Experienced Destination Wedding & Event Planner Michelle Jacobs explains why you should consider booking more Jewish Weddings and the intricacies you will need to know.
Jewish weddings come in all shapes and sizes, from very strictly observant communities all the way through to interfaith Jewish weddings. As a Jewish wedding planner, I have experience of them all. More importantly, I understand and appreciate the expectations of Jewish families of all levels of observance. And as someone who plans non-Jewish as well as Jewish weddings, I also recognize the key differences.
For some time now I have been on a mission to help wedding venues and suppliers achieve incremental sales by booking more Jewish weddings. In this feature I am going to be giving you tips on how to book more Jewish weddings and why I think you should be looking to do so.
Jewish Weddings DO NOT take place on Saturdays
This is the good news… the Jewish wedding market is not competing for your Saturdays. Neither are they interested in Fridays.
The Jewish Sabbath runs from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday and weddings are not permitted during this period.
Jewish weddings typically take place on Sundays, so potentially incremental revenue for your venue or business if Sundays are not currently particularly popular.
Other auspicious days for Jewish weddings are Tuesday and Thursdays.
The other good news is that Jewish couples will often consider winter weddings. Of course, the summer months are more popular, but the months November through to March also attract Jewish wedding business. The Jewish calendar restricts us from planning weddings during several weeks throughout the more popular wedding months, so Jewish couples need to be more flexible, and consider the winter months if they do not wish to delay their wedding for too long.
Jewish Wedding Budgets are typically larger than average
More good news.. the average Jewish wedding budget is typically three times higher than the UK national average. But why is this?
- The tradition of parents’ paying still continues widely; with parents planning (and saving) for years – so more available funds
- Guest numbers are larger than average
- Food is very important and lavish, with kosher catering involving additional supervision costs
- There will always be an open bar available throughout the event
- Entertainment is key and big money is spent on live bands and production
- Jewish weddings are often black-tie events and very lavish
- The parents talk to other parents so there is a general understanding of how much things cost
Parents and Politics!
I have already mentioned that it is traditional for parents to pay for the wedding. But their involvement is not just a financial contribution. It is also a primary role in the wedding planning process.
Do not be surprised if your first – and main – point of contact is one of the parents. And expect the parents to be present at meetings and actively involved in all decisions. It can take adjustment to this process of “planning by committee” but it is important to accept that this is how it is done.
What this means is that food tastings should be open to all – the couple and their parents. Do not even think about charging extra for the parents. If you need to, build the cost in somewhere else.
It also means that the parents have a large say in the guest list so expect this to include many members of extended family and family friends (hence the larger than average guest numbers).
Jewish Wedding Catering
A discussion about Jewish weddings would not be complete without a mention of Jewish wedding catering. Jewish couples have two options:
- Dry hire venue hire, with an external licensed kosher caterer
- Non-offensive in house venue catering
My advice to venues is do not resist dry hire as Jewish families will pay appropriately.
The dry hire fee should recompense you for lost revenue from in-house F&B.
A licensed kosher caterer provides all the food and drink for the wedding. They will use your kitchens but most of the food prep is done off site. Of course, it only works if you are able to handover your kitchens. Kosher catering is chosen by observant Jewish families, those who don’t wish to offend any of their guests, those who may not be religious themselves but feel it appropriate for a Jewish wedding and those whose Rabbi insists on kosher catering.
Some, less observant, Jewish families will choose instead to work with your in-house catering. But they will usually request what we call a non-offensive or kosher friendly menu. What is meant by this is no meat, no pork or ham and no shellfish. So, the main course will usually be a fish such as salmon or seabass. And the rest of the menu will be vegetarian and dairy.
Jewish Wedding Timelines
A timeline for a Jewish wedding runs differently, with time allowed between courses for dancing.
Jewish wedding ceremonies typically start later in the day, with the wedding reception taking the form of a dinner dance.
We dance before dinner, usually “Israeli dancing” which is sometimes knowns as the hora or Jewish dancing. Then during dinner between courses with a shorter party set after dinner.
The wedding coordinator, catering staff and entertainment need to work as a team to ensure a smooth flow between food service and dance sets.
Because of the importance of entertainment, a Jewish wedding dinner set up will typically include a stage and dance floor and will involve a great deal of production.
So, when quoting capacities for your event spaces, Jewish families will need to know “dinner capacity with a stage and dance floor”.
Some “useful to know” ceremony details
A jewish marriage ceremony is known as the “Chuppah”, though technically, the Chuppah is actually the canopy that the couple marry under.
Couples may choose to marry either at a Synagogue or at their wedding venue. The main criteria is that they have a Chuppah, a cloth supported by four poles under which the couple, the Rabbi and their parents and grandparents will stand for the marriage service.
The Chuppah symbolises the four walls of their new home.
These days Chuppahs have become very elaborate and it is not unusual to see them decorated lavishly with florals.
If the couple are married by a Rabbi at a venue, they may also need to arrange a civil wedding ceremony, which usually takes place privately immediately following the Jewish Chuppah service.
Men and women may sit separately on either side of the aisle, depending on the level of orthodoxy. We do not have separate “bride” and “groom” sides. Men will wear a skull cap, known as a Kippah or Yamulke for the ceremony and it is customary for these to be handed out as a guest favour as guests arrive.
The Jewish marriage contract is called a Ketubah and it is read out as part of the ceremony. It is often a beautiful, personalised document, a piece of art
The ceremony typically takes up to 45 minutes and includes:
- The processional, which starts with the groom, accompanied by both of his parents, followed by the grandparents
- The bride may be accompanied by both parents or just one (usually her father); this is a personal choice
- Circling, when the bride circles the groom a number of times; this is thought to symbolise the traditional transfer of the bride from her father’s house to her new husband’s home though more recently some couples have started to both circle each other
- Blessing over wine
- Reading of the marriage contract
- Wedding rings
- An address by the Rabbi
- 7 wedding blessings, known as the Sheva Brochot
- The ceremony concludes with the groom “Smashing the Glass” which is followed by cries of Mazeltov (congratulations) and jubilant dancing
Tisch, Bedeken and Yichud
And finally, three words that will be useful for you to know if you are a venue as they need additional event rooms, usually only small ones.
- The Tisch is the pre-wedding drink (usually whisky) for the groom, his groomsmen and close members of both families; it is “hosted” by the Rabbi and includes signing of the Ketubah and usually some singing and dancing
- The Bedecken is the groom’s first look, and the ceremony where he lowers his bride’s veil ready for the ceremony. The history of this relates back to biblical times when Jacob unwittingly married Leah, because her face was veiled. He was expecting to marry her sister, Rachel. The Bedeken traditionally takes place privately with just the couple’s parents and bridal party in attendance, but in recent times a public Bedeken has become more popular
- Immediately following the marriage ceremony, the couple are escorted to a private room, by the Rabbi. They are left alone for a short time and this practice is known as “Yichud”