Out There: What's a good daughter-in-law?

January 26, 2017 11:14
4 minute read.
Art by Pepe Fainberg

Art by Pepe Fainberg. (photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)

"You’re not buying the hall, honey, you’re just renting it for a couple hours,” The Wife told our engaged son, Skippy, a few weeks back as he and his betrothed were bouncing from wedding hall to wedding hall, looking for just that right place to get married.

This one was too fancy, that one had bad acoustics. The food in one was supposed to be lousy, the price of another was way too expensive.

“What happened to just wanting something real simple?” I chimed in. “Didn’t you always say you just wanted to get married in a park somewhere and pocket the money that a big wedding would cost?”

With four kids, our conversations around the Shabbat table over the years have often gravitated to weddings, and three of them have always said that when they get married, they want a simple affair. Something rustic, perhaps; a rabbi, a minyan, a few guests, al ha’esh (a barbecue). I thought I had it made.

But that was then, before any of it was real, before there was someone else involved – like a fiancée, and her family, with their own images of what a wedding should be.

But let’s be honest, it’s not only the other side. Everyone talks about having a very simple affair, even of the financial benefits of eloping, until it’s their turn – or their kids’ turn – and suddenly things look different. Suddenly a wedding in the park just doesn’t sound all that appealing.

It’s not as if we’re planning an especially extravagant event, it’s just that a ceremony that we envisioned for this particular son in a JNF forest with 40 guests has morphed into an affair with over 10 times that number, plus a band, a photographic team and a slew of different hors d’oeuvres.

At least, however, my future daughter-in- law has a knack for dealing with this kind of stuff.

WEDDING-HALL managers, I have long been warned, are a tough breed. Kind of like mechanics or medical secretaries. Sure, they want your business, but then you have to argue with them over everything. They give you one price; you then need to whittle it down.

They want to give you RC Cola for the meal, you have to fight for Coca-Cola instead. They want to serve three hors d’oeuvres, you want seven. They want you to pay for lighting, you need to explain that it is inconceivable that lighting doesn’t come with the price of the hall.

I’ve heard these stories from my friends over the years, and it made me nervous, because one thing I’m not good at is negotiations.

I walk into a shoe store and get nervous when the saleswoman asks if she can help. I’ll walk into a market, even a place where the merchants expect you to bargain, and our exchange will go like this:

Me: “How much is that?”
Merchant: “NIS 150.”
Me: “Great, I’ll take it.”

After 35 years in this country, I’m just tired – with my thick American accent – of running interference. Every time I open my mouth, be it with a salesman or a bureaucrat, I still feel like an easy mark.

Some folks fantasize about a daughter- or son-in-law who is a doctor, a lawyer or a hi-tech entrepreneur. Others want a rabbi, a social worker or a psychotherapist.

Me, I just want someone who can haggle with the wedding-hall managers. A friend of mine – also a veteran immigrant – said he hired a guy to do this for him, and in the end actually saved money because the middleman negotiated better than he ever could. I figured if by some chance Skippy could find a girl who could do this, then I could save a considerable outlay.

Thankfully, Skippy obliged.

First of all, the girl knows when to get married. Tie the knot in the chill of February rather than in the humidity of August, and you’ll save thousands of shekels on your teriyaki salmon. And it’s the exact same teriyaki salmon.

AND, ACTUALLY, it’s darned good teriyaki salmon. How do I know? Because we tasted it the other night at a quaint little event called the “tasting.”

Wonderful, underappreciated ritual, this pre-wedding tasting. You go with the new family to the wedding hall and pick out the menu. The caterer brings out all the selections; you taste them and pick a few. It’s a lot of fun.

One of the things that makes it fun is that you think it’s all free. It’s not, of course, because you’re paying tens of thousands of shekels for the privilege of this tasting. But since you don’t have to pay a cashier at the end of the night, it feels free. The mind is a wonderful thing.

And my future daughter-in-law, well, she just shone at the tasting. Not because she eats particularly well, but because she knows how to deal with these people.

“Shhh, don’t say it so loud,” the wedding hall guy said when she reminded him that he had promised an extra sidecourse offering. He didn’t want the other families in the hall at their own tasting to hear what he had promised us.

Some kids impress their future in-laws by speaking intelligently. Others by flattery, being pleasant, or displaying good manners. All my future daughter-in-law had to do to win me over was convince the wedding-hall manager to have eight salads on the table, instead of the standard six. Because even if I merit another 35 years in this country, this is a feat I will never, ever be able to pull off.

Skippy done real good.

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