Large Hasidic movements – such as Ger, Vizhnitz, Satmar, Sanz and Belz – recently issued special rules aimed at cutting wedding costs. The Sanz movement, for example, released a book of rules presenting the maximum prices the bride and groom's families should pay for each wedding clause in order to save tens of thousands of shekels.
The expenses begin as early as the matchmaking stage. Matchmaking fees, for example, have been limited to NIS 3,700 ($990), and the engagement party must cost up to NIS 800 ($215). Up to NIS 500 ($135) can be spent on a bouquet of flowers for Shabbat, preferably a synthetic one. So far, the families have saved some NIS 6,500-7,500 ($1,740-2,010).
In the groom's gifts chapter, the maximum sums are NIS 400 ($110) for a luxury watch, NIS 2,490 ($665) for the Orders of the Mishna, NIS 950 ($255) for a set of Shulchan Aruch books, NIS 800 ($215) for a goblet with a saucer and NIS 400 ($110) for a Passover set of books or a tefillin and tallit case.
There is a general restriction of six gifts and NIS 7,000 ($1,870) for the groom, and the bride's parents are expected to save NIS 12,000-15,000 ($3,200-4,000).
In the bride's gifts chapter, the maximum tariff is NIS 600 ($160) for a watch, NIS 2,600 ($700) for a gold necklace, NIS 2,400 ($642) for a bracelet, NIS 1,500 ($400) for a gold ring with a semi-precious stone, NIS 500 ($135) for pearls and NIS 600 ($160) for a set of holiday prayer books.
And there is a non-financial restriction on a pair of candlesticks: They must weigh up to half a kilogram (1.1 pounds) and be up to 33 centimeters (13 inches) high.
The total sum spent on gifts is limited to NIS 10,000 ($2,675). The groom's parents are expected to save NIS 15,000-17,000 ($4,014-4,550). Other gifts between the in-laws have also been limited.
In the Shabbat Chatan and Shabbat Kallah customs, the restrictions include throwing small bags with a selection of almonds, raisins and sweets when the groom is called up to read from the Torah; the groom's family will have the Shabbat meals at its own house; the Friday night meal will not include any guests, or only the father of the bride and grandfathers; the other family members may join the end of the meal with some refreshments. The family is expected to save NIS 10,000-13,000 ($2,670-3,480) on this clause.
In the wedding party chapter, the maximum price for the wedding dress is NIS 3,500 ($935), renting clothes for schoolgirls – NIS 200 ($55), renting clothes for high school or seminary girls – NIS 300 ($80), a chair for the bride – NIS 450 ($120), a bouquet of flowers for the bride – NIS 200 ($55), drinks – NIS 4,000 ($1,070), a photographer – NIS 2,500 ($670), and a band (including a singer and equipment) – NIS 3,300 ($885). Some NIS 19,000-23,000 ($5,085-6,155) are saved in this chapter.
Rabbi Avi Zarki of north Tel Aviv has convinced couples to have a relatively modest wedding more than once. "I've conducted weddings which cost millions of dollars, just to make others jealous," he says.
"It's unnecessary. When I see people investing money in a wedding instead of in an apartment, leading to debts, I ask the permission of the parents and the young couple and advise them to change their list of priorities."