After making a wedding for our son this summer, I wish to share with you some insights into the challenges of being a ba’al simcha. This experience has helped me realize that I have acted in ways which are inconsiderate toward ba’alei simcha. While they were never intentional, my actions were nonetheless inconsiderate.
Let us begin with the invitations. A ba’al simcha’s first priority is to not hurt anyone’s feelings. Though you want to invite those deserving to partake in the simcha, you’re not always sure who should be invited. Some people would probably be happy to not be invited either because of the cost in money or time.
After the final invitation list is determined comes the process of counting the responses. It’s always important for an invitee to respond in a timely way. Even if the invitee responds that he or she cannot attend, it is always more respectful (and helpful to the persons making the simcha) to answer “no” than to not respond at all. Besides, from a practical standpoint, the invitee must be sensitive to the fact that the ba’alei simcha need to give an accurate number of attendees to the caterer, and not getting a reply forces them to sit and make phone calls – a time luxury that the ba’alei simcha may not have. The non-repliers might also inadvertently cost the ba’alei simcha added expenditures, since many hosts end up making seats for the non-responders out of fear of offending them if they decide to show up. Thus rule #1: answering “no” is better than not responding at all.
Rule #2: Everyone should realize that there is much stress in planning a wedding, and that it is only fair to remember that most mistakes are unintentional. So cut the ba’alei simcha some slack by understanding that with so many people involved in a simcha, some things may simply fall through the cracks – and that malice is almost never intended. Most ba’alei simcha feel very overwhelmed and try to appease everyone involved. Thus, a potential invitee should not get insulted if he or she did not make the final guest list and an invitee should not get insulted if his or her invitation arrived late.
Rule #3: Attendees should find a place to sit if left out of the seating plan. It’s tempting to become chassidish and let everyone sit where they want! But seriously, in the litvish world seating cards are mandatory. So if your seating card did not get printed, unassumingly find a place to sit, ask a waiter to put an extra chair at the table of your choice – and never mention any of this to the ba’alei simcha. Acting in this fashion is a great chesed to the ba’alei simcha, and although you may feel uncomfortable with this arrangement, most people will be happy to have you join them at the table.
After my son’s wedding, I thought about all the people I should have called to tell them about the wedding in order to give them the opportunity to attend the chuppah or the simchas chassan v’kallah. All of these people are dear to me, but with all of the tumult surrounding the planning, I forgot to call them. Of course I felt terrible afterward, but it was too late to change anything.
I cannot stress often enough that everyone should recognize that ba’alei simcha do not intend to slight or hurt anyone. Most of the time, they are just inundated with details. If all of us recognize that any oversights or unintended slights are just that, a huge step toward practicing ahavas Yisrael would be taken. The nicest thing anyone has ever done was the woman who came to the wedding and extended a mazal tov despite not having been invited. She said to me, “I was so happy for you, Yael, that I just came to wish you a mazal tov.” This was indeed special, as it was a pleasure to see and share my happiness with her.
I wish all my Jewish Press readers a blessed year. May all of our tefillos be answered l’tovah and may all of us have the zechus to make many smachos in the coming year. And may we all be dan lekaf zechus regarding other people’s unintended shortcomings. With the ahavas Yisrael that will come about as a result of everyone being dan lekaf zechus toward others, we should be zocheh to deserve the arrival of Mashiach – bimheirah beyameinu!
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