Lee & Gary | Show-Stopping Jewish Wedding at The Criterion, London

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Lee and Gary married at the gorgeously opulent Criterion Restaurant in Piccadilly, London. And when I say opulent, I’m talking a sumptuous neo-Byzantine Piccadilly haven with marble walls, decorative archways and a glorious golden mosaic ceiling.

And that’s not the only reason I’m excited to feature this wedding. You see I’m also totally in love with Lee’s couture dress and head piece which she designed herself. AND the fact that Le Gateau Chocolat, the big black transvestite opera-singer, with a penchant for being wrapped in body-hugging glittery lycra, performed at this wedding!

So here’s their story: Although this gorgeous couple are both Jewish, Lee (a former fashion designer, now a full-time mummy) and Gary, a barrister, are both, in their own words, “devout atheists”. Even so,  both felt a need for some familiar cultural background in a partner and ended up finding each other on the Jewish dating site, JDate.

I’ll now hand over to Lee with all the delicious detail from the day:
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VENUE + DECOR
Lee, the Bride: Gary, my then fiancé, had been to The Criterion Restaurant before and knowing my love for art deco, thought I might like it. He literally thought of it the day after he proposed (which by the way completely flew over my head as he did it in his usual verbally subtle way!) We were on holiday at the time and arranged to see the venue a few days after our return over lunch. The moment we sat down and took the place in, we knew we needn’t look any further.

With such a beautiful venue choice, we didn’t need or want a theme or colour scheme as we didn’t want to detract from the beauty of the room with many other colours. Our floral and table layouts were fairly clean and simple too, with a combination of old school & clean modern – just how we like it!


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DESIGNING MY OWN DRESS + HEAD PIECE
My dress was one of my own designs. It was from my very first Ready to Wear collection and originally designed in black. But I loved it so much and after hearing from so many people that it would make a stunning wedding dress in a different colour, I suppose the seed was planted.

So when we decided to get married, it was a no-brainer. I got in touch with my former head seamstress (I closed down my fashion label shortly after our son was born, but kept all my favourite patterns and fabrics of course!) and she worked with me on making it in the antique warm silvery shade I love so much. If I could wrap myself in that colour always, I’d be happy!

As for the head piece that was literally me playing with a bit of light grey tulle on my head with my seamstress. The moment I liked the shape, we pinned it, stitched it up & voila!
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DOING MY OWN HAIR & MAKE-UP
Having two young boys and lots of logistics to juggle on the day, I knew I wouldn’t have the patience or time to really sit for hours and get dolled-up, but that was absolutely fine as I’m very fussy anyway with what I like and I know how to do it myself, so I did.
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GROOM & BEST MAN STYLE
We  went for a bit of old school tradition in a British sense so Gary went for a full morning suit, and his eldest son Oscar who was his best man (six years old at the time) had a ‘mini version’ of the same and was his gorgeous best man!

Our little one Louis was ten months old and I found a baby tuxedo one-sey  for him which was just edible cute!
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THE CHUPPAH
The chuppah was a rather reluctant compromise that Gary and I made to appease our parents. If it were up to us there wouldn’t have been one and it would have been a civil ceremony without all the religious necessities as we are both devout atheists. So as we decided to appease that element for them from the start, I wanted the cleanest but most floral design, that would make it feel like a floral canopy more than a religious ‘roof’.
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I have to say though, that one of my favourite moments of the day was the ring exchanging (which also marked the end of a long religious ceremony which we both couldn’t wait to get over with and go have fun!.) That for me was what I associate with the only important part of our wedding ceremony ie. when we each said “I do” to everything we wanted and wished for with each other and sealed it with the exchanging of our rings. That puts an emotional smile on my face now too…
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MUSIC: OPERA, JEWISH, ROCK N ROLL, JAZZ, SWING, ELECTRO…
My middle brother Roy came up with a fantastic playlist of songs that we love, based on our love of old school jazz, swing etc and my need to ‘modernise’ it a bit with electric additions. The result was perfectly met by the first group he sent me – a demo called ‘Caravan Palace’ and the rest of the bands were similar in style.

