MAILBAG: Mother Of Kallah Wants To Sign “Simcha Initiative” – But WON’T! Read Why

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Der YWN,

Last week, YWN published a letter from the father of a Kallah regarding the insane spending on Chasunos. Please publish the following from the mother of a Kallah:

When I first read about the Simcha Initiative, I found myself nodding along in mutual agreement with the project’s ambition to minimize the unnecessary extravagance and expense that so often accompanies our community’s Simchos. Naturally, I would add my name to the hundreds of others who have already joined the movement. Who wouldn’t? The idea of going over the top, and over the budget for some is by no measure a way to continue marrying off our children.

Allow me to preface by saying that I have a daughter who is B”H engaged and am in the midst of the typical wedding preparations. B”H I am financially comfortable and am blessed with the means that would allow me to make a Simcha “in style.” However, I have no desire to. Even before Corona hit, I would cringe when I attended such weddings and pitied the money spent to “enhance” the Simcha, when in reality, most guests would have felt more comfortable had it been a simpler and more toned down. Yet, I paused before signing and ultimately decided not to.

Permit me to explain.

According to the initiative’s guidelines, a maximum of 250 guest should be invited for the meal. Yet, no standards have been set and no mention has been made of the lavish meal, of the 15-piece band, of the sprawling centerpieces. It is very easy to make an extravagant wedding with only 250 people in attendance. All the more so, it is tempting. I don’t believe this will in any way deter the wealthy from making overstated Simchos. Less people, more upgrades. Why not serve rib roast to each guest? Why not hire the singer of the century? Fly flowers in from Holland? Opt for the highest end décor? It’s all in keeping with the Simcha Initiative, is it not?

I would hope, that especially in a time like this, after all the pain and loss we experienced, all we would want is to share our Simcha with the most friends and family possible.

Perhaps we can try to embark on a new initiative: An initiative to lessen that which accompanies our Simchos yet maximize those who join it.

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)


26 COMMENTS

  1. I too am a Mother of the Kallah, and I fully agree with this article, that the “initiative” lacks any substantial initiative to downgrade expenses of a wedding.

    Further, even the limiting of guests to 250 is, in my opinion, misguided.

    A true initiate would be to limit the guests, not by numbers but rather by category.

    The only guests at a wedding should be at a maximum:

    (1) Immediate family, up to and including first cousins.
    (2) 20 of the Mechutonims best friends – each side can pick up to10 couples, but no more.
    (3) 10 of the chosson and kallah’s best friends – each can pick up to 10 singles or couples, but no more.
    (4) Plus each side can invite up to 3 rabbonim/rosh yeshivas, but no more.

    The current misguided minhag is to invite everyone from shul, all neighbors, co-workers, people from bungalow colony, old class mates, every rov in the city that you once deveined in his shul, anyone you said good shabbos to in last 10 years, anyone who you might say good shabbos to in next 5 years.

    A wedding includes a sit down evening meal. The only ones that should be invited are people who you would normally invite to your home for supper. No one else! (And even those that you invite to your home for supper, maybe no need to also invite them to your wedding).

    The number 250 is both artificial and waaaaay too high. It’s not much lower than modest wedding that already take place routinely, without the “initiative”.

  2. Well said.
    Also, what is a “elaborate vort” 8 carving stations instead of 10??
    It’s a shame every time there is an opportunity for real change it’s wasted, they should have picked one thing, focus on it, get everyone aboard, and work on the second thing at a later time.
    Much easier to have people follow it that way.
    Or maybe stop the Seminary madness, if you want real change, and real saving in everyone’s pocket.
    It’s not as embarrassing to borrow or collect for a wedding, it’s much much harder for Seminary.

  3. there is nothing wrong with the rich people making lavish weddings. there is such a thing as standard, sub-standard and above standard. regular people should always aim and strive to do standard weddings and occasionally enjoy the above standard lavish wedding as an invitee. know where you belong and fargin yenem zein gelt…

  4. This is totally without thought. The halls cannot make a chasunah for 250 ppl. They will lose money. Either downgrade to a bar mitzvah hall and make it for 100-150 or the minimum has to be 350. Come to lakewood and see the most cheapest chasunahs possible.
    Besides what about cutting out seminary and saving between 15-30k. Why we cutting the already cheap chasunah that we already have?

