Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Mastering the Mechutanim Maze

Maayan Cohen

Sometimes the kol sasson and kol simchah of two families being joined metamorphose into voices so heated and loud that none of the joy can be heard. How can mechutanim avoid the bumps along the path to the chuppah and share a close relationship despite their differences? What can both sets of parents do to guarantee that when they meet at the wedding hall their mazel tovs aren’t spiked with underlying tension?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

mazeIn the beginning, all is rosy. Crystalschnapps cups are raised, warm handshakes are exchanged between the fathers, and emotional embraces between the mothers. A three-foot- tall flower arrangement fills the entranceway, there’s dazzling divrei Torah, a festive engagement party, and, of course, a starry-eyed couple.

Framed photos capture the mutual feelings of joy. Two proud sets of parents standing on either side of the evening’s main players — the chassan and the kallah. Two middle-aged couples with one goal: to see their children happy.

But the cheerful balloon of joy and goodwill is often quick to deflate. As the wedding day looms ever nearer, conversations get ever more strained The chassan and kallah are still floating somewhere in seventh heaven, but the mechutanim? They can barely carry on a civilized conversation. Resentment simmers beneath the surface, occasionally rising to the fore in the shape of barely veiled barbs and snarky comments. What happened?

Dollars and Sense

In most cases, discord between mechutanim is a result of fiscal disagreements. In many frum circles, it’s accepted practice that parents try to guarantee their children’s financial security before the engagement is official. Yet despite lengthy negotiations, discussions, and pledges that go on before the l’chaim, finances often become the central grounds for battle.

Yossi Brown got engaged to Fraidy Mintz. Before the l’chaim, the senior Browns and Mintzes met for a long hour to discuss finances. Mr. Mintz pledged $50,000 for the couple to secure in bonds or another investment — or so the Browns claim. During a meeting with a financial adviser, it emerged that there had been a misunderstanding. “What I meant was that I’m offering a total of $50,000,” Mintz explains, “including gifts, wedding expenses, rental costs, etc.!”

And pandemonium broke out.

After a drawn-out battle, Brown called Mintz to a din Torah for backtracking on his commitments. Not a very promising start to a fairy tale marriage.

Despite all the turmoil, the couple did get married, and are hopefully living happily ever after. However, at the time, their best interests were completely disregarded amidst the tumult that followed the revelation that “They deceived us!” (Browns) and “They’re trying to squeeze every penny out of us.” (Mintzes)

Engagements have been broken over financial disputes between mechutanim. Couples have been wed amid high conflict between their parents and carry the consequences well into their marriage. Marriage counselors, chassan and kallah teachers, rabbis, and shadchanim have been embroiled in raging debates about who promised whom, what, why, and when.

Dr. Rabbi Yosef Goldstein — psychotherapist, pre-marital and family counselor, and chassan teacher — often deals with disputes between mechutanim. “Parents are convinced they’re fighting for their child,” he says, “but if you’d ask the child, he’d do anything to pass on the favor and ease the tension.

“In the frum community, financial matters are usually discussed and closed between the parents, not the children. I always counsel young couples to keep out of financial debates. True it’s their lives and futures in question, but they must completely dissociate themselves from anything to do with finances.”


 To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha. To sign up for a weekly subscription click here.


Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"