The families rented a large elegant hall (Ahuzat Tal) just off the main highway in southern Ashdod for the wedding. Around 400 people were expected to attend.
The welcome was at 7:30 (with plenty of appetizers) and the wedding itself (the chuppah) was to take place at 8:30.
My husband Howard did not come because the noise level would have been too much given that he has tinnitus. So I took the groom’s aunt and two cousins, who had driven up from Kiryat Gat, about 15 minutes south of us (where Intel has a huge center). I followed their directions to go north to Ashdod, instead of going the way I knew to the SE, and we got quite lost, so it took us 50 minutes to get there instead of 25, but it was OK in the end, and we had a tour of the port and RR area of Ashdod! We arrived at 8:40, but we still had a good half hour until the wedding began, about 9:15! That is a good example of Israeli time.
At the entry to the hall, there was a small table with envelopes on it. My passengers stopped to write checks, and put them in the envelopes (or put in cash) to give to the couple later.
While I was waiting, the groom’s mother came and greeted me warmly. On entering the hall a few minutes later, we followed others to the reception line where the groom’s parents greeted guests.
As you can see, there wan no particular dress code, but people dressed in clothing comfortable to them.
I then walked on, and several relatives of the bride that I had met at the mikveh evening greeted me warmly and made sure that I was not alone. (I really appreciated their kindness.)
Around 9:15ish, we gathered around the chuppah area. Many people sat, but more stood. Many of the bride’s relatives wore colorful saris. Although the bride’s parents made aliyah years ago, they go back to India regularly to visit.
The parents of the bride and groom and the 3 officiants (2 were ketubah witnesses) first went under the chuppah. Then the groom came down the raised walkway(about 4’ in the air). Last came the bride (all this with no music…it probably wouldn’t have been heard over the talking anyway!). As you can see, the photographer was right in front of her. Halfway down the walkway she stopped, and the groom came to greet her, put her veil over her head, and escort her to the chuppah.
I later learned that there are many different ways for the bride to come in. When they got to the chuppah, they went to the back and turned around to face the audience. (This is much nicer than what we do, in my opinion.) The rabbis stood to their left, on the right side of the chuppah, perpendicular to them. I thought that this was a marvelous idea. Then all stood still as the chuppah platform rose about a meter so people could see them better.
I also was surprised by the number of photographers present. There were two kneeling on the chuppah platform in front of the bride and groom, and a huge camera on a mini-crane just for videotaping the faces of the young couple.
I stood behind the cameraman manipulating that camera, so I got a great view of the couple from her screen. The ceremony took about 15 minutes. When the ketubah was read, the rabbi joked a bit, adding to it that the groom must bring his bride flowers for each Shabbat. (At first, I thought that was actually part of the ketubah!) At the end of the reading, he asked the bride if she accepted, and quickly added jokingly, “Well, you don’t have any choice!” Just before the groom broke the glass, he recited in Hebrew, “If I forget you O Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its cunning,” which really was a good way to lead into that ceremony.
Afterwards, about 30 people went up on the pathway and rushed to the chuppah. The rest of the invitees walked to the air-conditioned (yay!) dining room for dinner. The groom’s sister rushed up to me to seat me with her family, which was really sweet.I could not resist holding that sister's very tired daughter.
Five big screens on the walls of the room showed pictures taken earlier in the day at the local “shuk” (outdoor market), with the bride in her gown and groom in his white shirt and slacks.Some were really creative. We also later saw people on the dance floor on the same screens.
About five different appetizers were placed on the table along with tasty bread, so we wouldn’t go hungry, in addition to wine, juice, soft drinks, and water. After about 20 minutes, the bride and groom entered, and dancing began. During that time, a group of guys lifed up the groom in a chair and danced with him.
We then had a choice of grilled chicken or fish (with similar seasoning), with a light salad on the dish. I chose the fish, which was delicious. It was then after 10:30, and after seeing more of the shuk pictures of the happy couple, I missed my husband so headed home.
I found out the next day that the main course had not been served yet. I missed out on pargiot (grilled young chicken pieces, which are delicious), steak, more side dishes, etc, and fantastic desserts.
I was very glad I went. Israeli weddings are often big like this. Some are in an outdoor setting. Almost always many many friends are invited. I have heard people saying that it is a waste of money to spend so much, but it does not stop people from having such lavish weddings, whether in a fancy hall or a lovely outdoor site.
Two days later on Shabbat, The Elemelich family celebrated “Shabbat Chatan,” with a Friday night meal (after services) for 40 people and then the special celebration at the synagogue. In the US,we have an “ufrut” the Shabbat before a wedding, so it was interesting to hear about the different custom. We were delighted to let the family use our apartment for the meals as they have done so much for us, and now we are enjoying the leftovers from that Shabbat that the groom’s family is sharing with us!