June 21, 2024
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What Will Our Simchas Be Like Post-COVID?

Recently I was speaking to a friend about our post-COVID lives, and we began discussing simchas during this difficult period.

She told me that when she and her husband were engaged and started planning their wedding, her father made them a sincere offer: If they preferred to have the money that was going towards paying for a wedding for several hundred people to use as a down payment towards a home, he would gladly give them the cash instead.

She told me she refused the offer and opted for the wedding.

It turned out that a few years later, they saved enough money for a down payment, and purchased their first home.

But then she told me that she sometimes wondered whether they should have taken the money—and skipped the big wedding.

I’ve been thinking more about this story, as many folks have scaled down their weddings and other simchas to include only their family and close friends … or postponed weddings until after the COVID crisis has passed, in order to host the elaborate simcha that they had originally planned.

I’ve witnessed a couple of Zoom weddings since March. And I thought that the ceremonies were just as beautiful as if there were 500 people witnessing the event in person. In fact, in some ways I felt that they were even nicer, because the focus was clearly on the bride and groom, and not on the ornate flowers, the 12-piece band or other wedding niceties.

Don’t get me wrong. I do feel bad for the many bar mitzvah boys who worked hard to prepare their parsha, only to read it for a tiny group of people (or in some cases not read it at all). And I know there are brides out there who dreamed of what their wedding would be like, only to be forced not to invite extended family and other friends whom they would have normally included in their simcha. Not to mention the many families who lost deposits with hotels and caterers when they had to change or cancel their plans.

This is also not a criticism of the individuals who in the past have chosen to make expensive and fancy weddings. If families have the money and wish to spend six figures on a wedding, God bless them. I’d also add that some of the fanciest weddings that I’ve attended have been hosted by families who also give an enormous amount of tzedaka to worthy organizations on a regular basis. So it’s hard to be critical of these folks.

But my friend made a good point while we were discussing the subject. She pointed out to me that a wedding or a bar/bat mitzvah is only one day in what we hope will be a life filled with joy and many other happy occasions for the celebrants. She asked me the following questions: Is it really necessary to spend as much money on these five-hour events as we had been doing before the coronavirus struck? Haven’t the small weddings that we have seen recently been a good indication that one can have a very beautiful affair without 500 people? Can’t the money we may have originally earmarked for these fancy celebrations be spent elsewhere in other more productive areas?

She suggested that perhaps parents of the children marking their bar and bat mitzvah can direct the money they are saving on big parties to help pay for their children’s yeshiva education. And parents of those getting married can place the unused money saved on a fancy wedding to set up accounts for day school tuition for their future grandchildren.

Personally, I was not a fan of going to big weddings and other simchas even before the virus. I dislike having to wait up to an hour for the bride and groom to enter the social hall after their family photographs. The music is generally too loud. I sometimes don’t get to dance with the groom and his family because other family members and close friends get first priority. And the dinner itself usually drags on too long, so I often end up leaving before the post-meal sheva brachot, which should be an important part of the celebration. Truth be told, I actually feel a bit blessed that for the last ten months, I haven’t had to deal with attending large simchas.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens now that a vaccine is available, and God willing we return to a normal life again soon. I can see one of two things occurring. Perhaps we will embrace the idea of small weddings and celebrations—and continue to plan these kinds of affairs (perhaps with a shul kiddush for all those who were not invited, so they can extend mazel tov wishes to the family). Alternatively, we might go in the other direction and make even more elaborate affairs, to make up for the many months when we were unable to make such celebrations.

If I had to bet, I think it will more likely be that we will see the second scenario.

But who knows? Perhaps some wise couples will be smart enough to opt for a small size wedding—and ask their parents to give them some of the designated wedding money for a down payment on a home. I hear mortgage rates are pretty low right now!


Michael Feldstein is a contributing editor for The Jewish Link. He owns his own marketing consulting firm, MGF Marketing, and can be reached at [email protected].

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