Time will tell if small, modest weddings will remain popular when the pandemic ends.
By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared in mid-March that the country must self-quarantine in order to contain the coronavirus, brides and grooms scrambled to rush their weddings and rethink their plans.
Indeed, many couples found unexpected satisfaction in how their celebrations turned out. Approximately two months after the first regulations were put into place, some charities and party planners are hoping future events will maintain some of the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus.
“When I’m back to work, I’m planning to add a clause to my contract that will be called something like ‘The Corona Clause’,” Leeba Rosenthal, CEO of Besimcha-Party Catering and Event Planning, told United with Israel (UWI).
“It will be a request for people to leave something off their original plan and give that money to someone who can’t afford their event as a way of remembering this unusual time,” she said. “I want people to remember this time of coronavirus, when we all had the same kind of toned-down celebrations, and the palpable joy that was even more than in normal times.”
Hadassah Tzach, who moved to Israel from New Jersey in 2018, had a large wedding planned for March 16. Following Israel’s first-round of regulations on March 12, stating that no more than 100 people could gather, the plans were suddenly changed.
“Like every bride, I spent many months planning our wedding plus years of imagining what it would look like. I never expected the way it would turn out,” Tzach, who refers to her last-minute event as “Coronavirus Elopement Wedding,” told UWI.
Watching the news about the coronavirus, she could see her dream wedding disintegrating before her eyes. “I tried to stay optimistic as much as I could even when most of my family and friends had to cancel their flights. Thankfully, my mom and brother got to Israel before the ban,” she told UWI.
There is a Sefardic tradition that a few days before a wedding, friends and family gather for a pre-celebration, called a “Henna,” where the red substance is put on the palms of hands as a symbol of posterity for the young couple. Additionally, the bride prepares a challah dough with the appropriate blessings to symbolize the expansive blessings that should fill their lives. A festive meal is served along with sweets and dancing.
“During the henna party, we found out that new restrictions were starting at midnight. I thought there was zero chance we would have our wedding under the circumstances,” Tzach said. “I excused myself from dancing and started to cry in the kitchen. My soon-to-be mother-in-law came in and said, ‘Why don’t you get married right now while everyone is here together?’ I was shocked but then thought, ‘It’s now or never.’”
The bride was whisked away to her house to put on her wedding gown and the groom was told to get ready for his nuptials. They called the rabbi to quickly come and officiate.
“Everything came together beyond what I could ever have imagined,” she said. “And I never thought my wedding would cost only 800 shekels [about $230].”
Ayelet Mor, who moved to Israel from Connecticut in 2018, said that after shedding many tears and discussing the changes in her wedding plans with her parents and siblings, she “felt good and excited” about her big day.
“After receiving so much support from my family, we officially decided to do a small, intimate wedding in Tekoa on our original wedding date and a bigger one with family and friends in the – hopefully – near future,” she told UWI. “It was the prettiest wedding I could have ever asked for, as Tekoa overlooks the Judean mountains. It was bittersweet not having my family there, that was hard for me. But having just a few people in the most beautiful setting was so, so special.”
Mor suggested that those whose plans have been canceled due to coronavirus ask others if they know of a private place to hold their event. “There are a lot of people who want to help and would be happy to hold a small ceremony in their homes,” she said.
An average-sized wedding in Israel can include anywhere from 400 to 1,000 guests, placing financial and emotional strain on the hosts. Many people turn to charity organizations for help.
The charity organization Kupa Shel Tzedaka in Ramat Beit Shemesh, which helps families pay for weddings, did a survey called “The 100 Person Wedding” to evaluate whether people are open to holding more affordable affairs long after the pandemic is over.
“One positive point that came out of the ‘corona era’ is that weddings have become limited in scope, focus more on family and are more economical,” noted the survey. “This has created public discourse about today’s customarily accepted elaborate weddings, whether they are justified and correct or whether corona weddings revealed that it was possible to do things differently.”
The three-minute questionnaire, prepared by economic experts at the request of the Association of Charitable Funds in Israel, included replies ranging from “I wish everyone would hold such weddings” to “The couple lost their fun and I feel sorry for them.”
“There is a lot of peer pressure [to make fancy weddings], and this is an issue that needs urgent and substantial improvement,” noted the survey.
No matter what the future brings, one thing is certain. We wish all the new couples years of health and happiness.