When the crowds started trinkling in Tuesday night to the Jewish wedding expo at Brooklyn’s Grand Prospect Hall, there was everything you would expect to find at a wedding expo aimed at Orthodox Jews: kosher food venders offering deep-fried hors d’oeuvres and chocolate desserts, makeup booths, floral arrangers, videographers, wig sellers, dressmakers, musicians, and even a table espousing the virtues of mikvah run by Oprah’s mivkah guru, Bronya Schaeffer.
The only thing missing at My Big Fat Jewish Wedding Expo: brides-to-be.
Several of the single young women I approached — those without wedding bands and head coverings — told me that they were not engaged but came out of curiosity or because they knew someone involved in the expo, be it a vender or the organizer, Avi Werde of ECS Events.
Rachel Ohayon, 27, said she “was getting information together” for the future.
Some women came in support of the handful of brides present.
When the evening’s emcee, Simon Kaufman, informally polled the audience before the start of the bridal fashion show, asking who was a bride-to-be among the attendees, the response was muted. It was a far cry from the 500 couples the New York Post reported that Werde said he expected to turn out.
He had conceived the expo as a way of making the wedding planning experience simpler for the soon-to-be-married couple.
“By creating this event, it’s bringing all of these different elements into one place to make the experience easier for the bride and groom,” Werde said.
Dorit Finkel, 22, was one bride at the expo who appreciated the attempt. The petite blonde was given the full spray makeup treatment and seemed pleased with it. “I am hoping to wear my grandmother’s dress,” she said, describing it as a vintage 1950s design. “It’s a little bit sexier,” she observed, referring to the modest dresses on display from Aliza Schmalberg, which all had high necklines and long hems.
The dresses were designed by Shmalberg, who started her business two years after watching her daughter struggle to find a gown for her own wedding. Her daughter had been looking for a simple, classic silhouette. A few of the dresses hewed to that aesthetic — long with clean slim lines — but the centerpiece dress hardly could be described in such a way. With its fully lacy skirt, it seemed fashion forward enough (or backward, depending on your perspective on such matters) to be worn by Carrie Bradshaw. Of course, the TV character would probably remove a swath of fabric from her collarbone down to her cleavage.
Shmalberg’s gowns were on display during the runway show, which began with a d’var Torah from a rabbi extolling the virtues of Jewish marriage while the crowd mostly talked among themselves — pretty much like a synagogue sermon. It was not the best way to get a crowd in the mood to look at wedding gowns.
After the rabbi concluded his remarks, the models began strolling down the makeshift runway to Iron and Wine’s “Flightless Bird, American Mouth,” chosen by Diwon, who provided the soundtrack for the show.
Writing about wedding fashion makes one wish that like the Eskimos’ 20 words for snow, English had a similar number of synonyms for “lacy” or “white.” Suffice it to say, all of the gowns on display fell into either and/or both categories.
The gowns were met with modest crowd response. Maybe it would’ve been different had more of the target demographic — brides — shown up. I suppose that you can’t have a wedding or a bridal expo without the star.
Thankfully, the dresses, like everything else you need for your wedding, can be found online, no expo necessary.