prince charming
There are women that dream of one day having their weddings, marrying their respective Prince/ss Charming, and running away to his/her castle. And then there are the rest of us who don’t have harbor those kinds of dreams and are for the most part, consumed with the desire to avoid either the planning of that event or the actual event, at all costs. I fall in the “just get me to the alter and don’t you dare bother me with the details” category.

Most of the people who fall into my category either have husbands who might be event planners, big families who would gladly take over the planning piece, plans to elope, and/or tons of money to pay someone else to worry about it.

As luck would have it, I don’t have any of the above so I’m a bit stuck trying to sort out why I’m going through all this. My husband and I had a civil ceremony in Feb. 2007 so for all intents and purposes we feel very much married and in sync spiritually, physically, and mentally. On the other hand, it’s important to both of us for our kids (when we have them one day) to be born with a sense of legacy-to know that they are part of a long line of Jews and that things like family, tradition, and roots are important.

When it comes down to it, it’s also important for our parents. My mother passed away when I was 16 and I still hear her hammering away in my head about how important a Jewish wedding is. Not to mention my in-laws and brother-in-law traveling all the way from Israel – they deserve an event. And I know it’s big for my dad even though it’s not in his nature to say those kinds of things.

So now on top of being laid off and looking for work, I’m in the throes of planning a wedding when I’m not even sure where I want it to be (all i know is I don’t want to spend too much $$) and that it will be small, intimate gathering of immediate family and incredibly close friends. So if anyone knows Boston and might have a clue as to a venue for such an occasion that would be cheap-o, please let me know. Or for that matter, plan my wedding and tell me when to show up!

About the author



  • My sister got married just outside of Boston in a wildlife preserve, with about 45 people attending.

  • Friends of ours had their wedding in a small art gallery 🙂 I don’t know about Boston specifically but independent art galleries are nice small places, and if you find a younger one they might not charge you a ton of money to do it. Plus, doing it in an art gallery saves you money on decorations – our friends just used candles on the tables and limes in glasses because the paintings on the walls were enough. They also didn’t have a DJ or band, they had a nice playlist from their ipod and rented speakers. You could do the ceremony outside and have dinner inside, super simple and cute.

  • 1) I think your parents are more interested in the sacrament/institution of Jewish *marriage* than they are in a wedding reception. Let’s not confuse the two (and if they really just want to make a big party for their own friends, let THEM plan and pay for it!)

    2) I see the first posters have recommended “alternative” weddings at “offbeat” venues – but be careful: these can turn into more expensive logistical nightmares. With such an event, you take on even more of the planning responsibilities – which doesn’t seem to be what you want.

    In wedding planning as in everything else, convenience costs money. If you hire professionals with good reputations, you have less worry and personal involvement in the details. But that ease comes at a price. If you really don’t want to handle the minutiae, that price may be right for you.

    Conversely, if the budget becomes the main concern, then you will have to sweat the details because you can’t pay others to do things for you.

    I would find a not-to-fancy hall and choose the simplest catering, music, and decor options. Given the increased popularity and quality of video cameras, you many not even need a professional photographer. You may be surprised to find how reasonable a catered affair in a synagogue social hall can be – especially when compared to other more “interesting” alternatives.

    I would strongly suggest that you find a place with space with a dance floor – which is to my mind essential to the spirit of a Jewish wedding.

    All that’s really necessary to contain wedding costs and hysteria is a firm resolve to ignore the wedding industry’s social/advertising pressure that says you “must” have all kinds of things… things that are entirely optional, and often obscure the joy of the wedding itself.

  • …. and why a synagogue social hall?

    Because my understanding is that the point of this affair is the connection to Jewish traditions. So you can have the Jewish wedding ceremony in the synagogue, and the reception in the hall.

  • Maybe you mother-in-law secretly wants to plan it. I know mine did. But not secretly. She practically took over the event.

    Maybe designate one or two things to her to do and see if she wants any more.

