Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sweetbreads Please

Over the years I have attended more weddings then I can possibly count or remember. Some have been "in-town" and some out of town. Some have been small, some large and some rivalled a political nominating convention in size. Some have been simple in style and some have taken elaborate to new heights. Some were clearly inexpensive and some were even the sky is not the limit expensive. Mostly I enjoyed myself at all of them. But there has been one constant for me at all the weddings: I'd rather eat at the smorgasbord then eat the served dinner.

Smorgasbords are full of wonderful possibilities. Sometimes I find a dish I've never eaten before and I get to try something new. Sometimes an old favorite is there. Sometimes something is there which I don't get to make at home because no one else in the family will eat it so I don't bother making it just for myself--like sweetbreads. I can take just a bite's worth portion or I can go back for seconds. I get to decide what I want to eat and how much of it. And frankly, by the time people leave the smorgasbord they've already eaten a full dinner, a really full dinner.

I'm not the only person who prefers the smorgasbord to the dinner. Sometimes I look at the other women at the dinner table and watch them rearrange the food on the plate so it looks as if someone actually ate something. Sometimes they don't even bother with that ploy. Appetizers are on the table when you sit down and they leave the table in the same pristine condition that they arrived. Soup? Maybe yes, maybe no. The main course? Some people at the table have already left by the time they get around to serving it. I think two weeks ago was the first time in ages that I was still around when they got around to serving desert.

So why do people even bother with having a smorgasbord followed by a dinner? Well, you need to have a seudah so you can bentch and say sheva brochas. Tell me something--which part of the smorgasbord does not spell dinner to most people? All that is missing is washing so you can bentch.

I think that we have a solution to the mega-bucks weddings right in front of us. Eliminate the smorgasbord before the chupah and put it after the chupah to replace the dinner. It solves a million problems doing it this way. For one thing, you no longer have to spend long hours trying to figure out who will be invited to the smorg and chupah only, who to the dinner, who to the simchas choson v'kallah. Everyone you want at the wedding can be there for the whole thing. They are all mostly there at the smorg anyway so you are not adding an expense. And oh will the costs drop. If the dinner portion of the wedding runs $30 and up and the smorg portion costs $5 to $8 per person, well do the math.

People will get to eat what they want to eat instead of sitting down to a dinner that may look like a Chagall painting but is not to their taste. No longer will the seudah have to run on the caterer's wails of "the prime rib is ready now!" The focus of the wedding will return to being mesameach choson v'kallah. And the price will go down, down, down.

Years ago we went to a Bar Mitzvah that was done this way. Everyone came away from the simcha saying it was the nicest they had ever been to. We all still remember it even though the Bar Mitzvah boy already has children old enough to be in the shidduch parsha.

I like this idea well enough that I'd like to do it at my own children's weddings. Hopefully I will get mechutanim who won't give me a hard time. There are just too many pluses in changing to this method and no minuses that I can see. Everyone will get a meal that is personally tailored to what they want to eat. Weddings will not drag out for ever and ever. With no smorg before the chupah, the chupah can take place as scheduled. Guests will be able to stay for the whole wedding because the time frame will be reasonable. Dancing and being m'sameach will return as the focus. And parents will not be walking around with pinched faces wondering how they are going to pay for everything, like the two meals in one night that are customary today.

I'll be perfectly happy if this becomes the style. Just please, put the sweetbreads where I can see them.

22 comments:

Chaya said...

The smorg is where I eat dinner too. Serving me the dinner later is just thrown out money. Only could we make sure those little sweet and sour meatballs are there? No sweetbreads for me.

G said...

Preach on...this has been my plan for years. However, like you mention, I just hope it is amenable to 'the others".

I believe that many Sefardim use a version of this at weddings, a buffet type meal.

mother in israel said...

Is the smorg really that cheap? You can't get a kiddush with cake and herring for that price in Israel, drinks not included (soft drinks not included).

Even if the price is correct, I wonder if the halls could survive without the income from the dinner.

ProfK said...

G,
The Bar Mitzvah I mentioned was at the Shaarei Zion sefardi shul on Ocean Parkway. Baalei simcha were ashkenaz but liked the way the caterer did the meal.

anonymously said...

MOI, the halls would survive just fine. The amount of money coming in would be less but their expenses would be way less too.

Smorgs really are cheaper here. At my son's wedding the caterer figured the hot and cold smorg at $7 per person.

Sara said...

Yes the smorgs are really that inexpensive compared to the dinners. Hot/cold kiddushim, which are really just a shabbos smorgasbord, go for $10 per person in our area. That includes herring, gefilte fish, kugels, cholent, salads, cakes, fruits, paper goods, soda drinks and a waiter to set up and clean up. It also includes a fee to the shul for using the hall. Adding in meat dishes only adds a dollar or so. If the regular caterers can make a profit the halls can too.

Leora said...

