When I got married, over fifty years ago, the custom in Israel was for weddings to be festive affairs but compared with today’s scene they were relatively sedate. I know that people hired halls and hotels in some cases, but I do not recollect any such event involving the participation of many hundreds of guests, dervish-like dancing that went on for hours and the total abandonment of consideration for the eardrums of the participants.
Being constitutionally averse to large-scale celebrations, I chose to celebrate my own wedding in an even more low-key fashion, with just a handful of guests (close friends and family), in the garden of friends in Jerusalem’s German Colony neighbourhood, and refreshments that consisted primarily of sandwiches (which I felt too excited or occupied with my guests to partake of). Of course, I spurned the traditional long white dress and wore what I hoped was a tasteful cream-coloured two-piece. I recollect the annoyance I felt at having to take myriad photographs with each guest in turn. Furthermore, the subdued background music that was supposed to have been provided by a friend who had undertaken the task failed for some reason and there was no music at all.
Still, neither I nor anybody else seemed to be unduly disturbed by the lack of entertainment or the modest refreshments, and the event was as joyous and enjoyable as any I have attended since. But then, I might be biased.
These days, however, weddings in Israel seem to have become ever more raucous, and to involve ever greater throngs of people, with music blasting the eardrums of the assembled guests making it totally impossible to conduct a conversation of any kind, whether civilized or not. The marriage ceremony is generally followed by several hours of frenetic dancing by all concerned, whether in separate groups for men and women or in mixed formation. In the misanthropic miasma that descends on me at these times I try – but usually fail – to understand why anyone would get dressed in their best clothes in order to get all hot and sweaty jumping up and down along with hundreds of other people doing likewise.
What cannot be denied, however, is that such events provide a golden opportunity to get together with other members of our ever-growing family, as relatives from all over the country (and abroad) join forces to celebrate yet another merry milestone in the life of one of its members. In effect what is being celebrated is the continuation of one more branch of the tree that has grown and blossomed from the plant nurtured by the first generation, thata of our parents, the penniless young couple who once found refuge from persecution and war in England and eventually ended up in Israel, together with the rest of the family.
So I suppose that when all is said and done, in the final analysis, weighing up the pros and the cons, taking the rough with the smooth and considering all the options, I will continue to attend these nuptial festivities as and when they come (and they seem to be coming ever thicker and faster these days). At any rate, festive occasions are infinitely preferable to mournful ones.
Mazal tov to the young couple and everyone in the family!