Latest update: April 26th, 2013
With the Three Weeks and its social restrictions as they pertain to simchas behind us, heimishe Yidden everywhere are “dusting off” their party clothes, taking their jewelry out of the safe and getting ready to attend a multitude of weddings – with some people invited out on an almost daily basis.
While all weddings are beautiful – some are more “beautiful” than others, with no expense spared by the chosson and kallah’s proud parents, to provide a magnificent send off for their children as they begin their new life together.
Which is a great thing – may we all know from simchas – but a reality that can also be problematic. For after attending lovely, opulent weddings over the years, I have come to the conclusion that for both host and guest, extravagant weddings, like cigarettes, are quite enjoyable (so they insist) but are bad for you – physically and financially.
Many of the young men getting married intend to spend several years learning, or are in college/graduate school. This means that someone will have to provide the funds to pay the bills. Since the couple will likely have a family sooner than later, and the wife will work part time – or full time and have a chunk of her salary go to pay for childcare -the burden of support often falls on one or both sets of in-laws.
Supporting the young couple, often in the style they are accustomed to, means that their parents, even if they are relatively “comfortable,” have an additional financial obligation that is not fiscally or physically healthy. Don’t forget, these middle-aged mothers and fathers (aging baby-boomers) are likely paying several yeshiva/seminary tuitions, as well as dealing with the extra daily expenses of living an Orthodox lifestyle.
Therefore the question begs to be asked – wouldn’t it be more sensible to make a less lavish, less expensive simcha, and use the money saved to pay a year’s rent for the new couple? Since there are so many expenditures in setting up the young couple’s household, why not minimize the pressure on the ones paying the bills?
For those who are very wealthy and “money is no object” and can afford to make a big splash for their kids, wouldn’t it be a mitzvah (in the merit of a happy life for their children) if the parents made a less lavish simcha and instead donate the money to a hachnasat kallah organization, so that those in real need can have a wedding they can remember with pride?
So, how does one cut down on one’s wedding expense, yet make a simcha the guests will still thoroughly enjoy?
Since food is arguably the biggest expense, (kosher food seems to be getting more and more costly, especially when the simcha is out of the New York metropolitan area), why not just serve less food? So much of it is wasted anyhow.
I suggest the baal simcha provide either a smorgasboard before the chuppah, with several hot and cold choices, or a dinner after the chuppah – but not both. Most guests eat to their fill at the smorg, which often contains fish, chicken and beef dishes, as well as pasta, vegetable and fruit salads. There is no need, a mere hour or so later, to provide a multi-course dinner, followed by a mouth-watering, calorie-laden Viennese table, resplendent with cakes, pastries, nuts, candy etc.
Instead, after the chuppah, a small dessert table should suffice, perhaps with some light salads, allowing the guests to wander around and socialize (as opposed to being seated and meeting only the guests at the table). That would allow for more dancing, which could last an hour or two after the young couple makes their appearance. No doubt the emotionally exhausted chassan and kallah would appreciate being left alone a bit sooner than later, especially with a full week of sheva brachot ahead of them.
At any rate, since most of the guests have gorged themselves at the smorgasboard, much of the food offered at the dinner is barely eaten. Just how much can a person consume? While some leftover food can be given to food pantries, much is thrown out. A piece of beef that obviously was partially eaten by a guest who wanted to taste the lovely piece of meat on his plate but was too full – from fressing at the smorg – to actually eat it, ends up in the garbage. A sad, unnecessary waste of food and money.
By offering just the smorg or a dinner, “waistful” weddings can be avoided as well, and for people who attend several simchas a week (this includes bar mitzvahs, brisim etc – a few years ago I went to a Shabbat brit that had over 400 guests and enough food to enable people to fast for a couple of days and still feel full) being offered lighter fare could be life-saving. There is an alarming increase in obesity in North America, with adults and children alike being way overweight.
Our community sadly has not been spared. Our tendency to overeat and be sedentary, especially in yeshivas where children are hunched over their books most of the day, including Sundays, has put members of the community, young and old, at risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, even cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
The fact is, people are not using up the calories they are imbibing, with the unfortunate result that the body stores these unused calories for a “rainy day” as fat.
Human nature is such that when presented with delicious food – especially if you are paying for it via a wedding gift – it is hard to maintain your resolve to eat “just a little.” Chances even those intent on watching what they eat will indulge, “just this one time.” But for many, it is not an occasional occurrence. Like I earlier mentioned, it is not unusual for the typical frum family to be invited to several simchas a week after the Three Weeks. Between family, friends, colleagues and neighbors, the mailbox is full with invitations.
A more modest wedding would be less waistful and wasteful for host and guest alike. (About wasteful, in my opinion, the minhag of providing benchers at simchas should be discontinued. Every balbatishe home very likely has hundreds of them stashed in some out of the way drawer and they become unwanted shaimos. Every guest should bring his or her own bencher. The money saved can be donated by the baal simcha to a charitable cause – or used to pay his bills.)
At the end of the day, a torrent of bills will come in and the simcha will be yesterday’s news. The bottom line (literally) is that every baal simcha should do what he knows is sensible and right for his household, and not let a misguided fear of what people will think if he makes a cheap wedding influence his decisions on how much to spend.
For the fact is the people who in turn will host simchas, will actually applaud and breathe a sigh of relief – because like Bnei Yisrael at Yam Suf, they are waiting for a Nachson ben Aminadav to take that the initiative and jump in first, so they can safely follow.
For both host and guest, it is the smart thing to do.
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