Growing up in the Boston area, I was always shocked by the amount of food at NY simchas. People in the NY area seem to love to celebrate with bounties of food. I love the idea that you are saying one doesn't have to follow the "Jones" (or the "Greenbergs"), and you can find your own path to celebrate.

Scraps said...

I once went to a wedding where they did this. It was a beautiful wedding, and everyone enjoyed it! Maybe I'll talk my parents into that idea...

the apple said...

Yes! This is meeeeee! Although what I would do is have a smorg and just keep it out for the main part also, so that people who could only stay for the chuppah would have something to eat also.

Selena said...

Our wedding was similar to that. There were some hors d'oevres at the kabbalas panim, but not a ton. Then we had a buffet dinner, where people could eat what they wanted. It was much, much cheaper. All the food, drinks, decorations (flowers) came in one package for less than 25 per person. It still sounds expensive, but by comparison, we got off really cheap.

leahle said...

What I don't get is if people are doing this then why don't we hear more about it? I know my father was desperate to save some money with my sister's wedding and no one ever mentioned this as an option. It's not like groups are not complaining about the cost of weddings. There are takanos that are being given out.

BrooklynWolf said...

I know my father was desperate to save some money with my sister's wedding and no one ever mentioned this as an option.

He probably thought that it was "socially mandatory." I'm certain that the caterer wasn't going to tell him that it wasn't necessary!

The Wolf

Anonymous said...

Sounds a lot nicer this way then having a dinner where the waiters can't wait for you to finish what's on your plate because they have to stay on schedule. Turned my head last night and my half-eaten soup disappeared. Couldn't even bentsch in peace because they were cleaning up the table with me still sitting there.

SephardiLady said...

You read my mind ProfK. I have had this conversations with my huband at least 101 times. After the smorg I always say:

1. Why didn't we wash on this? I'm not big into washing, but with this much food, one certainly should be kovea seudah.

2. Do we have to eat again? I'm full. :)

3. (Once I am eating again) I hate chasing down my food from the waiter just because I hit the dance floor.

Leahle-No one is doing this (yet!). But someone should certainly be the first. Wish I could be. Like Selena (whose wedding I attended), we skipped out on all the extra eating. One plated meal and some light, light horderves for everyone. The amount of food wasted through smachot is just ridiculous.

Ezzie said...

Amen, amen, amen. There's also the "some guy is sitting in my seat" factor by the meal.

Nechi said...

The hall owners are never going to buy into this. Their profit margin might be higher or even the same but they will be making less overall. Only way they will fall into line is if people start looking for other halls to make simchas in. Plenty of places that right now only have non-jewish or non-frum affairs who would welcome the extra business. And they are used to the buffet idea because lots of non-jewish weddings don't have the fancy dinners but just a buffet or cocktails and passed hors deouvres.

Anonymous said...

And just why should a hall owner have anything to say about how I want to make a wedding? His job is to provide a service that I want. If he can't or won't provide that service then I'll go elsewhere. Do you let a shoe store owner tell you what kinds of shoes you are allowed to buy? This is a great idea and I'd have no trouble selling it to my husband. All I'd have to say is dear, how would you like to save $20,000 on this wedding.

Rochel said...

I think there would be no fight about this if just one of the style leaders, someone with a lot of money or a public name, made a wedding like this first. Everyone would be running to copy them.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to disagree with you. I hate the shmorg, so I wait to eat at dinner. I'm alone and feel socially awkward eating at a shmorg. Give me set dinner partners and I'm the life of the party. Went to a bar mitzvah recently where it was a huge buffet. That was fine, but they did not have seating cards for the meal. I was shy and embarressed carrying a plate to sit who knew where. So I took very little and left early.

e said...

Anon 11:57,
You can still have assigned seating, it's just the dinner itself that would be smorg-style-then you just take your plate to your seat.
I love this idea-I always wished they would serve the smorg instead of the dinner bec. I always get to weddings just in time for the chuppah and miss the good stuff:)

Abbi said...

Well, profk if you're lucky enough to have Israeli mechutanim, your wish can come true. This is SOP for Israeli weddings. We got married at the Bible Lands Museum (the little museum next to the Israel Museum) with some hors d'oeuvres and smoked salmon at the kabbalat panim, and a beautiful buffet (read: smorg) for the dinner. It was really beautiful, everyone enjoyed the food and no one was rushed to eat or run anywhere.

It's definitely possible if pple just start asking for it.

Anonymous said...

Not only is this a great idea, and not only do I (and so many people that I know) prefer the smorg ("reception" in American terms :-) to the dinner, but it also ought to be a matter of halacha - the lack of observance of Bal Tashchit is rampant, and I'm surprised that no major Rabbanim have come out against the 2 meal concept.

Solving the seudat mitzvah is easy, just wash, eat bread, maybe little finger sandwiches, etc. The only issue is 72 minutes until benching, and if you start the food after the chupah, and spread it out by putting out different things every half hour or so, and sweets near the end, then it will work out well.