Photo Credit: Moshe Caine

The Jewish Press feature “Are Weddings Too Expensive?” in last week’s issue has generated a conversation on social media.

This is our story.


When we got married, Rosh Chodesh Nissan, April 1, 1976, we planned things rather quickly; there was only a month between our engagement and the wedding, as we wanted to get married before Pesach/Sefirat haOmer.

The expenses were as follows:

Wedding hall? The courtyard of Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakkai in the Rova (Old City) and adjoining small hall, through the Rabbanut of Jerusalem. It cost 600 Israeli liras (pounds), which was about $80 at the time.

It is not permitted to have a band in the Old City, due to the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, but single instruments are allowed, so two of my male friends played their guitars for free as their wedding gift to us, in the men’s dancing area, and a female accordionist played for us in the women’s area. She charged 100 liras (about $13).

My sister-in-law picked up some flowers from Machaneh Yehuda shuk in the morning and arranged them beautifully on the tables and near my kallah chair (no cost).

I did my own makeup and had my hair washed and blow-dried at the little beauty shop I went to occasionally. She charged no more than usual.

Photographer? A friend of mine, Moshe Caine, at the time an amateur but very talented photographer, charged us only for the film and development. Said he appreciated the experience. (He went on to become an acclaimed photographer, and professor who has lectured in several universities. Acted as Chair of the Photographic Communications department at the Hadassah Academic College (2015-2019) and today specializes in Digital imaging technologies for Cultural Heritage conservation.)

Invitations? I wrote the prototype by hand over a friend’s light table (I had briefly studied graphic art) and my mother-in-law took them to a cousin of hers in Meah Shearim to reproduce. I guess she paid, or maybe it was his wedding gift to us.

Dress? It was a gift from a friend of my parents who, after his wife died, closed their bridal shop in Cleveland and brought it to my mother to save for me for “when the time comes.”

Catering? We did what was one of the norms in those days, which was a large reception (I heard later that the food was delicious; I was too busy dancing to eat), then a smaller sit-down dinner, which included my family (not many in Israel), my husband’s large extended family and a few special friends. It was very simple – the Israeli quarter chicken and rice kind of thing. While the waitress was serving my father, the chicken slipped and plopped onto his plate. She apologized. He said, “I love this! It’s so heimish!”

Again, my mother-in-law, with all her contacts, had friends of hers do the catering. They had also done the post-shul meal for the aufruf (and supplied the kiddush kugel of course).

My in-laws were among the small group of Czechoslovakian-Hungarian post-Shoah Jews in Baka who made aliyah with almost nothing material, who founded the (now very yuppie American) Yael shul, originally called Beit Knesset Emek Refaim (as it’s near that main avenue). Baka was a poor, mixed Ashkenazi-Sephardi neighborhood in those years. The Sephardic Jews had arrived mainly from North Africa, and Iraq (who called themselves “Bavlim”). In the Six Day War, my husband had fought with the Jerusalem Brigade in Abu Tor, only 700 meters from his family’s home. But that’s a story for another day.

My parents were American-born, of Hungarian parents, and when they first entered my future in-law’s home, a week before the wedding, my father smelled my future mother-in-law’s freshly baked cakes, and he said, “This smells like my grandmother’s home.”

Our mesader kiddushin was Rav Avraham Dov Auerbach, z”l, the rav of Baka then and of the Yael shul. He was the brother of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, z”l. Among the people who had berachot under the chuppah was Rav Yehuda Cooperman z”l. Rav Yehoshua Bachrach, z”l (author of Mother of Royalty and other books) attended the wedding. They had both been my teachers in Michlala. Dr. Danny Tropper, founder of Gesher, for whom I had worked, recited one of the Sheva Berachot after the seudah. One of the eidim (witnesses) who signed on our simple printed Rabbanut ketuba was Rav Yaakov Warhaftig (my husband’s close friend and chavruta) who had also been one of our shadchanim.

And the kicker…

On the last day my parents were in Israel, my new in-laws came to visit them in the hotel to say goodbye. Yaakov and I were with them when my father pulled out his checkbook (he had said in advance that he would pay for the whole wedding) and asked my father-in-law (in his proud but fledgling Hebrew), “Menahem, kama kesef?” (“How much?”). My father-in-law said, “$1,400.” (Or was it $1,200? I don’t remember…)

“No,” my father said, already shocked at the low amount (which included the aufruf meal), “I want to pay for the whole thing.” (He assumed Yaakov’s father was asking for half.)

My father-in-law said, “That IS the whole thing.”

Yet the simcha had reached the heavens.

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The author is an award-winning journalist, artistic director of Raise Your Spirits Theatre and the editor-in-chief of