Matchmaking, money and everything in between: With some 10,000 couples marrying every year the world of haredi matchmaking has become a major industry.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) there are 135,000 households that see themselves as part of the haredi sector, and with an average of six members in each haredi family, roughly one million people belong to the haredi sector in society. This means that nearly every haredi family has a family member undergoing the matchmaking process at any given time.
Within the haredi population each community has its own clearly defined rules and regulations.
For example, in the Gur Hasidic sect the current rebbe has determined that only a certain number of people will be invited to the wedding, what kinds of gifts guests can give the couple, what the parents can give the bride and groom and whether to have a dessert table at the engagement party. He even has a say in where the young couple will live.
In haredi-Lithuanian (Misnagdim) circles it is more customary to "pay" for a good groom, one that sits and studies at the elite of yeshivas: Ponevitch, Chevron and Ateret Yisrael. A groom who is considered by his rabbis to be a scholar will receive the "full settlement" i.e. – the bride's parents will pay for everything.
Though when the parents on both sides are considered to be equally wealthy it is often the custom to divide the expenses 50/50.
It should be noted that haredi wedding expenses are considerably cheaper than in other sectors of the population. An average plate will cost no more than NIS 100 ($26) and it is even possible to find settings for NIS 50-60 ($13-16), including tax.
But before the wedding, one must make a match. The matchmakers themselves have no easy task: Each must promote his "wares" in the best possible way, which is why they have the most intimate data on each and every candidate in their files; including each family's financial information.
Finances also come into play during the "courtship," if the prospective couple makes it to a second or third date; the financial wrangling between the parents begins. Many a match has come to nothing when the sides fail to come to an agreement.
If the happy couple manages to scale the matchmaking mountain and reach the wedding day itself, they, unlike their secular counterparts, will most likely not be collecting a multitude of checks at the end of the evening.
Gifts are more popular in haredi circles, and if a guest does decide to make a check out to the couple – the sum will average at NIS 100-180 ($26-50). In additional to socio-economic reasons, this practice also stems from the fact that not all guests are invited to the entire wedding celebration.
Some guests will only be invited to the ceremony, others to the reception, and some may simply be invited to congratulate the couple at the end of the evening. Add that to the fact that a haredi person may be invited to over three weddings every week, and even gifts start looking like quite an expense.
Avi Bentov is assistant director general of "Kav Itonut," a religious journal specializing in marketing and is a lecturer on advertising and marketing