Okay, so you made it to the vort of your friend or your neighbor or your neighbor’s friend, or whatever!
But now what? As we pointed out last week, most simcha-prep articles are written for the baalei simcha, and that’s a huge oversight, because I don’t know if the writers know this, but the vast majority of the people at any given vort are going to be guests. Unless it’s a really big family.
What Do I Say Once I’m There?
It depends who you are. Basic etiquette rules say that when the kallah’s friends see her, they have to shriek. Like they did not expect to see the kallah at her own vort.
If you’re a man, you have to do a special mazel-tov handshake, wherein you lean in and hug while you’re shaking hands. Unless the other person doesn’t know about it, in which case it’s a very awkward hug.
After that, you can make conversation:
Unacceptable Topics of Conversation
- An actual vort.
- Anything embarrassing about either side, such as, “I know her! My mother is her psychologist!”
- “So who brought which present?”
- How you were at the chosson’s bris.
Acceptable topics of conversation
- Where the couple is going to live.
- Who will be making which sheva brachos.
- Trying to get in on a gift that someone else brought.
- “Do you want to come for a Shabbos sometime before you’re married? Because after you’re married, we don’t want you anymore.”
You can also talk to people about what an amazing shidduch this is, and how you had a feeling, but you weren’t going to say anything.
Another thing everyone says is, “Wow, it’s such a perfect shidduch, because he’s such a nice guy, and she’s such a nice girl!” Not everybody in the world can be nice guys and nice girls. It takes all kinds of people to make a world. Sometimes you see a couple that you know and you think, “Ugh, they deserve each other.” But nobody ever says that at a vort.
“He’s not great, but she’s no prize herself! They deserve each other!”
“Mazel tov, mazel tov! There’s someone for everyone, baruch Hashem.”
One fun topic of conversation at a vort is to explain to the baal simcha how you know the other side. You can say things like, “Oh, I know the other family from this-and-this place,” and everyone will go, “Oh, that’s so cute!” Because cute is an adjective that describes this situation. A vort is the only scenario where this kind of thing will be cute. Like you can’t come over to a couple a few years down the line and say, “I know you from there, and you from there!” And they’ll go, “That is so cute! We’ve been married to each other for 25 years!” This is the only simcha where it’s 100% acceptable to play Jewish geography.
“Oh my goodness! His great aunt was my madricha!”
“I don’t know what that means, but that’s so cute!”
It’s not that cute. She works in a school, so she was probably a madricha for thousands of girls. It’s not like the two of you were stuck on a desert island together for seven years.
“Oh my goodness! We were stuck on a desert island together for seven years!”
“That’s so cute! I know him from prison!”
When talking to the chosson or kallah themselves, you want to ask some pre-approved questions that they will have studied up on each other before the event. Your goal here isn’t to stump anyone.
You can also hear the story of how the chosson proposed. It’s not a great story, it involves a lot of inside jokes, you had to have been there, and you already know the ending. But you have to ask, because it’s the equivalent of asking, “How did you come up with the baby’s name?” at a bris. When you come home, everyone is going to ask.
If you’re not related, though – like say this is a vort for your neighbor’s daughter or something – I don’t know that you should go over to the chosson and have a whole long conversation. He’s trying to learn as many new people as he can, memorizing uncles and cousins, and you’re like, “Hey, I live down the block from your in-laws!”
“I don’t care.”
What if I’m Antisocial?
If you’re antisocial, you should bring a sefer and sit in the corner. If you’re a woman and you’re antisocial, you can just not come. Husbands are a lot more willing to just say, “My wife wanted to be here, but she’s not feeling well,” than wives are. This is because if a woman stands in the corner, she’s being antisocial. If a man sits in the corner, he obviously has learning to do.
“Okay, so I’m not antisocial,” you’re saying. “I just don’t know any of those people.” And you definitely have no interest in finding the one person you know and then glomming onto them the entire evening. Sure. But it’s guaranteed that you’re going to run into people at this thing that you know that you had no idea that the chosson and kallah even knew. Then you have a built-in topic of conversation. (“How do you know him?” “How do YOU know him?” “I asked you first.”) This conversation will keep you engaged for, at the very least, like two minutes. You can even stretch the conversation if you want.
“He’s my sister-in-law’s brother in law.”
“Which sister-in-law? Your brother’s wife, or your wife’s sister?”
“My wife’s brother’s wife, actually.”
“Fascinating. And what kind of brother-in-law is he to her?”
“Well, he’s not her sister’s husband. He’s not married yet.”
“Oh, so he’s her husband’s brother?”
“No, then he would be my brother-in-law.”
“Wait. Isn’t your sister-in-law’s brother-in-law you?”
“Yeah, the chosson is me.”
Should I Eat Before I Go, or Should I See What They Have and Maybe Eat When I Get Home?
Eating at vorts can be fun, in that you never know what kind of food to expect. Like if there’s hot food, you’re pleasantly surprised. You never go to a chasunah and are like, “Hey, there’s hot food here! I am pleasantly surprised!”
A vort is basically like, “What if we just did the buffet part of the chasunah, and then everyone got to go home?” Which is the best kind of chasunah. Not for the chosson and kallah, but for everyone else.
You’re definitely going to want to make sure to get a piece of that hundred-dollar cake that everyone puts out. Even if you’re someone who doesn’t eat at simchas. I have seen the recipe, and you are never making that at home. But every vort has it, so it’s probably an ancient minhag. Like chick peas at a sholom zachor, or pink cake pops at a newborn kiddush.
Wait, I Have to Dance Too?
At some point, somebody’s going to break into song and start dancing, and you can join in, especially if you don’t want to schmooze with people. Because unlike a chasunah dance, instead of it going on forever and you constantly having to claw your way back into the circle, you just have to dance in one circle for a few minutes and wonder if all that stomping is going to make the living room fall into the basement. Nobody builds a living room and says, “I want it to be possible for 30 men to do that dance where they keep stomping their foot in the middle of a neat circle.”
Once the dancing ends, you want to try to leave before someone starts it up again, because that means there’s been an entire turnover of people. Except you.
Okay, I’m Leaving. Where’s My Wife?
Before you leave, you want to say, “Mazel tov,” again, even though you said, “Mazel tov,” coming in. In case they forgot.
Your coat will be in the back room in a pile. Assuming everyone leaves in the same basic order in which they showed up, every single person’s coat will be at the bottom of this pile.
Basically, a vort is pretty much uncharted territory, because there are no vorts in Tanach, as far as I know. The Gemara does talk about something called eirusin, but that was a very different thing. It seems like that was more of a private affair, where the guy was always trying to get away with something. If you read Maseches Kiddushin, it looks like men back then went out of their way to save money on this step. The whole first perek of Kiddushin is like, “What if I give her something worth less than a perutah?” “What if I just propose to her with a loan?” And then the guests get to go to the eirusin party and have to hear the story of how he proposed.
“So how did he propose?”
“Well, I owed him money, and he said, “How about instead of paying me back, you just keep the money, and then we’ll be married!” And I was like, “Aww…”
“Wow, that’s so cute! Let me see the ring!”
“It’s actually a rubber band, but okay.”