The project “Our Weddings, Our Wallets” (Issue 773) continues to draw reader feedback. Below is a sampling
From the Bottom Up — Shmuli Margulies, Chairman of Mesila
n a recent article in Mishpacha, Reb Shia Markowitz, a personal friend and a friend of Mesila, was interviewed regarding the wedding guidelines that were proposed and subsequently shelved.
I believe the reason the guidelines didn’t make it then and wouldn’t accomplish the purpose now is because people don’t want to be told what to do, even via the indirect tool of across-the-board takanos, or, as defined more softly — “guidelines.” Even if the name is more elegant, the principle is the same: It is trying to achieve change from the top down, while we believe that the change must come from the bottom up.
The only true solution is to give people in our communities the deep-seated motivation to live with financial stability, without loans and without charity — for their own sake. When they realize what they stand to gain — the serenity and quality of life — they will choose to keep the bar lower of their own accord.
When people are motivated to take charge of their quality of life, they are able to take effective steps to lower wedding spending. And more often than not, when people “compromise” on perceived standards, they gain in the quality of the wedding. The spotlight is taken off of the external trimmings and swings to the essence of the event.
This kind of change must come from within, not — or, at least, not only — from externally imposed limitations. Because there will always be the drive to “keep up with the Joneses.” And there will always be the struggle between, “A wedding is once in a lifetime; splash out as much as you can!” and “It’s just one night; what for?” But when those temptations are countered by the powerful attraction of living a life of true values, people will more easily resist societal pressures and allow the voice of reason to prevail.
The answer is not to limit, but to empower. To open people’s eyes to what they are sacrificing on the altar of “societal norms” and give them the inner stamina to choose lasting serenity over short-lived, perceived benefit. To provide our children with the strength of character to resist negative social influences and reach for genuine quality of life — because only if the young couple also wants this does it stand a chance of happening.
Mesila is working toward this goal by educating children in schools and young adults in yeshivos and seminaries, and by reaching the community through coaching, workshops, and lectures. Our mission is to motivate people to live a financially secure life — not because anyone is telling them they must, but because that is what they genuinely want, and because this is truly for their long-term benefit.
Poor Man’s Bread? — Binyomin Perlman
read your article about wedding expenses and suggestions to reduce the costs, and found it very interesting.
My father a”h used to say, “Keeping up with the Jones is easy; it’s keeping up with the Schwartzes that’s hard.” He and my mother a”h, both Holocaust survivors, never cared what the Schwartzes did. They lived below their means so they were able to buy a house, without having parents to help with the down payment. They retired at age 68 and lived off Social Security and their savings.
My parents made my brother and me normal bar mitzvah celebrations in a hall and a kiddush in shul, and for me a balabatishe wedding in the Menorah Hall in Boro Park. Afterward, my parents and in-laws didn’t provide us with a monthly income. They gave us gifts or money when they wanted to. We never demanded from our parents anything, and were happy with what they provided us with.
I have gone to many fancy (wasteful) simchahs, where I was shocked with what some people spent, especially since I knew in those cases that the people were borrowing the money via credit cards, or were taking out private loans, or that money had been raised in shul for them.
I have also gone to some simchahs where the families made a combined vort and tena’im in their house and then made a normal takanah wedding afterward.
If you look around after a wedding or dinner, you will notice that many rolls remain untouched/ uneaten and eventually end up in the garbage, incurring the prohibition of bal tashchis. I started a campaign a few years ago, and have baruch Hashem been successful in convincing many yeshivos and charities to do away with the “one roll per person” policy, and instead put a plate with six rolls in the middle of the table. This saves them money and prevents the waste of rolls and bread. (How many Holocaust survivors would have loved to be able to find and eat during the war years what we throw out today!) I have also convinced some baalei simchah to do the same at their weddings.
I hope that people will take this suggestion to heart and reduce the waste of rolls and bread at their simchahs.
Dance, Don’t Eat — C.P., Queens, NY
hen my husband left kollel, he became an elementary school rebbi. Shortly thereafter, the menahel made a chasunah, and we were invited. Until that point, I had never experienced being invited to a wedding out of obligation, and we ourselves were not even up to making bar mitzvahs, let alone weddings. I remember thinking, “He is inviting us because he feels he has to, and my husband will attend because he feels he has to. Isn’t that a sad waste of everyone’s time and money?” But that was the system. What could we do? My husband went.
Several years later, my husband switched to a different yeshivah. When he got invited to weddings his co-rebbeim made, he would respond that he would stop in to say mazel tov.
“You mean you’re going to drive 45 minutes each way, and circle for parking, to stop in for 15 minutes?” I asked him.
“Yup,” he said. “That’s what we do.”
Needless to say, that’s what he did.
When we made our first wedding, during the second dance, almost every single rebbi came and danced with my husband with hearts full of simchah. None of them gave up his night of learning, tutoring, or time with his family. They added so much to our simchah without costing us or themselves a penny. Although my husband has moved on from that yeshivah, he continues to share simchahs with those rebbeim, and they continue to be mesamei’ach each other with the same heartwarming camaraderie.
As a klal, we get invited to many weddings. Perhaps the responsibility to cut back is on us, the klal, not (only) on the baal simchah. He may feel he should invite you. But our job is to think: Maybe I can respond that I don’t need a meal, and still come and be mesamei’ach. The baal simchah still gains, and we gain our time at home with our families, preserve our evening obligations, and still fulfill the mitzvah of simchas chassan v’kallah (and parents).
In this way, we as a klal will help alleviate the financial burden of making weddings.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 776)