My pal Karmel had a story in last week’s Jewish Journal that has irritated a lot of his fellow Iranian Jews. It’s a good story about cultural expectations that highlights the tension between Tehrangeles’ older Jews and those who are now coming of age. It’s about the pressure the younger feel to splurge on six-figure weddings with 500-plus guests.
Somewhere between keeping Iranian hospitality traditions and one-upping displays of wealth, a growing number of Iranian Jewish families today are inviting upward of 500 guests to weddings, with budgets in the six-figure range—typically from $150,000 to $300,000.
The strain of such expectations has led to infighting between families over who should cover the cost. Young professionals are also postponing marriage plans or opting instead for a destination wedding to avoid the financial pressures of holding the event in Los Angeles.
Most local Iranian Jews acknowledge the situation, but few in the community are willing to advocate for change. Rabbi Hillel Benchimol, associate rabbi of the Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills, wants a greater dialogue on the issue.
“The problem is we are taking out the spiritual and emotional aspect of the marriage and instead it’s become a business with all the unnecessary spending,” Benchimol said. “People forget the spirit of the wedding—all you need is love, and everything else falls into place.”
Some young Iranian Jewish newlyweds say that while they did not necessarily want a large wedding, they feel pressure from their parents and extended family to put on a more lavish affair. Their parents, they say, feel an obligation to invite people whose parties they have attended.
“Persians have much more of a tight-knit community, and it’s very respect oriented—that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it leads to 300- to 400-person weddings,” said Ario Fakheri, who was married last year. “People get upset if you don’t invite their kids or grandmothers, they look at it as disrespecting them—there are so many ways to disrespect them.”
Fakheri said that while he and his fiancee invited almost 600 people to their wedding due to family pressure, many of his friends in the community are opting to have destination weddings.
“You can tell how bad they don’t want people to come to their wedding by how far away they go,” Fakheri said. “It’s basically code for how bad you want to have a normal wedding.”
Is your wedding really worth the cost of a pre-housing-bubble home? My wife and I thought our wedding, on the water, was perfect, and it barely cost five figures.
And I thought hosting a bar mitzvah was expensive.
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