Monday, November 14, 2011

One Way to Cut Wedding Costs

There are a number of reasons as to why getting married if you are frum costs as much as it does. One of those reasons is the sheer number of people who are invited to both engagement parties and the wedding itself. 300-400 people at a wedding is not considered as being "large," and a lot of weddings have far more people. When you are dealing with this many people at a simcha, all the other costs are multiplied by the number attending, and they become huge.

We attended a simcha given by someone looking to control costs while still having all those "nearest and dearest and whomever" be part of the simcha. An engagement party was given on a motzoai Shabbos at a very nice hall. Refreshments were of the fleishig smorgasbord type. There was a DJ playing recorded music. There was one photographer--a friend of the family--taking photographs. The hall had available very small silk flower arrangements of the type suitable for small cocktail tables, which they included as part of the cost for the hall. There were a few waiters to set up the food stations, but it was serve yourself throughout the evening. People came and stayed for as long as they wanted to stay. They sat where they wanted and with whom they wanted, hopping from table to table to visit with friends if that is what they wanted. Choson and kallah and their parents actually got to meet and greet all the guests who came.

The wedding itself is going to be a destination wedding in Florida. The estimate is that the number of guests won't exceed 40 people, if it goes that high. It will be held in a Miami hotel small meeting room and will be a "restaurant-type" dinner after the chupah. A photographer will be there for photos during the chupah. Only the immediate family and perhaps one or two close friends of the choson and kallah will be attending.

Estimates are that making the pre-wedding and wedding festivities will cost both sets of parents, who are splitting the expenses, about 1/5 to 1/4 of what it would have cost if all the "rules" in place in NY were followed, and that includes airfare for tickets to Miami.

Everyone at the motzoai Shabbos affair had a good time and got to celebrate with the choson and kallah and their families. They felt like they were "part" of the wedding celebration.

Certainly one way to curtail costs while having everyone wanted be part of the festivities.


JS said...

It's pretty ironic (and tragic) that an engagement party in a nice hall with a meat smorgasboard, a DJ, a photographer, silk flower arrangements for hundreds of people and a destination wedding for 40 people including airfare and hotels is the "cheap" way for a frum couple to get married.

Abba's Rantings said...


i agree with you that the implied basline assumptions in that paragraph about what is necessary for an engagagement party is off (imho). but the info you would need to call it "tragic" as you do is not provided. everyone has a different affordability threshhold. if they can afford a dj and flehig shmorg, good for them. similarly for the destination wedding. the concept sounds foreign to many, but if it costs 1/4 what a traditional wedding costs and they can afford that much, who cares exactly how they choose to spend it? let them enjoy themselves within their means and they should have much good mazal.

Rae said...

Agree with Abba that this is a matter of what someone can afford. If making the wedding this way means that the people can afford to pay for it, won't be going deep in debt for it, then it's certainly an alternative--kol hakovod that they found one.

I also think that what we 'require' in a frum engagement/wedding has gone nuts. Do we really need all that was mentioned in the posting and about a million other things that are done? No, we don't. But if you are going to do things the way they are now, this sounds like one way to make it easier to afford for some people.

JS said...

What I found tragic was the fact that this is being held up as an affordable way to make a frum wedding. The "requirements" for a frum wedding are so completely out of control that a fairly lavish engagement party and destination wedding in Florida are considered frugal.

If people have the money, let them spend whatever they want. At least from an affordability standpoint that's fine with me. I think at some point it becomes wrong to spend so much on wedding, but that's a separate issue.

But, this isn't about what one particular can or cannot afford. The post is written from the perspective of "Here's a model for how to save money on a frum wedding." The title of the post is "One way to cut wedding costs." That's what I find to be tragic. That cutting frum wedding costs results in an affair that still probably cost $20k or more and is pretty lavish by any stretch of the imagination.

Should they be applauded for spending 20-25% of what everyone else is apparently spending? Sure. But it's pretty insane that spending $20k instead of $100k is being thrifty.

I hope everyone had a good time at the affair, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to hear that many guests were saying under their breaths that the families must be having financial difficulties or are "cheap." I was at a very lavish bar mitzvah recently in an expensive hall and I heard such remarks because the family opted for a DJ and not a full live band and the dinner meal was served buffet style and not brought to you by waiters (despite the fact that the buffet had 6-7 stations including sushi and carving stations and a BBQ, etc.).

It's ironic also because other than the couple (or bar/bat mitzvah boy/girl) so many of these affairs are just cookie cutter affairs. You swap out the people and some details like the centerpieces and one affair is practically identical to the next.

People go to these identical affairs and are so incredibly critical of every little detail. Oh, they only had a 7 piece orchestra, not 8 pieces. Oh, they didn't opt for the sushi station.

And people go to these affairs and act like they haven't eaten in a month. Or, that they've never seen a piece of pastrami before or a mini "pig in a blanket". The gluttony is just unbelievable. You see the same thing at a kiddush the way people push and shove and stand on long lines to get some delicacy even though they're about to go home and have a huge lunch.

Miami Al said...


We were so fancy, we had TWO engagement parties. We had one at my wife's family's place (an extended family member with a big house) with their family and family friends in attendance. We had one at my parent's place, for their family and family friends to attend. Food was either prepared at home or picked up take-out from a local place. There were no "waiters," it was people buying engagement presents and wishing us a Mazel Tov.

