Big Jewish Weddings are Back, with a Personal Touch

An appropriate venue can be elegant and budget conscious. | Courtesy of Vela Events

More than just brides and grooms are saying “I do” this wedding season. Vered Asta, principal event planner at Vela Events serving the Virginia, D.C. and Maryland areas, has noticed guests saying “Yes” to attending more weddings, too.

“People have been using weddings as an opportunity for reunions of sorts,” she said. “People haven’t seen each other in a few years.”

Rather than intimate ceremonies with laid-back dress and modest receptions, weddings are big, bold and tailored to the whims of the couple. Asta shared her wedding trend observations ahead of a busy summer season.

Bucking Tradition

Working with a diverse Jewish clientele, Asta has seen new takes on the wedding traditions of old: Rather than just the groom circling the bride seven times, the couple circle each other. Similarly, once-gendered language in a couple’s ketubah is altered to be more egalitarian and eliminate clauses that feel dated or irrelevant.

While she’s familiar with planning interfaith and LGBTQ weddings, Asta has noticed clients choosing to spotlight different parts of their respective cultures, such as Sephardic and other non-Ashkenazi traditions. 

In an interfaith wedding between a couple with respective Indian and Jewish backgrounds, the couple chose to have an Indian ceremony, but said brachot over the wine and food in Hebrew. The tradition of the couple circling one another seven times is shared in both cultures.

“It’s been really nice — a new and exciting challenge to talk to our couples about, what is the right fit? And what are the traditions going forward that will mean the most to you?” Asta said.

Couples today are interested in big weddings with customized components. | Courtesy of Vela Events

Personal Touches

Picking meaningful traditions is part of a greater trend Asta has seen: Couples want to incorporate parts of their story into their reception.

One couple served milkshakes at the end of the evening, an homage to their first date. Asta said some clients choose to incorporate favorite or memorable restaurants into the evening through a giftcard giveaway.

Another bride and groom, instead of a guest book, had guests enter a phone booth and leave a voice message to wish the couple well. Shared personalized sentiments go both ways. One pair of clients wrote personalized notes on each guest’s name placard.

Personalized ceremonies and receptions are in part a result of parents, once insistent on having a hand in their children’s wedding, taking the backseat in the planning process. Gone are the days of someone’s father inviting his business partner to his child’s wedding.

“Couples are speaking up for themselves, but also the parents are being more open to recognizing that it means more if these are people that they know, and it’s a more meaningful celebration if it’s people they know,” Asta said. “So it’s really more of a collaborative planning process.”

Sustainable Solutions

Clients not only want to be creative, but eco-friendly as well. Vela Events, as well as other event planning companies around the country, have found ways to accommodate that desire.

“Couples are certainly more conscious of what is happening after the event,” Asta said.

If clients want to have compostable plates and silverware made of bamboo or other organic materials, Vela Events will compost them, along with food scraps from uneaten plates. Extra food and unused ingredients will go to shelters or local food pantries.

Vela Events donates flowers and floral arrangements to women’s shelters
as well.

Staying in the Budget

After years of COVID-impacted weddings, couples have been pulling out the stops for their celebrations, but Asta is aware that some clients may not or cannot break the bank for their special day.

To still make the day feel special
while saving some cash, Asta recommends hiring a DJ instead of a live band, or switching out a multicourse meat meal for a dairy or vegetarian catering option. Couples will often opt to provide beer or wine for guests at the reception, instead of an open bar. Of course, a small guest list means lower costs, too.

Considering an appropriate venue that accommodates these budget restrictions can help the wedding keep its charm and elegance. If you have a beautiful outdoor venue, you may be able to save money on decor or dress the event down, if you have little interest in spending money on a gown or tuxedo.

Making some sacrifices may be necessary to planning the big day, but Asta recommends having three core components to prioritize: “Great music, excellent lighting, really great food. I think people always
remember those.”

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