Your daughter (or son) has just gotten engaged and wedding plans need to be made. Oy vey! So much to do, but where do you start? First, relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the mazel before the planning begins. Planning a wedding – or any other large simcha – can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be. In fact, it’s a lot like eating an elephant – just one bite at a time. And of course, remember that for the family, it’s a joyous occasion, not a job.
Start with those magic “question words” you learned in elementary school: who, what, where, when, why, and how, and let them help guide you through the process.
Who: You can’t plan a wedding alone; it takes a team. What vendors do you need? Some of the more common ones are: wedding planner, clergy, venue, catering (unless the venue provides it), music, flowers, décor, photography, video. Do you need a babysitting service, sound and lighting, or others?
Do you have a first choice, and are they available on your selected date? What if they’re not? Good vendors book early, so check with your preferred choices as soon as you have a date. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen those occasional horror stories on the news about someone who has gone out of business. While there’s no foolproof way to avoid this, don’t underestimate the value of getting referrals and checking references. Having a trusted team working together toward a common goal is essential.
The “who” question also involves your guest list. Who will be invited, and who is likely to attend? It’s never too early to start compiling a list and consulting with the machatonim (in-laws) and of course with the bride and groom, on their lists. There’s no doubt that weddings can be expensive, so it’s best to be realistic with your guest list based on your budget.
What: Yes, it’s a wedding, but what type of wedding? Will it be a formal, black-tie affair, a more casual rustic party, or maybe even a destination beach wedding? It’s never too early to think about your choice of theme. Weddings come in all types and sizes, and as a planner, I’ve handled Jewish black-tie events at swank Buckhead hotels to more casual ones on a Colorado mountainside, and just about everything in between. There’s no right or wrong answer, and this is an opportunity to express your – or better yet, the bride and groom’s – personality and style.
Where: Venue choice often dovetails with the “when” question. If the location is important enough, you may need to be flexible about the date. Know your needs. Will the venue be able to hold all the anticipated guests? If it’s an Orthodox wedding, are the facilities large enough for a tisch (groom’s reception), bedeken (veiling) and yichud (seclusion)? Are these areas located near each other, or will your guests be walking all over the venue?
When: Pick a date, or maybe just a month or time of year when the wedding will take place. Is the rabbi available? Are you having a lot of out of town guests? If so, consider a long holiday weekend. If you are thinking about a wedding around Feb. 14, watch out, as certain flowers could be harder to come by and more expensive. Also remember that there are some days on the Jewish calendar when weddings are prohibited such as Shabbat, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, or between Passover and Shavuot, when the omer [the beginning of the ancient barley harvest] is counted. There are also dates when a wedding is especially auspicious such as Rosh Chodesh or during Chanukah. Best to check with the rabbi on these dates, since part of it depends on your level of observance and custom.
Why: Jewish weddings are steeped in tradition, and while some of the steps in planning are common to both Jewish and non-Jewish weddings, the customs of a Jewish wedding are special and bind us together as both a religion and a community, regardless of ones level of observance.
How: Planning and preparing for a Jewish wedding can seem like an overwhelming and stressful exercise, but with the right attitude, expectations and planning, it doesn’t need to be. Starting as soon as possible, engaging the right vendor team, and focusing on what’s important will take the burden off your shoulders and allow you to be a guest at your own event.
Mazel Tov on your simcha, and remember that planning can indeed make perfect!
Alyson Pollack is an event planner at Planning Makes Perfect.