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Destination Wedding

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Dear Rachel,

I recently got engaged and am in the process of planning my dream wedding. The problem is that my ideal wedding seems to be turning out as a nightmare for everyone else. Recently the big rage has been having destination weddings and I have always thought it would be incredible to get married on the beaches in Hawaii. I understand it is an expense for people to travel and that is why we didn't invite anyone other than our closest friends and family. But I just found out that a number of our family members can't travel that far and really can't afford it. On the one hand it is very important for me to have them there, but on the other hand this is my special day and I feel it should be the way I want it. What do you suggest?

Disappointed Bride

Dear Disappointed Bride,

I think to varying degrees every little girl grows up dreaming about her wedding day and how she wants to celebrate it. And there is no question that this is your special day and having it as perfect as possible is absolutely what you should strive for. However, there are many different definitions of perfect, and perhaps you should consider expanding yours.

Having a destination wedding has definitely been the recent rage. Yet, as endless articles and advice columns can testify, it has raised a number of issues as well, one major one that you are currently facing. When you choose to have your wedding far away from your family and friends, you are essentially forcing people either to have to pay a large expense to attend, or to forfeit having them at your wedding.

Now there is not always an alternative option. If a woman in New York marries a man in Australia, at least one side of the family and friends will have a very expensive trip and hours of travel. So for some couples they choose a spot in between, but in most cases that seems to just inconvenience both sides rather than one.

In your case it seems that your destination wedding is not out of necessity but out of preference as that has been your dream to be married on the sands in Hawaii. Yet in doing so, it looks like you will be under the chuppah (wedding canopy) without some dear family members in attendance.

There are many different definitions of perfect, and perhaps you should consider expanding yoursTraditionally, a Jewish wedding is not a personal affair that involves only the bride and groom but rather a communal affair. In many Chassidic communities the chuppah and dancing is open to anyone and everyone who can attend even though the meals may be reserved for a smaller number due to the expenses involved. But the point is that when a Jewish bride and groom marry, it is a celebration for all as it is the beginning of a new lifeline.

I remember at my own wedding being asked by some non-Jewish friends why the men and women were dancing separately. They couldn't understand why we didn't have our first dance as a couple and why we wouldn't want to be spending the entire wedding party together. I explained to them that our wedding was a time to celebrate with our friends and family. We wanted to be able to focus on them and share our happiness together, not for them to merely be spectators at our affair.

There is even a commandment to bring joy to the bride and groom. That is why guests traditionally go to great lengths to entertain the couple and make the affair a lively one filled with celebration. I explained that it was not just about us as a couple but about us as part of a community. Following the wedding party, it was only my husband and me who were heading home. We had the rest of our lives to celebrate together…but our wedding was to celebrate with everyone else.

You have a tough choice to make, but maybe you can have the best of both worlds. If it is difficult for close family to attend your wedding, maybe you should consider having the wedding where people can make it, and then you could plan a trip to Hawaii for just you and your husband. There is no question that after the wedding, when all the stress is over, you will enjoy those Hawaiin sands much more than with the pre wedding anxiety and details to take care of!

If you are absolutely set on keeping it in Hawaii, maybe see if there is a way you could help pay for the travel and accommodations of those who can't make it or perhaps consider holding a wedding celebration party back in your hometown when you return.

No matter what you decide, do try to remember though that a wedding is not just about the two of you. Of course you are the stars of the day and you should enjoy every minute of it, but your wedding should also be something that those who love and care about you are able to celebrate with you. So I hope you are able to have a dream wedding, even if it ends up being a slightly different version of the dream you currently have in mind!

Much luck,

Rachel

“Dear Rachel” is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the co-director of Interinclusion, a nonprofit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of TheJewishWoman.org, and wrote the popular weekly blog Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Pragmatist August 19, 2014

Anonymous in NY. You can have a "respectable" event on a budget in NYC, and, gemachim ARE an option. Not for everything, but for many things. Otoh, it's almost impossible to make a "destination wedding" on a strict budget, because you have to deal with the issue of transportation and lodging (not cheap, by any means.) On top of which, in many areas dealing with the issue of catering a kosher event adds up quite quickly. (In fact, I have some friends who chose to come to NY to make their wedding because it was cheaper than doing it at home. They did have family to stay with, so lodging wasn't a cost, though.)

A destination wedding means expenses for your guests. Sure, you really don't care much if all of the local acquaintances don't show up, so that's not an issue. But, when you dismiss the expense to close family and friends, that a whole different level.

