Useful Information for Wedding Guests Traveling to Israel
There are a whole host of components to take into consideration when planning a destination wedding that pertain directly to your guests. You have most likely visited Israel prior to planning your wedding here, so you a definite leg up on what to expect. For those who are attending your wedding and have never been to Israel, many things may come as a surprise. For those who have been, these are still some thoughtful reminders.
Update your passports!
Many countries (including the U.S.A.) require a solid 6-month time frame before a traveler’s passport is due to expire in order to flying internationally. Guests could simply be turned away and asked to reinstate their passport (which can take days and even up to weeks) before legally being able to fly. Make sure your guests check their passports way in advance and have at least a half a year window to fly freely.
Depending on season and location, Israel has temperate weather most of the year, but come summer, guests need t know in advance how to dress accordingly. From late May through September (prime wedding season), the weather can get extremely hot and humid. Do your guests a huge favor and advise them to pack clothes made from breathable fabrics like linen, chambray, and 100% cotton, a bathing suit, trusty walking shoes, and their most effective deodorant!
If it is possible, advise your guests to arrive to Israel giving themselves a buffer of a few days before your wedding. Depending on where they are traveling from, the intense jet lag (combined with alcohol) is not the best recipe for fun and if they can plan for some restful days in advance, they will be in tip top shape for your big day.
For those traveling from the USA, you will need a power plug adapter/voltage converter for any of your electric necessities (phone charger, computer charger, blow dryer, etc). In Israel the power sockets are type H. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
The weekend in Israel is Friday and Saturday, with businesses and banks closed on Saturdays due to Shabbat. Businesses close in the late afternoon on Friday with the oncoming of Shabbat. Sunday is the start of the work week, with all businesses, markets, and banks open (unless their is a holiday). Be sure to prepare your guests for any holidays that may take place in Israel during their stay.
The average tip at a sit down restaurant in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is a minimum of 12% for the waitstaff. There is no expectation to tip taxi drivers and guests flying back to international destinations should plan to be at Ben Gurion Airport three hours prior to their flight time. Everything you have heard about the airport lines and security (including at least three different check stations) is true. Give yourself ample time to get there and settled in stress-free. You’ll be happy to peruse the Duty-Free aisles with any extra time on your hands.
While it is obviously always fluctuating, the Israeli currency, NIS, most often hovers close to 3.5 on the U.S. dollar. Be sure to let your guests know what the exchange rate is at the time of your wedding and offer a few places to exchange money centrally located to where most of the guests will be staying.
Offer a select list of local, tried-and-true salons for those who would like to get their hair and nails done the day of the wedding. This is a kind gesture that your guests will be truly thankful for. You can even go ahead and ask who would like to book appointments in advance.
Traditionally, wedding guests in Israel give monetary gifts for the couple at the wedding. Don’t be surprised to see a safe at the entrance to the wedding venue for collecting checks. While this may seem crass for non-locals, it is truly de rigueur for Israelis. There is no such thing as a wedding registry and there is even an app to calculate how much money you should give to the couple based on a host of variables. Although it is a sensitive subject, it might be helpful to mention this in advance so guests are not caught off-guard. Actual presents are difficult to transport for both parties involved and coming up with a “honeymoon fund” prior to the festivities online and through bank transfers can be an easier and less cringe-worthy way of breaching the topic.