a photo with the following caption (in Hebrew): “So much fun --an Israeli wedding.” This was a new one for me; I was familiar with Jewish weddings and even heard about an Israeli documetary series on TV with that tittle. But never before have I heard the name “an Israeli Wedding”as a reference to the secular/religious tradition that has evolved in the last decade in Israel.
I have been to several weddings recently, all had about 300 to 450 guests; and somehow it didn't matter whether they were in town or out in the country, in the mountains up north or in the desert down south: they were basically identical.
Many young couples envision “the most important night in their life” as one of a kind; others just wish that occasion to be exactly like the wedding of their friends. But when the special occasion is translated into its practical components, those who strive to have a unique experience and those who draw confidence from being just like everyone else end up having pretty much the same uniform “every wedding.”
Israel is a small country and new trends catch fast and hard, so if, for example, one wedding features impressive fireworks at the end of the Chuppah* (the Jewish marriage ceremony more ), a similar show is likely to appear at the next wedding as well.
Today by the time most couples are ready to tie the knot they have been living together for at least a couple of years. Planning their wedding is usually the first serious project (normally after the much smaller project of moving in together) that they undertake as a couple. And like any other project it involves certain procedures, most of them are specified in the same books and magazines that the young people study. In addition, the couples get a lot of advice from their married friends whose weddings they attend as part of their field research.
Actually most of the preparations are done in the field: checking out the perfect location, sampling the best food and appropriate dinner arrangements, listening to different music, finding the right dress etc. Usually the research takes several months, and during that period those young couples spend many nights at other people’s weddings: collecting data and critiquing the different aspects of the evening and the overall ambiance.
There are also “religious” considerations, like what kind of a Rabbi to choose for the Chuppah. Some young couples see the ceremony as an opportunity to express themselves so they choose a young and "cool" Rabbi. Others see religion as a bitter medicine that they have to swallow, thus they sit through different Chuppahs with a stop watch timing the different Rabbis' and secure the fastest one for their own wedding.
Before they make up their mind, the couples have to make some tough financial decisions like how much money they could spend and on what. Some pay for the wedding with their own money, others get the a loan from their parents, and there are the more fortunate couples whose parents give the money with no strings attached and let them plan the wedding and keep the money.
By the time the young people are ready with their own production the difference between their future wedding and that of the others has become, in their own mind, big and signifcant. To most of their prospective guests those differences will remain unnoticeable. But as the saying goes: when you embark on a serious research you become the world foremost expert in your own specific subject.
There are other characteristics of the Israeli wedding that I am not going to mention here because I do not wish to sound old and grumpy. It is suffice to hint that I believe that those (like the volume of the music and the accessibility of the location) stem from the lack of parental involvement in the process. Since it is a Mizva (a religious command) to make the bride and groom happy on their special day many parents are careful not to spoil the occasion with their requests.
Finally the wedding-- it is time for the young couple to transform all the tangible aspects of the occasion: the research and the preparations into one memorable night. Perhaps when they stand under the Chuppah magic descends: the venue becomes their kingdom, and they are the queen and king of the night.
Is it worth it? It is not for me to say, only those who were touched by magic in "an Israel Wedding" could answer the question. And as another comment on Facebook boasted (in English this time): "there is nothing like an Israeli wedding" --Mazal Tov!
*A Chuppah --( a canopy or a covering) is a canopy under which a Jewish couple stand during their wedding ceremony, stretched or supported over four poles, or sometimes manually held up by attendants to the ceremony. A chuppah symbolizes the home that the couple will build together.