Finding a truly unique wedding destination can be difficult. There are countless special wedding venues scattered around the world, but few offer the distinctive beauty and amenities of the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth.
Although Ein Bokek, the Dead Sea’s hotel and tourism district, is less than a two-hour drive from Jerusalem (it’s possible to charter a bus to transport guests to and from the wedding the same day), some couples turn their Dead Sea weddings into a family adventure and spa vacation for a weekend or longer.
Thanks to its warm climate, the Dead Sea is a sought-after wedding destination from midautumn to midspring, but definitely not in the summer when the temperatures average 100 degrees or higher. It almost never rains, virtually ensuring that an outdoor wedding won’t be rained out.
The area offers many additional sights for guests to enjoy, too. Must-see attractions include the hilltop fortress of Masada; the Qumran caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered; and the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, with its hiking trails.
Israeli wedding planner Nikki Fenton (nikkifenton.com) said that for couples with family coming from overseas, a Dead Sea wedding is like a destination within a destination. Before planning such a wedding, she added, couples need to sound out their guests.
“The guests need to know that, if they’re in a hotel in the center of the country, they’ll need to pack up their things and move to a new location for a couple of days,” unless they want to pay for their first hotel while they’re away, or are staying in an apartment and can keep their belongings there.
“If you can make it appealing and exciting and not a hassle, you can be on to a great thing,” Fenton said.
At the Dead Sea, the sense of adventure can easily outweigh any drawbacks, provided everyone is on board and knows what to expect. As with any destination wedding, the couple should inform guests of their options, starting with the range of accommodations (especially price-wise), and activities related to and not related to the wedding.
Many couples who marry at the Dead Sea do so at one of the area’s hotels, which offer not only a stunning wedding venue but also everything one needs for a spa holiday, starting with a buoyant swim in the sea (and, often, pools with Dead Sea water) and do-it-yourself mud treatments.
The hotels also offer a wide variety of spa treatments, many with Dead Sea products, at prices below what comparable treatments cost in the United States. Some hotels offer a free treatment with an overnight stay, and large parties should request a discount on treatments for all their guests. Guests who choose to stay at nearby guesthouses or youth hostels have the option of buying a spa day-pass.
Given the logistical challenges, couples wishing to marry at the Dead Sea should seriously consider utilizing the services of an event planner who can arrange everything, from the cuisine to who will officiate.
Event planner Natalie Abraham, whose company, Dreamcatcher (natalieabrahamdreamcatcher.com), plans weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs throughout Israel, said some of the most interesting Dead Sea-area weddings take place in nature spots.
Abraham once organized an intimate, offbeat wedding at Metsoke Dragot, a hostel with very basic accommodations — including tents — located on a cliff 65 feet above sea level, about four miles from the sea.
“It was a very small wedding, mostly for the couple’s friends. The chuppah was on the cliff, and the view of the sea and the desert was breathtaking. They got married just before sunset, and the colors — oranges and yellows and blues — were gorgeous.”
What the venue lacked in luxury, it made up for in atmosphere, Abraham said.
“The Dead Sea region has a very strong healing element. This force just overtakes you, and it’s very powerful.”
Making it legit
An important factor all couples marrying at the Dead Sea — or anywhere in Israel — need to consider is ensuring the legitimacy of their ceremony. Those wanting an Orthodox wedding at the Dead Sea must register with the Chief Rabbinate several months ahead. They will need to prove they are Jewish.
A non-Orthodox wedding in Israel will not be recognized by the Israeli authorities, which is why many non-Orthodox couples also have a civil marriage. ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center (itim.org.il/en/) is a good resource for these matters.