MAILBAG: Father Of A Kallah Sounds Off About Insane Spending On Simchas

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Dear YWN,

After seeing the letter from a Chosson last week, here’s a letter from a “Father of a Kallah”.

Sitting in Quarantine under very trying circumstances, I have been made aware of this new Simcha Initiative that you are bringing to the fore. I laud you for it! I was delighted to read about it and happily affixed my signature to the myriad of names already signed on. You see, to me this has particularly hit home. I believe there’s a lot more to do in curbing the extravagance that has become the norm, but this is definitely a good start.

Let me give you a little background about myself and why this is so personal to me. I live in my own home in Brooklyn NY. Boruch Hashem I have been blessed with a lovely family and have what’s considered to be a respectable job with a respectable salary. I work at a law firm in New York City and earn over $200,000 in annual salary. Yet, living and supporting my family day to day, very conservatively (I must add) is not easy. Between full tuition, mortgage payments, car payments, camps, etc. it is quite literally, choking. Nevertheless I am most grateful for what I have, knowing full well how many people would wish to be in my position.

About a year ago we had the zchus of having our oldest daughter get engaged to a wonderful boy from a beautiful family. It was such a happy time. Everyone was all smiles and so excited for the wedding prep, which started almost immediately after the engagement. It took only about two weeks before my personal excitement began to mix with a dose of panic. That dose of panic picked up steam along the way as the reality of what this was going to cost began setting in. Please let me make myself very clear. We are not ostentatious people and mostly live within our means. Nevertheless, from when a child gets engaged till after the last Sheva Brachos, the amount of money that gets spent on the Simcha is simply outrageous. Between the expense of the Vort, gifts, clothing, gowns, music, singers, flowers, makeup artists and hair dressers, plus plus plus, etc. it is enough to put people into serious debt which can take years to pay off. Then there are more children to marry off in quick succession Boruch Hashem. How can anyone manage these expenses? Of course there are those that will say, “Let each person only spend what they can afford and not just follow the masses. Make a Takkana wedding, etc.”

Let’s not kid ourselves here. There is a bar that gets set by the wealthier families in our communities, which keeps getting raised as time goes on. That bar has reached a crescendo by now and must come down. The people making these simchos, even though they can afford them, should have an achrayus to the klal. Just as chazal teach that when one is blessed with material wealth, it is a pikadon from Hashem, which comes along with a responsibility to help the less fortunate by giving tzedaka, so too should making Simchos come with the same responsibility to the rest of the community. Raising the bar of Simchos filters down to every last member of our community in one way or another. It is destroying people, to put it mildly. Where’s the achrayus to the Klal? Three months of spending a hundred, two hundred, three hundred thousand dollars, and more on a wedding, all for a few nights of celebrating, is literally causing crushing debt to people. Is it worth it? Are those young couples any happier? Look around at the young couples who had backyard weddings over the last month and a half. They are just as happy, despite not necessarily having the wedding of their dreams. I’m not advocating backyard weddings, once we get out of this Tzara (may it be soon) but please please, tone it down! If not for your sake, for the sake of your neighbors, your friends, your family, the rest of Klal Yisroel! Let people stand tall and proud when making a simple affordable Simcha. By taking the step and toning down your Simchos, others will follow suit. You can be the one to help someone else avoid stress, hardship and Chas Vshalom worse.

Boruch Hashem my daughter is happily married and we are having lots of Nachas from our young couple, but I say it clearly and unequivocally, the expense was not necessary. It created undue hardship, of which I, someone who makes a comfortable living supposedly, will be paying for for sometime. Why??

I applaud the Simcha Initiative for stepping up to the plate to try to make a difference. I hope people will sign up for this in a big way and even take the achrayus to take things a step further in curbing the unnecessary extravagance when celebrating their Simchos.

May this form of Tzedaka be a Zchus for Klal Yisroel at this very difficult time. May the Cholim amongst us have a speedy Refua Sheleima, and in this Zchus may Hashem remove this Mageifa from our midst speedily. Amen.

Name withheld upon request.

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

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(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)


9 COMMENTS

  1. The main issue is why do people feel the need to live up to those standards? It was always ridiculous to invite everyone under the sun, and the vicious cycle continues as those who get invited feel compelled to attend. I am not sure why the letter writer fell into that trap but was he among those who spent $200,000 or more? Why? Who was he trying to impress. We have all been to so many weddings, that as a guest nothing impresses me anymore except for the waste. Where the simcha initiative falls down, however, is that it addresses only the size of the simcha rather than all the amenities that bring up the cost. Do not blame the wealthy for doing what they do. We should be mature enough to know what we need to stay within our means without creating a nanny state where we blame others for our failings.

  2. Inviting 250 people for a meal instead of the customary 400 isn’t going to solve the letter writer’s problem. The problem is the extravagance not the amount of people. You could make a respectable 400 person wedding in Lakewood for 15k split by both sides. Also, I would be curious to know what the letter writer feels about what he needed to spend on seminary or if he was “held up” by his new son in law for thousands of dollars a month.

  3. Boruch Hashem my daughter is happily married and we are having lots of Nachas from our young couple, but I say it clearly and unequivocally, the expense was not necessary. It created undue hardship, of which I, someone who makes a comfortable living supposedly, will be paying for for sometime. Why??

