Calling Israeli Dopers: tell me about planning a destination wedding in Israel

(And it’s not even Shabbat when I’m posting this!)

Long story short, my youngest cousin has just gotten engaged to a nice Israeli boy. She apparently really, really wants to get married at the Western Wall, and she wants to do it relatively soon. (As in possibly still sometime in 2012.) His entire family is over there, and is apparently willing to help with the legwork.

Is she completely insane? I mean I planned a wedding locally in 4 months for ~ 100 people, and that already felt pretty crazy, and I am no Bridezilla, and it was not a super-formal, scripted kind of wedding with 73 bridesmaids. Plus there are travel arrangements, etc. to consider. And possibly a certain amount of headaches in documenting that she is Jewish enough to have a Jewish wedding in Israel (our family hasn’t been anything approaching Orthodox since my 95-year-old grandmother was a child. Like my cousin’s parents probably have a ketubah, but it sure won’t be one signed by an Orthodox rabbi.) She told me she would be happy just to buy a dress and show up and let his mom handle the legwork, but I am worried that will not stick when push comes to shove. I pointed out that if she wants pretty much anyone at all to come from the States, they will need to make arrangments for vacation time, tickets are expensive, etc. She did listen to that bit, I think.

Also, if she gets married in Israel, I will try my darndest to be there. Any tips on travel, places to stay, etc.? I have traveled to a bunch of places, but not in Israel.

Not Israeli and not Jewish, but IMO people who do these far way destination weddings should be required to provide plane tickets and lodging for all non-local guests they invite. The notion that guests should be spending hundreds to thousands of dollars and days of travel for the privilege if attending your nuptials is mind boggling to me.

Well, his entire family is there, so one way or another someone is going to get the short end of the stick.

Precisely. Plus they would all have to apply for visas, which the U.S. side wouldn’t.

And if they do have the religious ceremony in Israel, they will have a Stateside reception afterward, too.

It’s not really a “destination wedding” if it’s local to one of the families, as in this case.

It might even be easier to have a civil wedding in the US, then a religous wedding in Israel, especially if there could be problems proving the bride’s “Jewishness” or if they don’t want an Orthodox ceremony.

Or vice versa - have the religious ceremony in Israel, and then stop by a judge a couple of weeks later when they get home. That’s basically what I did, and I’m Israeli (I have my issues with the Orthodox establishment). It will give them a week or two when they’re married but not actually legally married; 14 years later, my wife still calls me “my legal husband”, because there was a month there when I wasn’t. If they choose to go down that path, I can get you in touch with some good people from the Conservative movement to do the wedding.

For the rest: only foreigners get married at the Wall, so I really don’t know how it works. However, the wedding industry is highly developed in Israel, and 100 people is considered small and intimate - here, anything under 500 is considered a modest wedding. For a party that small, it may be easier to find a place on such short notice. And even if you don’t get the Wall, you can have the ceremony the same place you have the party - that’s what most Israelis do anyway.

As for what to do and where to stay, it depends on what you like. If you like history, stay in Jerusalem. If you like outdoorsy stuff, go to the Galilee or the Negev. If you like beaches, street life, restaurants, night life and culture, then don’t go to Jerusalem - come here to Tel Aviv.

Thanks - let’s see what she comes up with (and I am assuming his family has at least one synagogue they are affiliated with, and may very well have their own opinions). I may take you up on that, and for that matter, they could get married civilly at any point before they go, too.

I like everything! I want to see at the very least Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but the logistics may depend on the timing of the trip, and I assume I will have at least a few months to figure it out. (I have a bum ankle, though, so probably not so much hiking.)

Re: the wedding stuff – 100 people 4 months in advance going into the fall and winter does not sound like a problem, in general. As Alessan notes, we locals are going to be terrible sources for a Wedding at the Wall, in terms of, e.g., date availability. I have zero idea whether or how far forward the place is booked in advance, and what the logistics of having a wedding ceremony in what is essentially a public place would be, anyway.

