How does one socially distance at a big wedding? Between passing hors d’oeuvres, group dancing and celebrating while ensconced in a venue using recycled air, a wedding—at least, one indoors—seems like a prime breeding ground for the novel coronavirus that preys on densely populated gatherings.

Many governments, then, put a pause on celebrating large weddings and events for the time being.

In Israel, despite government lockdown restrictions loosening up, the rules for large events are still in place: Despite the uptick of infections across the country, 250 people can attend large gatherings provided they are held outdoors and the venue allocates two square meters per guest. The Ministry of Health also requires that attendees pre-register for the event, and provide their personal health and contact information to be given permission to attend. The current restrictions are far laxer compared to what was allowed in April, when only 50 people were permitted to attend an event, prompting many couples to revisit their wedding plans.

However, despite the loosening of these restrictions, many aren’t exactly inspired to exclaim l’chaim and rejoice on their special day.

Still, several Anglo immigrants to Israel who were planning a summer 2020 wedding have refused to let this new normal dampen their spirits.

Australian native Kerri Jawno hasn’t even seen her fiancé since February. Jawno, who lives in Jerusalem, maintains a long-distance relationship with Ezra, who is enrolled in medical school in Hungary. The two would see each other every few weeks, making the best of the distance between them. That is, until both Hungary and Israel closed their borders in March.

Rather than feel sorry for herself, Jawno has come to accept that her upcoming wedding is just one small casualty in a series of unfortunate events that have befallen people all over the world.

“We never could have predicted something like this would happen. It’s been challenging not seeing each other, but everyone is going through this,” she said. “Everyone has some sort of hardship. We’re trying our best to not take it personally. We’re going to take the additional time to make our wedding extra-special.”

The two got engaged in Israel over the winter and were vetting venues. Jawno was very close to signing, but instinct told her to walk away.

“I can’t say why, but my gut told me it wasn’t right,” Jawno said of her decision. It turns out that she made a smart choice, as now the two don’t have to renegotiate with their wedding venue and deal with the logistics of planning a new date.

Josh Warhit of New Rochelle, N.Y., with his fiancée, Reut Peleg. Credit: Courtesy.

‘We’re all in the same boat’

Josh Warhit of New Rochelle, N.Y., who made aliyah in 2012 through Nefesh B’Nefesh, wasn’t so fortunate.

After some back and forth, Warhit was finally able to come to an agreement with the wedding venue that he and his fiancée selected in Tel Aviv. Instead of celebrating with 350 guests, they agreed to have a small intimate ceremony outdoors in June and then a bigger bash in August—provided, of course, the authorities will allow it.

His parents back in the United States, though, will have to join in the festivities via Zoom, which is not exactly how every parent envisions celebrating their children’s big day.

Warhit, however, is not discouraged. “The whole world is going through it, so we’re all in the same boat. You have to just throw your hands up and say, ‘This is how the world is now.’ ”

For Warhit, postponing was out of the question. “We don’t want to put this off for months and years,” he said, adding that the two have come up with out-of-the-box solutions with their vendors that are agreeable to both parties.

For example, his fiancée, Reut Peleg, will wear her rented wedding dress at both celebrations at no extra cost.

Event planner Sarah Gorlov, who works with clients both in Israel and the United Kingdom, explained that while many venues and vendors have been hit hard by the crisis, most have agreed to roll with the punches.

“My experience with the venues in Israel and in London is that they’ve been understanding and as accommodating as they could possibly be,” she said. “I felt an overwhelming community spirit of everybody wanting to accommodate everyone as much as they can.”

“When the coronavirus hit and all the restrictions came into play, so many clients were put into a really difficult position. Many were desperate to make a decision as to what to do and the future is unpredictable,” acknowledged Gorlov. “People have a very clear vision for what they want in their weddings, so are willing to wait for it to be perfect.”

Gorlov added that the crisis has not only put 2020 events in flux, but with matters so uncertain, many are hesitant to plan 2021 celebrations as rumors of a second wave of the virus reach fever pitch in the media.

Although nobody knows what to expect in the year ahead, Native South African Ilan Wulfsohn also decided to postpone his June wedding to fiancé Averash, an Israeli of Ethiopian descent.

Native South African Ilan Wulfsohn poses with his fiancée, Averash Nagosa. Credit: Courtesy.

“When the coronavirus hit, it began to dawn upon us that our wedding probably won’t happen the way we wanted it too. I have family in the United States and South Africa, and it became more apparent that they definitely won’t be celebrating with us in-person,” he said.

So the young couple sent a note to all their guests, notifying them that the festivities will be put on hold, and the two are mulling a vow renewal next year. For now, they will still move forward with a small and intimate chuppah ceremony this summer in order to seal the deal.

While coronavirus has managed to throw a wrench into plans globally, it seems that love stops for no one—not even a pandemic.

“We don’t know what will happen in August,” said Warhit regarding their plans to have a big party at the end of the summer. “We don’t know what the world will look like then. I don’t want to risk anybody’s health. I don’t want my guests to have to go into quarantine. Right now, we know that we just have to simplify all our plans and hope for the best.”

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