We used this playlist for the reception and background music during the meal. As for walking down the aisle, there was a more ‘traditional’ opera and pianist duo who performed both down the aisle, and at bits throughout the ceremony.

For the main dancing parts, there was a fantastic band called Carte Blanche – just incredible! A few Jewish energetic songs, some classic rock n’roll, a few modern songs – no one wanted them to stop! We even have on video a couple of guests haggling with them at the end for just “one more song!”
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RUSSIAN VODKA AND ALCOHOL GALORE!
My father who loves, and knows how, to throw a great party took care of the drinks but this wasn’t just any wine or champagne service. Being of Russian origin and knowing the importance of alcohol to a party, he made sure that every table had it own chilled big bottle of vodka. Champagne and wine were added to the mix as was an open bar with Johnny Walker Blue Label Whiskey being very popular. As you can imagine, the evening got more and more interesting as the night went on!
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FLOWERS & FOOD
The restaurant’s marketing and events manager, Annabel Hunt, was fantastic and she recommended our eventual florists, Mary Jane Vaughan, based on her previous good experience with them.
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LE GATEAU CHOCOLAT – OUR BIG BLACK TRANSVESTITE  CABARET
As we succumbed to certain tradition and decorum and good behaviour throughout the ceremony, both of us needed to unleash our rebellious streaks- cue Le Gateau Chocolat: A BIG black transvestite baritone opera singer, dressed in a royal purple sequin covered catsuit (yes, it was very tight indeed!) high heels, wig and garish make-up.

We had arranged for him to begin performing supposedly traditional opera with ‘Nessun Dorma’ behind a semi sheer curtain that separated the reception area from the dining area. We waited for the first few bars to be sung as all the parents, aunts, uncles etc. propped up in their seats eagerly awaiting this supposed very cultured traditional opera performance mid-meal.

And then we pulled the curtain open! My mother-in-law’s face just made that little trick SO worthwhile! He then proceeded to coyly mingle through the seated guests whilst singing, and then, he straddled my father-in-law and sang Madonna’s ‘Vogue‘ I still have a huge grin on my face as I recall this and thank goodness the videographer managed to at least to catch that! Priceless perfection!
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PHOTOGRAPHER
The production company we used recommended both the photographer and videographer. They are called Peachy Productions. To be honest, the photographer was great, but the videographer was just terrible. I would highly recommend investing a little more time to see the previous event videos of videographers before booking them. I just relied lazily on the recommendation of the production company which was a mistake – our 6 year old could have done a better job! Also if budget allows, I would recommend getting two camera people for the video – one to film the main events as they happen and the other to catch crowd reactions and then edit them accordingly. That way nothing important is missed!
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ADVICE TO OTHER BRIDES
Do your research into the things that will provide you your memories very diligently. And if there is anything really important in terms of cues for music etc on the day, make sure to run through them again even if its for the hundredth time, or on the day and if possible, speak to the person/people who will be pressing the buttons! Don’t rely on some manager to pass the message along – that was my mistake, which ended up in the music technician ‘forgetting’ to press the button for our song as Gary smashed the glass marking the end of the ceremony.
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LEE + GARY’S LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Venue – The Criterion Restaurant
Photography – Peachy Productions
Bride’s dress – Lee Klabin
Band – Carte Blanche
Cabaret – Le Gateau Chocolat
Florals – Mary Jane Vaughan

How much do you wish you could have attended that wedding? Everyone looks like they are having so much fun. Lee looks so gorgeous. And how amazing is her own-design dress? And the tuxedo one-sey on her 10 month old? Thank you to Lee  and Gary for sharing your wonderful vodka-flowing-merry-cabaret Jewish party wedding with Smashing The Glass.