Thursday, April 27, 2006

How Rude and Insensitive:
Charging Guests for Attending the Sheva Brachot

Recently my friends were invited to a Sheva Brachot. I use the word invited liberally because the truth is that they were asked to contribute over $150 to the affair. Actually, I take that word back too. Contribute is clearly the incorrect term as contribute would indicate that the amount named was voluntary. Perhaps I should rephrase the entire sentence to read: Recently my friends were told that if they wanted to attend the Sheva Brachot for a certain chatan and kallah, that they would be charged $150 to attend.

Now, lest someone misconstrue my thoughts, I will state clearly and unequivocally that I believe that there is nothing wrong with the hosts of a Sheva Brachot to ask the guests to bring a dish or drinks to share. I have hosted Sheva Brachot and am well aware of the enormous amount of energy (and funds) that it takes to put together even a modest Sheva Brachot. Baruch Hashem, many wonderful friends put together Sheva Brachot for my husband and I when we got married and I can't think of a more appropriate way to return their kindness than to follow their example and be mesameach other chatanim and kallot.

But, this Sheva Brachot was clearly not the type of Sheva Brachot of the "average fold": A Sheva Brachot gathering that usually consists of inviting a minyan and their wives (if they are so lucky) to a private home for a seudah prepared by the host(s) or a modest seudah in a modestly priced restaurant. This Sheva Brachot was a continuation of the wedding, a Sheva Brachot for the "rich and famous."

However, I can't imagine the "rich and famous" charging their guests and entrance fee to participate in their affair. But, for whatever reason (some possibilities might including impressing the mechutanim, catering to the desires of their son, or peer pressure), this family of average means felt it necessary to "keep up with the Goldberg's" and put on quite the party, using one of the best and most expensive caterer in town, for their 21 year old chatan and his kallah.

Somehow, the very fact that "we" in the frum community find it appropriate to go beyond our means in creating the "Hollywood Wedding" followed by the "Hollywood Sheva Brachot" for "our" children who have yet to pay even their own electric or gas bill, nor even have any idea how much a monthly electric or gas bill might run, adds insult to injury.

Certainly a wedding is a milestone and an accomplishment. But, it seems very inappropriate to me to charge such an exorbitant admission prices for the Sheva Brachot of anyone, much less of couple barely out of their teenage years that plans on being spending the next few years of their life together in kollel, sacrificing the comforts purportedly being enjoyed by ba'alabatim the world over (I have yet to meet these numerous ba'alabatim).

So, if you will excuse me, I'll choose to save my $150 and look to spend it on a milestone anniversary that deserves to be rewarded with an extravagant 5 star meal which we will eat in each other's presence, rather than at separate tables. In the meantime, if you invite us to your Sheva Brachot, feel free to request I bring along a culinary creations. But, if you are looking for $150 a couple to pay for your "Hollywood Sheva Brachot," we will not be attending.


almost_frei said...

Great post!

I am amazed that someone would charge 'guests'.

My wife and I have gone to many sheva brochos that were hosted by a group of friends (us included) and we all chip in to make a nice affair. The cost of the affair is shared equally by the hosts and based on what is considered a reasonable contribution.

Usually 50$ per couple because anything more than that might be too much for people to spend, and a true group event has to be just that... a group affair.

To ask stam guests to pay so that the host can make an elaborate affair is insane.

I love the choice you made how you wud rather spend 150$... I wud def do the same.. and end up saving about 50 bucks in the process..just my opinion. I don't think any meal is worth 75$.. :)

Ezzie said...

Wow, disgusting. I thought it was bad enough when people would have outrageous Sheva Brachos; now they're charging the guests?!

FWIW, I'm about to have a kiddush. We're not only not using a hall or anywhere else, but having it in our apartment, but I went shopping last night for most of the stuff I need for Shabbos. This includes meals for 12, 16, and 12 adults and 5 kids each meal. The kiddush we expect anywhere from 60-75 people on top of the family members (which sounds outrageous, but I live across from Chof Chaim, and went to a Chof Chaim HS, so a lot of friends are there; and I live a block away from Lander College, where I currently am). Including everything I spent money on yesterday, last night, and this morning, though I still haven't gotten the meat for chulent, I think I'm at just over $300. In NYC. And we're having a ton of food. [Granted, other people are making a lot of stuff for the kiddush.]

If I included the costs of everything people are bringing and everything we're still getting, the total costs run to about $500-600 for all the meals and the kiddush, including food, utensils, tablecloths, and the like.

$150/person for Sheva Brachos? That's simply trying to cash in.

Anonymous said...

If one is invited as a guest, one should not be asked to contribute anything. Period. (Miss Manners backs me up on this one.)

I could understand a close chevra getting together to throw a sheva brachot (or 7B, as I used to abbreviate it in notes when learning Ketubot), to split the costs. That is called "being the hosts." Even there, $150 may be on the high side. Although meat (if it's meat) for 20 or so people ain't cheap.

But guests being charged? Never. I'd politely decline.

And Ezzie, you're coming down to Maryland for the next kiddush I throw. I need you to plan it for $300!

Orthonomics said...

