Marriages might be made in heaven, but Hollywood does weddings best.
The Land of Make-Believe has its own idea of what a wedding looks like, Jewish or otherwise. So before you choose your own cast of cooks, musicians and florists, rev up the VCR, plunk in the video and sit back and relax as 60 years' worth of Hollywood films give you the big picture. Under the canopy, I see them….
I've established my own Stars of David system for watching motion-picture weddings:
* Four stars: Now this is a wedding!
* Three stars: It couldn't hurt to pay attention.
* Two stars: They call this a wedding?
* One star: Oy! Pass the Pepto.
"Goodbye Columbus" entails one of the most famous Jewish weddings ever filmed (besides my Uncle Mel's, but that's another story). It's a fun 1969 movie about a young Jewish couple (Richard Benjamin and Ali MacGraw — hey, it's Hollywood) who attend the girl's brother's big bash.
I was on a date when I first saw this movie and got a little nauseous from the food in the wedding scenes. Afterwards I overheard moviegoers leaving the theater, muttering, "Such eating gives Jews a bad name"; "Poor taste"; "Didn't that look like Aunt Rose in the conga line?"
"I dunno," someone murmured. "The nova looked good to me."
Overall, the movie gets three stars; the wedding scene, one. But the band sounded nice. Three stars for the band.
In "Fiddler on the Roof," Tevye has five daughters to marry off. You think you've got problems? The marriagable-male pickings are mighty slim in turn-of-the-century Anatevka, but Tevye makes a wonderful match for his daughter Tzeitel. This 1971 film offers one of the most poetic wedding numbers ever, from sunrise to sunset. Four stars.
Oy, another tailor assaults us in "A La Mode." Actually, this 1994 French film's hero is a young designer — a non-Jewish orphan who becomes Jewish after being adopted by a Jewish tailor. The film climaxes with the designer's wedding — highlighting bizarre garb inspired by religious attire. It's a lesson on what not to wear to shul on the big day. Three stars.
At the beginning of "Private Benjamin," Judy Benjamin (Goldie Hawn) has a perfect wedding — good food, a nice band and lots of envelopes. And then afterward, bam! Her husband (Albert Brooks) drops dead right in the middle of you-know-what. So what's a pampered Jewish girl to do? Join the army, of course! Two and a half stars for this funny, if uneven, 1980 coming-of-age story.
In 1972's "The Heartbreak Kid," Charles Grodin plays a mixed-up Jewish honeymooner who dumps his Jewish bride for the blue-eyed gentile woman of his dreams. This Elaine May film, starring Jeannie Berlin as the dumpee and Cybil Shepherd as the pickup, has warmed many hearts with its depiction of a Jewish Peter Pan. Four stars.
The heroine's parents in "Yentl" don't lose a daughter, they gain a — daughter-in-law? Barbra Streisand plays a yeshiva boy in this 1983 musical adaptation of the I.B. Singer play about a young woman who dons a man's wardrobe in order to study. Talk about your wedding-night problems: Yentl (Streisand) has to convince "his" new wife (Amy Irving) that "he" is all man. Three stars.
According to Jewish tradition, the title character of "I Love You Rosa" has to marry her late husband's brother, which presents problems since the brother is only 11. This 1972 Israeli film is warm and wonderful with a stunning performance by Michal Bat-Adam as Rosa. Three stars.
You think your wedding plans are monstrous? Try making them a la "The Bride of Frankestein," wherein the groom could use some grooming tips (like cleaning the rust off the bolts in his neck) and the bride-to-be has a hairdo from hell. Makes for an electrifying honeymoon — even in 1935. Three stars.
Long before Charles and Di were to die for, a young Princess Elizabeth made her own news. The 1951 classic "Royal Wedding" stars Fred Astaire and Jane Powell as sibling dance partners who visit London during the royal wedding — and begin making plans with newfound loves of their own. Three stars.
Look who's on the menu in this 1956's "A Catered Affair": Debbie Reynolds is the bride-to-be whose blue-collar parents (Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine) want to send her off with a bigger bash than they can afford. Three stars.
In "The Reluctant Debutante," Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall want only the best for their brash, beautiful daughter (Sandra Dee); so why is she falling for the wrong man (John Saxon)? Love, it seems, means always having to say you're sorry in this delightful 1958 movie. Three stars.
Coo-coo-coo-choo, Mrs. Rob-inson. In "The Graduate," Dustin Hoffman found stardom playing a college grad trying to find himself. Poor Benjamin (Hoffman) has no purpose in life — until he starts pursuing Mrs. Robinson's comely, unmarried daughter Elaine (Katherine Ross). Elaine has marriage plans that only Benjamin knows about in this 1967 smash. Four stars.
Franco Zeffirelli filmed a 1968 version of Shakespeare's romantic tragedy "Romeo and Juliet." If only the parents wouldn't have interfered. Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers find no cooperation from family when they talk of love and marriage. It's not so easy for `90s kids either. Three stars.
In "Love Story," love means never having to say you're sorry — especially if you were associated with this runaway 1970 hit about two preppies who find love, then sorrow, in the Ivy League. Two stars.
When it's time, in 1990's "Betsy's Wedding," for little Betsileh (Molly Ringwald) to get married, her father (Alan Alda) is set to make the wedding the biggest and best — no matter what his daughter wants. Two stars.
The 1991 remake of the 1950 classic "Father of the Bride" features Martin Short as a wedding planner trying to create calm out of chaos. It also offers some tips on how in-laws should — and should not — get to know each other. Three stars.
In "Honeymoon in Vegas," Nicholas Cage gambles away beautiful bride-to-be Sarah Jessica Parker to a Vegas habitué (James Caan) who hears wedding bells whenever he sees her. This 1992 film provides insight into a most unusual prenup agreement. Two stars.
The 1993 comedy "The Wedding Banquet" presents a young Chinese-American man with a dilemma — he's told his soon-arriving parents that he's getting married, which surprises his gay lover. Much deceit and mixups follow. Two stars.
The 1994 surprise hit "Four Weddings stars Hugh Grant as the always-the-best-buddy-never-the-groom while it examines, well, four weddings and a funeral. Three stars.
So, now that you have this list, you know what's next for the VCR? A video of that one production that Hollywood can't upstage — your own wedding!