Do You Have Advice for a Wedding for a Child of a BT

A friend asked us to post the following:

She and her husband are making their first wedding for their son and they have no family support on their side.

The boy is marrying an FFB girl.

From a BT point of view, how have others handled the gashmius factor in frum weddings?

How have people cut costs?

What was “indispensible” (besides the obvious halachic requirements) and what wasn’t?

Are their any issues specific to BT/FFB chasuna?

Were there any surprises that arose due to not having been brought up attending frum chasunas?

Thanks in advance for your help.

28 comments on “Do You Have Advice for a Wedding for a Child of a BT

  1. After a few days’ thought, I would like to add the following:

    At one time, envelopes and place cards were hand-written by professionals, at a fairly significant cost. Some questioned the value of this expense for a “small touch.”

    With modern technology, this “small touch” can be maintained without significantly adding to the cost of a wedding. I think it enhances the dignity and decorum of the event.

    At many affairs that I have attended, the invitation envelopes and place cards are sloppily written in ball point pen or magic marker. The pro-forma thank-you cards arrive many months later, usually sloppily written as well.

    For a small expense, one can use a computer and printer can make clear labels to address envelopes and place cards, and to print thank you notes.

    The thank-you’s can be personalized with a manually written salutation and signature. They can be sent more promptly by using an envelope addressed with a clear computer-printed label.

  2. Bob wrote in # 26:

    Where is austerity in weddings a style as opposed to an unavoidable necessity?

    My reference to “stylish austerity” was based on subjective analysis of rumblings that I read and hear. With that in mind, perhaps I and the readers would be better off had my statement not been written.

  3. Don’t go into debt or deplete your savings just to follow trends. Don’t cut every conceivable corner to be “stylishly austere.”

    Within reason, conduct the affair with the pomp and dignity worthy of the most important day of a young couple’s life. After all, they are everybody’s king and queen for the day, and hopefully will be that way to one another for a long time to come.

  4. I guess it’s a matter of opinion where to spend the money. At my son’s wedding, we rented artificial flowers except the bride’s bouquet (no noe noticed) and had a one-man band who did an outstanding job. I also bought my D-I-L a bracelet (not top of the line, but not cheapo either), a ring and pearls for the Yichud room (gasp). I wonder if I spent more than the person who takes Marsha’s recommendation or not – and my D-I-L has her jewelry for always (or till it gets lost…)

  5. Gary,
    My suggestion would be that if someone doesn’t want the jewelry, he/she should just buck the darn trend. Only buy what is meaningful. If you have to rent it to put on a show, that should give you pause.

  6. I believe they generally know, and that they also know that the friends of the young couple like loudness, despite the consequences.

    I wonder what lifelong damage happens to the hearing of young children brought to ultra-loud weddings. They didn’t ask to be injured.

  7. Bob,
    I’m with you.
    Tell the band leader he won’t get paid if it’s too loud. The band is BEHIND the speakers; they have no idea how deafening it really is.

  8. Speaking of bands, the quasi-minhag of deafening volume (probably a violation of OSHA standards) has to stop.

  9. Marsha (#18),

    I prefer not to answer personal questions.

    I was not questioning the outright purchase of an engagement ring. Women wear such rings for years, either along side a wedding ring, or with the engagement ring’s stone reset into a wedding ring. Such rings are beautiful, are used for a woman’s lifetime, and perhaps even passed down to her daughters or daughters-in-law.

    I was suggesting that people who do not wish to spend a lot of money on items of jewelry that they do not plan to wear after the wedding should consider renting or borrowing these items.

    People should spend their money on gifts into which they put their own feelings, and consider the tastes and interests of the recipients.

    Jewelry gemachs and jewelry rental services are not esoteric concepts. I have heard and read over the years that people rent jewelry for high profile social events. I confirmed the existence of gemachs and rental services by means of an internet search.

    Renting jewelry for a fee, or borrowing it from a gemach are both more ethical than buying an item of jewelry and returning it after the event.

