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The rocket-scarred south has seen little cause for celebration over the last few years. Now especially, with Qassams hailing down like rain in some other country, wedding halls are closed and shuttered, leaving engaged couples with little choice but to put off the "happiest day of their lives" or to move the occasion to the center. But some are refusing to give in to the troubling circumstances, choosing alternative - but safe - ways of getting hitched.

The Asoulin family had waited a long time for the wedding of their eldest son, Shlomi. It was to be the first celebration after two hard years of loss and mourning. But because of the security situation, the Home Front Command banned the event in the wedding hall where the couple had planned to hold it. So they moved it to a bomb shelter in their neighborhood.

"Katyushas had fallen a few months ago in Ashkelon, but life in the city went on as usual," Shlomi said, noting that by then preparations for the wedding were in full sway. "We started arguing whether to cancel the wedding or not, whether people would show up or not. We had already handed out 600 invitations. The families considered having the wedding in the center of the country, but then we thought about people who would have to leave their children at home and would be worried; we started getting depressed."

Dalia Asoulin, the groom's mother, said she, like the family of Hila, the bride, thought the wedding should be postponed. But Shlomi said that for reasons of Jewish tradition, which states that weddings should not be postponed, he did not want to delay the wedding.

"Both my parents died over the past two years, and we waited for the year of mourning to be over so we could celebrate and see Shlomi married the way he deserves. I wanted to have 200 people at the Shabbat Hatan, now it's all ruined," Dalia said, referring to the special Sabbath service honoring the groom. But then she added, "The main thing is that our soldiers come home safely. That's more important."

Last Tuesday, they decided to hold the ceremony in the shelter, and postpone the reception for a month. The family worked from early in the morning to get the shelter cleaned. The light refreshments were all homemade.

At 3:30, the bride arrived to the ululations of the women present, who threw candy. Shlomi led Hila to the shelter, into which 60 people crowded, singing traditional wedding songs. The rabbi read the blessings, the couple shared wine, Shlomi broke the glass and kissed the bride.

"It was exciting, in spite of everything, the new bride, Hila, said. "I'm glad I married my man, that is the most important thing right now.

Meanwhile, two days later, Liraz Shmila (nee Farkahbi), 25, an adjutant officer with Paratroop Battalion 202 managed to wear white before ground forces entered the Gaza Strip last Saturday as she was called back to duty. On Thursday, Liraz and her partner for the past seven years, Asaf Shmila, 26, tied the knot at the Chateau wedding hall at the Bilu junction near Rehovot, before 550 guests. About 48 hours later, Liraz entered Gaza with the ground troops.

"After the ground operation started, people asked me," said Asaf, "'how could you let her go in?' Our families, who are traditional, said she is a bride and a bride should rest for seven days. A bride and bridegroom are a king and queen. But if she would have stayed here, she would have been on pins and needles and suffering."