Israeli weddings: Revealed and Untucked
Shmuel writes from the Golan:
I always try to stop and pick up hitchhikers – it is part of Israeli culture – after all, for years I benefited from tons of rides. On the way home, we spoke about when he grew up on the Moshav and as we approached the turn off into the Moshav, he told me to drop him off at the corner.
He needed to continue heading south towards his cousin’s Bat Mitzvah party. I was shocked, because he was dressed in a faded t-shirt and green cargo pants.
Ah, yes, the moment when Westerners in Israel come to realize that dressing up is almost never de rigeur. I wrote about this phenomenon recently for the Catered Events section of the New York Jewish Week. The article, which focuses on weddings, is here.
But as much as Israeli brides prefer to “go glam” more than their American counterparts, other members of the wedding party may expect to dress down. While an American groom will wear a suit and tie, or even a tuxedo, Israeli men typically turn up at their own weddings “in a nice shirt,” Summerfield said. Roth added that tucking in said shirt is not a requirement.
How much more so, then, are siblings of the bride and groom free from the American expectation to go shopping for a gown or suit, or have their hair and makeup done. “They wear what they would wear on a date,” Roth observed. “In Israeli society, dressing up doesn’t make you closer to the bride or groom, so why should they? Not wearing a suit or a gown doesn’t take away from their respect.” No surprise, then, that other guests may turn up in jeans and pressed shirts, or in their army uniforms.
“It blows Americans away, that people turn up in jeans and sandals,” Summerfield said. “You can’t stop people, and why should you? Israelis don’t look at it as being disrespectful. In general they don’t dress up so much. It’s very hard to find an evening dress here. You have to go to Tel Aviv, and search for it. There’s no demand for it.”
Roth said that her own wedding invitation specified “evening attire preferred,” but that only “the Anglo crowd” – native English speakers in Israel – attempt to enforce a dress code. “Israelis do not understand it,” she said, “and those that do find it offensive. They wonder ‘are you my mother? Why are you telling me how to dress?’ The Israeli mentality is less concerned with what they are wearing as a representation of how much respect they have for an event. It’s true of how they dress for work, and for synagogue, and for weddings.”
Note that the one person at an Israeli event who “dresses up” is the bride. And how. Except that the “in” wedding dresses these days here are not a matter of elegance, but rather of seeing just how many beads and rhinestones one can fit onto the skimpiest dress possible. On Saturday night I attended a trade show for Events vendors in Jerusalem: musicians, photographers, caterers, etc. It was just as I expected. There were models everywhere wearing incredibly revealing — in my mind, tacky — wedding dresses (the examples included in this post are quite representative and actually have a little more material in them than most of the other dresses that were featured there.)
On the other hand, I found one vendor who specializes in dressing the groom. His whole catalogue was full of photos of men in dress pants and suit jackets, wearing different kinds of nice white shirts. All untucked. No ties. The height, the height I say, of . . . um . . . something . . . .