  5. REB: while i to do not agree with it i dont dub it a “The current misguided minhag is to invite everyone from shul,”. One of my sons argued with me when I did not invite the entire shul to my daughters chasuna. In his opinion he thought I was not showing proper hakaras Hotov to those who invited me. I spoke it over with my Rov and I told him I was only planning to invite the Rov and the members of the board of the shul (7couples) as to try to limit the expenses. The Rov agreed with me and my son then stopped arguing with me. I dont recall anyone being upset at me that i didn’t invite themfor the full chasuna (but did invite for the simchos chosson vkallah).

  6. You’ll be happy to learn that in New Square a Shabbos Sheva Brochos cost more than the wedding itself,
    A typical wedding (not Ateres Tcharna) cost $4000 each side,
    No photographer by the men, (I refuse to look on my own wedding pictures, I got married abroad) no professional waiters by the men, there’s a rotation amongst the Kolel Yungeleit they have to go to weddings to serve at the meal,
    Only a DJ system is allowed, mind you when you stand outside the hall listening to the music one will not realise whether it’s live or not,
    No fancy shmancy food, a basic meal starting with a Challah, the Baal Simcha has the to choose between of Fish or fruit, a bowl of soup, Ball Simcha can choose chicken or Shnitzel, a side dish & veg, ice cream, & 2 salads at the center of the table,
    And guess what, once the guests go home we all know what happens, & the Baal Simcha is the most happiest person on God’s given earth,

  7. This Bride’s Mother is an unbelievable פיקחת and I couldn’t more wholeheartedly agree with her and more importantly 2nd her motion, that these guidelines must be rewritten, soonest, and certainly before we reopen America. Depending on the # of 1st cousins etc., 250 could be way more than necessary, and possibly way less than necessary.

    I also am not clear, if 1st cousins means of the young couple? or of the parents? {I certainly hope no-one was thinking of all the 1st cousin of the grandparents; Of-course I realize that if Grandpa’s 1st cousin lives on his block and they see each-other in Shul everyday, that would be understood to be an exception}.

  8. I agree with what you’re all saying, that the “initiative” is misguided. But I don’t think any of the details of the proposed initiative, as well as the various suggestions being made, are at all useful or any better than the original proposal.

    I made a number of weddings personally, b”H, some with not-shmaltzy families, and some with very-shmaltzy m’chutanim. Obviously we spent significantly more when dealing with wealthier people, but in no way was anyone coming to the wedding to “see how the other half lives”, so-to-speak. Everyone acted responsibly, and understood the lack of “yiddish-ness” in being showy and flaunting just for showiness’s sake, and the simchos were toned down and appropriate. So why do we need an “initiative”?

    The reason we think we need an initiative is because we have unfortunately accepted the premise that klal yisroel are a bunch of foolish lowlifes who either think they need to impress people, or they think their current and/or future m’chutanim will look down on them because they don’t “put out”. That is sad. Even people who can afford ridiculous luxury know (if they are truly frumme mentchen) how shallow it all is (if we’re talking about dealing with the modern, less religious crowd, then we’re surely wasting our time, since they’re not listening to this conversation at all). Of course we do have many foolish lowlifes amongst us, but why are we knocking ourselves out for them? Let us work on our own cheshbonos with the RBSh”A, and let them figure out theirs. So cut the baloney, and act like mature religious yidden, and we’ll have no problem!

    Of course, limiting numbers of people at a wedding is certainly a foolish enterprise, since family sizes differ vastly. For example, both my and my wife’s families came to America before WWII, and all were religious with fairly large individual families. So between us, we have more that 300 (bla”h) first cousins/uncles/aunts/etc. And we haven’t even started on the other side, the friends, Chosson’s/Kallah’s friends, etc. (yes, there were 550-600 people at every one of our kids’ weddings, except for one which was out-of-town). So the “initiative” as it exists is fairly foolish.

    Furthermore, this was once tried before, and the Rosh Yeshivos were asked to sign that they wouldn’t be mesader kiddushin at a non-conforming wedding. I think one Rosh Yeshiva stuck to his guns (while the rest either scoffed at the whole thing or begged off because it could hurt their donor base). So how are we doing better than that attempt?

