Jewish Event Planning 101 – Wedding FLOPS is a Good Thing

Jewish Event Planning 101 – Wedding FLOPS is a Good Thing

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Congratulations and Mazal Tov – you’re engaged! We both know that wedding planning isn’t entirely smooth sailing; the question is, though – who splits the responsibilites so things run somewhat smoothly?

For Jewish weddings, there are traditionally two options when it comes to planning and divvying up the responsibilities for a Jewish wedding.  The first option in when the groom’s and bride’s family split the wedding tasks 50/50, down the middle regarding budget, planning, negotiation, and respnsibility from the hall to the caterer, music to the flowers and more. On one hand, this option is the most sensible way of planning a union of two families; on the flip side, difficulties seeing eye to eye and misguided comunication may arise since the two families barely know each other.

An alternative and increasingly popular option is what people call the “FLOPS” option.  FLOPS essentially assigns the groom’s family the tasks of handling the Flowers, Liquor, Orchestra, Photography and Sheitel (the term for wig, the traditional Orthodox head covering – see our post on Shaitels).  The bride’s family in turn handles all other aspects of the wedding, including the hall, the caterer, the invitations, and other services.  Although it seems that this option may attribute higher costs to one side, surprisingly, the costs for the bride and groom’s family are very similar.

Let’s dive into the details and ideas behind FLOPS:

PRIORITY ONE – Arrange your FLOPS.

FLOPS is totally determined by a persons tastes and budget and establishing a hierarchy for your FLOPS – be it LOPSF, PFSLO, SFLOP or any other combination – is the key for managing costs and placing the important items first. For example, ethnic Modern Orthodox couples may place a priority on Liquor over other stuff, so they could technically rearrange the FLOPS priority into LFOPS. Others may desire to have an ethnic feel to their wedding and opt for an orchestra that can accomodate ethnic music and sounds, so they would have Orchesta as a top priority. Know how you want to arrange your FLOPS hierarchy, and you’ll have a more cost-effective and personalized wedding.

Now, for the actual terms in FLOPS:

Flowers: Flowers are great, but combining flowers and decor are even better. You have to make a judgement call to determine if flowers at the hall/venue are enough. Synagogue, Temple, and Jewish Center sites are great affordable venue options but placing a few bouqets and floral arrangements on the table or at the chuppah are nice but not necessarily “florally decorated”; and unlike halls or country clubs, most Synagogues need some sprucing up by a decorator.

Liquor:  When planning a wedding, many people think that an open bar is the more expensive route, yet that’s not always the case. For instance, if the wedding hall has a liquor license, and you don’t have an open bar, then you have to buy the bottles from the hall and it can be very expensive.  A ten dollar bottle can be doubled if you buy it from the hall.  But an open bar can be as little as five or six dollars a person. Know what your hall can accomodate and see if they have vendors that can save you money buying directly if you choose to bring in your own alcohol.

Orchestra:  Because music sets the tone of a wedding, this aspect of FLOPS is usually the most expensive. Get a wide variety of quotes and make sure you hold everyone accountable to their agreements. For Jewish weddings, a DJ is great but usually only supplemental to an orchestra. Be sure to negotiate – many orchestras realize that Orthodox weddings are in a time-crunch so they won’t waver on price… until you bring a competiting offer to the negotiating table.

Photography: Determine if you’d like a classic photographer or perhaps a photojournalistic feel (kind of like picture storytelling). When looking into a photographer you need to look at two things. Most photographers don’t share the pictures so they will offer to make the albums for you but be sure you event WANT albums. In this social media age, having a CD of pictures to upload to Facebook or OnlySimchas could be a cheaper, more gratifiying method of remembering your special day, so be sure you’re not paying for albums if you don’t want them (especially since albums can be upwards of $800 for one album). Explore your quote to see if video or the albums are being included and if you can negotiate down by omitting them if you’d like.

Sheitel: We have a whole other post on Sheitels written by our female head Event Planner. Check it out here!

So that’s the FLOPS option. If you go that route, knowing your hierarchy will be the key to saving money, increasing the style, and making sure both families have their needs and desires accounted for!

Henry Isaacs

Jewish Event Planning 101 – A Behind The Bar Mitzvah Parody Video

Jewish Event Planning 101 – A Behind The Bar Mitzvah Parody Video

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Very very cute and innovative. And cheaper than Kanye West.

Henry Isaacs

Jewish Event Planning 101 – The Persian/Iranian Six Figure Wedding Dilemma

Jewish Event Planning 101 – The Persian/Iranian Six Figure Wedding Dilemma

The<br />
Jewish Journal
October 13, 2007

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Iranian Jewish couples trapped by six-figure party dilemma

By Karmel Melamed

Sam Cohan recently completed his residency. As he looked for a job locally, his student loans weighed on him. The 30-something Iranian Jew had grown up middle class in the Valley and had to take out the loans to pay for his education at a prestigious medical school.

