Israeli Couples – Suddenly, Frugality Is Hot
Acting on their values, more and more young Israelis are downscaling their wedding parties. A potluck, anyone?
Michele Chabin Contributing Editor/The Jewish Week
Jerusalem — Tzipi Polisar and her husband could have held their wedding in an upscale wedding hall with catered food, but like a growing number of young Israelis getting married for the first time, they opted instead for a frugal wedding.
“It was very important to us that our friends come to the wedding and enjoy themselves,” Polisar said, explaining that in Israel, many couples use the money they receive as wedding gifts to pay for the event, and that guests feel obliged to cover the cost of their place setting.
“A lot of my friends are students,” Polisar, who is in her 20s, noted. “Every time they get invited to a wedding, they’re not excited because they know it will be expensive, and the closer a guest is to the bride and groom, the bigger the check. We wanted a celebration our friends and family would be happy attending.”
The bride told her guests there was no need to bring a gift but asked them to bring some food to the event.
“It was a potluck wedding. Almost every one of our 180 guests brought food!” Polisar said. “It was amazing.”
Ronit Peskin, administrator of the Frugal Israel Facebook group, noted that there has always been a “small minority” of couples who make less expensive weddings than their peers, “but now they’re more outspoken about it. My feeling is the more people talk about their affordable weddings, the more trendy it gets.”
Peskin said many couples, and especially those from English-speaking homes in Israel, want to celebrate the values they live by every day.
“Frugality is green, it represents lack of wastefulness. Even those who can afford more may choose to spend less, for a variety of reasons.”
Some, like Polisar, don’t want their guests to feel obligated to give big checks. Others don’t have family support, or if they do, don’t want to burden their parents with high wedding bills, especially if there are unmarried siblings to consider.
Others prefer to spend their wedding gifts on travel or a car, or to put the money toward the purchase of an apartment.
Sometimes the least expensive venues are the most scenic: at the beach, in the desert, in a park, atop a mountain. While some couples go to the trouble of requesting municipal permits, others wing it. Savvy couples know that event halls charge much less in the winter and that Friday mornings are more affordable than popular Thursday nights.
Polisar was able to save money by renting out a very basic event venue in her mother-in-law’s community. Her father-in-law performed the wedding, her sisters made the desserts, and a relative bought flowers from a florist and arranged the flowers herself.
Noa Hazony and her husband, Shimmy, also in their 20s, organized a potluck wedding on a synagogue balcony in a West Bank settlement, where events tend to be considerably less expensive. The balcony provided a stunning view of the desert.
Like Polisar, Hazony said she has “a lot” of friends who “question whether to go to weddings due to the associated costs, and I didn’t want my friends to think twice before coming. I made it very clear that I didn’t expect gifts.”
Tzipi Polisar and her husband Matan Ziv asked guests to bring food, not gifts. Courtesy of Tzipi Polisar
The young bride and groom paid for the wedding themselves, “but even if we’d had the money I would have preferred that people keep their money to pay for tuition, for the future. I personally think having an expensive wedding is ridiculous,” Hazony said.
Hazony rented her wedding dress from a wedding gemach (a place that loans out wedding gowns cheaply) and her mother’s friend, a seamstress, provided the tailoring as a wedding gift.
Rather than buy flowers the couple used potted plants they grew from seeds as centerpieces; a professional photographer who knew the couple photographed the chuppah as a wedding gift and friends took photos during the wedding reception. The couple sent out invitations by e-mail.
“Music was the one thing we really wanted so we hired a band for the chuppah and a DJ for the reception,” Hazony said. “We hired a wedding planner because arranging a potluck wedding is a bit more complicated than a catered one.”
In all, Hazony estimates she and Shimmy spent about 30,000 shekels (under $8,000) for everything related to their nuptials.
Malki Ehrlich and her husband, Dan, said they “wanted a wedding we could easily afford to pay out of pocket because I can’t stand the crowdfunding wedding mentality in Israel, where you rely on your friends and family” to pay for the wedding costs.
Ehrlich, in her 30s, invited 70 guests, including children, to her wedding by the sea.
“I wanted to get married next to the beach, so I approached a few restaurants and asked how much they could charge to rent out their place on a Friday afternoon. The place we chose was in Netanya. It was a beautiful venue and location.”
The summertime chuppah was held at noon and everyone went home by 5 p.m., in time for Shabbat.
Although Ehrlich kept the flowers to a minimum — with a view of the sea they seemed gratuitous — she paid a chamber group to perform. At a fancy shop, she paid about $200 for a $2,500 wedding dress that was custom-made for another bride who never wore it.
“I asked what it cost and they said, how much do you want to pay for it?” Ehrlich recalled. “They accepted my offer.”
Including her dress, Ehrlich’s wedding cost about 16,000 shekels (about $4,200).
“Both our parents had the money to spend on a fancier wedding if we wanted one,” said Polisar, who is happy she chose to have a “community wedding.”
She is one of six children and her husband is one of seven. “We have other siblings who want to get married and didn’t like the idea of spending a fortune on only one day,” she said. “It was more important for us to save up to buy a home.
“It was definitely the right decision.” ✦