Oh, the happy days when mazal tovs are shared and the news spreads that a new couple will soon be married. A l’chaim is made, and perhaps a vort as well, and soon the two sides, or the couple themselves, sit down to work out the myriad of details that a Jewish wedding entails.
A Jewish marriage, as we all know, does not just include a festive ceremony of various degrees of extravagance, along with an aufruf or Shabbos kallah commemorating the final Shabbos of the soon-to-be-married couple. There are also seven days of sheva brochot after the wedding.
Sheva Brochot should be nothing more than upscale dinner parties, but with all the other nearby events with their own immense to-do lists, things tend to get complicated, and it’s quite tempting to simply throw in the towel and call your local restaurant to have your sheva brochot catered. However, that shortcut not only adds another large expense to your already staggering budget, but it also means sacrificing the cozy and personal touch that comes with hosting a sheva brochot in your own home.
But how to balance everything? The trick is, of course, the oft-repeated mantra: plan ahead. I would add to that to not just plan ahead, but more importantly, find a happy medium between preparing and over planning. It’s easy to get excited and start hunting for the perfect shade of champagne tablecloth to match the exact color of the bridesmaid dresses, or to insist that each guest must have a wine glass, water glass and soda glass, but take a breath. At some point, good enough will have to do and it will be good enough.
This past Succos, my family was blessed with the engagement of our youngest brother. What incredible joy it is when all the children in the family are married to such fine people! We felt that we had been truly graced by the hand of Hashem, and we eagerly looked forward to the pending nuptials.
The three girls in our family offered to make a weeknight sheva brochot, and as all three of us are full-time working mothers, simple but elegant would be the theme. Another brother had gotten married just the year before, so our prior experience was fresh in our minds and we knew just what to do.
We divided the chores during a conference call about a month before the wedding; I would host, dairy would be served buffet style, and my sister, the in-house decorator, would decorate. Each one of us chose a couple of dishes that we or our spouses could make with ease, and when my aunt called to offer her help, I quickly accepted, delegating the task of a fresh salad appetizer to her.
With all the hullabaloo of the wedding, and happy coincidence of a nephew’s bris the very next morning, along with the rush of Shabbos Sheva Brochot, we did not get to setting up my house until the day before. Although it was stressful that day, it was just one day of stress. Anyone can deal with one day of stress, right?
We gathered borrowed chairs and tables, and covered the tables with a salvaged roll of blue velvet which looked beautiful. My sister, Shulamis, set up the tables with white plates and white roses, and the effect, if I may say so, was stunning. My aunt brought in her special bride and groom wine holders, as well as a framed picture of the happy couple taken at the wedding. On the table were portions of vegetable salad topped with crumbled crackers, as well as my husband’s famed avocado dip, chumus, and chips. A small roll was placed by each plate. Butternut squash soup is one of many soups that freezes well, so I made one the week before, and we served it with a spoonful of roasted sunflower seeds. After the soup, we opened the buffet, which consisted of decadent lasagna made by my very own husband, succulent salmon, delicious and hearty quiches, delicately grilled vegetables on a bed of pasta, and large bowl of Greek salad. We interspersed the speeches with every course, allowing plenty of time for conversation, and saved the longest orators for dessert, which was a selection of cheese cakes and cookies, along with an assortment of teas.
Sounds better than a restaurant prix-fix menu, right? I dare say, it was quite the success, and it was a pleasure having my little baby brother, all grown up, sitting with his brand new kallah, in my house, enjoying the food we made with our very own hands. With our divide and conquer strategy, everyone enjoyed the night, including us, the many hostesses.
May every simcha bring us only joy!
Postscript for all working mothers (and honestly, which mother does not work hard?); Pesach cleaning starts on Tu B’Shevat, which this year lands on January 16th. Pesach might not begin until April 14th, but trust me, time flies when you’re having fun.Pnina Baim
About the Author: Pnina Baim is the author of the Young Adult novels, “Choices,” “A Life Worth Living,” and a how-to book for the Orthodox homemaker, “Sing While You Work.” The books are available at amazon.com.
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