Almost-I also can't actually see us ever spending $150 in today's money for a meal for 2. Maybe for a big anniversary, we'd splurge with $100 and spend the other $50 on something nice.

Ezzie-It certainly does sound like cashing in. I'm pretty sure all the money is going to the caterer. And, this, is why pizza shop sheva brachot is more my style.

JDub-I have to agree that invited guests should be just that: invited. But, no matter who the organizers are, people should have the sensitivity to remember that not everyone is loaded (or so free with their money) that they can just drop this type of money.

Participating in Jewish life is costly, but it should not be made any more prohibitive than need be.

StepIma said...

I agree with jdub - paying in a share of the money to help host a party makes you one of the hosts... otherwise it's just bad manners. If I were the chosson or kallah I would be mortified at my parents for even thinking of it.
Why on earth would you want to start your life together with such potential for ill-will?

Jewboy said...

Didn't realize crassness had gotten to this level yet. I suppose there's no limit to it. I agree with previous commentators that it's fine for some couples to host together and split the costs-my wife and I have done this. Anyone who charges me $150 as a guest will not be seeing me there.

Orthonomics said...

So long as everyone clamors to live beyond their means and cannot accept anything less chashuvah than they "deserve," I'm afraid our problems with lavish smachot will continue unchecked.

Modesty or tzniut somehow only refer to women's clothing and not one's conduct with their bank accounts. So long as we don't fight this, our children will believe that a Jewish wedding means XYZ and living beyond your means will be enshrined as "halacha."

Selena said...

This really is unbelievable. I agree with StepIma that the chosson and kallah must be (or should be) mortified. Essie, we also just had a baby and I really wanted to do the kiddush in our house. I think that is the nicest way to welcome a new daughter. Unfortunately, in our community that is not really done.

On a related point, the amount of money people manage to spend even for Shabbos is amazing. I love having guests over, but I don't think I have ever spent more than about 100 dollars for a meal. I just don't serve huge peices of meat if I am having a lot of people. I make a cholent. My bro-in-law was telling me that he knows people who regularly spend more than $300 per shabbos. No wonder people think they need to go crazy with a wedding or sheva brachos, if they are spending so much money every shabbos.

Anonymous said...


you said: Modesty or tzniut somehow only refer to women's clothing and not one's conduct with their bank accounts.

Wow. You have nailed in one sentence my wife and my frustration with the Orthodox world.

When acquaintances refer to tzniut, they mean it only regarding clothing, usually to denigrate those that do not dress the way they do. Tzniut is a way of life, it's not about (or not just about) inches. It's about actions. It's about attitude.

One of the things we like about our out-of-town community (we're both NY'ers originally, so we still think we live out of town) is that bar mitzvot are done relatively modestly. A reasonable kiddush at shul. Maybe a melava malka.

People don't go into hock for a bar mitzvah. We're throwing a simchat bat next month for our new daughter and we're doing it in our house, with desserts and divrei torah. Hopefully not spending more than Ezzie did! (Hopefully far less!)

SL: keep up the blogging. You nail it every time.

Orthonomics said...

Living Out Of Town-$300 a Shabbat meal?!?!?!?! What are they serving? Cavier? Our monthly grocery bill hovers around $400 a month. Granted, we are not a large family (yet), but having guests is a regular occurance. I am decently frugal, but not out-of-control frugal. My guess is that anyone spending that type of money is shopping in the wrong places and is cooking the wrong things. Anyone spending that type of money needs to spend $300 on some good basic cookbooks and try something new.

Orthonomics said...

JDub--Mazal Tov on your simcha. May the simchat bat be a wonderful occassion for your family and your friends.

And, don't worry. With everything that could be written about, this blog will have a long life.

I'm sure a lot of people would love to see you blog too!

Anonymous said...

that would be a lot of people . . . other than my wife who would wonder why I wasn't either working, learning, or taking care of the kids.

Sarah Likes Green said...

that is ridiculous... especially since some of the guests would have been at the wedding and already have had to buy presents and things.

some of the nicest sheva brachot i've been to have cost less than that! actually, i've made sheva brachot that don't cost that much, yes people pitch in and bring a dish or drinks but i agree with you that if you invite someone, you don't ask them to pay, especially that much! people should cater within in their own means if they are organising a function, they can't assume that everyone invited can afford the same as them.

good post.

shavua tov!

Orthonomics said...

Hi Sarah. Welcome! I believe that the wedding was actually in a different city, so it is very possible that the invitees were not present at the wedding.

But, that still doesn't change the facts. There are plenty of places that a family can host a sheva brachot that would not be so expensive, and, it is still insensitive and rude to imagine that everyone can just spit up that type of money.

Hope you will come back to visit. Shavua Tov.

Anonymous said...

Great post-I have never heard of "charging" someone for the "zcus" for attending a Sheva Brachos.That is usually done by those couples who are the "sponsors." The invited attendees give a gift that they think is appropriate.

We recently coordinated an aufruf for a chasan who was learning in EY, and who was getting married in Bnei Brak. He returned to KGH for his aufruf. I think that we invited all of his parents' friends who chipped in a nominal amount for the seudah.