With no immediate prospect for income, he found himself caught between feelings of frustration and guilt as his fiancee, her parents and his parents pressured him into a wedding he couldn’t afford.

Cohan didn’t want to break with Iranian tradition or disappoint either family, so he borrowed nearly $100,000 to cover the wedding expenses.

“I felt trapped with the whole situation and wanted to call everything off, but I decided to take the loan in the end because my wife agreed that we’d both work and pay it off little by little,” said Cohan, who asked that The Journal not reveal his real name.

Cohan is one of a growing number of young Iranian Jewish professionals who, due to family pressure, are incurring large debts to pay for lavish weddings.

Somewhere between keeping Iranian hospitality traditions and one-upping displays of wealth, a growing number of Iranian Jewish families today are inviting upward of 500 guests to weddings, with budgets in the six-figure range—typically from $150,000 to $300,000.

The strain of such expectations has led to infighting between families over who should cover the cost. Young professionals are also postponing marriage plans or opting instead for a destination wedding to avoid the financial pressures of holding the event in Los Angeles.

Most local Iranian Jews acknowledge the situation, but few in the community are willing to advocate for change. Rabbi Hillel Benchimol, associate rabbi of the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills, wants a greater dialogue on the issue.

“The problem is we are taking out the spiritual and emotional aspect of the marriage and instead it’s become a business with all the unnecessary spending,” Benchimol said. “People forget the spirit of the wedding—all you need is love, and everything else falls into place.”

Some young Iranian Jewish newlyweds say that while they did not necessarily want a large wedding, they feel pressure from their parents and extended family to put on a more lavish affair. Their parents, they say, feel an obligation to invite people whose parties they have attended.

“Persians have much more of a tight-knit community, and it’s very respect oriented—that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it leads to 300- to 400-person weddings,” said Ario Fakheri, who was married last year. “People get upset if you don’t invite their kids or grandmothers, they look at it as disrespecting them—there are so many ways to disrespect them.”

Fakheri said that while he and his fiancee invited almost 600 people to their wedding due to family pressure, many of his friends in the community are opting to have destination weddings.

“You can tell how bad they don’t want people to come to their wedding by how far away they go,” Fakheri said. “It’s basically code for how bad you want to have a normal wedding.”

Iranian Jewish religious leaders said the cost has resulted in several weddings being called off and some couples divorcing within a few months of getting married. There’s also concern that local Iranian Jews will marry outside of the community or outside of the faith in order to escape the mounting six-figure wedding pressure.

Community activists trace the growing trend back two or three years ago when local Iranian Jews began inviting 100 to 200 guests for their children’s bale boroon parties.

The bale boroon is a traditional Iranian courtship gathering prior to the engagement, during which a dozen members from the male suitor’s family visits with a small contingent from the woman’s family. During the gathering both families acknowledge the upcoming union and offer a small gift to one another.

“Today, when they have these large parties for the bale boroon, they must then top that with something bigger for the engagement party, and as a result the wedding must be an even bigger extravaganza than the other parties,” said Asher Aramnia, events director for the Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center in Tarzana.

(Asher Aramnia, photo by Karmel Melamed)

Aramnia, who also volunteers as a Jewish matchmaker, said the recent trend of expensive weddings were not the norm in Iran.

“In Iran we didn’t even have catering. The family members cooked the food or those who were well-off hired one private cook,” he said. “Here I’ve been to a wedding where the groom bought the bride a cherry-red BMW and put it on display at the entrance of the hotel for all the guests to see.”

Aramnia said at another wedding he witnessed a diamond-encrusted tiara being lowered from the ceiling onto the bride’s head.

Venus Safaie, a local Iranian wedding planner with 85 percent of her clients hailing from an Iranian Jewish background, said the highest costs for most weddings she helps organize come from securing a venue at a hotel and finding Persian-language singers, who charge $8,000 to $15,000 for two or three hours of entertainment.

“Well, you have to realize that these Persian singers charge more because the cost of living has gone up, and there are not that many of them around, so they can ask whatever price they want,” Safaie said. “Also people agree to pay them these high prices, so you can’t blame the singers.”

Dara Abaei, head of the L.A. nonprofit Jewish Unity Network, said his organization has been urging families to have smaller weddings. The group has also negotiated with certain vendors to give reduced fees to couples struggling to pay for their weddings.

“We’re trying to break the cycle in the community, to get them to not have engagement parties or get smaller engagement parties and try to share the cost of wedding,” he said.

Abaei said couples can save between $7,000 to $15,000 if they hold their weddings at the banquet halls of Iranian American Jewish Federation’s synagogue in West Hollywood, the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills and the Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center in Tarzana.

Another group, Woodland Hills-based Mayan Kheset, provides silk flower centerpieces in lieu of real flowers. The organization’s volunteers drop off and pick up the arrangements, and only ask that couples donate the money they would have spent on flowers.

“We encourage people to try to support a wedding of an orphan in Israel,” said Hirbod Cohentoe, Mayan Kheset’s founder. “We encourage couples not make their weddings so fancy, but donate some of the money to Israel or their favorite Jewish charity.”