    By the way, if I was having a wedding ceremony for Jewish tradition, I would probably have it at a a synagogue hall, like Ben-David suggested.

  • YI Brookline is a) not much $$ b) gorgeous. BYO rabbi if you’re not all about a Modox wedding. They also only approve of 5-6 caterers in the area, which is actually good because it cuts down on the possibilities.

    I got married there in April and it was lovely.

  • We had the ceremony in the sanctuary (but didn’t have to have separate seating) and the meal inside. The only things that are in the contract, as far as religion goes, are the following:
    1. no kol isha
    2. all mevushal wine.

    If you’d like to email about it, I’m gershonbartzvi at gmail dot com. I can also get my wife in the conversation, as she did most of the work. :–)

  • Have a site at – mostly about the religious stuff, not the flowers and all that but I can advise about wine and all that. Nothing wrong with a synagogue social hall if it’s nice (and it can be made nice with flowers) but certainly no halakhic obligation to do so. But it’s often the cheapest option for a certain level of niceness.

  • Beth, check from the start whether the location will try to tie you to a specific caterer, whether you’ll have to pay extra for every item of glassware / chinaware used or whether there’s a flatrate (cleaning & possible broken items included) etc. Come up with a fancy allergy if need be. 😉 Student organizations here usually let their students and alumni use their facilities for free.

    A cousin of mine that recently got married (in denims and a tunic shirt to our grandmother’s horror) rented a building that belongs to their community (an old school that was turned into a hall for social events, including kitchen and bathrooms) for 100€. [Some places also require safety deposits.] Since she’s a professional photographer and her fav colour is violet and her hubby collects stones of any place he travels to, the decoration mostly consisted of artsy square black and white photographs of the flowers that were also used for decoration. She’d laminated the individual photographs and handcrafted holders using the stones and silverwire and had a huge amount of tiny photographs like “sprinkles” on the tables. (Then again, their wedding turned into a bit of a hard rock party, don’t know how much that would suit you, but by any means, stay true to yourself. This’ll be your day. And while wedding cakes are a goyishe thing, if you choose to have one, I’ll gladly send you the edgiest cake-top ever.)

    [P.S.: Meshuganah is a noun. ;)]

  • Eh, I don’t think an art gallery is “alternative” or “offbeat.” I think if you can find one that is cute and independent, it may not cost more than a boring social hall, and since many are made to host events they have space for dancing. I know we danced up a storm in the gallery at my friends’ wedding. It’s essentially the same as renting a room, except the room comes with art in it so you don’t even have to decorate.

    It depends what you want. If you don’t really care, you just want to do it for the sake of your parents/in-laws, I would just let them do the planning. But if it were me, and I were on a budget for a small wedding, I wouldn’t do it in a social hall unless I really couldn’t find anything. I’ve been to weddings that were in a shul and then moved to the social hall, and they were fine but not for me 😛

  • Bridezilla – they are “offbeat” in the sense that they will not offer you already-worked-out packages for catering, etc. The original post gave off a strong vibe of not wanting to get involved overmuch in planning and logistics.

  • They may have worked out packages for catering but it most likely wouldn’t be kosher. I get what you’re saying, though, I just wouldn’t call it offbeat haha. I don’t think it’s that much more planning, depending on how many kosher caterers there are – for my wedding, the venue we booked didn’t come with a catering package but we only had a choice of 5 kosher caterers in the state, and one was so highly recommended above the others it wasn’t even really a choice.

