Last year when the last of the Admor from Gur's sons, Rabbi Yaakov Alter married, more than 50,000 followers including women, children and elderly guests came to rejoice in the wedding celebration. On Tuesday, at the grandson Aaron Noah Alter's wedding to Rachel Wasserzug, the celebrations were far more modest with "only" 30,000 taking part.
During the early afternoon hours police cordoned off the surrounding streets to allow access for guests who arrived from Bnei Brak, Jerusalem, Ashdod, Arad, Hatzor and other cities to partake in the Gur "Wedding of the Year."
The majority of Hassidic followers does not know the couple personally, but feel a closeness and joy at their marriage, "in a way that only a Hassidic follower would understand," explained Hanna, one of the many invited guests. The chuppah was held in the Romema neighborhood on the roof of the Beit Yaakov seminar, so that everyone could get a good view of the ceremony.
Following the chuppah, the women, headed by the Admor of Gur's wife, went to the women's quarters at the main Hassidic synagogue. Not all the guests could be seated at the table for a meal, but they all got to sample something from the large buffets offering light refreshments. The same applied in the men's quarters. Over the sign "Mazal Tov" a line of hundreds of women waited to pass by the rabbi's wife to give their blessing on the occasion of her grandson's wedding. The men remained at the Beit Yaakov building.
Inside the building the groom sat alongside his father and grandfather, the Admor from Gur, as the men gave their blessings and others danced in wide circles outside to the sound s from the loudspeakers positioned all around.
At 7.30 pm the families went in for the large feast, to which relatives, honored guests and philanthropists were invited. Despite the size of the wedding celebration, the Hassidim from Gur have strict customs for holding such events.
The Admor from Gur has five sons and four daughters. The Admor married his last son a year ago, when 50,000 Hassidim came to join him in the last time he would escort a son to the chuppah. Now, after the phase of marrying the grandchildren has commenced, the weddings will be smaller. Leah believes that this wedding will only cost USD 1 million as opposed to the last one that totaled USD 3 million. Despite his great wealth, the Admor's followers stress that the cost of the wedding was covered by the Admor's personal finances, "he doesn't take a cent from anyone," they say.
Some 400 guests were invited to the Mitzvah feast conducted after the wedding, "because there are a lot of people the rabbi would like to see."
The Hassidim from Gur are very modest in everything associated to etiquette of honor and respect, and Gur regulations stipulate the participation of a maximum of 400 wedding guests. "It’s good for us says," Leah, "it makes life easier."
There are also rigid rules pertaining to purchasing an apartment. In other denominations in the orthodox community, the burden of purchasing an apartment falls of the bride's parents, and in many cases the "value of the match" is decreased when parents do not have the means to purchase an apartment. Gur followers attribute less importance to this matter, and often share the cost of the apartment or rent one.
Additionally, during the first years of marriage, young couples are not permitted to purchase an apartment in the more prestigious areas in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem, in order to avoid envy and competition among other couples. The preference is for the first apartment to be located outside of these cities, in Ashdod or Arad for example.