    I’m just saying…

  9. Rebbetzin,
    With all due respect, most of the concerns you have with the initiative aren’t really relevant if you understand the purpose of this specific initiative and the issues it addresses.
    1. Fewer people comprises a smaller audience which automatically lessens the need to “impress”
    2. Fewer people means fewer invitations for the average frum parents and more kids home with their parents in the evenings.
    3. Signing doesn’t mean you can’t do more!
    I would love to see fewer gifts or less expensive gifts exchanged but this is a good start!

  10. The points you made are on target. At a shul I used to daven at (since closed down) the Rav put limits on kidushim. The limits were only cake, 2 salads and chulent with no meat,
    All f a sudden we started to have cake that cost over adollar a slice (that was over 20 years ago) and super fancy salads.

  11. I cry every time I see these open letters. Who are you calling “misguided”? The Rabbonim who authored the initiative? Have you lost your mind to even think of typing out such a letter and has Yeshiva World lost their minds to even contemplate posting such a letter challenging, no…mocking (“misguided”) an effort of our Rabbonim?

    They know good and well the point you make. Yet, they went ahead with it. If you don’t like an aspect of the initiative, this is not the venue to articulate it. Call the Rabbonim and voice your concerns….like I did. We had a concern, we called one of the rabbonim who clarified it for us and we were then comfortable signing on.

    This is not the venue and Yeshiva World…YESHIVA World should not be posting such open letters openly challenging and degrading our Rabbonim.

  12. I will be making a wedding shortly. This is not my 1st, 2nd, or 3rd wedding
    250 Minimum… Almost
    This is my real number.142 – Each side TOTAL 284 people
    EACH SIDE
    Children and grandchildren (over 6) 35
    Mechutonim 14 (7 couples)
    Uncles & Aunts 20 (10 couples – 5 from each parent)
    Shul friends (close, same age,table, etc.) 30 ( 15 couples)
    Bungalow colony 20 ( 10 couples)
    Business ass. 8 ( couples or singles)
    Cousins (1st.- we are really close with) 14
    Rabbonim shadchean, etc, 6
    Boys friends 15
    Girls friends 15

    The real question is which halls are willing to make weddings even of this size? One wedding hall I spoke to this week had been charging me $55pp. Due to a minimum of 150 people attending. (covid) They are now asking $100 pp.

    What a great opportunity for all Rabbonim, Roshai Yeshiva, & Chasiddishi Rebbe’s to band together and set guidelines. Vorts, Tenoyim, Shtreimels, and of course the wedding itself. They must be firm.

    An old idea from :Der Heim” There were levels of extras. And for each level an appropriate donation had to be made to the Kehilla. It was a large enough sum that deterred most middle class. ( the money was used for Hachnossas Kallah)

    THESE MUST STOP
    Shteimels now cost $7,000.00 for a medium quality. (x2 regular and rain) that is outrageous. It must stop.
    Singer $1,800 – 2,500.00
    Band $4,500.00 (3 peices)
    Badchan at Chuppa $500.00 ( 15 min )
    Badchan $2,200.00

    Jewelry and furniture are 2 items that have seen substantial price decreases over the years.

    Please comment.

    Let’s start crying under the Chuppa for the RIGHT reasons.

  13. Putting down a worthwhile initiative without giving substantial suggestions is not helpful. Obviously the initiative is quite limited but I am sure that is for a reason. Tofasta meruba lo tofasta. In order to increase people to get on board and not mock it the Rabbanim needed to be somewhat vauge and to also leave out a lot of detail. The main idea is that we should cut down on the expenses and begin to turn the wheel even if a little bit. Once people begin to limit the number of seated guests the hope is that the other extravagant expense will naturally be ditched too. Is the writer suggesting that we should put a dollar limit on expenses? Should they give more detail on what you should and should spend on? Those ideas have been tried and they do not get too far. It makes a lot of sense to give real number of seated guests, invite as many people as you want for the “simchas chasan vekallah” and to not give an exact limit for the vort. Hopefully by starting with the little, items like gowns, gifts, bands, flower etc. will follow. The main idea is to give mechutanim an opening to not feel like paupers when they say to each other “maybe we should try to cut down of the extant of the chasuna. We did sign the initiative….”