Also, be aware that the Wall is considered a Religious Monument, so gender segregation will probably be strictly enforced – is this a deal breaker for the ceremony? For the “reception”? (I’m using scare quotes because we don’t really differentiate, the actual ceremony is normally part of the reception – you don’t have the ceremony at place A and the reception at place B with 3 hours between them and separate invitation lists…)

As for proving Jewishness of the bride – any Orthodox ketubah on her matrilinial line from some time in the 20th century or so should do the trick… It could get somewhat dicey otherwise. A solution might be to bring along an American Rabbi who is licensed to marry in the US, and/or (again, as **Alessan **already suggested) get married in the US by a JotP either before or after the occasion. The US wedding will be recognized by Israel even if the Israeli one isn’t… :smack:

Re: Where to stay and what to do – I’d choose either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem if the wedding itself will indeed be in Jerusalem. It doesn’t really matter, since you’re talking a measly one-hour drive in either direction (40 miles, mostly freeway, add *some *time for getting in and out of the center of either city, but Manhattan they ain’t!)
Also, almost anyplace else in the country is accessible within the confines of a Day Trip (with the exception of Eilat, which is a ~4 hour drive from Tel Aviv.)

Most importantly, dunno about Alessan, but if you are planning to be in the country without PM-ing me in advance and setting up a meeting I will hate your guts forever. You have been warned!!! :stuck_out_tongue: :slight_smile:

If we happen to be there at the same time, can I crash the party? :smiley:

I have absolutely no idea about how much of any of this stuff is a dealbreaker - even if we could get something organized on the Israeli end, those of us on this end will have to arrange for time off, scrounge up money for plane tickets, etc., which could be a challenge - especially for the bride’s sister, who would need 4 for her family.

For that matter, I certianly didn’t have an Israeli wedding, but ceremony and reception were in the same place. It’s just easier. No idea, either, how much gender segregation is a dealbreaker for her - like I said, my family isn’t exactly Orthodox, so she may not really have a grasp of what that entails.

The only 20th century matrilineal ketubah would be our grandmother’s. Camden, NJ, 1937, I think…the issue is where the hell it might be. Grandpop is dead, and Grandmom is 95 and her memory ain’t what it used to be. Plus it was the Depression and they were broke teenagers - no idea whether they had a ketubah. If we’re lucky, Grandmom may remember what synagogue/rabbi were involved (she was indeed raised Orthodox).

Let’s see if any of this even happens first, but I will keep that in mind. :slight_smile:

This applies to you, too, missy! :stuck_out_tongue:

No she’s not insane.But she shouldn’t try to do things that she’s ignorant of, either.Since his family is local, they should be the ones doing all the legwork…It’s their own back yard, they speak the language, etc.

Getting a marriage license in Israel is totally different than in the US. The “Rabbanute” is a full branch of the government, and the rabbis sometimes act like the religious police in Iran or Saudi Arabia,(yes, I’m exaggerating. But not much :slight_smile: ) They can, and will, refuse to let you get married if you don’t have proper documentation and witnessess to testify that you are a Jewish.
The Israelis in your friend’s family know this, of course, and will have to fight the bureaucracy for you.
It may well be better to bypass the hassles, and get married in a civil ceremony in the US first(so you’re legally recognized as married in Israel).Then hold a meaningful ceremony in Israel, with a non-Orthodox rabbi. The ceremony will have no legal significance, but it could be emotionally fullfilling , and that’s what’s important.

The Western wall is an outdoor plaza, often mobbed with tourists.But it is also a synagogue—fully-functioning ,stricty Orthodox synagogue, and is often mobbed with black-coated Hasids–who want to pray and carrry out their rituals without being offended by the sinful sight of normal human beings (i.e. females).

