Boruch Hashem, I recently got engaged. A few of the expenses have made me wonder. Although my parents are in chinuch, we don’t mind spending $1,600 on an engagement bracelet in order to ensure that my kallah is happy, because that is the norm and I don’t want her to feel deprived. What bothers me is: Why in the world is this normal? Who made this part of the process? I don’t mind buying her jewelry even if it’s expensive, but not because “this is what everyone does” (and lemaaseh it is a lot of money).
And for the record, I’m not getting a chosson watch, because I’ve never worn watches and I’ve got better things to spend two months’ worth of rent on.
However, my main question is regarding my Shabbos hat. I’ve had it for nine months and it’s still in very workable condition, but everyone is telling me that I need a new one for the chasunah. Does it make sense to add on a $300 expense for something that, again, is more about being “shpitz” and less about needing it? I don’t find myself to be an overly simple and cheap person from the shtetel. I’m just very content with, among other things, a tremendous hat that happens to be nine months old.
Any input on this matter would be appreciated.
First and foremost, mazal tov on your engagement! May you and your kallah be zocheh to build a bayis ne’eman b’Yisroel, and one which leads to the foundation of a multitude of beautiful doros yishorim u’mevorachim.
As far as the normalcy of present-day chosson and kallah gifts, ideally, the custom of bestowing a few benevolences was established to enhance ahava v’achva between the affianced, and between each of them and their respective future in-laws. In practice, however, and much like nearly everything that is in some way related to the making of a wedding nowadays, it has been blown entirely out of proportion and grown into a competitive sport of sorts that extends far beyond that which it was meant to accomplish. Correspondingly, and unfortunately, this novel convention of “keeping up with the Joneses” – and to the degree that the absence of luxury is genuinely sensed as privation – has become a tremendous stress and financial liability for many people. And at this juncture, while there is probably little that can be done to alter that reality, perhaps a renewed underscoring of the subject may lead to the saving of a few shekels, and the unburdening of a measure of undue tension for some in Klal Yisroel.
That said, regarding Stan Berenstain’s (1970) classic old-hat, new-hat debate, I believe there are a few considerations to reflect upon. As a preface, though, I would like to note that the ensuing discussion all presumes that the “workable condition” cited above is indeed the actuality, and that the hat in question is in no way tattered or disheveled.
First, this does not have to be a $300 endeavor. It can be, and if that is what one wants or needs, and can afford, that is fine. Nonetheless, buying new headgear does not have to be prohibitively expensive, and there are certainly less pricey options that are every bit as befitting of being worn under the chupah as sparkling, brand-new Trionfo.
Second, a new hat for one’s wedding should not be solely for the purposes of being shpitz just like everyone else, nor should it be with intent to make a statement about one’s pecuniary power. Rather, it is for the sake of openly declaring ultimate deference for this holy and lofty occasion, and augmenting one’s happiness. Consequently, and notwithstanding the repair of a prior purchase, old is old and new is new. Accordingly, provided one has the economic capacity to do so, I would opine that there is simply something special about clothing oneself in new accouterments in honor of this supremely sublime simcha.
Such is my opinion. But be that as it may, not everyone is of the same constitution regarding the suitability of extant apparel for one’s wedding. For others, if their current garb is in satisfactorily presentable condition, they may feel that wearing what they already own is commensurately bakovodik for the affair, and that new acquisitions do not enhance their contentment. And while I do believe there is an inherent value in donning new appurtenances for a chasunah, I readily concede that my position is not objective truth, and that it may not resonate with all people.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, how will this decision affect one’s kallah? Will she feel uncomfortable or embarrassed by what she views as antediluvian or somewhat shabby attire cloaking her betrothed, or is she of equal mind that his old hat is perfectly fine? If the former, I struggle to find this a battle worth fighting; especially as one prepares for a day that already has more than enough propensity for strife as efforts are made to accommodate numerous personalities, minhagim, and preferences. Alternatively, if the latter is the case, this potential obstacle then becomes a nonissue.
Parenthetically, as far as eschewing a chosson watch, it is again crucial to be aware of one’s kallah’s sentiments. If she will be left feeling divested of the opportunity to express affection via the conduit of benefactions in proportion to those which she is accepting, it may be worth acquiescing to a modest but reputable timepiece. And if even that is not palatable, either seforim, or some other gift that resonates can be selected. Whatever the item is, as long as something meaningful is chosen, it will allow for the giving and receiving to flow equivalently in both directions, which is the fundamental goal of the tradition.
Lastly, there is the topic of how everyone’s parents will react. And while it does remain a point of relative import that surely merits contemplation, I would posit that if the bride and groom are concordant on this matter, they should be left to their own devices, and given leeway to follow the path that most enhances their joy. After all, it is their wedding, and the mitzvas hayom is to rejoice with them, uplift them, and to the utmost of our ability, ensure that they experience unparalleled exultation.
Once the above deliberations have been completed, one will hopefully find themselves in a prime place to aptly decide whether a new hat should be procured, or if the old one is quite sufficient.