I felt quite honored to be invited to the wedding last night of the daughter of a couple I know casually from the orthodox Jewish community I frequent in Chicago. The happenstance of my invitation indicates how some families make weddings here: the invitation list not only includes family, friends of the happy couple and close friends of the parents, but it also includes people the parents may know only casually. In some cases this could mean the entire membership list of the parents' synagogues. If the father of the bride or groom were the synagogue's rabbi, that would make sense. In any other case...I can't criticize a family for inviting whomever it wants. If they think my presence will enhance their simchah, I'll make an effort to attend. I was genuinely pleased by the invitation. I told them as much. But they don't print money in their basement. I would not have been hurt had I not been invited.
Large orthodox Jewish weddings in Chicago are often held at the Midwest Conference Center, a Jewish-owned facility that has the capacity to handle large weddings AND free parking! My understanding is the wedding costs there are quite reasonable. The main drawback is its distance from the main concentration of orthodox Jews in Chicago. My driving distance was 22 miles, so the Conference Center (or Concord, as it's also known) is probably about 17 miles from Rogers Park, near Lake Street and Mannheim Road. Also, the southbound Tri-State Tollway exit for Lake Street only goes westbound, necessitating an awkward turnaround in a residential neighborhood for most wedding guests. ALSO (there's more), construction on the Tri-State makes traffic worse. Should one take the temporary-for-construction express lane (and emphasis on "lane," because there's only one, so one slow guy can ruin the experience) or the two locals? I bit for the express, and I think that worked out better. One can't go wrong with free parking, and it's a very nice facility. It would be much easier to attend a wedding at an O'Hare Airport hotel, but parking there can be $18 or more if it's not validated. The hosts were kind enough to spring for the parking for guests at the last airport hotel wedding I attended. Airport hotels are easier to drive to but probably about the same distance from Rogers Park as the Midwest Conference Center.
I saw two other people besides me (and besides band members) wearing earplugs. Why does the music at orthodox Jewish weddings need to be so loud? Loud enough to be dangerous? Is that a recent development? I sat next to friends of mine, which was nice. I handed my camera to strangers several times to pose with friends, whom I typically see only on the Sabbath, when photography is strictly prohibited. Each time I gave someone my camera, he had the same reaction: "This takes film?" YES, my camera takes film. It's a 35-millimeter camera. I don't own a digital camera. Yeesh!