King David wedding a walk on the royal side

A ruined Scottish castle, New York's Central Park and the Spice Islands of Zanzibar are now among choice locations for weddings with a difference. Or notching up the experience yet further, bride and groom can arrive at their Fijian beachside ceremony by war canoe, or depart their Sri Lankan nuptials on elephant back.

For those in search of a more Jewish experience, however, including kosher food on the table, Jerusalem is a highly popular destination. And if it’s Jerusalem, as often as not it’s that most venerable of Jerusalem institutions, the King David Hotel.

“Every major city has its special hotel, and in Jerusalem it’s the King David,” says Charley Blacher, executive assistant manager of food and beverages. “Some 85 percent to 90 percent of our wedding clients generally come from abroad.”

Guests, he says, are attracted not only by the King David’s name, facilities and service, but also by its stunning Old City views. “We’re well aware of this and hold all wedding ceremonies, receptions and dinners in halls and terraces that frame the Old City.”

Clients from abroad will generally fly in to plan the wedding, and then return later for the actual event, often with a planeload of relatives and friends who stay at the hotel.

“Everyone has a dream of how their wedding — or their daughter’s wedding — will be,” says Blacher. “We listen carefully, and then try to guide them, especially if what they want sounds unrealistic. What’s important, we emphasize to them, is that the event is memorable in the best sense.”

Guests are usually fulsome in their thanks — sometimes embarrassingly so. “None of us here will forget one bride who came to thank the staff when the evening ended,” says Blacher. “We’re used to being thanked, but this lady insisted on embracing each one of us — chefs, waiters and managers. We all felt pretty awkward!”

The hotel’s wedding packages run from about $65 a head to $165, including flowers and wine. An upper-end-of-the-scale event could include a chuppah on one of the hotel’s outdoor terraces overlooking the Old City, a reception around the pool in the King David’s famed gardens, with cocktails and canapés, and a four-course sit-down dinner followed by a dessert buffet. Champagne would be offered on entering the hall and dinner would comprise goose liver hors d’oeuvres, soup, salmon en croute, followed by fillet Rossini with side dishes. Viennese desserts would be laid out buffet-style — cakes, tarts and strudels, warm chocolate pie, local baklava and fresh strawberries, washed down with sweet Turkish coffee and tea with fresh mint.

“I believe our catering is on a level with the best hotels anywhere,” says Blacher. “And as far as gourmet kosher catering is concerned, we’re probably better than anywhere else.”

While the wedding is the main event for the client, to the King David staff it’s often no more than part of a day’s work. “At breakfast next day, the bride and groom will see one of us, and want to talk about it all,” says Blacher. “By then, we’re probably neck-deep in organizing the next simcha. Or perhaps a foreign dignitary or two is staying in the hotel while the wedding takes place. Security and press converge for the dignitary. He’s holding a private function in the hotel. Meanwhile, the wedding guests are pouring in. Our job is to make sure that one doesn’t affect the other.

“Officially I’m an assistant food and beverage manager,” he says. “But more often than not I feel like a juggler, keeping a lot of fast-moving balls safely in the air.”