Beefing it up

If only it were acceptable to make a wedding dress out of raw beef, a la Lady Gaga, I’d solve both my dress and catering crises in one shot.

Moroccan Synagogue 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Moroccan Synagogue 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Efo at mitlabeshet?” my fiancé’s neighbor asks me, as if that is a perfectly normal question.
I blink in response. “Huh? Where do I get dressed?”
“On the wedding day, silly. Which salon are you using?” Her tone is akin to that of a kindergarten teacher explaining to a child that Play-Doh is not for oral ingestion.
I’m stumped again. Zed (the pseudonym for my betrothed) stifles a laugh. It is Mimouna and we are visiting said neighbor in the country’s Moroccan capital, Ashdod. The neighbor sighs and launches into an explanation about bridal salons, an entire enterprise that I was hitherto unaware of. Apparently, prospective brides pay exorbitant sums of money – up to NIS 35,000 – to earn the privilege of “getting dressed” in one of the country’s many salons. The money covers the dress and the glasses of champagne that are offered to the bride and her entourage during the whole “getting ready” ceremony. Oh, and the fine print includes the fact that you actually have to give back the gown the day after the wedding.
That I’m expected to greet people I don’t know at the wedding, I can accept. But to be expected to spend my last precious hours beforehand with people I don’t know – pushy saleswomen, no less – is really too much. How can brides possibly want that out of choice? “I think I’ll be getting dressed at home,” I say, almost sheepishly. The neighbor’s expression registers surprise. But it’s quickly followed by a mixture of sympathy and mild annoyance that shows her distaste for these foreigners with their foreign ideas.
“See, I’ve already got a dress,” I continue.
Her face lights up. “From Galit Lahav?”
“From China.” For the third time in under three minutes, Zed’s well-meaning neighbor is agog.
Yes, I ordered my wedding gown online from a tailoring factory in China. It finally arrived during Passover, a solid month and a half after the promised delivery date. And it wasn’t quite the dress I ordered. Different color, different material, different design. I requested that the lace bolero jacket be sewn so as to cover the exposed back. But the sateen jacket that arrived is little more than a pair of sleeves that leave enough room for a jumbo jet to land on my skin. To top it all, the company, FoxGown (which ostensibly poses as an American bridal outfit) charged my credit card twice. Sigh. When I related my tale of woe to my brother, he cocked an eyebrow and said, “A wedding dress is probably the last thing I’d ever think to order online. That and a set of false teeth.”
So that’s how I found myself perusing aforementioned salons this week, in a last-ditch attempt at finding a ready-towear gown. And boy, are those places luxurious. You get treated like royalty – an anomaly for this country’s heavily entrenched customer service tradition – and yes, while some dresses resemble a crossbreed between a wedding cake and a “Prom Queen Barbie” outfit, others really are beautiful creations. While I tend to go for more classic, simple, American-style cuts, they sometimes get a bit boring and same-y. As I’m sure Zed’s neighbor would agree, a little diamante never hurt anyone.
Anyway, for the sake of any male readers out there, enough said about the gown. The other thing on the agenda (apart from photographer, band (DJ?), chief rabbinate appointments, invitations, designer, make-up, hair, sound, lighting, Sheva Brachot, Shabbat Hatan, Shabbat Kalla, buses for transportation, and of course the obligatory henna) is the hall.
We flirted with a few options after the hotel idea fell through; for my part, I wanted to get married in the synagogue of the mellah (Jewish quarter) in Fez, Morocco. The Ibn Danan Synagogue, now a world heritage site, is named after my family and generations of illustrious Danan rabbis prayed there, as did my father as a boy. My grandmother, whom I was very close to and who sadly passed away a year and a half ago at the ripe old age of 100, lived in the women’s section when she started out married life with my grandfather. Incidentally, my grandmother’s maiden name was Dahan before marrying a Danan. (A difficult transition, I’m sure). Just to close the circle, Zed’s last name is also Dahan (thankfully he’s no relation). Yet hosting the wedding in the Ibn Danan Synagogue would not only be very poignant for me, it would also ensure that at least two-thirds of our armies of cousins wouldn’t be able to make it.
But in the end, after deliberating between halls that serve tiny-butpretty food – you know the type, two stalks of asparagus acting as scaffolding for a miniature duck – versus halls that serve mammoth portions of still-bleeding cattle, we decided to opt for the latter. Zed couldn’t care less about most things to do with our wedding, but meat is not one of those things. According to Zed, along with Good Wine and Good Whiskey, Good Meat closes the trifecta that turns a mediocre wedding into a good wedding. So with that sentiment in mind, we closed with Ganei Zvi, an outdoor hall that makes up for its lack of fancy trappings with its deep knowledge of Good Meat.
Actually, one of the things that most appealed to us about this hall was the owner’s (another Moroccan) devil-maycare attitude. Instead of meticulously going through the portion options from a laminated menu, he recited the list off the top of his head: “Meat cigars, meat pastilles, meat burekas, meat ice cream, sushi, mushi, tushi, you get the idea…” But all that’s just a precursor to the pièce de résistance, a cow-sized hunk of meat to be grilled by a real live cowboy throughout the duration of the evening. Asado is a first class technique for meatmaking, or so I’m told.
So if all else on the agenda fails (Chinese gown, photographer, band (DJ?), Chief Rabbinate appointments, invitations, designer, make-up, hair, sound, lighting, Sheva Brachot, Shabbat Hatan, Shabbat Kalla, buses for transportation, and of course the obligatory henna), at least our guests will have enjoyed a darn good barbecue.