While many local activist and religious leaders are trying to encourage Iranian Jewish families to have smaller weddings, others are calling for more radical steps to be taken.

“I have always wanted to see a revolution occur in the community when two or three affluent families that everyone knows very well, invite only 200 or 300 close relatives and friends for their weddings,” Aramnia said. “This will cause others who are trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ to copy them, and it may help solve our problem.”

Despite the community’s struggles to keep with old traditions and grapple with the high cost of weddings, experts said the pressure on young couples to have larger weddings is common in almost every culture worldwide.

“Well, there’s an old saying, ‘Every woman gets to plan a wedding—her daughter’s,’” said Dr. Sharona Nazarian, an Iranian Jewish psychologist. “It’s not just because we’re Persian or Jewish that we’re concerned. It’s universal, something that many brides and grooms have to deal with.”

While members of the local Iranian Jewish community said they were not opposed to those who had the financial means to have expensive weddings, they hoped others without such means would reconsider spending when they have to incur large debts.

“If someone can comfortably afford to spend lavishly on the wedding, that is their choice,” Nazarian said. “But it’s also important for families to work within their own means and be more concerned with their own needs as opposed to what others think about them.”

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Jewish Event Planning 101 – Tradition Meets Style: Beautiful Bukharian Wedding At The Pierre NYC

Jewish Event Planning 101 – Tradition Meets Style: Beautiful Bukharian Wedding At The Pierre NYC

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Henry Isaacs

Jewish Events 101 – Pearls, henna and challah: Sephardic nuptial customs

Jewish Events 101 – Pearls, henna and challah: Sephardic nuptial customs

Persian HennaPearls, henna and challah: Sephardic nuptial customs

Reprinted from JWeekly

Friday, November 8, 1996 | byBRIGITTE DAYAN

If you think the aufruf feting a groom-to-be always takes place the Shabbat before the wedding and that all Jewish brides and grooms fast on their wedding day, think again.

There are some notable differences between Ashkenazic and Sephardic weddings.

And even among Sephardic Jews, says Rabbi Michael Azose of the Sephardic Congregation in Evanston, Ill., there are as many rituals as there are communities.

“It’s impossible to pigeonhole Sephardim,” Azose said. “I’ve learned through my congregants that Persians are very different from Syrians, who are very different than Judeo-Spanish Jews.”

Many Sephardic Jews, particularly North Africans, begin weddings several days before the actual ceremony with an elaborate party to which the bride wears an embroidered velvet dress adorned with pearls and other jewels. Often, this dress is a family heirloom.

After guests share a meal, henna dye is painted on each woman’s palm, symbolizing both fertility and protection against the evil eye.

In Ashkenazic circles, a bride-to-be visits the mikveh (ritual bath) with a close female relative, usually in private. But in Sephardic tradition, all the women of the community accompany the bride-to-be and her mother and sisters to the mikveh. Afterward they enjoy a lavish feast of sweets, then dance in the mikveh’s foyer.

In Spanish-speaking communities, this custom is called noche de novia, literally, “night of the sweetheart.”

Although prenuptial immersion in the mikveh is a universal Jewish practice, Azose says it is followed more strictly by Sephardic women—a “must,” passed from mother to daughter regardless of observance level.

A wedding day is considered a yom tov, a festive event, and the Sephardic bride and groom do not fast. They are expected to savor a meal honoring the occasion. Also, Sephardic Jews have no tradition of bedeken, or veiling of the bride.

And Sephardic Jews consider the custom of yichud—in which the couple slips away for a private moment right after the ceremony—a davar mechuar, a “repugnant thing,” in that it compromises modesty.

Among Sephardic Jews the ketubah (marriage contract) is a binding contract: The two families negotiate a sum to be paid in the event of a divorce.

During the ceremony, the Sephardic bride does not circle her groom seven times, as is the Ashkenazic custom. The Sephardic couple generally faces the audience with a tallit draped over their heads, and the officiating rabbi has his back to the guests.

The Sephardic groom’s aufruf is held on the Shabbat following the wedding rather than the one preceding it. Called an Avram Siz, this rite demands the reading of a passage in Genesis in which Abraham sends his servant, Eliezer, to find a suitable mate for his son, Isaac. The name Avram Siz is Aramaic for “Avram was old,” the words that introduce this passage, which is read in Aramaic.

At the Sephardic weeklong celebratory feasts called Shevah Brachot, guests arrive at the couple’s new home bearing food and drink. The bride and groom are treated as a king and queen; seven wedding blessings are recited over them, and their home is likened to a royal court.

Although these customs have been practiced in one manner or another for centuries, in many parts of the world they face the threat of extinction. Of the United States’ estimated 6 million Jews, only about 10 percent claim Sephardic origin.

“There’s no question that the loss of Sephardic traditions is a tragedy,” said Azose. “The symbolism behind Sephardic rituals has much significance. We who see the beauty behind it also see the loss, and our only hope is to revive it.”

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