Friday, July 18, 2008

And a Good Time was had by All

Where there is a frum wedding there will also be sheva brochos. We are blessed to have a large family at this point and many friends, and weddings and sheva brochos come in abundance. This week I was at one of the nicest sheva brochos I have been to in ages. What made it so nice?

There wasn't a pretentious bone in the body of this sheva brochos. This sheva brochos was not about impressing anyone nor was it about shouting out "I cost a lot of money!" A friend in the neighborhood married off her son, her last child to be married. A group of us, all really old friends, made the sheva brochos. There were no strangers at the sheva brochos (the panim chodoshim were two people who had been in Israel the night of the wedding.) We were all happy to see each other and catch up on what was going on in our lives. What's more, we all knew the choson quite well and had met the kallah on more than one occasion. For everyone present there was no feeling of awkwardness, no reason to feel that a conversation might exclude someone, no necessity for general social chit chat.

An organization in our neighborhood has a training room in its building. It's large enough for the size olam we were going to be (35 were invited). We set up the tables, purchased the paper goods, set the tables and set out the food buffet style--no waiters necessary. Two of the couples' sons, friendly with the choson, helped out with the setting up. Nope, no fancy centerpieces. We ordered the food from a kosher Chinese restaurant across the bridge in NJ--enough for all to eat how much they wanted and not so much as to have food to go to waste. There was room for the men to daven mincha when they arrived and maariv after the meal while still giving the women somewhere to be. We got up and served ourselves, and anyone who wanted seconds was free to go get them. The speeches were spot on and everyone in the room knew the "in" jokes. And then everyone helped to clear off the tables and put the room in order, men and women.

The cost of these sheva brochos? We were 8 couples who each gave $40. That's right, $40. For $320 we covered the expenses for the 29 people present. 6 people ended up with a conflict for that night and didn't make it, but there was food enough that they, too, would not have gone hungry. The extra left over? We packaged it up for the choson and kallah for their freezer. They were both ecstatic to have something they both like ready for them for after the week of sheva brochos.

Someone tell me again about gargantuan sheva brochos to which "everyone" must be invited. Tell me again about how a sheva brochos must have fancy decorations, fancier food and plates presented oh so artfully decorated. Tell me again about how you don't invite people for a meal and then make them serve themselves and then clean up. You should all be zocheh to the type of sheva brochos this was: a true celebration of the marriage of the child of one of our own. And yes, a good time was had by all.

15 comments:

G said...

I know this can get old, but it needs to be said...

Welcome to a pretty standard non-NY Sheva Brachos.

(and before anybody gets all hot under the collar, yes I have been to ones not in NY that could have put even the most lavish NY party to shame...that's not the point)

Lion of Zion said...

1) even $40 (on top of the wedding present) is not always an insignificant amount for some people

2) what do you think about fancier sheva brochos (sometimes approaching a mini-wedding) in the event that the wedding was out of town and many people couldn't attend?

3) "panim chodoshos"

interesting

JS said...

New Kosher Special?

ProfK said...

2) what do you think about fancier sheva brochos (sometimes approaching a mini-wedding) in the event that the wedding was out of town and many people couldn't attend?

Not much. You don't "owe" people a wedding if they didn't attend the actual one that was held. About the only thing I might say would be acceptable to me would be if someone hired a one-man band and had dancing at the sheva brochos--that at least is being m'sameach choson v'kaloh (and a CD player and microphone would work just as well). There is a yiddish saying that covers this situation "Mir kennen nisht tanzen off tzvei chasonehs off ein mul." You can't dance at two weddings at the same time. If you can't make the wedding, no matter the reason, then the wedding is over--you don't get a second chance. We went to one of those mini wedding sheva brochos and the kallah, her mother and sisters and the choson's family were all wearing the gowns they wore to the wedding so people could feel they were "really there." For me this was just too weird.

Thanks for the spelling correction.

Yes, the $40 may be too much for some people. Obviously if we had wanted to or needed to we could have asked more people if they wanted to share in the cost.

We looked at it this way--each couple involved "took another couple out to dinner." Four people ate a full course fleishig dinner, appetizers, choice of four mains plus second helpings, two types of rice/pasta, dessert and drinks at a cost of $10 per person. The cost of the table covers and paper goods and the warmers to keep the food hot were also included in that amount. That amount is not possible at all if you go out to a restaurant, any kind of restaurant.

Lion of Zion said...

PROFK:

"There is a yiddish saying that covers this situation . . ."

i guess you don't know too many bukharians. their minhag is (was?) to make 2 weddings because of עין הרע

but i guess it's ok for them, as they don't know yiddish

"Thanks for the spelling correction."

i would never comment on a blog about someone's spelling/grammar/style (although חדשות is the preferred usage). i was serious that your choice of chodoshos was "interesting" and it gave me the idea for a future post about this fascinating grammatical construction. (these are the types posts i write that really pull in the traffic.)

shabbat shalom

mlevin said...

