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Israeli wedding

January 15, 2010

My husband and I were legally married in August in a multi-denominational ceremony in the U.S., but we wanted to have another celebration in Israel to mark the beginning of our married life here, and so his friends and family could participate, even if the ceremony isn’t legally recognized. I’ve never been to a Jewish ceremony, or a wedding in Israel, so having my first experience on both accounts be my own wedding added an extra level of complication to the entire ordeal. Thankfully my in-laws were very gracious in planning everything with my husband since I was no help whatsoever.

The first major difference in procedure that I noticed is the photographer wanted us ready to go in the early afternoon for outdoor pictures even though our ceremony wasn’t slated to begin until 8:30 p.m. (as most weddings are). This meant I had to get made up and dressed twice unless I wanted to stay fancy all day long. While not nearly as strenuous as it sounds, I imagine for some people who want professionally done hair and makeup it would be difficult to pull off.

Next notable point: everyone is late. Some people are ridiculously late, some only moderately late, but even the mother and father of the groom showed up an hour after they said they would. (My American parents, on the other hand, were predictably early.)

Third: there is no dramatic bridal entrance. The bride and groom are expected to mingle with guests before the ceremony, and then walk to the chuppa together when it’s time to get down to business.

After the ceremony, in true Israeli style all chaos breaks loose and people storm the couple without any semblance of order. There are no lines waiting patiently to congratulate the bride and groom; whoever runs fastest or pushes hardest gets to hug and kiss the couple first.

The dancing struck me as particularly different. There’s a phenomenon called גולם במעגל (golem ba’ma’agal, or “brainless guy in a circle”), in which someone is encircled by other dancers who somehow spontaneously coordinate themselves around the central figure. My husband and I were so surrounded on several occasions, which confused me and amused him. The men, however, managed to baffle me even more when my husband’s buddies grasped each other by the shoulders and threw themselves into rather violently jumping, spinning circles of man love. This quickly turned into all the guys kneeling to and clapping at my husband, who raised his arms up and basked in the glow of adoration from the crowd. I asked what that was all about, and received a one-word response: כבוד (kavod,or “respect”). I still don’t get it, but apparently this is also normal.

The festivities lasted until very late. The next day his parents asked us to open gifts with them and were, to my American sensibilities, very preoccupied with the amount of money given by each guest to the point that I was extremely uncomfortable. There weren’t a lot of wedding cards, but rather a lot of envelopes with quickly jotted notes on the outside and lonely checks floating about inside. Personally I’m a big fan of reading cards, so this was a sad revelation, but people were extremely generous. I was told this generosity is normal and expected for weddings, though I’m still in shock.

And finally, after five months, our wedding stuff is officially behind us and we can get down to the business of living together forever and ever.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    January 16, 2010 4:17 am

    Well said, Mrs. R. This describes the whole experience very succinctly and humorously.

  2. Kimberly permalink
    January 22, 2010 10:05 pm

    Congratulations!!! Sounds like a great time and quite the experience!

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