And THAT + the self centeredness of the OP is what people dislike. "I want what I want and I don't care about my family." Reply

Anonymous New York August 19, 2014

Another perspective on destination weddings I know the column presents a different scenario, but I am disturbed by the level of outrage in the comments over the idea of a destination wedding. As an older kallah and recent New York transplant, my choson and I are strongly considering a destination wedding. Here's why: 1. Neither of us have much family and just a few very close friends. When I say very few, I mean I have a mother, siblings and a couple best friends that make up my entire guest list. My choson who grew up here, also has a small intermediate family and close circle of friends. However, he a ton of local "acquaintances" such as people he went to school with, parent's friends, and distant cousins that he's only seen a handful of times in the last 30+ years. Given my small family, the resources to put on a big fancy event in NYC aren't there. I'm new to NYC so gemachim aren't an option. By moving the event out of town, we can still have a respectable event on a budget and guests can enjoy a reasonable vacation too. Reply

dd jerusalem,israel October 27, 2013

great advice i would listen to rachel if it was you -- you might have a lot of post wedding regrets that not everyone could share in your happiness. i know i did:( Reply

Mrs. Osnat Eldar September 5, 2012

Beach Wedding in Israel You can have your beach wedding at the Israeli coastline (Mediterranean sea, north to center of Israel), or in Eilat (Red sea, south), or at the Sea of Galilee (north). If you combine it with Jewish holiday (Shavuot or Sukkot have the best weather conditions) I am sure many of your guests will be happy to make the effort. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 1, 2011

Destination Wedding Disappointed Bride, it's NEVER wrong to want the wedding of your dreams, but you need to be realistic.

If your friends and family don't have the money to afford to travel and stay at a hotel, you could have your wedding near where you live with a beach theme. Reply

Stephanie Houston, TX December 4, 2010

Thank you Rachel! I have for a long time fantasized about a small wedding- close family only, not many friends, because I didn't like the idea of a big, busy day.
But the way you put it, there is no way I could do this and have a proper wedding. I need to invite relatives and friends to share in the special occasion. The small, relaxing setting can be saved for a honeymoon. Reply

Anonymous Cleveland December 1, 2010

Self centered bride you are obviously young and immature. It IS the day every girl looks forward to, but so do the parents, grandparents, friends, and other relatives of both bride AND groom. It's secular society that has put such a self centered spin on marriage. Spend some time studying Torah to get a better perspective on your wedding, marriage, and life and you will get started on the right foot! Reply

F New York, NY October 31, 2010

Beach wedding? Why not try Israel? Israel has gorgeous beaches too. And you have a connection to Israel you don't have to Hawaii. It is also a long way to go, but you get more in return for your journey, perhaps? Your friends and family might have people to stay with there, that they would not have in Hawaii. Reply

chana September 5, 2010

a few points I didn't have too much family at my wedding, and I still regret it...and probably will for a long time.
Getting married in a place where you know people can't come, and planning it for a while (at least I have the excuse of not knowing anything definite until a week prior to the wedding), says that you really don't care about those who can't come. If they aren't important people - you probably don't care. But if they're close family - it's not worth it. Reply

A professional wedding planner July 24, 2010

Slight Adjustment Unfortunately for you Hawaii is one of the most expensive beach destination locations. The only beach wedding destinations that would be more expensive to get to are in the South Pacific where the dollar is much lower so the actual wedding is less expensive.

If your heart is really set on having a destination wedding I would suggest that you look into Mexico or the Caribbean. Depending on where you choose it's often possible to pay for some if not all of your guests to attend for the same price you'd pay for an entire wedding in the United States. If that isn't an option the airfares and hotel costs are at least more on the affordable side for guests.

It's just something think about. Reply

Anonymous June 9, 2010

Destination Wedding Observer and Anonymous must remember that a girl tends to have raw emotions when she is engaged. Please don't be judgemental. Reply

Ora Bnei Brak May 30, 2010

Wonderful Answer It's just amazing how Sarah Esther Crispe answers in such an understanding and simply amazing way! I love your writings. Reply

Anonymous Seattle May 29, 2010

She is where she is at--
I hope the letter writer prays for discernment. Reply

Observer May 28, 2010

Maybe it's time to readjust your dream I'm having a very hard time mustering any sympathy for the letter writer. To me the core of a "dream wedding" is having my family and friends there. When I was a bride, I had to choose between having a really "gorgeous" wedding where my friends and most of the family would not be able to attend, or something locally which everyone could attend, which would be far less fancy (although it WAS quite nice.) I chose to stay close to home, and I've never regretted it.

I find it very sad that this young woman's "dream" is so focused on the physical details that she never even considered an issue that only her very closest friends and family could be part of her wedding, and even sadder that she seems none too concerned that even those people might not make it. (Her only concern is that THEY seem upset, and she's so wrapped up in her "dream" that she seems to think that they are being selfish or "demanding" <sigh>) Reply

Leah Seattle May 24, 2010

Bless you, Mrs. Crispe! People don't realize that the hype around weddings is to SELL PRODUCTS-- an epensive wedding gown, food, chairs, jewelry, etc. The happy, attractive guests featured in the articles are bystanders when they should be the focus.

I've seen expensive Jewish events, presented by people who did them with help from friends or who even borrowed for them, ~knowing~ they could pay them back and they had a social obligation for something big to celebrate with the community. They are great-- no problems with them. I have also seen less costly ones where there was less obligation and the fun was just as great. When little girls dream, we parents must remind them that it's about family and friends, not something they see on a "reality" show or ad that they should want. Reply

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