Monday, September 17, 2007

Materialists Anonymous (NY Chapter)

I had a very educational Rosh Hashana. I learned about the following New York customs:

  • Kallah Bracelets- (Apparently the groom doesn't know your ring size, so when you get engaged, he gives you a diamond bracelet instead)

  • Chosson Watches (The bride has to give the groom a fancy watch)

  • Pearls in the Yichud Room (except for Sephardim)

  • Cufflinks in the Yichud Room

  • FLOPS (Flowers, Liquor, Orchestra, Photographs, Shaitel) is to be paid for by the groom

  • The bride pays for the wedding hall

  • Someone (I forget who) has to buy the groom a tallis and attara
I think this is ludicrous.

Do you know what the Yichud room is? It is the first time that the couple is together, the first time that they are allowed to touch. They have never touched one another before, have always respected the privacy and sanctity of one another's bodies. But now they are able to touch, to truly connect with one another. How can one turn something so beautiful into something so coarse as a materialistic exchange of gifts, mandated by some code that makes absolutely no sense?

Similarly, how is it possible for a person to openly admit that if her sister were to be given a diamond ring that was larger than hers, she would be jealous; she would prefer her sister not to have something because she didn't have it? Dustfinger and I fight over many things, but we have never fought about material possessions. It would never occur to us to fight over such things. Does one measure the love of the bridegroom by the size of the diamond he bestows upon you? What lunacy is this?

To have money is no sin, but to value money above everything else in the world is.

I never was exposed to this before; I never understood this before...


Anonymous said...

I have heard people say that the groom should give the bride presents before the wedding (when marriages were very formal arrangements, where the bride and groom might barely know each other before hand, this was doubtless important to encourage some affection). Likewise, I have heard the minhag for the bride to buy the groom a tallit (I don't know if it ties in with the minhag of some communities not to wear a tallit before marriage). But making it all so formal seems counter-productive, removing the romance and intimacy that it was intended to foster.

That said, I can imagine how this could have arisen. I can imagine that the first bride or groom to think of this was actually very romantic (well, not the bit about who pays for the hall, flowers etc.). And then a couple of people hear and decide to copy, because they are also romantic but not so imaginative, and then a few more people hear and copy them... and soon it becomes a 'keeping up with the Cohens' thing: "my sister was given pearls by her husband - obviously you don't love me as much as he loves her!"

Anonymous said...

Most of these arent NY customs, they are "frum" customs.

Also, in the regular world, tradition is that the bride's family pays for the entire wedding and the grooms family pays for the rehearsal only.

Scraps said...

At first I was going to ask where you spent such an "educational" three days...and then I remembered. Unfortunately, none of the stuff you listed is a surprise to me, but I still think it's pretty stupid.

BrooklynWolf said...

Yeah, well, I guess we're not truly frum. :)

When I got engaged, I didn't give my wife a bracelet... I gave her a ring, which she promptly ate. It was a candy ring... being fairly poor at the time, I didn't have the money for a real diamond ring.

I *did* get a watch from eeees, and it was a nice watch, but not a tremendously fancy one.

Eeees didn't get pearls in the Yichud room, but instead got diamond earrings. But these weren't just any diamond earings. When I became engaged, my mother game me her engagement ring (being divorced, she didn't use it much anymore) and game it to me. I had the diamonds removed, some of which went to an engagement ring for Eees and the rest for the diamond earrings.

Our parents split the cost of the wedding. My in-laws bought my tallis for me, but I never viewed it as a "right," rather, it was a gift. If they didn't buy it for me, I certainly never would have asked them to.

The Wolf

haKiruv said...

Ashkenazi for tallis is for males to receive their first one by the bride or bride's father, I think. Nusach Sephardi is to receive tallit at bar mitzvah, right?

Weddings sound expensive. I always thought modern-day gift giving to be silly, anyways. If you're going to buy someone a gift, make sure it's useful or that they really want it.

Jack Steiner said...

Also, in the regular world, tradition is that the bride's family pays for the entire wedding and the grooms family pays for the rehearsal only.

That is a tradition that is rarely followed. More often than not the cost of the wedding is split.

Anonymous said...

"They have never touched one another before, have always respected the privacy and sanctity of one another's bodies."

Dont worry, this probably isnt true for about 95% of orthodox couples.

Also, touching is the last thing anyone can think about in the yichud room. Most are focused on breaking their fast and trying to rest for a few minutes.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:07,
you sound so unromantic and jaded!

