Israeli weddings: Revealed and Untucked

February 13, 2007 - 8:19 AM by

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.
wedding dress 2
Exerpt 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 . . . .

wedding dress 1


8 Comments on Israeli weddings: Revealed and Untucked

  1. Tetiana on Mon, Nov 26th 2007 7:51 PM
  2. Out of mere curioisity just wondering ….
    Is it not in jewish tradition to cover up and remain extremely consevative.
    I understand the concept of the guest arriving to the wedding – dress code is not essential but may be prefered.
    But what about the women, who often are seen wearing long skirts, and again no emphasis on fashion. As a personal obsevation from my own bfs family getting married, the wedding dresses are tacky, and show way too much skin, in all the wrong places. Whats the deal?

  3. ronit on Fri, Aug 29th 2008 2:34 PM
  4. the wedding dresses in this country are hideous. it’s not about fitting as many sequins as possible on a skimpy dress, rather fitting as many sequins as possible to strategically to cover up the chest on an otherwise see through bodice attached to an oversized shimmery tu-tu

  5. Yelena on Wed, Jan 21st 2009 4:41 PM
  6. Tetiana, you are talking about Jews that are orthodox or religious. Most Jews are secular, and even if they are traditional, they do not adhere to any sort of dress code. That being said, a lot of Jewish women prefer to wear something over their shoulders while standing under the chuppa, just out of respect.

  7. רחל שואנהולטס on Thu, Apr 2nd 2009 1:00 PM
  8. So, I just made Aliyah and am getting married in January 2010, and I haven’t been to too many “slutty” weddings; the secular Jewish weddings I’ve been to (I’m disregarding the religious weddings) featured tastefully dressed brides. Last night my fiance` and I went to look at halls, and we hung out for a bit at 2 weddings and a Bar Mitzvah. Two weddings were religious, and at each i didn’t see the bride, and at the Bar Mitzvah, the kid’s mom was wearing quite a revealing dress – for a woman in her mid-40′s – and it wasn’t even her party.

    I’ve really found that the dress for me, the bride, will be costly, and what most women do is have a dress custom made and then donate it to a rental place (where the tailor/seamstress works out of, so it’s all operated under the same direction) and it’s a bit cheaper than buying (I personally wouldn’t rent a dress that another women wore unless it was Halloween, which here doesn’t exist).

    I’ve forewarned ALL family from the US that suits and ties are not required, and that my fiance`’s 200+ family members will all look at them cockeyed and mutter things in Hebrew that my family won’t understand. I’m not worried about them wearing the wrong things though, I’m more worried about the Israeli family members not dressing nicely enough – but that’s just my “Anglo” mentality.

  9. Masha K. on Tue, Apr 28th 2009 1:19 AM
  10. Mazal Tov on the Aliayh Rahal! Have you picked a hall yet? I’m getting married in Israel this summer, July 7, 2009. I ran across the same issues in regards to the dress code. I actually wanted to write on the invitations “no jeans, sneakers, or t-shirts” but my fiance talked me out of it.
    I got my dress custom made here in the States, and I combined the best of both worlds…Israeli and western.

  11. רחל ש. on Tue, Apr 28th 2009 11:31 AM
  12. I don’t know if I can allow my fiance` to talk me out of it, hahaha. It’s really important for me (and the atmosphere) if people wear closed shoes at least and a button down shirts. The women actually put effort into how they dress I’ve come to find, so I think it’s really a men’s issue.

    We’ve just booked the date – Jan. 14, 2010.

    Marsha, If you’d like to chat some more, feel free to correspond via email:

    I have a couple of questions for you:)

  13. Hillary on Tue, Jun 2nd 2009 10:00 AM
  14. I made Aliyah a few years ago and my fiance and I are getting married in August 2010. I’ve been to quite a few “slutty” weddings and I think the lack of coverage on the bride might have to do with some kind of air filtration system. No bride likes getting schitizick when she’s dancing, so maybe it’s a way to keep cool? Stam. I kid. I think there are a bunch of women standing at the port with bedazzlers waiting for the latest shipment of dresses.

    I keep telling my American parents that our wedding is dressed down- unlike the wedding of my sister (in the US) that was formal for a sunday afternoon. It’s a concept they have yet to understand. My mom is happy though- she thinks it means she will be comfortable in her dress… not in AUGUST!

    [...] publication, The Jewish Week.  It was also part of her blog post for Israel 21c’s blog Israelity in [...]

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