Trends in simcha celebrations… always an evolution

Jews have been celebrating life-cycle milestones for what seems like forever – with events often including traditions dating back for what also seems like forever. . .or at least several centuries. While the significance of a bar or bat mitzvah or Jewish wedding may remain dedicated to religious law, the celebration of these occasions has certainly changed with time.

In 2024, for example, a bride may still wear white, but the color of her dress may be the sole detail she shares with brides who came before her.

Reva Stein shares plenty of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ when coordinating a celebration. An event planner in Tidewater with 32 years of experience, one trend she’s particularly outspoken about disliking is one that may save money but can create confusion in the long run: asking guests to RSVP to an email address rather than including a postage-paid reply card with the invitation.

“I am a firm believer in RSVPs on a card. It keeps a better record,” she says.

Bar and bat mitzvah parties are not as “over-the-top” as they once were, according to Stein. Many parties now focus more on the kids than the adults. In addition, many families travel to Israel for the occasion.

Pearl Taylor, also an event planner with a long history in Tidewater, explains that wedding venues have evolved to include more than just the synagogue or hotel. Couples are opting to marry in historic homes or barns, often renting tents to celebrate in outdoor spaces. “No high heels!” she emphasizes. Taylor has seen more than one guest sink in the mud.

Like most things in life, absolutes on indoor vs outdoor don’t exist when it comes to planning a party. And for those who can’t entirely make up their mind, some hotels offer both options, including room accommodations for guests.

The Historic Cavalier Hotel and Beach Club, for example, provides 40 indoor and outdoor wedding spaces, including the renovated Cavalier Hotel, Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront, The Beach Club, and the Embassy Suites by Hilton. Couples can choose from a beach, ballroom, or garden ceremony and reception or perhaps a combination
of indoor/outdoor – venues not found in many other areas.

Then again, for couples seeking a more urban environment, Norfolk’s The Main boasts a unique modern art collection framing the expansive space and setting the stage for a big event. This contemporary, upscale hotel provides several venue spaces, with as one mother-of-the-bride noted, a spectacular view.

Whether indoor or out, both event planners highlight similar trends when working on upcoming nuptials. Brides often change from their wedding gown to a less-confining cocktail dress for the reception. Registries and thank you notes are optional. Officiants are often friends instead of clergy. Tall, floral centerpieces sometimes give way to more greenery, candles, and table runners, but not always.

Technology plays a large role, too. Websites, such as, allow couples to share entertaining stories about how they met and details about the wedding weekend. Gift ideas can include cash – to help offset the cost of the wedding or subsidize the honeymoon.

“Jewish weddings are a coming together,” Foss says when discussing the importance of flowers at a wedding. One particular trend she sees is that bridal bouquets are now smaller, following the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.

On the subject of kids, Stein says, “A lot of people are not having young children at their wedding these days. But the bride and groom don’t know how to explain to guests not to bring their kids!”

As the reception concludes, Taylor and Stein both see guests leaving with party favors.
“It’s an end to a fun evening,” Taylor shares. Often an edible treat, such as a cookie, candy, or push pop, Taylor says she enjoys that people leave with the feeling ‘look what they did for us!’

Taylor also plans corporate holiday parties, with photo booths, casinos, and colored dance floors, to show appreciation to the staff.

“Oh, and divorce parties, too,” she adds

Photographs by Don Monteaux
Photographs by Don Monteaux