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

In Israel, weddings costs are usually split. No silly rules who pays for the band/flowers/etc...

However, among Chareidim, it's customary for the parents of the couple to...BUY THE COUPLE AND APARTMENT. Don't ask me where they get the money from.

Another custom from the kalla's parents is besides giving the the chatan watch is: The Shas.

Thankfully...these things are much more relaxed in Israel.

Oh yes, and we dance down to the aisle necessary :)

Anonymous said...

"Anon 11:07,
you sound so unromantic and jaded!"

A yichud room is as romantic as an arranged marriage where you meet your spouse for the first time at your wedding.

All these artificial religious rules are the antithesis of romance.

Anonymous said...

"That is a tradition that is rarely followed. More often than not the cost of the wedding is split."

Not true at all. Do a google search, there are many surveys that have been done. In majority of weddings where the parents pay for the wedding the brides parents pay for most of the cost (the grooms family will often pick up one thing as an accomedation). Also, now that many couples get married older and already have jobs, its becoming more common for the couple themselves to pay for the wedding.

Anonymous said...

I don't know... these aren't "hard and fast" obligations, they're just a way things are done-- Obviously, every family can choose to do things differently.

My friend went through all of these trappings, incidently, and B"H she is perfectly happy :-)

Anonymous said...

silly me, but there is a concept of lehotzee min hakoach el hapoal - forming the emotional love felt between two people into a physical thing so as to make it more comprehendable, to aid in making the relationship more concrete.
perhaps the customs arose to ensure that no necessities would be overlooked

Holy Hyrax said...

were you at my shul for the shabbat shuvah drasha, when the rav criticised the materialism he finds and actually mentions the absurdaty of a new minhag called a "yichud gift"

Ezzie said...

Eh. They are mostly frum, not NY, customs; they're as common in Chicago.

But while I agree basically on the materialism, most are more about practicality than anything else.

FLOP vs. Wedding Hall (didn't know about the S!) is a good fair way of splitting the costs without it getting out of hand. That was used to keep costs down and fights out - by having each side pay for specific items, it allowed them to choose how much they wanted to spend without feeling pressure from the other side to "do more" (though there still is plenty of pressure).

A tallis is not all that expensive, and a nice gesture to a guy who is about to married from (usually) his in-laws. Someone has to buy it; it's a nice but inexpensive gift.

Kallah bracelets - Not even just a frum thing; I was surprised when my own sister suggested I get one for Serach when we got engaged. It's a nice gift (also should not be overly expensive) when you don't feel comfortable shopping for rings before engagement or perhaps can't afford one right away. (Could be many reasons - no time, some people think it's an ayin hara, etc.)

The chosson watch I think is ludicrous; OTOH, my in-laws insisted they wanted to get me something anyway because they wanted to give a gift (a feeling you may be aware of ;) ), and finally just bought me one regardless when I wouldn't tell them what I wanted. Again, this doesn't need to turn into some crazy fancy ordeal - mine was very nice and a good price, not some $400-$2000 heavy thing.

Pearls/Cufflinks - It *is* nice to give a small present to your spouse in your first moments alone after you're married. That some people make it into something very expensive I think is out of hand; I gave Serach her necklace that she'd wanted, she got me a cute book that she'd written in. Then we ate and drank Powerade since we'd fasted on one of the longest days of the year.

Re: the touching, yes, it is nice, but as one Rebbe noted "the yichud room doesn't need to be a place to have a make-out session". Being alone, being close, touching/hugging/kissing a drop and catching your breath/eating/drinking is nice; a small gift and telling each other how you feel is really nice, too. I'd bet that people turned it into cufflinks/pearls to ease the pressure of people feeling they had to top the other's gifts; just make it personal for another if you're not into that. But it's not *that* crazy of an idea, even if the expensive purchases are out of hand.

As for the ring thing... sad.

Anonymous said...

"S" is for the sheitle, I believe :-). And Ezzie, I agree, many of these things are simply practical and the "extras" are considered "nice." I had the impression that the chosson-watch thing went way back, but I could be totally off-base.

Irina Tsukerman said...

I've never heard of any of these, to be honest, and I've been living here for nearly twelve years!

Irina Tsukerman said...

(then again, I've been to exactly one wedding, and the couple paid for it since they were a bit older)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

FLOPS...the "S" is for SNOOD.

Anonymous said...

i think the watch thing was done in europe be4 WWII nothing to do with materialism

silk tallit said...

The Silk Tallit is a beautiful silk material with the Psalms imbedded throughout. It only comes in a light blue on white color.