Real Jewish Brides: Always a Bridesmaid, Finally a Bride!

It’s finally 2017, which means Harley and I have been engaged for 9 months, most of our wedding has been planned for the past 4 months, and festivities like my bridal shower and bachelorette party are within reach. Soon we’ll be asking “Where did the time go?” as our wedding day quickly approaches, but for now I’m excited that wedding tasks are beginning to pick up again!

We’re attending the tasting at our venue this weekend and deciding on bridal party attire was a hot topic over winter vacation, so I figured what’s more appropriate to write about on the day my first bridesmaid buys her dress than the lovely ladies who will be standing by my side as I marry me best friend?!

I’m not going to lie. Choosing bridesmaids was not the easiest part of wedding planning. I’ve got a family full of girls, have maintained amazing friendships since middle school, and was in a sorority in college which has brought me lifelong friends, so it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone I know that I will be having 11 bridesmaids!

Bridesmaids from a past Florida Jewish Wedding lovingly blogged on Smashing The Glass

Harley always picks on me for the Buzzfeed Quizzes I enjoy taking, so of course all of my wedding decision-making started with these fun quizzes. I initially took  one to help me narrow down my bridal party, which included a point system with equations such as (“You’ve been BFFs forever: +1 for every five years you’ve been close” and “She was a bridezilla at her own wedding: -3 points”), but then I realized that our wedding it not the Hunger Games and to me, more truly is merrier.

“Family: A Link to our Past and a Bridge to our Future”  

As mentioned, my family is full of girls. I’m just lucky enough to actually like them all! Family members in my wedding party will be my sister and Matron of Honor Jill, my stepsisters Aimee and Ashley, and my cousin Carly.

I am the third sister in our family to get married within a year and a half of each other, so we’ve all been pretty busy planning each other’s bridal showers and bachelorette parties. This also means our formal wear wardrobes have quickly expanded and we’re all about to go on our third bachelorette cruise together in May.

Carly is my younger cousin who has always been my mini-me, until she decided to grow one summer and became one of the tallest people in our family. Asking her to be a bridesmaid was definitely one of my favorite wedding planning moments so far because of how excited we both were. Thank goodness for iPhones…tears and shrieks of excitement filled the room during our Facetime session, and I got it all on camera!

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The Pros and Cons of using Pinterest to Plan Your Wedding

This week marks the two-digit countdown to our wedding and things are starting to get a bit scary real! Suddenly all those little things we thought we would leave for a while actually need doing and the dreaded bills are starting to fly in! My Pinterest dream is about to become a reality. But the question is will my wedding live up to the Pinterest dream I had hoped for, and is it possible for weddings to live up to the dream?

I’m not going to lie, I had a very full ‘wedding dreams’ Pinterest board way before I even had a ring on my finger and now as I sit scrolling through it I am curious to know how my ideas changed, if they changed and why they changed.

The ring

I always knew I wanted a ring that was a bit different. Those that know me know I don’t like to go with the trend and it was definitely the case with the ring. My pinned rings are very close to the truth of what I ended up with but that’s because Gideon and I played a lot of ‘let’s look in jewellery windows and pick rings we like’ so I am pretty sure he had a very good idea of what I wanted. That paired with me repeatedly telling my sister and mum what I wanted meant that my Pinterest ring dreams came true. Sapphire and diamond rings are all over my Pinterest board and it’s a Sapphire and Diamond stunner that lives on my hand.

The dress

As you know I have blogged about my wedding dress and shared with all of you the highs and lows of getting it. I think that one of the main problems with dress shopping is the Pinterest dream people are looking for.

As brides to be we all spend hours scouring the internet for the perfect dress and when reality sets in; my body (and I’m sure I am not the only one) did not fit the dress my Pinterest board had suggested and nor did my budget. The one down fall with Pinterest is that the wedding dresses don’t come with a price tag (maybe a new idea for the IT savvy out there!) so I might have been dreaming a bit out of my price range.