    Maybe you should have said “no” it’s starting to cost too much

  4. I have to disagree with you. The one thing that klal yisroel got right is weddings, im really perplexed at what the simcha initiative is all about. people come to lakewood from all over the country to make a wedding because its so affordable. Yes even with that it costs money so what? yeshivas also cost money. The lakewood takanah weddings are so main stream even well to do people dont feel funny making them. The fact that some rich people make a wedding according to their means, theres nothing wrong with that. their house is also nicer than yours. So what is the objective? to make everyone the same? ok lets say we make everyone the same you still cant get cheaper than a takanah wedding, and lets say according to the simcha inititive you invite 100 fewer people so what did you gain saving $6,000?! and for that you make everyone crazy? In this day and age with takana weddings if someone feels they need to keep up with the rich people the problem is them, they need to work on their self esteem, and not worry what you think people are looking at. (because no one cares or notices) i’d like to add that in my opinion the simcha inititive is a maser yetzer. Here we are in the current situation and everyone is looking how they can improve themselves, comes the yetzer horah and says i cant have that, so he makes up phony causes to distract people with, so they think they’re doing something great as long as their not focusing on their real tafkid of making real changes in their life

  5. Its a very well written letter! A lot of pressure probably comes from the kallah/chossen. Their friends have this that and the other and they feel they’re not getting “what everyone else gets! ”
    They have never been in the position of supporter/earner, only used to being supported! So why is my father being stingy? Girls in seminaries need to be taught how to be satisfied with less and boys in chossen lessons too! And parents have the responsibility to teach their children (and to practise themselves) how to be happy with little!

  6. So true this letter. I know people who make significantly more than that that are also choking. People DO need though to work on their self esteem and stop caring what the world thinks of them, because in truth no one is thinking of them but rather thinking of themselves and how THEY can impress everyone. No one is thinking much about YOU in all likelihood. So stop all the fear. One will otherwise never be happy because there is always people with more. Stop looking at everyone’s car, house, weddings etc. And eve if you do have the money please cut out your shenanigans for the sake of those that don’t. And if you think everyone is impressed by you they probably wont remember your wedding one week later either unless you go so over the top that it is even more ridiculous that what I would like to discuss. You will only be happy when you are happy with what you’ve got.

  7. I also applaud the letter writer for substantiating what is well known by anyone who has gone through the parsha. The backers of the Simcha Initiative should also be commended for attempting to get a handle on the crushing expenses of simchas.

    A couple of points that I would like to add to the discussion:

    While some of the commenters have mentioned that Lakewood has figured out how to make an affordable chasuna, that is missing a big part of the overall picture. The huge bulk of the wedding expense lie outside the immediate cost of the wedding itself. From the vort to the gifts to the aufruf/sheva brachos to the shaitels to the gowns/makeup/accessories and to the myriad other “soft” expenses that come up all along the way, parents of the chosson/kallah are inundated daily by waves of expenses that they are left to deal with way after with the saying of sheva brachos at the end of the wedding.

    If we were to take this issue seriously, every step of this happy time of our lives must be looked at responsibly and, with the guidance of Daas Torah, make appropriate decisions and actions about what is socially acceptable and required.

    The Simcha Initiative itself, while getting the discussion started, comes far short from actually addressing the communal need for massive action in this area. By signing to “not making elaborate vorts” each member is left with the subjective right to make his vort below whatever “elaborate” means to him. And one can still keep their wedding within the 250 limit for the dinner – at the cost of a million dollars if they’d like, and then invite the rest of the world to the “simchas chosson v’kallah” for another million. Obviously this is an extreme example, but the point is that the Initiative is not much more than a (well intentioned) “feel good” reaction to a problem that requires real discussion and concrete action to have it resolved.

    To start with, taken objectively, is there a real need for a Vort at all? A simple L’chaim in the kallahs home with only the immediate family and close friends on the day of the actual engagement should suffice. Besides the monetary issue that we have been discussing, the time pressures placed on parents has become overbearing. While everyone wants their Simchos to be shared with their friends and relatives, the resulting bitul Torah and cause of parentless homes every night has to considered. As R’ Yitzchock Sorotzkin shlita mentioned in a recent shmuz in which he pushed takanos for all Simchos, children are left without parents due to the need for their mothers and fathers to be out every night at different affairs and functions. Is it really worth it?

    Just my thoughts…..

  8. I can’t say I totally understand why some people spending within their means should effect other people spending out of their means.

    I just made a simcha and we can afford to do a beautiful event BH. Although we have many friends and relatives who are not wealthy, we chose to make it nice because we wanted to be able to treat them to a nice party. We encouraged everyone to take home whatever they wanted so before we knew it everything had disappeared. People joked that if they could have walked off with the tables, they would have.

    But reading this article and the recent articles in the Mishapacha magazine about extravagant weddings makes me realize that even if the intention of making a nice wedding is to “treat” your guests, instead it increases jealousy, resentment and stress, which is exactly the opposite of what we’re trying to accomplish. With this information in mind, we will have to think long and hard before we decide what to do next time we are able to make a make a simcha beH.