Jewish Journal

Wedding story really strikes a chord with L.A.‘s Iranian Jews

by Karmel Melamed

November 1, 2007 | 12:30 am

Several weeks ago following the publication of my article regarding the extravagant spending by local Iranian Jews on their weddings, members of the community have engaged in a rare but important dialogue concerning this issue. While it’s flattering to me that the story has really circulating through e-mail, what I applaud is the courage of young Iranian Jews to openly speak to their parents about having smaller and less expensive weddings.

I personally have received both praise and insults from various individuals for shedding new light on this pressing topic. While the comments do not really make a difference to me, I’m glad to see a discussion in the community about our weddings getting out of hand. Typically issues such as expensive parties, pre-martial sexual relations, drug abuse, spousal abuse, and other sensitive topics are “hush hush” in the Iranian Jewish community. There’s been a shroud of silence because of the stigma attached to these hot button issues. For too long members of our community have been too ashamed or frightened to talk about these crises and I’m glad to see that slowly changing.

The feedback from couples to my wedding story has also been tremendous and unique altogether. For instance, I was recently informed that one engaged Iranian Jewish couple kept putting off plans for their wedding because of their families fighting over the number of guests. Finally one weekend, the couple spontaneously invited both of their parents to a trip to Las Vegas and—four hours later the couple and their parents found themselves in a Vegas synagogue with a rabbi marrying the two love birds! The parents were shocked beyond words and worried about what to say to their respective families upon returning to L.A. Well in the end, everything turned out fine as the would-be guests were informed of the Vegas incident and the couple ended up donating some of the money set aside for their wedding to a charity in Israel. To me, this was a brave move by this Iranian Jewish couple and my hope is that more couples will stand up to their parents and families when it comes to their weddings.

For the record, I can understand the tremendous pressure young Iranian Jewish couples feel to please their parents when it comes to their weddings. Yes, we love and respect our parents. We also do want to let them down because we know the sacrifices many of them made by leaving their lives behind Iran so that we could enjoy freedom and better opportunities in the U.S. Yet at the same time, the sad reality is that we not longer live in Iran and cannot afford to invite so many guests. While it was possible for different reasons for extended families and friends to be invited to weddings in Iran, today in America it is just not logistically and financially possible to do the same. Besides the $100,000 to $300,000 that some Iranian Jewish families spend on one night of partying could be better used as a down payment for a house for the newlyweds!

We as younger Iranian Jews really need to outreach and communicate this key message better to our relatives who have such high expectations of being invited to every single party or gathering nowadays. For those who don’t know what to say, the simple answers is; “we love you guys, this is not personal, but the family has gotten too large and we cannot have a big wedding or bar mitzvah or brit milah party, etc.” Now if your relatives choose to cut ties with you and throw a fit because of your choice to have a small celebration, then perhaps you’re better off without them. Those who really respect and love you will respect your decision and wish you all the best regardless of being invited.

Keep your comments coming and keep the discussion alive on this topic…only then will enough folks from within the community with common sense realize how utterly ridiculous it is to spend extravagantly for one night of a wedding!

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Karmel Melamed is an internationally-published freelance journalist based in Southern California.

Since 2000, Melamed has specialized in covering the growing influential...

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