Whose Wedding is This Anyway?

I remember reading somewhere that most young couples claim they would have been happier with a smaller wedding and a larger down payment, but their parents wanted the fancy wedding, so what could they do?

Naturally, I was curious, and since I also like to get things done ahead of time, I brought this up at the Shabbos table one weekend. I figured we might as well hash it out now and maybe come to some compromises.

Well, we didn’t get very far.

The first thing I brought up was flowers. Flowers are nice. They’re decorative. But the basic version is very boring and I have my doubts that masses of orange roses and lilies really adds much. And why on earth would you want to plunk down half a fortune for those really nice driftwood-and-candle things for a seven-hour party that you’re mostly dancing at when – have we mentioned – there’s a down payment that could be made?

The parents were okay with a flowerless chupah – my sister had one (though there was no shortage of purple orchids in the rest of her wedding). And really these changes just take getting used to. “But you need centerpieces!” my mother protested. Sadly, no sibling had gone centerpieceless yet.

I suggested the centerpieces could be something simple and interesting, for example, a goldfish in a bowl. Or, if you want to get symbolic, two goldfish in a bowl. The idea pleased. I thought we were done. The centerpieces at my wedding would be goldfish in bowls.

Alas. Those parents. Before dessert the modest addition to my wedding gifts had been poured into accessories for the goldfish. A plain bowl was too boring. It ought to be decorated with colored marbles, and maybe have a plant or two stuck in for color. As I looked on in horror, my humble ten-cent fish were morphing into male bettas or even shubunkins, so I hastily announced that I’d changed my mind.

I decided we’ll stick with the flowers. Maybe we’ll go for silk. At that point I  decided to let the subject rest.

But then NEF #16 told me that she is thinking of making her wedding a potluck. (She might be serious, too.) I mentioned that to the parentals and they were all over it. Just think – the smörgåsbord provided by the guests!

So, at this moment, I’m having a potluck wedding, but there will be flower centerpieces.

Go figger.

26 thoughts on “Whose Wedding is This Anyway?

  1. I heard that there’s a ‘gemach’or maybe more than one that have tasteful fake flowers which are placed on the tables with a card saying that a donation has been made in lieu of flowers. I could really go for that!

  2. What’s wrong with renting centerpieces? Or, doing candles or something else that the hall provides?

    Another major expenditure at weddings might be the bentcher- it’s not necessary, and people probably have tons already.

    Risa- I actually did that for one family affair. The centerpieces were food packages, wrapped with huge bows, and it said that all the food in this package had been donated to the charity instead. It looked great.

  3. What ever happened to backyard weddings? Won’t those save some money? It looked nice in “Father of the Bride.” 🙂

  4. “I remember reading somewhere that most young couples claim they would have been happier with a smaller wedding and a larger down payment, but their parents wanted the fancy wedding, so what could they do?”

    Not all, not by a long shot. I wanted a big fancy wedding – you only get one wedding (iy”H). Since my husband was applying to medical school, and we wouldn’t know where we’d be in the next 3 years, a down payment would have been foolish.

    My parents DID offer me more down payment/ less wedding, but I said no. And I don’t regret it. My wedding was beautiful and fun and people who came say it was one of the best weddings they’re ever been to.

    So not everyone wants a smaller wedding! 🙂 And here we are, over two years later, living in a completely different city as hubby is in med school, and still don’t know where we’ll be in 4 years.

  5. Thankful that the goldfish idea was nixed. What would you have done after the wedding with 30-40 tables worth of goldfish? Wouldn’t count on the guests to take them home–any parents at those tables would already have had their fill of those free goldfish that yeshivas and camps send home with the kids, mostly for impressive burials in short order.

    Risa is right–there are many gemachs which rent you very nice centerpieces for a donation–looking good while doing good.

  6. @nmf #7 I think that with benchers it’s more of something that people expect to get back in exchange for their checks. I.e. centerpieces is just something nice but you won’t remember those next day (unless it will be goldfish), but benchers is something you actually get to own after all.

  7. Where did you read this? Is it an official poll? Because I know maybe one young person who says she would prefer a rabbi’s office so she could get a stunner of an engagement ring (back to a previous post).

    Who doesn’t want a party, and a party done right? But there is a difference between throwing money at something and using it wisely, as the former could result in hideousness and the latter in simple elegance.

  8. The fundamental problem is that couples think the wedding is about them, when, really, it is about the parents, the families, the community, etc. Once the couple cedes financial control to others, regardless of their or their parents’ motives, it’s no longer “their” wedding.

    Younger couples have no choice, I suppose; they don’t have the money to throw even the most bare-bones reception for their closest relatives. Older, more established couples, though, often do. My now-wife and I paid for our wedding out of our own money. It was an excruciating expense, but all the bells and whistles we gave up were more than compensated for by the satisfaction of doing it ourselves and the of having things the way we wanted.