  10. Gary, I’m just curious…are you married? I mean, really, RENTED jewelry? An engagement ring should be standard, the other stuff is pretty ridiculous (yichud jewelry??) Better smaller flowers than artificial ones.You don’t need a full smorgasbord before a meal. The band will make the wedding, don’t skimp there. Get a good photographer too, that’s all you’ll have to look at years from now.

  11. We just made a wedding for our FFB daughter (we are BT) to a BT young man whose parents were completely unfamiliar with a frum lifestyle, and had never been to a frum wedding. My son in law was coming from a more MO orientation, and my daughter more of a yeshivishe one. Our kids were somewhat “older”, both with good salaries, so the whole gift protocol mishegas did not affect us. We did what was reasonable and within our very tight budget & the kids took care of the rest themselves, but we paid for the bulk of the wedding (with lots of $$ help). Although my mechutan split the vort costs equally, their $$ toward the wedding was about 1/4 the total cost. My daughter felt very strongly that she wanted the cheapest option for anything that would get thrown out at the end of the day. Her mother in law got a little frustrated with this, but she was used to an elegant wedding with 50 guests and we were trying VERY hard to keep it to 300 max & still be labedick.

    Similar to Mollie (#5), at the request of our mechutan, we included a detailed description and timeline of what to expect at the chasunah itself. This was worded very carefully not to offend since a large percentage of the guests were collectively, not Jewish, not frum or frum but used to a different type of wedding. We put this sheet only in the invites of the people who “needed” it. There was also something on the invite about modest attire (the kid’s idea). We had these sheets available at the wedding as well.

    The focus of the day must be the couple and their wishes. You need to stay true to their hashkafa. In our case, the single biggest issue was mixed or separate seating. The kids wanted some mixed and some separate. My husband & I wanted separate b/c given the mix of people, we would have had much more mixed than separate. It would have been awkward for dancing & we were afraid the not frum relatives would mixed dance (like they did @ our wedding). We had a talk with the kids and told them to think carefully where they were headed and how they wanted to live their lives. A seemingly small detail like this makes a statement. It’s very hard to “change the rules” later on and the way you establish guidelines sets the tone for what will be when there are children later on. The final decision was left up to the chosson & kallah who ultimately decided to have totally separate seating.

    All went off without a hitch and everyone had a blast! Frum, not frum, non Jews, etc., could not believe the amount of simcha and love felt at the wedding! It was TRULY a kiddush Hash-m. The mechutan were genuinely surprised that everyone had such a good time!

    The key to all of it is to speak and act with respect for all involved. If everything is approached in this manner, all will work out fine.

  12. Bob,

    I was able to locate a website posting that identified a jewelry gemach in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. That may not be the solution for everyone, but it is out there.

    I am not making this suggestion to discourage gift giving between husbands and wives, or between parents and their children-in-law. I think that their lives would be simpler, and more fun, if they could use their money for things that they want to give each other rather than for items that have become part of the “uniform.”

  13. There are gemach’s to lend (not rent out) wedding dresses.

    Jewelry items, though, are typically meant to be keepsakes

  14. Is it possible to rent the jewelry items (kallah bracelet, pearls, watch) that are “indispensable” for hours or weeks, only to be relegated to the jewelry box before the couple’s first anniversary?

    Better still, is it possible to disabuse ourselves of the notion that these items are “indispensable” to begin with?

  15. I concur with Bob Miller. Additionally, if the family does not want to indulge in gashmius, which sounds like a concern of the family, that should be recognized as a legitimate need and it should be presented as such when sitting down to negotiate. There are those, see rachel w.’s comments, that will give advice to the family about the importance of not “depriving” the kallah of whatever is the latest and greatest trend. But not overrunning a budget, just being more modest, etc are also legitimate needs that need to be balanced against whatever other expectations are out there.

