Since my post on searching for the best wedding venue in Israel, I’ve received comments and inquiries from people all over the world looking for the perfect place to get married in the Holy Land. Now that my search is over, I thought it would be useful to discuss some of the key insights I gleaned during my search, particularly for brides and grooms not living in Israel.
First things first: the moment we realized that the wedding venue search was not going to be as cheap and easy as we thought, panic soon set in. However, we were saved both by speaking to friends who had gotten married in Israel by doing loads of organized research.
In the United States, according to my married friends and various planning websites, it is essential to nail down one’s budget before beginning a search. Spreadsheets, how-tos, and advice are all over the internet, but in my experience in Israel, everything comes down to the estimated number of people attending - whether the party is small (under 150 people according to the venues I went to), average size (200-400), or large (above 400).
As I mentioned in my original article, some venues gave us higher price estimates because their venue was built for larger amounts of people.
One of the most important things I did before arriving in Israel to begin the physical search was research from the states. Unfortunately for the English speaker, most venues have websites in Hebrew. However, don’t despair: translation tools and apps litter the internet. Check out Hatunot Blog for venue descriptions in English, as well as Mitchatnim and Mit4Mit for copious amounts of information on venues. Mitchatnim has a great search option to search for venues based on numbers of guests. I made lists of information according to venue, and made sure that we would visit as many venues as possible in one night — if we were going to be in southern Tel Aviv, for example, we visited as many as four venues in a few hours. Tanks of gas and the limited time schedule of many foreigners visiting Israel to plan make things tight, so you must be organized!
My fiance’s parents helped us tremendously, and served as a great example of my “golden Israeli wedding rule”: if you can, bring an Israeli with you. My fiance’s dad in particular would come up with questions I would have never considered had I been in the United States. “Do you have a generator,” he would ask, following with “and when was the last time it was operated?”
While most Americans might balk at such a question, the question is not only important in Israel, where security issues could cause need for a generator, but also shows the venue operator that you are an informed consumer.
We spoke to everyone we could about getting married in Israel. While not everyone has an Israeli friend to drag along, make sure you get in touch with someone Israeli who has recently gotten married there. Ask friends of friends, search Facebook, or even reach out to someone remotely. There are loads of forums on sites that cater to weddings; find out recommendations or general advice. If you don’t speak Hebrew, post in English or use a translation service to post in Hebrew.
Finally, it’s really important to stay calm. If you reach a dead end, try thinking outside the box. Lots of Israelis do backyard weddings, or get married in a synagogue and then take the wedding party to a restaurant or hotel for a celebration. Try changing location; we had originally focused on southern Israel, and realized later on that Tel Aviv had more venues suited to our tastes.
I was very upset for much of our wedding venue search because I was so worried about finding a great place that would serve our needs. In the midst of stressing about venues, I forgot the most basic fact: I was going to get married to the man that I love, in Israel. Panic gets one nowhere. Remember that you are getting married in a very special place, and, in the end,the details will work themselves out.
Yael Miller is a professional working in International Affairs in Washington, DC.