The typical Mizrahi wedding looks something like this: The entrance to the hired function centre is flooded with blue light. Diamond shaped silver cut outs decorate the floor so that everything sparkles. The parents of the bride stand greeting guests as they arrive and I see behind the thick layers of weeks worth of makeovers, the tired eyes of a mother who has invested way too much energy into this final production, this opening night, her daughters fifteen minutes of fame; The Wedding. Her father smiles vacantly at guests he does not know, more concerned with the check filled envelopes he will collect at the end of the night so he can pay for this outrageous extravaganza. He hopes the marriage will last longer than the debt.
We enter the set. Cocktail tables line the outside foyer displaying a grand selection of entrees; mini spring rolls, deep fried savoury pastries, mini chicken kebabs, stir fry noodles, spiced beef sausages, couscous and vegetables and of course the traditional humus, pita and accompanying pickles. There are trays of freshly cut vegetables and dips and assorted breads and olives. Everyone is eating. When the food is finished, we go inside to find a seat at a table loaded with salads; roasted eggplant, fresh chopped tomatoes in chilli, potato salad, eggplant in tomato sauce, grated carrots in chilli, cooked tomatoes in chilli, chilli, and bread. The rabbi hasn’t arrived, the bride and groom are no-where to be seen, there are no allocated areas to wash for bread and no one has said a communal bracha for hamotzi , which usually follows the huppa, the entrance of the bride and groom and indicates the start of the meal. For now we are just strangers at a table listening to loud Mizrahi music in a big cold function centre with blue lights and lots of food, and everyone is eating.
Finally someone announces that the huppa is about to begin outside and invites the guests to watch, but the tahina dressed eggplant invites them to stay, which most of them do. A few of us drag ourselves away to watch the bride as she walks towards the huppa where sheer white curtains hang on a small wooden deck surrounded by shiny balls of light-catching set props. The glamorous bride is dressed Paris Hilton style with more glitter, sparkles and make up than is humanly recommended, though she does look very much like a movie-star, and I guess that''s the point, she is dressed for her wedding video. The rabbi mumbles some words, the groom stands on the glass and fireworks literally go off behind the huppa, flying high into the night sky, reminding our Arab neighbours that when it comes to loud bangs and fireworks at weddings, we are still in the running.
The huppa now done with, the film crew take over. The bride and groom enter the hall, receiving ''star'' status recognition and spend the rest of the night performing for the video that sails down on a boom, catching every moment of glorious ''fun'', so that after the event all their friends will agree that theirs was the BEST and most fun wedding ever. The rest of us wait for first course.
Our waiter arrives and gives us a choice. The options are always the same; Moroccan Fish, Liver on a bed of mashed potato and something like Brain in pastry. I usually skip this course. Somewhere in the distance a film crew is filming the bride and groom dancing up a Mizrahi storm, and we are out to dinner with a table full of people we don’t know. We are the extra''s on the set. After starters, everyone smokes a cigarette and the newlyweds are invited to perform their bridal dance. No-one asks for an ashtray because we all know the staff probably won''t bring one, not while Ayal Golan is singing anyway, even if our ash is about to fall into our mashed potato. I order myself a vodka.
Mains arrive. Entrecote, lamb chops, spicy sausages and chicken kebabs are placed on a large plate which rests on an indoor heated stand in the middle of the table to keep the meat warm. From time to time, the meat is replenished as is the rice and the salad. I think it is not humanly possible for anyone to eat so much, but still we eat.
The interesting thing though, is not that there are two more courses yet to come, but that this entire production will be repeated detail for detail, at the birth of each child. In less than two years, we will be invited back to hear the same music, eat the same food, pay the same gift (a bazaar Israeli custom where the guests cover the cost of the function) and watch the same film crew, but this time, the mother (who may have given birth as little as one week ago) will be floating around the set in an orange sequenced evening gown. God help her if he breasts leak milk as she and her groom, I mean husband, walk their new baby down the red carpet to the sound of Eyal Golan singing at volumes that will explain why this same child will grow up to talk three decibels louder than the average human being.
And then again, twelve or thirteen years later, we will be invited back to celebrate the child''s Bar or Bat-Mitzvah. To the same music and menu, their thirteen year old boy will cringe inside as he waltzes in a humiliating public display of affection, with his over-made up mother while his girlfriends look on longingly, his torah reading a small aside to the event. The young Bat-mitzvah girl, with no real understanding of what it means to be a Jewish woman coming of age and no connection to her inherited grand matriarchal lineage, will entertain us with a pop song of invaluable, meaningless, frivolity, sided by two sexed up hired dancers in red dresses who will spend the rest of the night dancing flirtatiously with her father and his friends, while her mother looks on vacantly.
I look around to see if anyone else is disturbed by this great disconnect that lays in front of us, but the deserts have arrived, and the coffee-parve-cream centred pastries and chocolate mouse is far more compelling than my pseudo-intellectual Anglo indignation.