Destination Celebration Tips

A Wedding in Europe – A Bar Mitzvah in the Caribbean

Tips for Seniors on the Destination Family Simcha

“Well I never thought I’d see the day,” exclaimed Eva to her senior living buddy, Gladys. “When did this happen? When did you start using a cane.?” 

“That’s ‘canes’ ….plural,” Gladys’ husband, Ken explained. “We bought two of them to take to Italy. Our grandson is getting married over there and we’re going prepared!” 

According to recent statistics regarding venues for destination weddings, Europe is one of the most popular choices and Italy tops the charts. At a whopping 78 percent of wedding destinations, FindYourItaly.com reports that “Bella Italia” is the European country most preferred with more than seven thousand destination weddings conducted there in 2017 alone. 

The same holds true for Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies. As more and more families examine alternatives to the “big bash” or “blow-out party,” that, according to Rob Eshman, editor of Jewishjournal.com, can cost from $20,000 to $100, 000, more families are taking their show on the road.” Favored destinations include Europe, the Caribbean and of course, Israel, but no matter where in the world the ceremonies are held, grandparents hold a place of honor in these celebrations. 

That’s why Gladys and Ken, neither of whom are required to use a cane, chose to purchase a matched set, precisely for their European trip. In addition, this Bubbye and Zayde duo put their “kops” together to devise a list of senior considerations when traveling abroad for a family simcha:  

1.Have a frank talk with the wedding couple or the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family  – Gladys and Ken were honored that their grandson invited them to offer a special wedding blessing, while other seniors kvell at being a part of the Bar or Bar Mitzvah service. But seniors report that prior to finalizing plans a frank talk with the family is essential, especially before the family selects a venue. Gladys and Ken emphasize that if you are frail or unsteady, discuss your accessibility needs before the family makes a deposit on that spectacular but remote villa or hotel. Be proactive. Ken even asked  to speak directly to the on-site event planner to discuss specific needs.

2.Ask the right questions –  Does that ancient castle that presents so beautifully on the website have accessible bathroom facilities? Does the walled city where the villa is located prohibit auto traffic and if so, how much time is necessary to walk to the venue itself? Is there golf cart transportation for seniors and if so, how are those reservations made and guaranteed?  

For example, the town of Ravello on the Amalfi Coast is accessible only on foot. A beautiful wedding villa is located at the end of long pedestrian passageway where the uneven pavement, dozen and steps and semi-steep grades present a real challenge for elderly guests. 

Then there’s the synagogue in Rhodes, Greece, built in 1577. It features a mosaic floor that, although breathtakingly beautiful, makes walking and even standing quite challenging, while the synagogue in St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands) is located atop a steep incline and boasts a sanctuary floor covered with sand. As Ken said, “Something good to know ahead of time.” 

3.Photos, videos, Face Time or- “Don’t worry Bubbye, we’ll Face Time the ceremony.”  For seniors who are unable to travel, being present virtually, in real time, seems like an easily accomplished alternative, however it is important to determine in advance how this might happen.. 

Ken and Gladys found that some venues are so remote that limited band width prohibits a clear transmission, while some officiants discourage any cell phone use during the ceremony.  If a smart phone will transmit the ceremony, be sure to contact the officiating rabbi for her/his guidelines so that if real time technology is permitted, you can bring a stand or pedestal so that the phone can be positioned accurately for the duration of the ceremony. In this way every guest can be emotionally and spiritually present during the ceremony. Better yet, consider hiring a professional photographer and videographer and organize a small reception at home so that those who could not attend can share in the joy of the occasion.

4.Do what Gladys and Ken did – Consider purchasing or renting an “all terrain cane,” (one of the most popular is the “HurryCane”). These super stable walking sticks feature rotating “feet” that adapt to grass, concrete and cobblestones and provide stability on ancient walkways and villa and castle grounds.

 “America is accessible but Europe is ancient and many buildings do not have hand rails, ramps or golf cart transportation,” says Gladys, who reports that she and Ken practiced with their all terrain canes for two weeks before departing the US for their family’s Italian simcha.  “We were ready, ”Gladys says. “We talked to the kids and asked the right questions.” 

Gladys and Ken got as much senior –specific information as they could. Ken says, ‘We were like the Boy Scouts. We arrived prepared because no way were we going to miss my grandson breaking the glass!

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