Benji Lovitt
Because the Middle East is Funny
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The Idiot’s Guide to Israeli Weddings

Ditch the tie, bring cash and put your hands up in the air!

It’s another hot summer in Israel and love is in the air. It’s wedding season so you’d best be prepared for it. Israeli weddings are somewhat different from what’s customary in America and other countries so you’ll want to know what to expect beforehand. Buckle your seat belts, here we go; this is the idiot’s guide to Israeli weddings.


Dress in this country is casual and weddings are no exception. Gentlemen, if you think you’re going to wear a tie, think again. This makes for an interesting learning experience at your first wedding.

“Hey, who let the homeless guy in? (pause) Oh, that’s the groom? How’s he gonna break the glass wearing Crocs?”

If you are accustomed to wearing a plain white dress shirt, you’ll want to bring it from abroad, as local clothing manufacturers receive government incentives to print their shirts with a dragon on the back. While this can be initially shocking for the average immigrant, it tends to go well with the ultra-tight package-hugging jeans.


I don’t even know what to say about this dress.

Invite list

Israeli weddings are much bigger than your typical Jewish American wedding. The invitation process works as follows: from a height of 40,000 feet, a blimp drops several thousand invitations over population centers of the country. Whoever picks one up then invites everyone he has ever known.


Gift shopping is definitely easier in Israel. “Ehhhhhhh…mah zeh Crate and Bah-rehl???” There’s no registry, people…it’s all about the Benjamins. Or the Yitzchak Ben-Zvis. That’s right, cash money. Guests are greeted upon arrival by a box in which to drop your cash gift, in an envelope of course.
This money will then be used to….wait for it…pay for the wedding itself. The happy couple will later make a list of how much each person gave so they can someday return that very same amount back at that person’s wedding. “It’s the ciiiiiiiircle of life!!!”

 Voting for Knesset or leaving a gift? I guess we’ll never know… (Hey, as long as you’re here, care to officiate?)
Voting for Knesset or leaving a gift? I guess we’ll never know… (Hey, as long as you’re here, care to officiate?)


In America, often the bride invites her hometown rabbi who then recounts his history with the happy couple: “When I first met Sarah in the junior congregation, I knew she was going to be a wonderful Jewish woman.” In Israel, the couple may or may not choose the rabbi by opening the phone book to the letter “raysh” and throwing darts. When the two families join the bearded man under the chupah, the guests then join together and sing “one of these things is not like the other”. (If this is a religious wedding, they may sing different songs such as a surreal Hebrew version of Men at Work’s “Down Under”.)

If the rights to this music were obtained legally, then my name is Rabbi Ovadia Chumusface.

The ceremony begins. The goal of the invited guests is to talk as much as humanly possible and pretend that a wedding is in fact not happening five meters away. Bonus points are awarded for answering a cell phone. Immediately afterwards, mass congratulation ensues and people say “mazal tov” to one another regardless of whether they actually got married.

Shlomo: Mazal toooooooov!!!

Immigrant: What did I do? Well, I did eat 12 egg rolls in 5 minutes. I just didn’t think anybody noticed.


After the traditional couple slow dances, the party often begins with the DJ playing one of the following songs: 1) “Put your HANDS up in the air, put your hands up….IN THE AIR!” Those might be the only words. 2) “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey, baby! (Ooh! Ah!) I wanna knooooooooooow……..if you’ll be my girl! 3) A remix of “9 to 5”. (Can people who are still alive roll in their graves? Dabney Coleman is rolling in something.)

If you’re thinking of crashing a wedding, be careful. Due to the small nature of this country, it simply doesn’t work here.

“Hey, who are you?”

“Ehh…I am Moshe, I am stock broker.”

“No, you’re not! You’re Dudu’s cousin! You work at gas station!”

* * * *

So there you have it. You may not find some traditions from abroad but you will find no shortage of fun, celebration, and good times. Bring cash, dancing shoes, and the rest will take care of itself. And if nothing else, put your HANDS up in the air, put your hands up….IN THE AIR.

Comedian Benji Lovitt is now booking shows in North America this fall.

About the Author
Since making aliyah in 2006, Benji Lovitt has performed stand-up comedy and educational programs for groups including Jewish Federations, Chabads, synagogues, Masa Israel Journey, and Birthright Israel. His perspectives on aliyah and Israeli society have been featured on Israeli TV and radio and in publications such as USA Today, Time Magazine, the BBC, and more. Benji has worked as a cross-cultural trainer with groups including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Masa Israel and is a popular presenter on the Limmud International circuit. During 2014's Operation Protective Edge, his humorous observations on the war led to his being called in Israel "the only reason to go on Facebook.”
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