Why Are Jewish Weddings So Much More Expensive Than Others?

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Recent figures from The Telegraph and The JC confirm that the average Jewish wedding in the UK or US is three or five times that cost of a regular wedding. 

With the average Christian wedding costing around £20,000, it is not unusual for a Jewish simcha to cost north of £60,000 or even £100,000 easily, or as the JC put it: £130 per minute

From chupahs to chazzans, bridesmaids to benching, we dig a little deeper and discover why saying “I do” can cost you more than ‘just a few’ within the Jewish community.

Keeping up with the Cohen’s

Within the tight knit Jewish community, there is a certain level of expectation and competition to provide a good party and to not shnorrah on the details.

Daniel Goldstein of consumer finance startup, Dime Alley, explains: “Within the community, whether you are in London, New York or Joburg, there are a handful of caterers, bands and venues that are deemed good enough for a wedding and naturally most people will use them. These obviously come at a price.”

“In many respects, it might seem strange to go with an unknown photographer or caterer and there is something reassuring about using someone who has done a lot of other Jewish simchas already.”

“A good band starts at £5,000 to £20,000, a top kosher caterer starts at at least £200 per person and a venue will typically be around £10,000. Without trying, we have just got to around £50,000 for a wedding of 200 people.”

Big guestlist

It is typical for an ashkenazi wedding to start at 200 people or exceed 300 people. With sephardi weddings, having 500 or 800 guests in not unheard of. 

In fact, in Israel, it is commonly said that ‘everyone is invited to a wedding’ and people can show up without any formal invitation.

Furthermore, it is common for the bride and groom to load up their wedding retenue with bridesmaids and ushers, who’s suits and dresses are typically covered in the overall tab.

Living in more affluent areas

Whilst Jewish shtetls may be traditionally in low income areas, the changing face of the community finds them living in more financial capitals of the world including London, Moscow, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Sydney.

“Unsurprisingly, a wedding in London is likely to cost more than one of the old shtetls of Eastern Europe.”

“Many young couples are getting married in some of the most expensive parts of the world – and this comes with a premium.”

“There are certainly some cheaper places to get married, including destinations abroad where the guest list can typically be halved, with South Africa and Greece as popular destinations.”

Additional religious expenses

To ensure the wedding is observant from a Jewish perspective, this carries additional costs than your typical British or American wedding.

“To serve Kosher food, which has been approved by an authority to expect the kitchen and processes added to kosher-out the kitchen – can add an extra 30% or 40% to the food bill,” Goldstein confirms.

“The chuppah is a beautiful work of art, often ordained with flowers, and this adds up. The Ketubah certificate, benching books and kippot, all add to the final bill.”

“But if you ask me, the reason that Jewish weddings are that extra bit expensive is the desire of the Jewish people to live for the moment and enjoy special occasions with their loved ones. And who knows, maybe next year in Jerusalem?”

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