February 10, 2005
Tips for Picking Holy Land Locales
Israel has scores of unique wedding venues. Most couples typically choose a venue between Jerusalem and Caesarea, thereby missing out on the many special venues in Israel's periphery. Planning a wedding in the outlying areas is hardly difficult and transportation for guests can be arranged easily.
Generally speaking, there are four different types of venues:
3. event gardens (some have indoor winter options);
4. on location -- outdoors at unique venues.
In Israel it's possible to hold outdoor events five months of the year, from May through September (however, the early part of this period falls during Sefirat HaOmer, from Passover to Shavuot, when weddings are not conducted). If you plan on getting married on Lag B'Omer day, you should note that all activities typically have to be more than 30 minutes before sundown. Also, this is usually a premium date and most venues will require a minimum number of guests (this varies from venue to venue); consequently, Lag B'Omer is not the ideal date for small weddings (under 250 people).
Israeli weddings tend to be large, and the industry is built accordingly. During the high season, most event gardens have minimum requirements of 250 to 300 people, which can greatly increase the price of a small wedding; these minimums are often waived during the low season. While on-location events (such as those in the desert, at a nature reserve or on the beach) seem to be the most expensive at first glance, they actually afford an advantage that most event gardens lack -- no minimum requirements, which can work out to be quite cost-effective for smaller weddings. Hotels offer a happy medium in many cases, however they do have one disadvantage for those who like to dance into the night -- since all music must usually cease between 11 p.m. and midnight, which could bring your simcha to end earlier than you want.
Costs -- What You Should Know
In terms of prices, there are variances of between 10 percent and 15 percent between high season (May- September) and low season. Important to note is that there are also differences between days of the week. Thursdays and Fridays tend to be between 10 percent to 20 percent more expensive than other days of the week. In recent years, Friday (afternoon) weddings have become quite fashionable.
Good catering starts at about $58 per person, while the average ranges $70-$80 per person. Gourmet catering ranges between $100-$120 per person. Typical venue rental fees (for on-location venues) range $3,500-$5,000, while wedding planning & coordinating fees typically start at $3,500, but vary greatly depending on the number of guests and type of event. All prices listed include 17 percent Value Added Tax.
If you plan on having a considerable number of guests from abroad, you should note that an added bonus of working with a wedding planner based in Israel is that many are able to offer travel (land) services for you and your guests. Since they book many rooms a year, they are able to offer you and your guests a group rate, which is better than any one individual could get. Whether it's hotels, car rental, tours or special meals, which many couples opt to offer their guests, you get the ease of
one-stop shopping for all your wedding needs.
The type of venue that you ultimately choose should be a function of the type of wedding that you want to have, the number of guests and your budget. Whatever decisions you make about your wedding, mazal tov!
Yael Adar is the owner of www.WeddinginIsrael.com, a travel and events in Israel site.