  16. most people, whether they are bt’s or ffb’s, do not want to run the risk of slighting the kallah or the mechutonim by giving less than “most” people in their circle usually provide. but of course, especiually given the preposterous world we live in these days, this must be thought about with some seichel.

    i think the first thing you have to do in this situation is think about who these people – the other side – are. what do people in their circles do, and therefore, what are they expecting from you? are they fancy or plain? are they people who follow every frum social convention, or are they free spirits who won’t be waiting for you to tow the party line on every detail?

    in our case, “dispensable” was the silver leichter. we bought silverplate for all of our kallshs and it was very well received. we bought flowers for the shabbos kallah but they were silk so the hefty price tag was at least an investment in a lasting piece that graces their homes today, rather than fresh flowers that would have gone straight into the trash.

  17. It’s never too early for a young kallah or chasan to get used to the real world of scarcity, difficult choices, and setting of priorities according to halacha and not fashion. If too many young couples have been duped into conspicuous consumption (which tends to peter out rather quickly for the typical couple!!), shame on us.

  18. As another BT who married an FFB, I was told it was my “responsibility” to buy my chosson his tallis. He bought me a solitaire engagement ring, price range determined by what the jewelry store clerk told him was income-relevant (he works a FT secular job).

    He bought me some other random jewelry while we were engaged, because he wanted to, and because he was in a financial position to – he was older, and had been living at home. His parents and mine paid for the actual wedding day stuff, but only that.

    They wanted to buy me a lichter, but I had my mom’s, and said NO. No other discussion about “need to buy” gifts.

    So it all depends. If $ AND “show-off value” are both issues, maybe a CZ solitaire should be considered.

  19. Judy, and others – with the benefit of a mature point of view, it is fine to say that the gift-giving is out of hand, trite, etc. And you are correct. But, please realize that often the Kallah is in the 18-22 year old range and lacks that maturity. It is important not to make her uncomfortable with her friends by depriving her of at least some of the jewelry she may be expecting. It can, however, be on the lower priced end of the spectrum (You might want to look into a treated diamond for the ring). But you don’t want to create a feeling of resentment that can last many, many years.

    And I don’t want to hear comments about how, if she is mature enough to get married, etc. etc. There are different levels of maturity, and sometimes we just need life experience to teach us about what is not important in long run.

  20. I did a posting on making weddings and other lifecycle events on November 30, 2009, which included some tips for cutting costs. If you sort all posts in author order, Judy Resnick comes after JDMDad, and you can click on my posting from that date.

    My second son had his wedding in Israel. While the wedding itself was a lot less cheaper(particularly the photographer and band, there’s a tremendous price difference), the expense of buying round trip airline tickets for the whole family more than made up for any savings in the other expenditures. I think that would probably depend on the family size and if relatives are purchasing their own airline tickets to attend.

    I really, really dislike the whole gifts business. Years ago, a very sweet Giyores of my acquaintance became engaged to a man who was an antiquities dealer, and she received as an engagement ring a beautiful antique Roman cameo, something far more meaningful than a plain diamond solitaire. Unfortunately, the whole gifts thing has become so standardized (as noted in other comments) that one is deemed “not normal” for deviating from what “everybody” does.

  21. so glad to see this posted, as our son recently became a chosson (simchas bay alles!) As a FFB child of BT parents, and the wife of a BT, we had looked into several shidduchim that turned out to all be with children of BT parents. Turns out, though, that our son got engaged to an FFB girl from a meyuchasdik family and I feel very overwhelmed, in over my head! in some ways, very inadequate, not really sure about “my place” or how “things” are done.

    I agree with the posts above, that expenses start with the engagement. Someone recommended a particular jewelry store where I was told about “hilchos kallah jewelry” (tongue in cheek). I was told: A kallah bracelet consists of white gold with diamond chips. A pearl necklace for the yichud room consists of a 16 inch strand of pearls, 6.5mm to 7.5mm, NEVER 8 mm”. I was laughing so hard, this was ridiculous! I have heard of a minimum shiur for matzo and marror, but never heard of a minimum shiur for jewelry!

    Yes, a full discussion of the financial aspects, expectations, etc has to happen between both sides. Clarity, no misunderstandings or disappointments is very important for the shalom bayis of the young couple. Feeling like we don’t know “the rules” is very unsettling. I have found a couple of older, wiser, experienced rebbetzins/moms of many with whom I can be real so that I don’t inadvertently overstep my bounds or put my foot in my mouth! These kind ladies have been coaching me in handling the wedding preps.

