Getting married involves struggling through multiple appointments with designers, attending dozens of tastings, and navigating the dos and don’ts of rehearsal dinners. The process is a headache-inducing blur of multiple months – and sometimes years – of careful planning.
So why would a sane person choose to do this planning thousands of miles away from the location of their wedding?
The same thought went through my head many times before my fiancée and I finally decided that we would ditch the United States and get married in Israel.
Both of our families are scattered throughout the world in Europe and the United States, so Israel was a natural meeting point. For instance, for my sister - who now lives in Switzerland but grew up in Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces - coming to Israel was an opportunity to revisit a place where she spent her childhood and show her own daughters where that was. My Jewish friends would use our wedding as a good excuse to visit the Holy Land, and my parents and their siblings would see it as an opportunity to visit the country where they had once lived. I also have a lot of non-Jewish friends who are interested in the Middle East and figure it was a place they might otherwise never have the opportunity to visit. I can also understand why they would want to come; Israel is truly a beautiful country, with gorgeous landscapes (from beaches to forests), ancient structures and biblical sites, and the pulse-raising techno beats of Tel Aviv.
After we considered our guests, we considered the financial benefits of getting married in Israel. While Israel is not cheap, it is possible to have a high-quality ceremony at a reasonable price. Unlike in the United States, where weddings for 100 people generally start off at around $25,000 at the low budget point, we discovered that it is possible to have a wedding in Israel for double the number of guests at a competitive price. While a wedding in Israel is not necessarily cheaper than in the United States, the value for your money seems much higher. The food, especially, is of great value, as Tel Aviv and the rest of Israel have become culinary destinations (even street foods like falafel, schwarma and sabich are of immense quality) and the catering is no exception.
When it came to considering where felt most spiritually and culturally appropriate, the answer was irrefutably Israel. There is something beautiful about getting married in the country where our parents were married, which is also a place that holds so many years of Jewish tradition and Jewish life. Being near biblical sites, where Jews of years past went through life cycle events, like brit milahs, bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings gives a feeling of continuity with previous generations and adds a spiritual value to our wedding.
While my friends had warned me that planning a wedding from afar would be more stressful, I discovered that preparing our wedding in Israel was easy. All the essential decisions were made in a fortnight-long visit to Israel. During these so-called “power weeks,” we chose a hall, had food tastings, chose the menu, hired a DJ and photographers, even chose a rabbi and started our table centerpiece design. We were also warned that planning in a hurry might make us reach rash decisions, but our experience showed that instead of spending months and months debating our options, it simply encouraged us to be decisive.
Another thing we loved about wedding planning in Israel was the laid-back nature of it all: in Israel, one secures a venue months – not years – in advance, and instead of sending invitations early on, in Israel they’re sent a month before the event.
We’re heading back to the United States now, after two intense weeks of meetings, tastings and decisions, and there are plenty of loose ends to tie. Fortunately, there’s e-mail. And I’ve already created a Gmail folder called “Wedding” to document it all.
Yael Miller is a professional working in International Affairs in Washington, DC.