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Minkowitz turned to his wife to ask her if he’d followed the rebbe’s advice at their engagement. Did he give her pearls? Nope.
“It was a gold watch” for the engagement, she said. “I got the diamond ring after the chuppah.”
The evening’s official proceedings began just before 9 p.m., with a speech by Rabbi Yehoshua Werde, Avi’s brother. Werde told the story of two families from the Old Country who were fighting over the same boy to marry their respective daughters.
In a twist not quite worthy of King Solomon, the two would-be mothers-in-law were brought before the chief rabbi, who suggested he cut the boy in half to resolve the dispute. One woman demurred. The other said, “Chop him in half!” “You are the real mother-in-law,” the rabbi concluded of the second woman.
After the yuks died down, men and women gathered on the beige seats assembled around a runway at the center of the room to wait for the evening’s main event: a fashion show of bridal dresses from Aliza’s Bridal Boutique in Brooklyn. The master of ceremonies, Simon Kaufman, stalled artfully while the women readied themselves in an adjacent room.
“We’re raffling off an investment banker!” he joked. “He’s 29, five foot nine, and very good looking.”
At long last, the show began. Three women in white dresses glided by, each gown more ostentatious — if equally modest — than the one before. Next, Kaufman said, was the “charming, swanlike princess of the ball.”
A model appeared onstage, her legs wrapped in a 3-foot-thick tulle skirt with a long square tail, not unlike that of a platypus. “Extravagance is in abundance,” Kaufman said.
“There’s enough room in there to hide a husband,” one woman in the audience said softly.
Surprisingly enough, there didn’t seem to be much of a market for the dresses at the expo. Reporters roamed the banquet hall, looking for fiancées to interview, but they bumped up against already marrieds and still singletons time and again.
One young couple, Shaya Gutleizer and Miriam Robbins, found themselves on camera several times during the evening. “You ladies engaged?” a reporter asked a group of girls seated near the catwalk. “No,” they said in unison.
The Forward did manage to find one engaged woman just before the night’s end. Dorit Finkel, a 22-year-old musician from Englewood, N.J., was to be married in June 2012 at the Grand Prospect Hall. In fact, Finkel said that the draw of the expo was the vendors, who would understand her Modern Orthodox family’s needs, good kosher food being one of them.
“Traditions can be weird,” she said. “It can be nice to meet with vendors who are aware of them.”