Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

24 Cheshvan 5764 - November 19, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family

How to Keep Your Wedding Running Smoothly
by Yonina Hall

At the wedding of her first daughter, Mrs. S. was in seventh heaven. Every other dance found her inside the kalla's circle, enjoying every minute of hers and her daughter's simcha. After the wedding, as the two sides gathered for family pictures, she exclaimed to the chosson's mother, "Wasn't that a great chasuna? Didn't you have a wonderful time?"

The chosson's mother, who was marrying off her fourth child, stared at her new mechutenes in surprise. "What do you mean?" she replied. "I was in and out of the kitchen four times!"

"What were you doing in the kitchen?" Mrs. S. asked innocently.

"I had to make sure everything was running smoothly! I had to make sure they were putting out all the food we ordered, serving each course on time and saving us leftovers."

To the untrained eye, weddings seem to be well-oiled operations. Hours before the first guests arrive, the catering truck pulls up to the hall, chefs begin re-heating the food, the florist sets out decorations, musicians bring in their instruments and waiters and waitresses lay the tables. As the last guests are leaving, the caterer packs up the leftovers, the band disassembles its equipment and the cleaning staff arrives to make the hall presentable for the next night's event.

However, each wedding is a singular affair. Just as every chosson and kalla are unique, so, too, is their simcha. Will yours be one that is remembered as having started two hours late (because the mesader kiddushim was stuck in traffic), or the one at which hundreds of bochurim stood around waiting while the guests were still eating (because no one kept the courses coming)? While any delay can throw a wedding off schedule, there are things you can do to keep your wedding running as smoothly as possible.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

One of the best ways to keep your simcha on course is to delegate one or more people who are not related to the wedding party to specific jobs, and introduce them to your staff as your representatives. You have enough to do just being the hostess. Ask for help wherever you can.

To start the evening off right, the chosson's shomer should be responsible for providing the candles, the wine, the becher, the chosson's kos (the lightweight glass which is broken during the ceremony), the kittel and the tenoim/kesuba documents. How many chuppas have you attended that were delayed because one or more of the above was missing? The shomer should also make sure that the wine and the becher don't disappear when it's time for benching.

After the chuppa, have a close friend monitor the catering. She can make sure that courses are served on time, that relatives are served first (not last!) and that the bar is set up early and restocked frequently -- and know who's in charge of getting things moving.

Responsible younger brothers and sisters of the chosson and kalla love to be "in charge" of gifts. Try to designate a gift-collection point beforehand (such as chedder yichud or an office closet) to avoid having gifts pile up on the floor behind the main table. Other children could be in charge of distributing benchers at the proper time (and collecting those that are left behind on the tables).

Musical Chairs

"You tend to be `out of it' as a parent," comments Mrs. H., who has married off several children. "At my first wedding, I asked a friend to make sure that everyone in my family got their meals. That proved to be a wise decison, because right after the chuppa, all the guests rushed inside to find seats while our family was still outside, reliving the emotion of the chuppa.

"When we finally went inside, my daughters didn't have anywhere to sit. I was busy with the chosson's mother and grandmother at the head table. My friend went around moving girls to other tables so my daughters could sit together."

Reserving tables of `family', `out-of-town relatives', `co- workers' etc. could solve this seating dilemma. Some American- style weddngs use place cards to direct guests to specific tables. If you do this, be sure to post one or two young people next to the place-card table to help guests find their cards quickly, or else you'll have a bottleneck at the entrance to the hall.

"At every simcha, I always had a few lonely people who didn't know where to sit," remembers Mrs. M. "I appointed people to sit with them to make sure they had someone to talk to."

Mrs. Y. did a similar chessed for her four elderly aunts who came to Eretz Yisroel for the first time in honor of her wedding. She `assigned' a different seminary friend to each aunt. Each girl made sure that `her' aunt had a chair beside the chuppa, whatever she needed during the seuda and an escort to lead her in and out of the dancing. This type of attention also creates a wonderful Kiddush Hashem for non-religious friends and relatives, as it makes them feel more involved.

