A wedding at the Tower of David is expensive but spectacular. Photo by Yifat Yogev Dadon
A wedding at the Tower of David is expensive but spectacular. Photo by Yifat Yogev Dadon

Israelis love come-as-you-are weddings where guests are welcome to bring along a friend, there’s no color scheme and the groom wears an open-necked shirt. But whether it’s a jeans or black-tie affair, in many cases the venue itself provides the Israeli wedding’s wow factor because of its great religious or historical import or its stunning natural backdrop.

“I find most people who do an event in Israel want it to be more meaningful and significant, as opposed to focusing on décor and other extraneous values,” says Judy Krasna, copartner in Celebrate Israel.

In addition to plentiful wedding halls, wedding gardens and hotel ballrooms across the country, Israel offers many one-of-a-kind places to get married. For engaged couples abroad, wedding planners who speak their language can take care of all the arrangements.

“We have an insane amount of gorgeous ideas for parties in Israel,” says Adena Mark of A to Z Events Israel.

Mark has hung chandeliers in Zedekiah’s Cave  under the Old City walls of Jerusalem, creating a fancy festive wedding inside this legendary 2,000-year-old limestone quarry. She has staged weddings among the ancient Roman ruins in Caesarea,  and decorated forest clearings with twinkling lights in the trees and straw mats on the bare ground.

This couple had a beach wedding in Caesarea, arranged by planner Nikki Fenton. Photo via SmashingTheGlass.com
This couple had a beach wedding in Caesarea, arranged by planner Nikki Fenton. Photo via SmashingTheGlass.com

Mark has schlepped flowers and portable air-conditioners or heaters to marriage ceremonies on the cliffs of the Judean Desert. “At night it’s magical, with a view of the Dead Sea and the rolling hills,” she tells ISRAEL21c.

Krasna especially loves weddings at wheelchair-accessible Genesis Land  (Eretz Beresheet) in the Judean Desert.

“The view from the chuppah [wedding canopy] over the desert at sunset is the most spectacular backdrop for a wedding ceremony I’ve ever seen,” she tells ISRAEL21c.

“You can choose to do an upscale wedding or a funky one with camel rides for the guests and waiters in biblical garb. For guests coming from outside Israel, it’s a really Israeli experience.”

It’s possible to arrange a wedding on just about any Israeli beach or national park, says Krasna. She recommends a beachfront with a hotel or restaurant in which the reception can be sheltered from the strong sea winds – such as Herzliya’s Daniel Hotel,  Al Hayam  in Caesarea or the Rimonim Palm Beach Hotel  in Acre (Akko).

For nuptials in nature away from the waterfront, Krasna likes the historic Hulda Forest  in central Israel, the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens  or Ein Gedi Botanical Garden near the Dead Sea.

 Wedding at the Dead Sea by Jacob Gontmacher.
Wedding at the Dead Sea by Jacob Gontmacher.

What about a wedding in a winery? Several Israeli wineries can accommodate parties of different sizes, including the Tishbi and Binyamina wineries in the Zichron Ya’akov area and the Psagot Winery  overlooking the mountains of Jordan.

Krasna’s favorite spot for a dream wedding in Israel is the Bell Cave at Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park.

“It’s so incredibly different! The guests always rave that they’ve never been to such a cool wedding,” says Krasna, though she warns that the venue does present limitations. “Because it’s a national park, you can only have acoustic music, and the terrain is uneven so if you have elderly guests they might have trouble walking,” she says.

 Wedding setup at Beit Guvrin. Photo courtesy of Danny Marx Productions
Wedding setup at Beit Guvrin. Photo courtesy of Danny Marx Productions

For those who prefer to be above ground, Alon Rosenberg of Danny Marx Productions recommends the Ottoman-period Tower of David citadel in Jerusalem and the historic Masada cliff on the road to the Dead Sea.

Rosenberg says a wedding at the Tower of David is “very, very expensive and you need to bring everything in,” but for those who can splurge, “it’s like you’re entering a castle surrounded by the Old City walls. It’s a historical site that enables you to have an amazing event in an enclosed structure.”

Danny Marx, who often arranges celebrity affairs including actress Gal Gadot’s  nuptials five years ago at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv, adds that venues combining an atmosphere of history with modern elegance make Israeli weddings unique.

Biblical weddings

Jerusalem resident Reuven Prager aims to put some history back into the ceremony itself. His Biblical Weddings  recreates the ancient custom where every bride in the land of Israel wore a Jerusalem of Gold crown and was carried to the ceremony on a royal litter called an aperion.

Prager built a replica of the crown and the aperion as described in the biblical Song of Songs and Talmudic sources. Ten strong men carry it to the accompaniment of shofar-blowers and harpists. (Prager charges $1,500 but says he never turns anyone away for lack of funds.)

“We dedicated the aperion in a ceremony at the Bible Lands Museum during Hanukkah 1992, and the next day we used it for the first wedding,” Prager tells ISRAEL21c.

The “bride” in the aperion here is a California mom celebrating her 12th wedding anniversary in Israel. Photo courtesy of Biblical Weddings
The “bride” in the aperion here is a California mom celebrating her 12th wedding anniversary in Israel. Photo courtesy of Biblical Weddings

About 100 Israeli and foreign Jewish couples have used Prager’s aperion for their weddings, while Christian couples from abroad have made Biblical Weddings the highlight of their honeymoon or anniversary trip.

Prager hopes to work with the Tourism Ministry to launch a national competition encouraging the creation of hundreds of aperions and golden bridal crowns across Israel to broaden the availability of this unusual package. The Jerusalem municipality and the Israel Museum stand ready to host the competition. If Prager’s dream comes true, the aperion could usher in a unique wedding startup industry that could only happen in Israel.

For a list of eight great reasons to have a wedding in Israel, and lots more on Israeli wedding venues, gowns and decor, see the MyDay (Hatunot) blog.