Brooklyn wedding expo lacked just one thing brides

When the crowds started trickling into the Jewish wedding expo last November at Brooklyn’s Grand Prospect Hall, there was everything you would expect at a wedding expo aimed at Orthodox Jews: kosher food venders, makeup booths, floral arrangers, videographers, wig sellers, dressmakers, musicians, and even a table espousing the virtues of the mikvah run by Oprah’s mivkah guru, Bronya Schaeffer.

The only thing missing: brides-to-be.

Several of the single young women I approached –– those without wedding bands and head coverings –– told me that they were not engaged but came out of curiosity or because they knew someone involved in the expo, be it a vendor or the organizer, Avi Werde of ECS Events.

New York designer Aliza Schmalberg caters to modest tastes in wedding gowns. photo/courtesy of aliza’s bridal boutique

Rachel Ohayon, 27, said she “was getting information together” for the future.

Some women came in support of the handful of brides present.

When the evening’s emcee, Simon Kaufman, informally polled the audience before the start of the bridal fashion show, asking who was a bride-to-be among the attendees, the response was muted. It was a far cry from the 500 couples Werde said he expected to turn out.

Dorit Finkel, 22, was one bride-to-be at the expo who appreciated the attempt. The petite blonde was given the full makeup treatment and seemed pleased with it. “I am hoping to wear my grandmother’s dress,” she said, describing it as a vintage 1950s design. “It’s a little bit sexier,” she observed, comparing it with the modest dresses on display from Aliza Schmalberg, which all had high necklines and long hems.

The dresses were designed by Shmalberg, who started her business two years after watching her daughter struggle to find a gown for her own wedding. Her daughter had been looking for a simple, classic silhouette. A few of the dresses hewed to that aesthetic –– long with clean slim lines –– but the centerpiece dress hardly could be described in such a way. With its full lacy skirt, it seemed fashion forward enough to be worn by Carrie Bradshaw. (Of course, the TV character would probably remove a swath of fabric from her collarbone down to her cleavage.)

Shmalberg’s gowns were on display during the runway show, which began with a d’var Torah from a rabbi extolling the virtues of Jewish marriage .

After the rabbi concluded his remarks, the models began strolling down the makeshift runway to Iron and Wine’s “Flightless Bird, American Mouth,” chosen by Diwon, the DJ and music maestro who provided the soundtrack for the show.

Just like any other wedding expo, this one was conceived  as a way of making planning simpler for the soon-to-be-married couple. “It’s bringing all of these different elements into one place to make the experience easier for the bride and groom,” said event organizer Werde.