I think that people forgot the real reason for Sheva Brochos:

To ease newlyweds' new stage of life, making them get used to each other without the additional stress of cooking and cleaning.

Lion of Zion said...

MLEVIN:

"I think that people forgot the real reason for Sheva Brochos . . ."

i thought it was to keep them occupied because they couldn't make the love the first week. (i guess then today we should have 2 weeks of dinners?)

mlevin said...

Lion of Zion - if we follow your logic then why keep sheva brochos if a bride wasn't a virgin?

Mike S. said...

Of course, if you can make sheva brochos this way, you might try to add a band, rent a larger room, and try to make a wedding for, say, a "mere" $4000 to $5000 instead of $50K. (Say 150 guests at $15 per person for the food, $750 for music, $1000 for the hall) And you could have a nice wedding like that; I've been to them. There is nothing wrong with buffet service for a wedding; no halacha requires 4 courses served by waiters, or a two hour shmorg beforehand.


But what would become of the caterers, florists, facilitators, etc?

Lion of Zion said...

MLEVIN:

it's not my logic.

mother in israel said...

In our community, there are two approaches--one like ProfK's, and a cheaper one that I favor (of course). It involves having everyone bring a dish. Those who don't want to cook can buy paper goods or drinks, or dessert. Every couple can offer to bring something based on their budget and time constraints. We have it in a home, so there is not room for a buffet, but the serving is easy with careful planning. More important than the cost savings is the fact that no one (in theory) feels pressured into spending more than they feel they want to. Not everyone has the same relationship with the couple.

ProfK said...

MII,
I've done the kind of sheva brochos you describe as well and it can work out really well but only in a home. Our local shuls allow no homemade items into their kitchens. The only problem in having the sheva brochos in a home is the space issue. Not everyone can fit in the 20+ people. If you can, then a home-based shared cooking sheva brochos is a terrific idea.

Just a little note of caution though. Know who you are asking to bring a dish and if necessary stress the number of people who will be coming. We did a Purim Seudah like you suggested once. I provided the main dish and odds and ends and everyone else was to bring a side, assigned so there was no duplication. One person got assigned the "pastry" for dessert--she brought one little fancy cookie per person. Luckily I had cake in the freezer.

Commenter Abbi said...

mlevin- i think the minhag for a second marriage is 3 sheva brachot, not 7 for precisely that reason- the kallah isn't a virgin.

profk- i'm sorry, but I don't think that yiddish saying is supposed to be taken quite so literally. It really means that when a person has conflicting obligations, they need to make a choice and live with it. Not that you can't have two weddings.

As for mini wedding sheva brachot- i got married in J-m and most of my parents' and my friends couldn't make it, except for some very close ones who were able to lay out the money for tickets. So my parents wanted to make a big simcha for their only daughter in their hometown, (actually in the shul I grew up in). So what? People have myriad personal reasons for making multiple large simchas. You might approve of some and not others. (would it be better if the reason for our "second wedding" was that I had had a bedridden elderly grandparent who couldn't fly but could be transported by car? It wasn't the case, but I'm sure that happens in many circumstances).

Be careful of altitude sickness on that high horse.

ProfK said...

Abbi,
I was asked what I personally thought about the idea of having a sheva brochos as fancy as a wedding. I gave it, and I stick by it. What you described was an exception to the rule. The problem is becoming that the fancy sheva brochos as a second wedding are being seen as the "rule." I don't consider making a wedding in New Jersey and Connecticut and yes, even Baltimore as "out of town" and many people do. Their attitude is "I'll wait for the instant replay during sheva brochos." A friend who made a wedding in Cleveland hired a bus which he paid for so that guests could go to the wedding. He rented motel rooms for those guests. Was he "obligated" to give a wedding sheva brochos in NY? Why? Two families in our neighborhood ended up making chasonehs on the same day at the same time. People who were invited to both weddings had to make a decision of one or the other. Were they "owed" a fancy sheva brochos by the baal simcha of the wedding they didn't go to? There is a "social" pressure on those who had out of town weddings to "make things more convenient" for those who for whatever reason choose not to go by holding a second wedding. I'm against the idea of "you must do this."

I made a shidduch between a girl from Australia and a boy from Brooklyn. The chasoneh was in Australia. I plain could not afford the ticket and the wedding was during the school year and I couldn't miss work. A lot of people assumed that the choson's side would make another "wedding" here in NY--they did not. They gave a "regular" sheva brochos--their choice. And oh did people talk. It's that talk I would like to see eliminated, and it could be if we stopped adding "must haves" to most "duplicated" weddings.

Sorry Abbi, but I am in fact an experienced equestrienne, and if more people were "riding horses" we might have less of a fuel/money crisis when it comes to simchas.

Anonymous said...

I'm a New Yorker and my son got married in the Midwest where my DIL's family is. I did not make any extra fancy sheva brochos. I had a few more people at shabbos lunch sheva brochos than I would have otherwise- close local friends. It was hard to resist the impulse, but I agree: If you can't make the wedding, you can't make the wedding.