    In the end, I think we pretty much paid as little as possible for exactly the party we wanted. And it was still incredibly expensige — halfway to a downpayment on a house. I still can’t wrap my head around that, but so it is. Frankly I think wedding receptions are by and large a holdover from a time when the entire point to fulfil a social obligation by providing a public forum for the celebration of a community simcha. That, and of course it provided an opportunity for the parents (usually of the bride) to display their wealth to the community. These traditions, combined with the keeping-up-with-the-Jones consumer attitude among Americans, has led to the point where wedding-related things have become insanely, inappropriately expensive, and yet people are still willing to pay it because it’s their “special day.”

    So Bad4, I heartily support the potluck option! 🙂

  9. lsd: we thought about that, but there isn’t enough room for dancing. We briefly considered a pavilion in the front yard and another in the back, but really, it’s just not enough space even if I just invite first cousins, and I wouldn’t mind having some friends over too. So we’d have to buy a bigger backyard, and that would cost more than a hall.
    Not that halls have enough dancing space anyway.

    MN – you can put the down payment into the bank until you figure out where to put it. But hey, to each their own.

    What about eloping? You know, find a couple of witnesses, stick on the ring, and high-tail it across the country. Who needs a party?

  10. bad4: you could do a pseudo-english wedding where the chupa is held in a location different from the meal. I.e., having the chupa in your house/backyard and then going to the local park for the meal and dancing! (picnic blanket and baskets, anyone?)

  11. A good friend of my husband had centerpieces at his wedding consisting of vases filled with brightly colored bouncy balls. The guests took them all home.

  12. I actually think that what I would love for a wedding is having three of four dozens of my nearest and dearest with me, first in a ceremony at the Kotel, and then in a certain Jerusalem restaurant I love. It could be elegant, dignified, and intimate, and will save me from feeling the focus for much unwanted attention. It will include all the things I love: wedding gown, flowers, good music – and none of the irritations such as terrible noise, over exuberant orchestra/dancing, and lots of semi-strangers attending a deeply personal event.

    I have not heard yet of any guy who would be ready to go along with the plan, though (and they say it’s the girls who want the lavish party!). And I do know that there are about 100 people I will have to invite just so as not to hurt their feeling, even though I don’t really care whether they turn up or not.

    In the end, I suppose, my wedding will be my gift to my family. They have certainly earned it, so I can’t complain too much.

  13. “A good friend of my husband had centerpieces at his wedding consisting of vases filled with brightly colored bouncy balls. The guests took them all home.” Now that sounds like fun, but my and my husband’s would never have gone for it.

    There are gmachs with beautiful floral centerpieces and decorations for the chuppah room. The fee for using them is a fraction of what fresh flowers cost. You can even get a silk bridal bouquet, which may be appealing to those who want to be able to keep it without paying for the cost of preservation. Anyway, Bad4, as you recall, the chasson’s side usually pays for the flowers under the guidelines of FLOPS. The cost for benchers is really insignificant in the overall budget — a few hundred dollars. You can probably borrow some, but people do like bringing them home as souvenir of the wedding with the couple’s names and wedding date on it.

  14. Why not just elope? I suppose one could find a halachic way of doing that, but it wouldn’t go over well in most frum communities. A formal wedding ceremony is a social expectation. Plus on a personal note a formal wedding is nice.

  15. I once met someone who married a man who’s name was something along the lines of Goldfisher or fisch or something and they actually put goldfish in a bowl as centerpieces at their wedding. Oh, and they thought it was very witty.

  16. I guess that would be me. Yeps- four friends are cooking the wedding. We’re making the invitations ourselves with paper from a craft store, and we’re also really relaxed about everything. Otherwise we’re pretty normal. Oh yeah- and his friends are doing the band. And we’re making our own- explain the Jewish wedding- booklet and my fiancee is making his own dvar Torah book,with me writing a foreword. Thank G-d. We don’t have our parents involved at all and it’s the best thing.

  17. >most young couples claim they would have been happier with a smaller wedding and a larger down payment

    “Most” young couples get a down payment? News to me.

  18. Not that they necessarily get one, but that they’d prefer one. I just thought it sounded better written that way.

  19. Catching up on old posts… and enjoying the blog.
    A relative of mine (who is now in his late 20s, married and expecting his second child) has the initials daled-yud-gimel, which spell “dayag” or fisherman in hebrew. Parents had decided to skip centerpieces at his bar mitzva; as a joke, his older teenage brother bought a number of small quaint fishbowls and little goldfish and put them out on all the tables. The guest all enjoyed it, and the parents were proud of his creativity and independence. And YES– this happened in BROOKLYN. (The bar mitzva was in the Agudah of Ave L, before it was redone.) And no one was mortified– even when one of the fish went belly up.

    Another sibling in this family did marry a Fisch (or something like that), and the same brother (in his 30s by then) went out and bought a little fishbowl with two fish as a chassan-kallah centerpiece joke/ shtick at their wedding.

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