Blessed beginnings: where to say ‘I do’ in Israel

The Yam Carmel wedding venue in the Ofer Forest near Haifa. Credit: Yam Carmel.
The Yam Carmel wedding venue in the Ofer Forest near Haifa. Credit: Yam Carmel.

By Deborah Fineblum Schabb/

With destination weddings a popular option of late, why not tie the proverbial knot in Israel? It turns out that this tiny country (roughly the size of New Jersey) has it all: natural beauty, scrumptious food and fine wines, affordable facilities to rent, and the magical ambiance of starting your life together in the Jewish state.

“Getting married [in Israel] is a total spiritual experience, even if it’s in Tel Aviv,” says Osnat Eldar, a Tel Aviv-based event planner who has put together countless weddings for Israelis and others. “And it supports Israel’s economy and brings over families and friends who may think we live in a war zone until they come over and see what it’s really like here.”

Nevertheless, Eldar admits that it can be challenging to work through the marriage license process in Israel, especially from a distance. Multiple document requirements can prove frustrating to even the most determined couples. (Note: The non-profit Itim helps both Israelis and Diaspora Jews navigate the bureaucracy.) Therefore, many couples opt to first get their marriage license in their home country, and then have the ceremony in Israel. “But don’t worry,” says Eldar. “The marriage is valid in Israel anyway.”

Another heads-up from Eldar: While many of Israeli wedding halls provide kosher catering, others do not, and many traditional rabbis will not perform weddings in non-kosher halls—either due to the food or the fact that the venues are open on Shabbat. “Check with your rabbi,” Eldar advises.

Logistics aside, there is certainly a wide array of venue options to choose from in Israel, where it sometimes seems that every kibbutz and restaurant wants a piece of the wedding cake. Here is a just a sampling:

Laurens Gallery in Old Jaffa

The wedding party follows the bough-covered winding path up the hill to the chuppah. There, laid out behind the bride and groom, is a dazzling scene: a light-spattered view of Tel Aviv’s beachfront and city skyline. Afterwards, amid happy music, everyone follows the happy couple back down the hill to the reception in the trendy Lauren’s Gallery, where dancing and dining await.

Hilton Eilat Queen of Sheba Hotel

Once in Israel, just point yourself south and travel all the way through the desert until you can’t go any further without swimming in the Red Sea. You’ve reached the popular resort city of Eilat. Having a wedding at the Queen of Sheba means a chuppah with stunning vistas of the Red Sea and Jordan, a seafront pool, and an in-house spa. A bonus: time-crunched guests will be relieved to hear the Eilat airport is merely a five-mile drive away.

Yam Carmel

For a dazzling 360-degree panorama of the Mediterranean shore and the Carmel Heights, you might want to consider having your wedding at Yam Carmel, which is Nestled in the Ofer Forest near Haifa. In addition to its stupendous view, Yam Carmel boasts an open-air amphitheater for wedding ceremonies between April and late October. A bonus for outdoorsy couples: Yam Carmel is located very near an “extreme park” that features a ropes course, rappelling, bungee trampolines, and a tube slide.

Nof Hayarden

A short drive from Ma’ale Adumim and less than an hour from Jerusalem, this wedding hall in Mitzpe Jericho offers breathtaking views of rolling desert hills, the Dead Sea, and Jordan. Guests can take it all in through both the glass-walled interior and the outdoor chuppah spot. Look for a variety of wedding packages that include catering and bar service. Note: The management is also happy to help arrange buses for guests coming from Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel.

The Green Beach

For those who prefer their water up close, The Green Beach offers an event garden where countless couples have tied the knot. Perched on a private shore of the Sea of Galilee near the northern city of Tiberias, the coastal nature reserve offers an impressive view of the Golan Heights and the Hermon mountain range. With capacity for up to 550 guests, a Green Beach wedding includes gourmet Mediterranean cuisine, plenty of room for music and dancing, and an after-party option.

The Sephardic House

Location, location, location. Start your wedding day with a visit to the Kotel (Western Wall), then walk up with your wedding party to the hall, a short stroll away in Jerusalem’s Old City. There, you’ll find your chuppah awaits in the recently renovated open-air atrium. Afterwards, enjoy an array of fresh foods cooked on the premises. Note: This space accommodates smaller weddings of up to 150 guests, and includes a number of hotel rooms available for members of the wedding party.

Bamboo Village

Beach combing couples will thrive at this beachside wedding locale in Netanya. With its panoramic view of the Mediterranean, Bamboo Village hosts as many as 400 guests to witness the outdoor chuppah. Specialties of the house include barbecues and fresh fish from the sea. A perk: In true after-party style, the guests—mostly young ones who don’t need much sleep—can spend the night near the beach in big tents. Older guests typically prefer one of two nearby hotels.

Barkan Winery

Hulda Kibbutz in the Judean Plain is home to Barkan, Israel’s second-largest winery. Like all the world’s wine countries, the area is regularly bathed with a gentle golden sunlight and just enough rain to grow perfect grapes. The winery—situated southeast of Rehovot and Mazkeret Batya, near the picturesque Hulda National Forest—has long hosted weddings known for their relaxed charm and pristine setting.

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