Nothing says “oleh” – new or otherwise - like arriving at a simchah at the wrong time.
Indeed, we made aliyah about ten and a half years ago, and we still have no idea when to show up.
For instance, last night we went to a bar mitzvah. It was called for 7:30, and we got there at around 8:30. After taking one look at the guests milling about aimlessly in the half-empty room, even YZG conceded that we should’ve come later.
Nevertheless, there were two distinct advantages to our “early” arrival:
- Parking wasn’t an issue.
- Neither was seating.
As some of you are aware, smachot without assigned seating are a pet peeve of mine.
Admittedly, the situation has definitely improved with time. 25-30 years ago, asking people to respond to an invitation was considered to be tacky and distastefully American. Matters have since evolved, and most (but not all) invitations seem to include an RSVP.
Seating, however, is another story.
Many affairs have no assigned seating at all – it’s first come; first serve. Others make a half-hearted attempt at seating. In other words, the hosts make up blocs of tables – rather than individual tables. For example, all the guests from the neighborhood might be seated at tables 15-22 (or something like that).
However, both approaches are awkward and uncomfortable. Guests are inevitably forced to scrounge around for a spot, and often, latecomers end up with no seat at all.
That’s why YZG and I always opt for arranging the seating before our smachot.
And the truth is that more and more hosts are going this route as well.
But in the meantime, a guest’s only recourse is to show up extra early – i.e., about an hour after the official starting time…