By Larry Gordon

Someone asked me the other day what it costs to make a wedding these days. That is a very broad question, something along the lines of asking what it costs to buy a car.

In other words, it varies. It involves an array of considerations beyond the idea that wherever the kids get married and whatever flowers are on the dinner tables or drinks are at the bar, at the end of the day and either way, they will be married.

While this is just a column in a newspaper, it also serves as a checklist for me on the matter of what I should be doing and what I should stand clear of as we head into three weeks before the big wedding day, iy’H.

Admittedly, there are not many things I have to do, and based on my extensive experience in this area, I may have perfected the best formula, though I probably should not have written those words.

So here’s my personal to-do list ahead of the big day.

Quietly and without fanfare or imposing on anyone, I left my office one afternoon and bought a suit. You’re probably thinking that I bought a black suit, and you are on target on that count. At the same time, however, it was not an easy choice, as a black suit is not just a black suit anymore. Of course, when you walk into a room of black suits, whether at a wedding, another simcha, or in shul, from a distance all the suits that the men are wearing just look like they are black.

Ah, but that is where your error is, because there are a multitude of black materials, and that is what took so much time to select. I sat there studying the different suit jackets and the very subtle nuances in the designs and quality of the fabrics. I’ve purchased many suits over the years for special occasions, and for no special reason as well. But frankly, I don’t think I ever studied fabric of a suit this closely.

After we settled on a black suit, we figured we might as well buy another, as long as we were there looking at various suit types. At first we were considering a very deep navy blue, but it looked so similar to the black that it felt redundant. So we shifted over to the selection of deep grays. We picked two quickly; now we need to have them altered and we are on our way, right?

Nope, not so fast. Now there is the matter of proper shirts, ties, shoes, a hat (for the chuppah at least), and so on. And I almost had you convinced that I was completely not involved in the preparations for this wedding!

Before we get back to the other things I need to do over the next few weeks, let’s take a peek at what still has to be done just outside of my purview. The wedding hall, the food service, and so on are being taken care of by the kallah’s side. Our responsibilities include flowers, liquor, music, photography, and a few other related items. So first off, flowers I have nothing at all to do with, though I did sit in on one meeting about the floral designs and arrangements.

I looked at the different samples, reluctant to say that one was nicer than the other, which was met by a long silence. Looks passed between the other few people in the room, inquiring with subtle facial expressions whether I was paying attention at all to what was going on.

It is not a new innovation but some kind of backward advance, if you will, in how tables are set up at a wedding these days. At a wedding with separate seating for men and women, the women’s tables have very intricate floral designs and the men’s tables do not. Our party consultant said she once polled ten men at the same wedding asking what type of centerpieces they had on their tables, and she received ten different responses.

Sometimes on the tables on the men’s side of the mechitzah you will observe a large or tall vase filled with water but no flowers. Sometimes the people designing these things just put rocks in the vases, which makes me wonder if they are trying to communicate some kind of message to us.

The straight answer is that it just doesn’t pay to have flowers for the men. But that does not necessarily mean that you are spending less money. More often than not, it means that the floral arrangement on the women’s tables will be more elaborate and therefore more expensive than they might have otherwise been.

Now let’s talk about wine and liquor. As the reader might know, we have presided over the details associated with these types of lifecycle events in the past, baruch Hashem. The requirements and options differ amongst the various venues in the New York area. Perhaps the most diverse and even complicated options present themselves when it comes to deciding about what to feature at the bar — if anything at all.

By way of introduction, let me state that I am not a connoisseur of what some people refer to as “the good stuff,” nor am I a drinker by any stretch of the contemporary understanding of what that indulgence entails. If there is no liquor or wine at a wedding or other celebration, it does not mean that much to me.

But then again, it is precisely these types of spirits that provide the punctuation for a celebratory occasion like this. This is not the place to question that supposition — or can we say tradition? — but rather an analysis of the drinking options that simcha hosts are faced with.

You might agree that on an occasion like this, in addition to the words “Mazal tov!” The second most frequently uttered word is, “L’chaim!” How do you say l’chaim without a glass of wine or “ah gleizel schnapps” in your hand?

Here’s the odd thing about this aspect of the simcha. I received a proposal from the wedding hall detailing the cost for all the guests based on an estimated number, as we obviously do not know the exact count at this time, and I was told the liquor charge will apply to all guests over the age of 12.

I was walking through a supermarket last Friday when I received that note. It struck me as somewhat odd to pay for wine and booze for all guests over 12 years of age. So I casually called my contact over at the hall to inquire how it is that they can charge for liquor for people under 21 years of age when, according to New York State law, it is illegal to serve liquor to guests under that age.

As of Monday, I had not yet received clarification on the matter, but I will keep you updated. And that is not the end of the story. When I objected to the idea of paying for teenagers who are not allowed to drink, I was told that it was OK with them, but then the price per person would have to go up a few dollars.

“What?” I said incredulously. “You have to be kidding.” I’m sure you will agree that there is something missing in this pricing formula and I am sure it will be resolved amicably soon.

It’s a good thing we still have a few weeks to go because I have not had a chance to discuss the music or the photography yet. All I can say is that it’s a good thing that anyone at any age can listen to music or be in a photograph. That makes things a bit easier.

Mazal tov … and L’chaim!

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