Working with Photographers

Many baalei simcha arrive at the wedding hall expecting to have all their memories preserved in the photo album of their dreams. This won't happen by itself. They more you plan and discuss your needs with your photographer, the closer your simcha will approach your vision.

Decide beforehand what kinds of pictures you want to see in your wedding album. Do you want to have twenty-five studio portraits of the kalla or will four suffice? Do you want to see the chosson and kalla in every single dancing photo, or do you want to see other family members and close friends dancing as well? Are table pictures important to you? You may want to make a list of the pictures you want taken to remind yourself during the excitement of the evening.

Unfortunately, your guests must often rush to greet the kalla moments before the badeken because the photographer kept her busy taking pictures for forty-five minutes beforehand. And too often, guests are kept waiting long after the first course to begin dancing, because the chosson and kalla are busy posing with all their family members.

If you're serious about keeping your wedding on schedule, book your pre- chuppa photo session for a few hours before the reception begins. Take the big, extended family pictures after your guests leave. After chedder yichud, the chosson and kalla could take a few pictures together and pose with their parents and grandparents -- and then return to their guests. All other pictures should be on your own time, not on everyone else's.

"It's a good idea to have a friend help you organize the pictures you want to take," adds Mrs. K. "For the big, extended family photo at the end of the evening, for example, my friend quickly rounded up all the brothers, sisters and cousins for the photographer. During the dancing, she often pointed out to the photographer when I was dancing with my closest friends."

Working with Musicians

While some people think that the band is just another wedding prop, the reality is far different. Your orchestra is an integral part of your wedding which can turn even a small simcha into a rousing affair. There is a symbiotic relationship between the band and the dancers that, if played to its best advantage, will keep everyone on their toes for round after round of spirited dancing. But this relationship must be nurtured.

The location of the band is critical. "The musicians need a place to play that will honor the guests," explains Gedaliah Shofnos, a popular orchestra leader for more than twenty years, originally from America. "If they're stuck in a corner or put under a low ceiling off to the side, you get sound that's accentuated and louder than it should be -- not to mention disinterested musicians. The band also needs to have eye contact with the dancers."

For these reasons, a central location in the hall, close to the center of the room, is crucial.

Delegating a family member or friend as an intermediary for the band will enhance the interaction between musicians and dancers. The truth is that the band is answerable to many people -- the chosson, the kalla, two sets of parents... and every relative, friend and bochur on the dance floor. Everyone has something to say.

For example, at rabbonishe weddings, the entrance of every new rosh yeshiva invariably brings someone over to the orchestra to demand another round of "Yomim al yemei melech..."

"We can play Yomim for ten minutes until the guests have it coming out of their ears, but each time we start to play another song, someone comes over to tell us to play it again," Shofnos recalls. "The hosts should trust the band's judgment, and also assign someone as an intermediary, to tactfully say `no' to unreasonable requests."

Surprisingly, the catering can slow down the momentum of the band and the dancers... or extinguish it altogether. By serving the courses too quickly, too much time is freed up for dancing, which overtaxes the guests.

"People generally want to be done with the meal before the guests arrive for dancing, but one shouldn't rush it," says Shofnos. "When you have too much time left for dancing, people can't hold up. One to one-and-a-half hours is a maximum for a dance segment, even when bochurim are present. There should be a first course, then dancing, a second course, then dancing, benching, then dancing."

On the other hand, the musicians and caterer can work together to get even the most delayed wedding back on schedule. Shofnos cites a recent wedding in which the chuppa didn't get underway until eight o'clock. With the approval of the hosts, the band shortened its dance segment and the caterer speeded up the meal service. The seuda was over by 9:30 and the simchas chosson v'kalla started right on time.

Orchestra leader Gedaliah Shofnos can be reached at 02-585- 1278 or 067-608- 470.


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