A wedding expo is, above all, an education in the do’s and don’t’s of tying the knot. And at My Big Fat Jewish Wedding Expo — a one-stop shop for all things matrimonial — these lessons were wrapped in layers of tradition.
Dozens of vendors ringed the main banquet hall in Brooklyn’s Grand Prospect Hall, which looks like a pastel wedding cake, on Tuesday night. They passed out samples of kosher wedding cake, painted makeup onto young women and showed dresses — all fit to modest specifications — to brides-to-be. The take-away, as demonstrated by an artful, candlelit table setting under a chuppah, is that one can be chic, even decadent, within the confines of Orthodox stricture.
The expo is the brainchild of Avi Werde, a 24-year-old event planner from Brooklyn. Wearing oversized black plastic glasses, sneakers and a tailored suit, Werde cut a different figure than the visitors — mostly men in wide-brimmed hats and yarmulkes and women in tight-fitting skirts and wigs. Though Werde, who sports a barely there goatee, conceded that many vendors cater to the Orthodox, the event is intended to appeal to Jews of all stripes.
“This event is really geared toward Jews,” he said. “I didn’t call it the ‘Religious Jewish Wedding Expo.’ I didn’t called it the ‘Orthodox Jewish Wedding Expo.’ I called it ‘My Big Fat Jewish Wedding Expo.’”
Even so, the Orthodox presence was clear to see. To the right of the chuppah was a booth with three-dozen wigs on Styrofoam busts from a Brooklyn store called Galit Italia.
Unlike the other items on display, the wigs — which sell for at least $850 a piece — were meant not for the ceremony itself, but for the day after, when Orthodox women cover their heads in public, showing their real hair to only their husbands.
Owner Racheli Chaimson said that young brides often come to her looking for wigs that match their natural hair color and cut, “so their husbands will recognize them after the wedding [and not say]: ‘Hello! Who are you?’”
Across the room, Zalman Minkowitz was manning a booth with several glass displays holding samples of diamond jewelry from his family’s store, in Crown Heights. Asked if there was anything different about wedding jewelry in the Orthodox tradition, Minkowitz called over his father, who then called over his wife to help explain a decades-old recommendation by the late rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson that Jews should not give each other engagement rings, only wedding rings.
“It symbolized marriage,” said his father, Mayer Minkowitz.. “Don’t give the ring before the marriage.”