  14. Dear Anonymous Mother of Kallah,
    I see you wrote your essay without signing your name.
    Allow me to bring to your attention that the Rabbanim who wrote the Simcha Initiative signed their names to the document. You can look them up.
    Do you feel that you-
    – are more learned than them?
    – are smarter than them?
    – have more life experience than them?
    – have better judgment than them?
    Please choose one, or as many as you feel apply.
    I don’t know who you are but I’m confident that even if you spent many years studying Torah at wonderful Bais Yaakov’s and seminaries, it’s an outrageous chutzpah that you present your own ideas to be considered on par with theirs.
    You don’t need to apologize to me, but it would be a good idea for you to apologize to the Rabbanim in question.
    Please read Devarim, perek 17, passuk 11 and Rashi there.

  15. I concur with this mother. Someone can make a wedding for 250 people and still spend 150k or more. It is surprising that the Rabonim who signed onto this deal, have failed to address the root cause, over excessive spending and not guest numbers.

  16. It’s nice that the writer of this letter and all the commenters have ideas on saving money for weddings and other agendas .
    Let’s take a look at who initiated the idea of this simcha initiative. Our Rabbanim .
    These Rabbanim , who especially now are busy 24/7 , found it important to spend the time and energy to come with an initiative which they feel is very important .
    The Rabbanim have endless knowledge and experience in how to get an idea off the ground . And this is what they came up with , low key vorts and limiting the number of seated guests . Obviously they thought of all the other ways and found this to be the one that would carry through the best .
    Can we call an initiative misguided when it’s our Rabbanim guiding us?
    The Rabbanim started it it’s up to us as a Klal to take the steps necessary to make it happen.
    May there be an abundance of simcha in all your lives .

  17. To MDPR you obviously never made a wedding. The real problem is the rabbonim who signed this initiative made weddings. If so how can they sign an initiative that is so vague and not realistic?

  18. I read some of the post above but not all .
    It’s astonishing to me that the lesson people get out of this whole corona is which way is the best way to save money. Weddings, seminary’s , shtrimels , etc.. really ?? This is the message from hashem . I mean maybe the message is to start thinking more about other Issues rather than about How to save money .
    And if anything I’ll say that maybe the message is that you should invite more people rather than less because that what we are about . I agree with less fancy but less people how is that Jewish ?
    Maybe the next thing is how much guest I can invite for shabbos only family and close friends
    Chas veshlom no strangers SEDOM , hashem yerachem

  19. I’m new to this forum but I’m blown away. People are so scared of change that even something as globally disastrous as Covid-19 won’t subdue their yetzer hara. Sedom? Seriously? Inviting everyone you ever met for more than five minutes to a wedding is hachnosas orchim?
    We all know our weddings are out of hand. Have a better idea? Go for it,but don’t bash this initiative because it scares you!
    And regarding halls having a minimum? Hall owners will break their ballrooms into smaller spaces if that’s what the consumers want.
    If “marrying off our kids” wasn’t such a terrible burden, those of us not yet in the parsha would be able to breathe. Maybe those in the 45+ age group can’t grasp it but I would love to reach out to all those just starting the parsha to band together and commit to simple weddings and gifts and to move away from the “norms” that just shouldn’t have to be our reality!

  20. I am someone who did sign up to it notwithstanding the fact that I had some of the very same questions that were posted above. It’s true, flowers weren’t addressed. It’s true the band wasn’t addressed.

    But remember, this is not a Takana from Rabanim. When they tried that and they tried to address every part of the wedding, it was an epic failure. Because you can’t dictate normalcy. You can’t force practicality. These have to grow organically.

    Movements like this initiative is not something that’s going to change the world from one day to the other like the Takanos were intended. It’s going to take time and is going to take people making the socially responsible choices.

    Just like we are all practicing social distancing, it’s time for us to practice social responsibility.

    The purpose of this initiative and why they specifically didn’t dictate every aspect of the wedding Is because The 250 limit is just a starting point. If you can make that leap then the rest follows naturally. When you have only your closest friends and family, the need to overdo and impress is not as strong. You start to think and realize what’s really important.

    Don’t get caught up in the details. Understand what this movement is trying to accomplish and if it’s done properly, It can be a monumental accomplishment.