I think dress shopping on Pinterest does need to come with a warning. You can look and enjoy, peruse at your leisure but be realistic. Be true to yourself and remember the line that every bride says: ‘you never end up with the dress you think you will end up with.’ Bare all that in mind and you can pin those dresses to your heart’s content.

wedding moodboard

I went a little bit pin heavy here. My dream has always been to have this whimsical, barn wedding where everyone is happy and merry and is transported to a world away from London. I have pretty much stuck to it. We are getting married in a barn with fairy lights (despite Gideon’s loud protests) and we are creating a relaxed wedding with as much dancing and fun as we can feasibly fit into the day.

What I would say is that once again Pinterest’s lack of a price tag meant I had no idea how much my vision was going to cost me. I thought hay bales and signs would be cheap but actually when you start adding up all the little things that you think would make it a perfect day suddenly the cost starts creeping up and Gideon is shouting at me that we are over budget again!

Niki & Will’s Jewish wedding in a barn (image: onelove)

Pinterest allows you to create a wedding where every single small detail is taken care of but actually in reality nobody would know if the small detail was there or not. Of course it would be lovely to have an entire sofa area made out of hay bales with cushions and rugs but actually people will be fine just sitting on chairs. And yes it would be lovely to have our guests sign 500 different pieces of wood and printing their finger on a poster that we might put up in our house one day. But actually, the reality is that people rarely write on those things because they are too drunk or they didn’t see it (speaking from experience at our engagement party). So it won’t be missed. So slowly I learnt that although the small details and decorations of my dream Pinterest wedding would be lovely they aren’t worth pushing the budget for (did you hear that Gideon? I really am trying!).

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A Reform Jewish Wedding – a guide to an egalitarian ceremony under the chuppah

Whilst sitting in shul with my mum one Friday night some years ago, I was fortunate to witness an Aufruf being led by Rabbi Miriam Berger. Miriam spoke so beautifully and passionately about the couple that even though I had never met them it brought a tear to my eye. I still remember turning to my mum to say, “When I get married I want Rabbi Miriam to marry me”.  I’m so happy that she is.

Having grown up in a Reform community, having a Reform wedding was always the natural choice for me. To me, Judaism is all about equality, particularly between men and women so that theme pretty much runs through everything. Here is my guide to weddings; the Reform way.

Anna & Jon both smashing the glass at their Jewish wedding

The order of service

The order of service is pretty much the same as a traditional Jewish wedding. It follows the same order of the groom entering followed by the bride. We will be married under a beautiful chuppah and are joined there by both sets of parents, the rabbi and our chazan/singer.

The tisch

The tisch is traditionally a time where the rabbi reads through the ketubah outlining the groom’s responsibilities mixed in with some singing, dancing and of course drinking. Reform marriage is all about equality and about marriage being a partnership. Therefore a tisch is not part of a Reform wedding ceremony as the groom is not given a list of responsibilities. Rabbi Miriam has informed Gideon that if he wants some whisky with friends for some dutch courage of course he can! And so can I!

Bride, Montana, sharing toasting her bridesmaids before her Jewish wedding to Justin 

The badeken

The Jewish wedding tradition of badeken is something I have always found quite powerful: the groom seeing his bride for the first time. Of course the tradition behind it is about the groom checking he has the right bride but I still like it!

After a traditional badeken the bride’s veil is put back over her face and remains like this until the end of the ceremony. In keeping with Reform’s emphasis on equality, Rabbi Miriam spoke to us about the importance of a woman being uncovered for the wedding ceremony as she is just as equal and should be as present in the room as everyone else. This of course means the traditional badeken doesn’t quite work. I really love this idea and based on this we are doing something a little bit different for our bedeken…(not giving away any secrets though!)

An alternative-style badeken at Missy & Yoni’s Jewish wedding

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Real Jewish Brides: Being Engaged to Your Fiancé vs. Being Engaged With Your Fiancé

Don’t get me wrong, I love planning our wedding. I happily spend lunch breaks reading Wedding Wire, Smashing The Glass and The Knot for vendor reviews (and searching for the perfect flower girl dress!), but I can’t help but realize there is a huge difference between being engaged to your significant other and being engaged WITH your significant other, which many people (and internet search engines) seem to ignore.

