The Wedding Planner: Keeping everyone happy

Schlepping guests to your wedding in Israel means showing them that you want to give them a unique experience.

Sea view  (photo credit: Asaf Sultan)
Sea view
(photo credit: Asaf Sultan)
Congratulations, you've decided to tie the knot in Israel. Let's say you are 12 months prior to the event and you are at the stage of finding your perfect venue. If you are local and most of your guests are from the same area, you will probably find yourself a venue nearby. If your guests come from two different geographical areas, it's best to look for "something in the middle" – not too far away from both sides.
But what if you are coming from overseas?
If this is the case, the location of your wedding determines not only the mood (rustic, sophisticated, beach), but also the overall vibe. As mentioned previously, Jerusalem has many locations to offer and Tel Aviv as well. Having the wedding in these touristy cities will make the life of your guests easy.  There are various levels of hotels and plenty to see and do there. If you wish to have a desert and beach combo wedding, Eilat, being a vacation city, will suit you well.
But if you choose to have it somewhere else (for instance, on the coastline north of Herzylia or south of Tel Aviv) you should think about alternative accommodation options for your guests and the distance from prime hanging out locations.
Set the date
If you want to have an outdoor wedding, the best months are June and September. If you choose a location that includes both indoor and outdoor areas you may want to broaden the period to April-June or September-November. Unfortunately, the best weather tends to correlate with the tourist season, when there are typically crowds and higher rates all around. If you choose to marry during high season (Passover and Succot), you’ll want to reserve hotel blocks and venues immediately and send out save-the-dates 10 to 12 months in advance so guests can book their flights and accommodation before prices skyrocket.
Keep in mind that the summer in Israel is hot and humid in July and August, which can be uncomfortable for guests who are not used to this kind of weather, and of course take into account the Jewish laws forbidding marriage during certain dates and Israeli memorial days.
If your guests are either in college or have children who study in school, you should check holidays and exam schedules before you set your wedding date.
When to invite
You need to give your guests as much advance notice as possible so they can allocate holiday time, ask for time off work, get the best travel deals (the earlier they book, the cheaper it will be) and make any childcare arrangements.
For these reasons it is important that you send out save-the-dates nine to twelve months in advance. Formal invitations should follow at least two or three months before the wedding.
It’s always a good idea to set up a wedding website to keep guests up to date with details. Let them know if you’ve set aside blocks of hotel rooms and how to book them, what the itinerary of the event will be, what to pack and so on. Only give them the info they need and save some surprises for the trip.
Caring for your guests
Make sure your guests have all the information they need to get the most out of their visit to Israel. Hannah Blustin, founder of Pomegranate Travel, luxury and tailor-made Israel experiences,  advises "With the recent proliferation of boutique hotels, to-die-for restaurants, visitor-friendly wineries, and the unearthing of new historical and archaeological sites, times have never been better to show off the country you love in style. This is your chance to inspire your international guests, many of whom might not have been to Israel for years, or perhaps ever.  For wedding parties, we often arrange guest trips with stays at hidden gems of hotels, and highlight the cultural and geographical diversity of the country, leaving people blown away by the energy and abundance of this tiny place."
Arrange for a van or bus to pick your guests up from the airport and shuttle them to the hotel.
It is a nice gesture to book at least one excursion or activity. For instance, a guided day trip to Jerusalem and the northern Dead Sea could be a good idea if you're based in Jerusalem.
Another option is an afternoon in Jaffa and South Tel Aviv, a preferred junction where east meets west and history merges with the present. It could also be a good idea to organize a walking guided tour of Neve Tzedek or the area around Rothschild Boulevard.
If you or your friends want to explore the developing culinary scene try booking culinary walking tours in the markets or have a fun morning/afternoon in an Israeli cooking workshop.
If your guests are here for the weekend, why not put on a traditional Friday night dinner so they can observe the uniqueness of  Shabbat in Israel.
You might consider booking tickets to the night spectacular at the Tower of David (Jerusalem) or an evening of Karaoke in the new Plugin club (Tel Aviv).
If you are all staying in one hotel you should reserve lounging chairs by the pool for a morning get together swim and brunch.
Be sure to include warm and welcoming touches (and plenty of fun aside from the wedding) to keep guests happy.
Put together welcome bags. Offer things like a map and a list of local attractions, an itinerary for wedding-related activities as well as bottles of water and snacks for the room. Toss in some fun stuff too such as flip-flops, towels, beach mattresses, visors, Matkot (if you are near the beach), sunscreen and even a spa gift certificate.
Who is paying?
No one is going to expect you to pay for their travel. You should only pay for the wedding and any other events that you arrange. If you do arrange something and invite guests, it’s proper destination wedding etiquette to cover the costs of that event as well as transportation.
Bottom line
Deciding on a wedding in Israel is a sure-fire success for a memorable day that you and your guests will remember for a lifetime. It is well worth the extra planning to make it all perfect for the couple and their guests.
Osnat Eldar is the owner of SIGNATURE EVENTS boutique which specializes in weddings and special events. With over 18 years of experience she brings you interesting insights when coming to plan your dream event in Israel.