Wedding Traditions in Israel
Everyone loves a good wedding! The music, the food, the abundant joy... What's not to love about love?
But if you want a truly unique wedding experience, Israel is the place to be! With so many different cultures mixed together in one beautiful country, Israeli weddings are definitely not an experience you want to miss!
The Do's and Don'ts of Israeli Weddings:
In the case of gifts, Israel makes it easy without the fuss of a wedding registry or shopping around for the perfect gift. Money is the best option! Checks or cash only -- the norm is about 350 NIS for a single or 600 NIS for a couple (the idea is to cover the cost of your plate!) Gifts can go much higher for guests who are close to the couple. But of course, these numbers are flexible, so no need to stress!
COME HUNGRY and make sure you arrive in time for the Kabalat panim! There is very likely to be a buffet before the ceremony and the main meal. This happens before the Chuppa as guests arrive. During this hour, you can greet the bride, eat, and also witness the "bedekin"- the moment the groom sees his bride for the first time at the wedding! The buffet before can have all sorts of delicious options -- sushi, pasta, fish, and then the main meal is sure to be amazing -- steak or chicken, of course.
Weddings in Israel are definitely less formal than those overseas, and most definitely not a black-tie affair. You may see men wearing jeans and a button-down, and at some, even the classic Israeli "shoresh" sandals or "Blundstone" boots! For women, anywhere from a a nice Shabbat outfit to a formal dress can work, depending on the wedding. Heels are never a must- flats work too! One of the most important things in Israeli weddings is the dancing, so dress not only to impress, but to get your groove on too! Comfort is key, which can be surprising to Olim who attend their first Israeli wedding!
Don't worry about not being on time for an Israeli wedding -- they don't start on schedule and you might find yourself there before the bride and groom! You can almost always be sure the Chuppa will begin 15-30 minutes behind schedule, so don't fret if you get stuck in traffic!
Other Israeli cultural traditions:
Israel has such a mix of cultures, it's no surprise that there are many unique traditions. While many Israeli couples aren't religiously observant Jews, most Israeli weddings have a hint of Jewish tradition, and are sprinkled with age-old practices regardless of the religious affiliation.
Pre- Wedding Henna
Mainly a tradition celebrated by Mizrahi Jews from North Africa and the Middle East, the henna is a fascinating ceremony. A few days before the wedding, the bride, groom, and guests get henna applied to their hands. At Morrocan hennas, they dress in traditional clothing and eat delicious Morrocan food. At a Yemenite henna party, the bride dresses in a huge, ornate headdress, called a tashbuklulu. No matter what culture the henna comes from, it's sure to have lots of dancing, happiness, and delicious food!
Pre- Wedding Mikvah Parties
Almost all religiously based wedding traditions are a real treat in Israel, even for those who aren't religious! Before a woman gets married, it is customary for her to immerse herself in the mikvah (a pool of water) in order to purify herself. Jewish women all over the world do this, however in Israel, we know how to turn everything into a party! Brides often invite multiple friends and family to her first mikvah trip to make the environment special and exciting!
Lots of Music
Israelis love to boogie, and their weddings are no different. Most Israeli weddings have a music filled Chuppa ceremony, with dancing and clapping between each of the 7 blessings said under the Chuppa. At the reception, most weddings, even the non-religious Israelis, have a round of hora dancing- the classic Jewish circle dance. Afterwards, the band may continue to play, or a DJ may switch them out and end the night with a bang. Be ready for classic Jewish medleys, some Israeli tunes, and even today's popular hits. Unlike more formal weddings outside of Israel, Israeli weddings are rarely filled with long speeches and formalities. Once you reach the reception, be ready to party!
This tradition is a religious one, where the bride and groom spend time alone together right after the Chuppa ceremony, yet, most couples take this time alone before entering the festivities of the reception. Not only are there religious reasons for this, but it gives the bride and groom some time to rest before the fun begins! After the Chuppa, it is customary for the guests to dance and sing the bride and groom all the way to the Yichud room. Yichud means unification, and there is no better way to begin your marriage than with a few minutes dedicated to your oneness!
You may have heard Israeli wedding guests discuss how many magnets they took home from a wedding. Magnets? Yes, you heard me. Magnet culture in Israel is alive and thriving. While almost all weddings have regular photographers, Israelis throw a "magnet man" into the mix, who snaps pics throughout the night, ready for guests to take home and put on their refrigerators! It's always a good idea to scope out the magnet man in the beginning of the night to make sure you get as many magnets as your fridge can handle!
You can expect to dance all night, drink a lot, and fill your belly with all of the best foods!
Hope you get invited to an Israeli wedding soon!