  21. Instead of “initiatives” with sweeping bans on whatever happens to be bothering you this week, everyone has a rov and should talk to them about what is appropriate. Any restriction can be skirted. People who want to spend money will find a way. You can limit a wedding to a minyan and I can still make it cost $200,000 if I really want. Work on your self-esteem and don’t spend if you can’t. At the end of the day, if someone will look down on you for making a nice simcha within your means, are they really a person you want to be associating with anyway? Anyone can make a very nice takanah chassunah for cheap, and if people have more money, let them make a nice simcha.

  22. I think the most effective way to help prevent people from overspending would be to close all money lending gemachim for chasuna.

  23. I made big weddings and they were beautiful . Between college, Seder, other simchos Most of the chasan kallahs friends came for simchas chodon vkallah only anyhow . And they came with so much energy and excitement .
    The next wedding I make iyh will follow these guidelines . Because what I realize is important is to have family who want to be there for the whole time And friends who want to be there to be misameach .
    No where does it say to limit the amount Of misamchim at the simchas chasan vkallah after the Seuda.
    Its not about less people , it’s about peoPle spending more quality Time at simchos without their children at home paying the price of their parents being out an entire night for a wedding every night.
    Parents can still do homework with and put the little ones to bed and then get dressed and go instead of rushing out the door the second they come home from school.

  24. To Lion,

    What are you talking about? Either you are too young or too naive. Money is a major issue when it comes to weddings especially if you have many children to marry off. Why do people need to get sick over how to pay for weddings and not enjoy the fact that the rebono shel olam gave them the opportunity to marry off their children. Instead, you walk around your own child’s wedding thinking about the expenses incurred when one shoud be enjoying the moment! I have been there done that! You obviously have not!

    Furthermore, why does a massive wedding with hundreds of people needed? You make no sense. It also puts a major burden on people that they must go to all of these weddings they are invited to (since now there is no limit according to your idea) whether near or far. It wastes evenings for couples, time to get there, strength wasted when they have to go to work the next morning, on the cheshbon of learning time and shiurim, and on the cheshbon of quality time with their families.

    You were the only one that addressed this issue UPSIDE DOWN! I read all the comments.

    Can you please get some fresh air since you thinking is so clouded, I am not sure why I wasted my time responding to this nonsense.

  25. As others have mentioned, this woman thinks she is smarter than these rabbanim. That is her right, and you may think she is correct, but lets say it the way it is.
    As to the point of the article, while on first read it seems intelligent, and was wondering this myself, true intelligent people will try to think of an appropriate answer. Or rather, ask one of these rabbonim straight.
    Here is something that i am thinking of [just a thought, if you dont like it, thats fine]
    The ONLY takanah that is a universal one [as in 95% of the time, as the rmbm states there are always exceptions even to things in the gemara] is to limit the number of guests.
    You say NO! why not a number of players at the band[as has actually previously been done and not worked]? the menu? the gown price?
    The answer is that, can you really expect Yankel of the Forbes top 7000, to attain a level of SIMCHA that is brought on by ‘basar v’yayin’ with the same chicken and potatoes that Reb Mordechai is having at his wedding?
    This is obviously a humorous mashal, but i think the point is clear.
    To illustrate with another story, i remember once walking into one of these new fancy nuts and cake type stores. It was all glitz and the price was definitely up there with the decor. My initial reaction was “what!? who spends this much for chocolate on a stick”?
    But then i realized something, there are people who are far wealthier than i am (so far that we wouldnt be able to make a porch minyan even if we could see each other : ) . And just because these treats were not affordable to me, doesnt make them inappropriate for others, it makes them inappropriate for ME. The problem is not with the store, it is with myself.
    I believe very much that that is true too for a chasunah, and every person has to know their place.
    The problem though, is that chasunas became a huge Party, and has to be lavish and everyone must come, and everyone must be impressed….
    Cancel that, be reasonable, only invite those that belong [to the seudah], close family, and close friends. Then you dont have to worry about marvin who wil be insulted if not invited, and unimpressed if he will. Then even if uncle Yitz said “wha’ noh cawving statiyons”?! You can be confident in answering that “we are keeping in budget”! Andyou can honestly skip on YOUR extravagance and NOT FEEL ASHAMED. Because it has become vogue not to blow weddings out of proportion. Snowball effect people. Not to get others to SPEND less than they can afford, But rather to get a culture of necessary and unnecessary, each on their own level.