This article was written as part of my Reporting and Writing class, taught by Ruth Padawer and Pam Frederick in the Fall of 2011. I covered the Big Fat Jewish Wedding Expo, the first of its kind in New York, which offered more than just center pieces and cake.
In Park Slope, the Big Fat Jewish Wedding Expo offers everything from challah covers to wigs.
By Anne Cohen
At first glance, it could have been any wedding expo: Sleek-haired women with expertly done makeup, dressed in fashionable dresses and boots, walked from vendor to vendor, examining the wares; occasional men in suits lingered at the food tables, or greeted their friends; and of course, the usual array of dress, photography, makeup, tuxedo, pastry and centerpieces were on display.
But this was the Big Fat Jewish expo, held at Grand Prospect Hall in Park Slope on Tuesday, and its aim was to cater to Jews from the whole spectrum of religious observance.
On the right, Racheli Haimson sold selling wigs. Approximately 35 different styles — long, short, brown, auburn, bangs, straight, wavy,are displayed on shelves behind her. She and her husband, Dovi, run Galit Italia, a wholesale and retail company selling wigs made of European hair. Wigs range from $850 to more than $2000 . However, Haimson says that’s reasonable compared to what quality wigs normally sell for. They can go up to $5000.
“If you want beautiful hair, you’re going to need quality,” she said.
This is the first year for the Big Fat Jewish Wedding expo. When asked how he came up with the idea, Avi Werde, the organizer, laughed. “There’s a how and there’s a why,” he said.
At 24, wearing a custom-made black double-breasted suit and sneakers with orange laces, Werde, who is in his twenties, is constantly on the move, flitting from vendor to vendor, keeping things organized. He can’t walk two feet without someone clapping him on the back, greeting him with a hug, or frantically asking him questions about sound, lights, or layout.
Werde runs the Event Connection Source, a company that “creates events in areas where there’s a lack.” According to Werde, there was an empty space in the Jewish wedding industry, but a clear clientele. At first he had to track down vendors but he was quickly inundated with calls from people who wanted to participate in the event. “I got an incredibly positive response,” he said.
Though Werde refused to say how much each booth cost, he said the event paid for itself. He estimated that around 350-400 people attended the four hour expo, despite the pouring rain.
Across the room, the Ta Shma Orchestra is playing a song. Yoni Stokar, who plays the drums, is a young man with a full beard, peyes — the untrimmed sideburns of an Orthodox Jew — and shaggy brown hair under a yarmulke. The three person band, which includes guitar and bongos, plays at weddings, bar-mitzvahs and concerts. “Our style is kind of like New Age Shlomo Carlbach meets the Grateful Dead,” he said.
In front of a table covered with a shiny white tablecloth Mushka Marasow and Rachel Harlig are looking at wedding dresses — with long sleeves of course. Harlig is engaged, and she brought Maraskow, her cousin, to get an objective point of view.
For Harlig, this wedding expo is a wonderful, timesaving opportunity. “In New York, it’s a big schlep for everything,” she said. “Here it’s all in one place.”
Not all the attendees are prospective brides. Devorah Bukiet is already married, but, after hearing about the event from a friend/relative, decided to see what all the buzz was about.
“It’s nice to know what’s out there for siblings and friends,” she said.
Towards the end of the night, an announcer climbed on the stage at the back of the room. “Get ready for the fashion show,” he sung out. “This’ll change your life.”
As the spotlight shone onto the catwalk leading from the stage into the center of the room, the first model glided down in an ivory satin wedding gown with beaded lace applique.
After finally sitting down on one of the gold brocade chairs for a much-needed break, Werde glanced around the room smiled. “I’m very happy with the way things turned out,” he said. “And I’m even more excited for the next one!”