When searching “being engaged with your partner,” one of the first articles that popped up was a lengthy list of things to do after getting engaged featuring steps like “tell your parents,” “get a manicure,” and “perfect your proposal story.” While I admit to fulfilling most of the suggestions on the list, I wish it included topics like know each other’s love language or schedule pre-marital counseling. Maybe this thought process is influenced by my counseling education/background or my fear of divorce, but I think emotional engagement is something that needs to be fostered and protected at all stages of a relationship to avoid taking each other for granted and focusing on the unimportant.

All that being said, here is my advice for being engaged WITH your significant other while planning your wedding:

Continue date nights and non-wedding related activities.

When we first got engaged, all I could talk about was getting married and how great our wedding is going to be. While I still believe it’s going to be the best day ever, it can’t be the only thing Harley and I talk about for 16-month engagement period.

I think it’s extremely important to remember what you love about each other and your relationship by continuing to enjoy one another’s company through date nights and shared hobbies even when your wedding is not the topic. For Harley and I, this means we still cheer for our hockey team at least once a week, tease each other over our Fantasy Hockey League standings, and take advantage of our Disney Annual Passes as often as possible. Even if it’s a busy time and we’re just chatting about our day while cooking dinner, the time we spend together is always important and a nice break from work and wedding planning activities.


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Real Jewish Brides: Introducing Francesca + Ziek… how they met to the present day

Today on the blog I have the pleasure of introducing a brand new real Jewish bride – Francesca! Three of our resident real Jewish blogging brides (Lauren, Karen and Dara) are now married (woop woop!) so time to make way for a newbie… Please give a warm welcome ro Francesca from London. 

Ziek and I met through a friend… pretty much a blind date. We arranged to meet outside Covent Garden station and I was 15 minutes late. I then stepped on his foot (five times throughout the date so Ziek likes to remind me!….his feet are pretty big!), but four or five pubs/ restaurants/ coffee shops later, I had missed my last train and had to get the night bus back.

It was my 3rd year studying musical theatre at drama school and so having had a pathetic two or three drinks throughout the night, it was the most I had drunk in a long time, and being the good Jewish girl I am, getting night buses home when I had to be up for ballet classes early in the morning meant I had broken all the rules (which I liked!)

It was clear from the beginning that Ziek and I were total opposites in so many ways. I was a good Jewish girl from Gants Hill. He was a hippie with a pony tail from a Kibbutz in Israel. I was a little uptight and he liked to be spontaneous and go with the flow. Despite us being from different planets, we both found each others lives totally interesting. I LOVED hearing all about Ziek’s travelling adventures and life on Kibbutz, and he equally enjoyed hearing about my singing and dancing antics.

Getting to know each other during our first few dates was really fun. I learnt that Ziek was incredibly kind, thoughtful and caring after I broke my foot very early on in our relationship. He travelled an hour to see me nearly every day to help carry me around my flat and to cook me dinner (he’s a chef and so this was amazing!).

Just over six years later, Ziek and I had just moved into our first home together and a few weeks later he FINALLY popped the question in the most amazing way.

After I “subtly’ hinted months earlier that I happened to have walked past and fell into a ring shop in Oxford Street, that I had seen THE ring that I absolutely loved, Ziek (and my Jewish mother of course) took it upon themselves to seek out this ring.

After months of planning, Ziek left me stranded outside Selfridges in Oxford Street, whilst a ‘busker’ happened to be playing some super cheesy and romantic songs. Ziek finally appeared then the ‘busker’ started walking towards us and literally serenaded us whilst Ziek got down on one knee and popped the question. The engagement weekend was full of surprises and fun activities and I will never ever forget how much we laughed and how much I appreciated the effort he had gone to make me so happy.

Organising our wedding is an interesting one! As both of our jobs are within the wedding industry we both feel a huge amount of pressure to plan the ultimate perfect wedding!! So far we have booked a venue (Stock Brook Country Club) and set the date for August 13th 2017. YAYYY. We will be using my band, XS Showband and have started planning some super exciting music shenanigans!

Other than that, all we have done is booked our toast master and bought THE DRESS! I’ve been so busy planning everyone else’s wedding that I’ve had no time to plan my own! But I’m really excited to get down to all the details and get all the other elements sorted.

More than anything else I am most excited about us making the commitment and becoming Mr & Mrs Gelkoff and entering the next chapter in our lives.

Francesca will be marrying Ziek on 13th August 2017 at Stock Brook Country Club in Essex.