I have no idea how weddings are done near the Western Wall–I’ve never seen one. But at the Wall, you’ll have to follow the rules, which require complete separation of men from women in the area adjacent to the Wall.
Fifty yards farther back in the plaza, (the tourist area)anything goes. And down the stairs under Robinson’s Arch, things are also much more laid back.(that’s actually a beautiful spot- The ancient stones are the same, but it’s less well known, less famous, and less cliche, so it’s not a cultural icon like the “regular” Wall–but it’s just as authentic historically, and the archeological site is impressive.

and whatever you do…Mazel Tov to everybody!!! :slight_smile:

Oh that much I knew, and even forewarned her about. So perhaps we will see who is more stubborn! And thanks for the good wishes. :slight_smile:

It’s a very new wrinkle, so I have no idea how well it will work, but the Tzohar organization is now (at least theoretically) supposed to be accredited nationwide to approve and perform Jewish weddings in Israel. Check out their site:
They are expressedly a still-Orthodox alternative to the Central Rabbinate and are significantly more lenient and pluralistic.
May be worth looking into.

:: bump ::

Talked to the MOTB tonight, and the wedding date has been set - Oct. 25, 2012, in Jerusalem. Bride’s parents already have their airline tickets. Engagement party was last night.

So it sure sounds like SOMETHING is going to happen on that day. The timing isn’t fabulous for us, but Tom Scud and I can just barely squeeze out the vacation time (though it’s a month before an already-planned trip to FL for his parents’ 50th anniversary) I’m not crazy about 2 big trips in one year, financially, but we can swing it if we so choose from a $$ standpoint. So at the moment the question is whether we want to, really, enough to make it happen.

Considerations: a) it requires using every last bit of leave time; b) realistically, north of $3k for both of us in travel and lodging costs; c) taking two trips so close together; and d) for Tom Scud, needing (or really wanting) to renew his passport early to minimize the possibility of being grilled by Israeli security over his half billion Lebanese, Syrian, Jordianian, etc. passport stamps (though as his place of birth is Lebabon anyway, not all of that is avoidable, plus I suspect there are records on him anyway from previous Israeli travel. I kind of hope he’d be grilled less, though, traveling with his Jewish (no matter how agnostic) wife for a family wedding, but one never knows…)

BTW, I discovered some of the other reasons they want to get married in Israel: the father of the groom has not been in good health and has had a recent heart procedure, so a long schlep might not be the greatest for him; and the groom’s sisters took out some kind of government business loan, which has to be repaid before they will be allowed to leave the country. But my aunt says the groom’s family is taking care of much of the plannnig legwork and a lot of the cash, as well as putting up my aunt and uncle in their home for 2 weeks, so it certainly sounds like they are doing whatever they can to pull their own weight for this.

Does any of this give you guys other thoughts on timing/logistics? This cousin was one of the few non-local relatives to make the effort to come to our wedding, so I’d like to return the favor if possible, though I understand this is rather a different category of reciprocation.

Yeah, after much back-and-forth, I realized we are just not realistically making this wedding trip.

After many, many calls to that chunk of the family, I realized that they still haven’t nailed down when or where it’s going to take place, but it’s looking more and more like a Sunday night reception in the groom’s hometown near the Lebanese border. Which would mean we wouldn’t get home until sometime Tuesday at the earliest, because we’d either have to leave at the crack of dawn on Tuesday, or sometime Monday afternoon and have an overnight layover in Europe somewhere. And the in-laws are (somewhat understandably) kind of taking over, which means the ceremony may also end up being in the groom’s hometown. I mean I understand why things are happening this way, but it’s just not going to work for us.

So between everything still being up in the air wedding-wise, and us needing to make plane reservations for our previous Thanksgiving commitment, and simply not having the vacation time (and not being crazy about spending probably $4k by the time you count flights, hotel, etc.), we decided just to see what she comes up with in the way of a stateside reception. Israel will just have to be some other time, though it might have been different if we’d had enough time for that to be our big trip for this year instead of the one we just took in April.

Ah well, maybe next year in Jerusalem? :wink: