Ahhh guys we don’t care how fan-girly we sound, today’s Jewish real wedding is just the COOLEST! Andrew and Lauren’s big day fused their Jewish and Peranakan Singaporean backgrounds in just the most inventive and beautiful ways.
A tea ceremony during the chuppah? Perfect. Pineapple tart rugelach? Yes please. Chocolate Shekel favors in Chinese double happiness red packets? Inspired. We also adore the themed Singapore Sling and Tel Aviv Sunset cocktails – just perfection. Everything, from the music to the menu, was chosen with both cultures in mind, finding amazing ways to bring them together. This wedding looked like a marriage.
Given the stunning aesthetic of the wedding, it will come as no surprise that bride Lauren, is a stationery designer, and put her skills to good use, designing the most stunning stationery suite that managed to honor both cultures and still fit in perfectly with the vintage-inspired vibe.
Lauren looked like an Old Hollywood A-lister in her beautiful lace BHLDN gown, and even more breathtaking under the rustic and charming chuppah using her grandparents’ lace.
The story of the day was beautifully captured by photographer Jaclyn Simpson and the happy couple provided the funny and charming write up below together. We could genuinely go on and on all day, so we’ll stop now and let Lauren and Andrew fill you in on the rest. Please give it up for the bride and groom!
A hidden garden in the neighborhood
Andrew, the groom: Lauren and I got married in our neighborhood, a two-minute walk from where we lived. We had a small family ceremony at the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, which is a hidden garden filled with native plants of Illinois. Afterwards, we had a slightly larger reception (just around 50 people) next door at the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Since moving to Chicago we’ve visited these two sites regularly as a way to escape the city and the occasional sub-zero winter. I also worked for the Chicago Park District and knew many of the staff at the conservatory.
The AG & LM penny pattern in the pond was a complete surprise for us from the staff at the Chicago Park District! Many of the gardeners, naturally, are also talented visual artists and my co-worker Gustave spent a good deal of time putting this together without us even knowing. It was definitely a highlight of the reception!
A volunteer army
Andrew: Lauren and I worked with a wedding coordinator, Harry Rohde, who made sure everything was running smoothly on the day itself.
As a designer, Lauren is particular about aesthetics and put so much of herself into all the details. It was a pretty complicated setup. To keep things relatively low-cost, we needed the help of a volunteer army.
Harry made sure our friends and family knew exactly what to be doing and when. We let him take care of any problems that arose. Lauren and I were really able to have a stress free day because of his help.
Lauren, the bride: On the wedding day itself, our friends and family all pitched in to help set up the space! It truly was a community effort! Our friends and family carried trays of homemade cookies from our apartment and set up the table decorations.
We had some of the cookies in a traditional Peranakan basket from Singapore. We collected brass candlesticks from thrift stores and my dad and I were constantly on the hunt for vintage champagne coupes, which we used for the champagne toast.
The conservatory has bright overhead lighting, so we wanted to keep those lights off for a more romantic atmosphere. My dad strung overhead globe lights across the room and we filled the tables with lots of brass candlesticks and votives.
Personally designed invitations and a trivia game
Lauren: I’m a graphic designer, Lauren Monaco, and designing our wedding invitations and programs was my favorite wedding project! We wanted our wedding to be a celebration of all our heritages, even down to the design details.
I wanted to honor my mother’s Peranakan Singaporean heritage in the print design. I drew a floral pattern influenced by vibrant Peranakan color palettes and batik design. The floral motif was also paired with a background of vintage Peranakan tiles, which are common among older shophouses in Singapore.
We also included a map of our favorite restaurants and things to do in our neighborhood. I used the batik motif in our programs and place cards as well to tie the wedding design together. My mom and I handbound the program pages together.
We wanted to take advantage of the beautiful setting of the Lincoln Park Conservatory. We were worried at first that our guests might congregate by the bar in the front and not wander around to see the whole conservatory, so we came up with a trivia game to intertwine with our wedding guest book that would allow guests to venture around the conservatory.
On each cocktail table throughout the path, there was a framed trivia question about us (for example: where did we meet, which states have we lived in, etc.) and the guests could write their answers along with a note for us on the back of their postcard. We used some vintage postcards for the front of each postcard. We actually managed to find some postcards from the early 1900s of the Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Lily Pool, as well as some postcards from places significant to us (like the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, where my parents had their engagement party and Chicago Union Station, where Andrew and I would meet every Friday when he would get off the train from Milwaukee. We also found a vintage Israeli stamp that we used as well!)
For our table numbers, we chose numbers that were significant to our relationship. On the back of each table number sign was a short explanation on why that number was significant to us.
Mimosas and makeup
Lauren: The morning of our wedding, my mom, sister and I got ready in our apartment, and my dad made us mimosas and served us smoked salmon toasts and leftover pizza from the night before.
Crystal Garcia did an amazing job with our hair and makeup! My sister’s hair looked straight out of old Hollywood! I wanted to show off the lace detail on the back of my dress, but still have my hair down, so she curled and secured my hair to the side so it could easily drape down in the front.
Accessories to remember the bride’s grandmother
Lauren: I wore a necklace that my grandmother, who is no longer with us, set aside for me as a gift for our wedding day. She had such a classy style, and I actually am the same shoe size as her, so I wore her vintage shoes and carried one of her evening purses as well!
The handsome groom
Lauren: Andrew wore a bluish grey suit with a navy blue vest. He was debating whether he would wear a tie or bowtie and made his final decision on the wedding day. I secretly was rooting for the bowtie, so I was really happy to see him wearing it when we had our first look!
Bridesmaids in Anthropologie
Lauren: My sister was my maid of honor (she was my entire bridal party), and she wore a beautiful floral maxi dress from Anthropologie. She also complemented her dress with a Peranakan belt that belonged to our great grandmother.
A lovely lace chuppah
For the chuppah, we used lace from my grandparents’ home in Singapore. The Lily Pool setting is so beautiful on its own, we wanted to keep the chuppah structure simple so as not to compete with the natural beauty of the setting.
We also needed the chuppah to be easily portable, since we had a very short setup window.
Andrew and I designed the chuppah structure together — we attached the lace to wooden dowels that we strung through eye hooks. The birch branches stood on their own in umbrella stands. We covered the base of the umbrella stands with birch and moss so they camouflaged into the environment.
A private bedeken
Andrew: One of our favorite parts of the ceremony was the bedeken. We went to a secluded area of the garden, away from family and guests. I lowered the veil over Lauren and she helped me don my tallit. Our rabbi recited blessings and helped us reflect on the moment. It was a quiet prelude to the upcoming ceremony.
Lauren: Rabbi David Russo was the first rabbi we met at our local synagogue. From the start, he was an ever-welcoming and helpful presence. We’ve attended his Saturday morning Parsha class for over two years, and he was on the Beit Din when I converted to Judaism. It meant a lot to us when Rabbi Russo agreed to officiate at our ceremony!
Since we had a very small ceremony, we wanted to incorporate some ceremonial elements during our reception. We had some of our close friends and family recite the seven blessings after dinner, and passed the cup of blessed wine around the tables to where we were seated.
A ketubah designed by the bride
Andrew: Lauren also designed our ketubah and had it letterpress printed at Spudnik Press. We got to explore the workshop and see up close this massive old printing press. We had a traditional Aramaic one as well as one in English. The floral motifs are the same Peranakan batik pattern in the invitations.
Lauren: We also had a Tea Ceremony during our reception where we served our parents and my grandmother a sweet tea, as a way to show respect and gratitude for the nurture and love we received from our families.
We used a gold tea set that was from my mother’s family. Teresa Teng’s version of The Moon Represents My Heart played in the background because it’s a song that I associate with visiting my grandparents in Singapore. During the Tea Ceremony, my sister explained some of the history and meaning behind the ceremony.
Music to represent both backgrounds
Andrew: As Lauren descended a limestone stairway, our friend Ben played a beautiful rendition of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash’s Girl From The North Country on his guitar. It’s one of our favorite songs. For the recessional, our rabbi led everyone in singing Siman Tov U’Mazel Tov as we exited.
Lauren and I spent a lot of time choosing songs that we both liked for our reception playlist, and oftentimes our music selections clashed! However, after narrowing it down and compromising on a few musical selections, we both felt that our playlist was a good representation of our multicultural backgrounds. It included a lot of our modern favorites along with Yiddish classics by the Barry Sisters, and some updated versions of traditional Chinese music. We had a tight space so there wasn’t a lot of room for dancing, but we managed to fit everyone around the indoor pond for the hora!
Lauren: For the bouquets, boutonnieres and corsages, we worked with Vale of Enna, who made beautiful arrangements of small blooms interspersed with wheat stems and fall leaves.
My mom, sister, cousin and I spent the day before putting together some of the table flowers in small vases and votive jars. We also worked with the florist at Whole Foods for some of the larger arrangements on the table.
Our fabulous photographer
Our photographer, Jaclyn Simpson, was a dream to work with! She and Evan put us at ease during the photos and really set the tone for an enjoyable wedding day. I was originally attracted to Jaclyn’s work because of her photojournalistic approach – her pictures feel very natural and and in the moment.
Pineapple tart rugelach
Lauren: I love to bake and originally wanted to bake our wedding cake! However, I quickly realized that I didn’t need that extra stress on our wedding day, so instead I baked a wide variety of cookies for the dessert tables. I was able to space out the baking and freeze the cookies so they would be ready in time for the wedding. I made Pineapple Tart Rugelach (to combine our Jewish and Singaporean cultures into a single cookie!) as well as other traditional Jewish, Italian and Singaporean cookies.
The wedding cake was made to look like a birch branch to match our chuppah. The inside of the cake was an Italian Zuppa Inglese cake, which was a cake that my dad’s side of the family would often have for holidays and celebrations.
A cultural fusion feast
We talked to our caterer, Lorena from Food for Thought, about some of our favorite dishes, and she came up with some creative ideas for how to represent our multicultural wedding through the hors d’oeuvres (like falafel, mini latkes with lox, a bite sized panzanella salad, a green mango summer roll and a roti curry). We wanted our menu to represent Jewish, Southeast Asian and Italian flavors. For our appetizer we had a mashup of Italian Wedding soup and Matzo Ball soup. For the entree, we had a pescatarian main dish along with a vegetarian hand-rolled ricotta gnocchi option.
We also had two signature cocktails, the Singapore Sling and Tel Aviv Sunset. For the cocktail signs, I found some vintage prints and incorporated the drink names and ingredients with the original image.
Exploring the groom’s creative side
Andrew: Our wedding favors combined our cultures by putting chocolate Israeli shekels into Chinese double happiness (囍) red packets. Everyone thinks this was Lauren’s idea. Well it wasn’t, it was mine. I’m a good husband, though, and let my wife take the credit. 🙂
Lauren & Andrew’s little white book
Photography – Jaclyn Simpson
Venues – Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool and Lincoln Park Conservatory
Bride’s dress and veil – BHLDN and Silver Moon Vintage
Bridesmaid – Anthropologie
Hair + Makeup – Crystal Garcia
Flowers – Vale of Enna and Whole Foods
Catering – Food for Thought
Cake – Whole Foods
Stationery and ketubah – Lauren Monaco and Spudnik Press
Rings – AMT Jewelry Design