  • I think Ben-David hit the nail on the head for the most part. When my husband and I planned our wedding we came well under budget and a lot of it had to do with focusing on creating a meaningful experience and not worrying if the flowers in the aisle matched exactly with the bouquet or whatever. (Yeah, really don’t sweat the flowers!) Also, we made our own chuppah, which was actually quite elegant and not difficult to make (we got beautiful material from a wholesale fabric store). I didn’t bother with professional hair and makeup… I figure I always do my own on fancy occasions anyway, so why should this be any different? I was perfectly satisfied with how I looked in the pictures.
    I too recommend a catering hall as well, if you choose an art gallery or wildlife preserve you’ll have to worry about additional details like food, sound/lighting equipment… and if it’s an outdoor location, consider the bathroom facilities available to you! (No joke… we were thinking of having an outdoor weeding until that very important detail came up!)
    One more idea, which turned out to be a huge money-saver: rather than hire a professional musician, consider contacting a music school or university in your area (Boston… Berklee College of Music?) Find out if they can recommend any students who would be interested in playing your wedding. You’ll have talented individuals who are eager for exposure and $$$ who’ll work for considerably less than experienced professionals. We had a great student flutist who asked a very reasonable price and did a beautiful job.
    Oh, and very important… remember to figure in tips in your budget! There’s good websites to guide you on that, but you’ll want to remember to do that.
    One more thing then I’ll shut up… check the wedding planning websites, they’re a huge help, esp. for folks like us who normally wouldn’t be caught dead doing this sort of thing! I recommend if you haven’t already checked them out.
    Anyway, I’m sure it will be beautiful… remember, it’s not so much the wedding that counts as the marriage!
    Congrats & good luck

  • I got hitched at 38 Cameron, an art gallery/event venue in Cambridge. It’s small but lovely. They can’t allow alcohol, though. It was, however, a good deal cheaper than most venues, and has built in decorations- no need for plastic centerpieces. Good luck! Wedding planning will try you nuts, but no need for it to cost a mint or to involve more tackiness than is required at a wedding.

  • “Oh, and very important… remember to figure in tips in your budget! There’s good websites to guide you on that, but you’ll want to remember to do that.”

    “In wedding planning as in everything else, convenience costs money. If you hire professionals with good reputations, you have less worry and personal involvement in the details. But that ease comes at a price. If you really don’t want to handle the minutiae, that price may be right for you.”

    I agree with both, although the latter isn’t completely accurate.

    As a freelance event bartender (and boy, I’m busy these months), and I’ve done many weddings of all faiths and styles (for a Muslim wedding I refer to myself as “Beverage Coordinator). I’ve also done flowers and built Chuppas for Jewish weddings from Reform to Conservative. When meeting with couples – some hire event planners, most don’t – we (caterers, bartenders, musicians, photographers, etc) emphasize that the impetus in making the day/night special is on our service more than the haughtiness of the cuisine or the price of the wine.

    These are tough times. People can’t spend what they would like but at the same time don’t want to worry about every little thing. When we meet with prospective clients (usually I meet them with the caterers who recommend me) we more often than not help them trim their budget. Buffet instead of plated, no need for five types of wine, instead of renting a Chuppa we make one from birch trees, etc. We also stress keeping it as green as possible – for example a keg instead of bottled beer, providing a refreshing pre-made non-alcoholic beverages rather bottles of water. All of which save money.

    In the end, we save the couple money and stress – but the responsibility for making it the experience they want is on us rather than what we serve. And that’s why we expect a little gratuity and most couples are happy to provide it.

    As far as feeling obligated to have a Jewish wedding in a synagogue, the problem with having both ceremony and reception in a synagogue – or church or private hall for that matter – you’re often forced into using their catering and bev service at their price. We have a kosher caterer here for private events. I strongly recommend being able to be able to make choices for all your services.

  • Beth, Bostonian here– check out the Griffin Museum, a photo museum located in Winchester, an upscale suburb about 10 miles west of town. A budget-oriented couple I know had their reception there– its a generous space, and the photo shows recently have been pretty stimulating, so there could be some nice work on the walls.

    The reference in #1 is probably to the Arnold Arboretum, located a bit south of downtown in the JP-Forest Hills neighborhood. Two lesbian friends of mine had their wedding ceremony there last month, and it worked out well– though you’re at the mercy of the weather.

  • Tom-
    Thanks! I look into the Griffin. I thought about the arboretum, but yeah, the weather has been so hit-or-miss lately.