    Don’t forget, it is NOT just a chasunah, (hall, caterer, flowers, band, photog/video, gowns) but also lechaim, aufruf, sheva brochos, tallis, kittel, leichter, as well as things like 2 months rent for an apartment, furniture, health insurance, not to mention all the other stuff like invitations, benchers, makeup lady, transporation, hotel room for chosson/kallah and housing for out of town guests, etc etc etc.

    Also, dont forget to pay shadchanus gelt!! and don’t forget to smile, and do things b’shalom, b’shalva, b’sheket, (peaceful, quietly, serenly) in order to increase chein (grace and favor) in Hashem’s eyes,

  22. I am BT who married an FFB. Financially we were in a similar place so that wasn’t a huge issue but in terms of the planning, we did a few things that made an enormous difference.

    1) Since my parents are not frum (which isnt the case here) we showed them a video of a frum wedding. We also did this with grandparents aunts uncles cousins etc. The second part of this might be helpful to the extended family.

    2) We made a program explaining the various aspects of the wedding to all the relatives who had never been to one before. We also included a short piece in the invite about tznius and kabbolos panim etc. It ensured that many relatives could ask about dress in advance. Also they didn’t feel the need to come for the whole hour of KP if they didn’t want to etc. I think the first wedding I went to, I didn’t realize that I didnt have to come for the whole hour and felt a little out of place.

    3) We gave friends and family a choice of mixed or separate seating.

    4) We also got married in an off season so that made it easier to negotiate with the hotel.

    I have copies of the program we used if you are interested I can forward it.

  23. ASAP, it’s important for both sets of parents to sit down together and discuss expectations and resources in detail. Don’t assume that the other family will demand something unreasonable, even if that’s in vogue.

    Many pre-wedding and wedding “musts” were not invented until our very recent prosperous times.

  24. We’ve made two weddings. Both our girls married into “meyudchasdik” families.

    In both cases the families lived in the US while the weddings were here in Israel. This left us with a little extra burden but also more freedom. (Both families were wonderful to deal with.)

    None of us (all sides) were into the big gashmiyus stuff. Gifts were given here and there but nobody felt the need to conform to the absurd “standards” common today, e.g. Jewlery, Sheitels, Shases, etc. (My wife commented that if you fulfill all the jewelery “requirements” there’ll be nothing left for the girl to look forward to.)

    The costs for both weddings were evenly split. All the fixed costs were 50/50,e.g. photog, band, etc. The cost for the guests were done on a pro-rated basis, i.e. each side paid for their own numbers. Something we felt strongly about since we were “local” and had many more guests.

    One wedding was predominantly mixed seating while the other was separate. This was a function of taking everyones needs and desires into account. (Including the kids.) I would say that even at a separate seating wedding there should be some flexibility to have a mixed section for some of the family and work colleagues who would really be put off to be separated from their spouses.

    Weddings here in Israel are significantly cheaper than in the states, but obviously that’s not an option if you don’t live here.

    The biggest single expense is the hall/caterer so finances should drive the decision of where to have the wedding and what to serve.

    Most important. At the wedding don’t sweat the details and remember to enjoy the day!

  25. Oh- and don’t forget to get the kallah a strand of pearls for the yichud room and a set of machzorim during the engagement.

  26. The gashmius starts at the engagement, not the chasunah! I still don’t get the diamond bracelet thing, in addition to the diamond engagement ring. Why do 20 year olds think it is appropriate to have such an expensive gift??

    However certain customs are hard to rebel against. I would save on things like the flowers (modest) and the chicken (do it plain). Spend $$ on the photographer, it is your lasting reminder of the affair.

    If the kids are adventurous, it might be cheaper to do a wedding in Israel. Even if you factor in the cost of flights and hotel, depending on the size of the family, you could save serious $$ (Far fewer guests, cheaper affairs).

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