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Coronavirus shrinks wedding of couple who courted at Shabbat dinners

It was supposed to be a big wedding with 550 guests, men wearing black ties and women in evening gowns. After all, this was the match that was made because one young Israeli man in Los Angeles hosted thousands of people at his house for Shabbat — both because he loved to do it, and because he was looking for someone to love.

At last, Yaniv Cohen, 37, the host of all those dinners, found Sapir Elady, 26, one of his many guests. They started dating, and got engaged in December at a club in front of 1,000 people. They naturally planned a wedding on the same extravagant scale.

Then came coronavirus.

At first, they thought they’d have to slash their guest list roughly in half, to 250. Then, they realized they’d have to cut it in half again. Eventually, they were down to 10 people. They decided to call the whole thing off … but after talking to their rabbi, they changed their minds.

He said in Judaism, postponing a wedding is not done — so they decided not to do it, Cohen said.

“I thought to myself that God had wanted us to have a modest wedding and that’s how we are going to do it,” he said. In the end, the wedding of 550 became a wedding of a few dozen, plus thousands watching on Facebook. The attendees kept a distance of six feet from each other, but the couple under the white wedding canopy in the backyard of Adat Yeshurun synagogue in North Hollywood were happy and gorgeous, with a little help from luck, and their friends.

Elady’s dress, shipped from Israel, arrived one week before the wedding. The malls were closed, so a friend of Cohen’s opened his store to let him buy a suit and a pair of shoes. Two days before the wedding, they picked up the rings, and they managed to persuade a hair stylist and makeup artist to open their salon for Elady.

Singer Itay Benda stood under the canopy and sang religious tunes as the bride’s father, Yehuda Elady, escorted her to the chuppah. The bride’s mother, who lives in Israel, was one of those watching on Facebook.

“We didn’t have our big wedding celebration but it was still beautiful, special and holy,” said Elady — now Cohen.

Ayala Or-El is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

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