But, you see the priorities. College is too expensive, we need to have a "no frills Yeshiva," but we need to spend $100k/wedding... that's craziness.

As far as the total gluttony at these things, I do NOT know how you tackle the gluttony at these things, it's a little bizarre, but how do you handle a subculture that has decided that basic table manners is "goyishe."

With the holiday party/fundraising season upon us, the difference in behavior between Orthodox events, non-denominations Jewish events (Federation type organizations), and non-Jewish events is startling... I am still constantly shocked by the excessive drinking and gluttonous eating in "religious" Judaism. It's particularly startling to me, because at this time a year, I'd say that half the events I go to I can't eat a thing (the non-denominational Jewish organizations HAVE been getting better about serving Kosher food over time), yet we manage to mingle and have a good time.

Abba's Rantings said...


"it's pretty insane that spending $20k instead of $100k is being thrifty."

the post was about cutting wedding costs. not making them dirt cheap. and while 20k is not chump change, it's a lot less than 100k. if you can get people to go from 100k to 20k i think that's a damn good start.

" You see the same thing at a kiddush the way people push and shove and stand on long lines to get some delicacy even though they're about to go home and have a huge lunch."

it's the thrill of getting something for free. happens all the time everywhere. i was at a job fair and attendees were scrambling for pens and other crap that the different companies were giving away.

"I wouldn't be surprised at all to hear that many guests were saying under their breaths that the families must be having financial difficulties or are "cheap.""

yes, that is a very important point. even those who would like to see simcha costs curtailed talk about how a particular simcha was missing this or that. that has to stop.

JS said...

I don't think it's any big secret how to cut costs on a wedding or any other simcha; it's not exactly rocket science. The problem is that the typical affair is absurdly expensive and if you try to cut costs your friends and neighbors who are supposed to be sharing in your simcha will talk ill of you if it doesn't meet with their approval. That's why people don't cut costs; because doing so makes you a social pariah.

I think that's why you see these lavish cost cutting affairs. Many parents in our community have opted to not do a formal bar/bat mitzvah celebration in a hall. To make up for that they have an over the top kiddush and host the family for meals for Shabbos. So, are they saving money? Sure, but only when compared to the formal sit-down affair. At the same time, they're so concerned about appearances they can only "get away with it" by having an over the top kiddush with carving stations and a sushi bar.

It's a real cultural problem and it's surprising to me because we're going through several years of a down economy with many people out of work or taking huge pay cuts. Yet, the "cheap" response is an over the top kiddush or engagement party and a minimal "after party". With the wedding, I think it's telling that they had to "run away" to Florida in order to not be perceived as slighting friends and family.

As for the gluttony, it's so incredibly over the top. At a typical simcha you basically are serving guests 2 large dinners: one at the smorgasbord and one at dinner just 2-3 hours later. Who needs that much food? And the way people clamor for the food exhibits a distinct lack of manners or social grace. At a recent kiddush there was a sushi station (for a bar mitzvah). People, especially young children, literally ran for the table as soon as shul ended and grabbed platefuls of sushi with their hands. Not satisfied that they had an entire plateful of sushi they stood there and waited for the sushi makers to roll new sushi so they could grab that first as well. People were literally being trampled and shoved aside. If people act that way at a job fair, I've never seen it. I've seen people line up to get the free swag, but never anything like this. I can only imagine what the 2 Japanese sushi preparers were thinking as a bunch of slovenly Jews grabbed the sushi rolls as quickly as they were laid down in the tray.

Abba said...


"I can only imagine what the 2 Japanese sushi preparers were thinking as a bunch of slovenly Jews grabbed the sushi rolls as quickly as they were laid down in the tray."

they thought, "wow, my sushi must be really good" :)

Miami Al said...


I must object strenuously to your problem with "running away to Florida." We deal with all the freeloading relatives from NY every Yom Tov, where they show up and rudely complain about Kiddush at the Shul that they contribute nothing to, it's only fair that they shower our local caterers with a little green now and then... :)

Mark said...

JS - That cutting frum wedding costs results in an affair that still probably cost $20k or more and is pretty lavish by any stretch of the imagination.

I'm not sure how you calculate $20k. Seems like it would be quite a bit more than that.

Engagement party:
Shmorg 300 people x $30 = $9,000
DJ = $500
Photos = $200
40 people x $250 airfare = $10,000
Cabs/Bus/rental cars = $1,000
Hotel 20 rooms x 2 nights x $140 = $5,600
Dinner 40 x $100 = $4,000
Photos = $500
Music = $500

TOTAL = $31,300

If that's 1/4 to 1/5 less than a typical NYC wedding, then a typical NYC wedding is $125,000 to $156,000. That's insane.

ProfK said...

Your figures are off. That was 400 people at the engagement party and total cost was a tad under $6K. Re the wedding cost in Miami, first, anyone going is paying their own airfare. Parents are paying only for their own kids, including choson and kallah. Second, wedding is on a Sunday afternoon and with the exception of the parents and kids most people will first be flying down on Sunday morning, with many leaving Sunday night after the wedding. Some will stay over Sunday night and the hotel is giving a group rate at far less than your $140 per night--and for a married couple in a room that would not be 2 x $140 even at your figuring. Airfare also came in at just a few dollars over $200 per ticket--group fare. And the Miami venue isn't charging them $100 per person for the dinner either.