Here at STG HQ, we’ve just about come down from the high of our Smashing Summit and launching the VIB club – so normal service resumes once more in the form of this amazing, colorful and uplifting Jewish real wedding.
Ruth and Dan are both journalists, and they applied their creative skills to their wedding with aplomb! The day was an absolute visual feast, from the eco-friendly and foliage-heavy floristry, to the magically lit marquee and the bright, color-pop giant balloons. Just gorgeous!
Bride Ruth showed off her unique and stunning sense of style with her two-piece BHLDN ensemble, and looked a vision in it, pairing it with some killer heels from ASOS, before changing into her sensible-but-gorgeous Kurt Geiger bridal flats.
Even their chuppah has an adorable origin story, with the couple constructing it together with their best friends, who tied the knot the week before Ruth and Dan’s wedding.
Both bride and groom made a speech (hooray) and the couple had a moving Reform Jewish ceremony, involving the whole family, and honoring Ruth’s late grandfathers by using their tallit to cover the chuppah.
We’ll leave you now with Ruth’s incredibly eloquent write up – we know you’ll all enjoy reading it and gazing at all the wedding pretty as much as we did!
How we met
Ruth, the bride: We met at a Halloween party in 2009 (our costumes are too embarrassing to share… let’s just say it’s a miracle we got talking). The two friends who brought each of us to that party were at our wedding, pleased as punch.
A haven in the city
We wanted to get married in London, where the majority of our friends and family live. We liked the idea of being near water, partly because of where we got engaged (on a boat on the Norfolk Broads), and partly because we love the mishmash of urban and rural – of wild and verdant spaces hidden within the city.
I saw the cafe at the newly opened Woodberry Wetlands come up on a friend’s Instagram feed, and immediately contacted the London Wildlife Trust (which looks after the site) about weddings. Turns out they had recently decided to start doing a handful of private hire events a year, so we were lucky to get in there.
Woodberry Wetlands is a nature reserve set around a Thames Water-managed reservoir which provides water to the residents of London. There’s loads of beautiful wildlife, a nature walk, community space and a cafà© in the original Coal House. We went to visit and loved the way the lush greenery and wide expanse of water looks set against the backdrop of typical London architecture – from residential tower blocks to the Shard (on a clear day).
They close off the whole site for private events, so we had it all to ourselves, which was such a luxury. We put up a marquee for the ceremony on one side of the water, and then had everyone walk around the water to a second marquee for dinner, before dancing in the Coal House. Later, we discovered that my maternal grandparents had married just 10 minutes away, which was a meaningful (and serendipitous!) discovery.
We really enjoyed visiting the Wetlands several times while planning the wedding, it’s such a special haven in the middle of North London and we loved seeing the seasons change. We had every type of weather on the day (from boiling hot sunshine to sudden storms) but the wetlands looked spectacular throughout: a beautiful, vibrant backdrop.
A bright color scheme
We didn’t use a wedding planner – we both worked together on all the details (occasionally driving ourselves mad, but mostly having fun.) We felt that we didn’t want to do anything just because it’s the done thing, so put some thought into each decision. This meant that lots of decisions felt very ‘us’ and very personal, and we hope made it feel intimate and unique for everyone else.
We wanted to maximise the greenery of the setting, so only used foliage and plants rather than flowers. We used bright oversized balloons to add some fun contrast. One decision that seemed to make a big visual impact was our watermelon kippot, which we sourced from Kippah King. Watermelons don’t have a particular meaning for us, but we loved how playful, bright and fun the kippot looked. It was worth it because when we looked out over all our guests, the bright red and green kippot looked so fun.
The actual styling of the dinner marquee was relatively simple and lush, so that the setting was the main event. We incorporated an external brick wall into our marquee, and used it as a backdrop for the speeches, framed by bright balloons and big plants.
Very special invitations
We were going to be quite low key about our invitations… and then we had an idea to ask our very favourite artist, a street artist called Malarko, if he would ever consider creating something for us.
We already own about five of his prints – and have admired his work on London streets near where we live (and where we lived when we met), as well as on visits to Barcelona.
We were thrilled when he said yes – he did an amazing fun vista of us on a boat on the reservoir, with the Wetlands in the background (with added bats – we met on Halloween…).
Looking like myself on a very good day
I did my own hair – it’s short and curly and as all curly-haired women know: it’s complicated. I used my usual hairdresser, got it cut about a week before the wedding, and stuck to my usual regime of various curly-products (DevaCurl coconut cream is my favourite). Thankfully it worked out.
For makeup, I was recommended to use Lauren Oakey who was brilliant. I wanted to look like myself, on a very good day. I didn’t want to cover my natural freckles or go OTT. She understood that very well, and was a delight to have around in the morning. With her guidance, I tried about 18 different hot pink/pink red lipsticks, and went with a Bobbi Brown art stick, which I kept in my pocket for many re-applications.
A dress with personality
At first, I thought I wanted an evening / fun red carpet-type dress, but when I went shopping I couldn’t find anything that felt right. My best friend (and maid of honor), Georgia, lives in New York and when I went to visit her, we had a hilarious week trying on classic wedding dresses that all looked awful on me. We also had a lot of fun in department stores trying on amazing sequinned eveningwear that was way too expensive or (I felt) too mad to marry in.
Finally, we went to BHLDN (with a recommendation from an American friend) which is a wedding-only shop connected to Anthropologie. We spotted a fully sequinned cropped top with little roses scattered across it — I think it was intended for bridesmaids. I paired it with a sweeping, high-waisted bridal skirt and instantly felt like we’d hit the jackpot: comfortable, but still smart; playful and non-traditional, but still ‘bridal’, a bit of color and detail with the top, but not completely out there.
A fresh foliage hairpiece
Because I have short hair, I didn’t think I had many options for hair accessories, but Sophie at Geo Fleur, our florists (though we had no flowers, only greenery), made me a beautiful hairpiece, decorated with patterned foliage that matched the plants we used on the day. It made me feel even more ‘bridal’.
Quirky show-stealing shoes
My skirt was mid-shin length at the front, so I knew the shoes would be on show. I went a bit mad trying every type of shiny shoe I could find (I believe metallic shoes are basically a neutral), and ended up trying to decide on the wedding day itself between shiny hot pink and iridescent pale pink versions of the exact same shoe (I found them on ASOS). Both looked good, but I ended up in the paler ones on the day, having canvassed everyone in the room on the morning of the wedding.
They were very *very* high, but had an ankle strap which helped. They weren’t the easiest to dance in, but I just went for it and somehow didn’t feel the agony until after dinner. At that point, I changed into my wedding trainers – a pair of Kurt Geiger lace up pumps adorned with gold foil, silver, baubles, and red lips on the back of each pair. They were so mad, very me, and so comfortable. They gave me a whole new lease of life for the dancing.
The handsome groom
Dan is a writer and wrote a whole piece about his quest to find something unusual for the wedding that was special and marked him out as the groom, but wasn’t too OTT. We ended up seeing this beautiful green Paul Smith suit in Selfridges (we were both very hungover; it was the day after my brother’s wedding, but we trusted our instincts nevertheless). The color is amazing, so vivid and fun. It seemed really appropriate surrounded by all the greenery from the venue, and (unintentionally) complemented the floral details on my top.
His shoes – a lovely pair of burgundy Dr Martens – we owe to our photographer Jordanna Marston, who drove us to the Dr Martens factory shop when we went to visit her to talk through our plans. An absolute steal at £25!
His tie was made by an amazing tie-maker called Ian Scott Kettle, who makes gorgeous and unusual bespoke ties for cheaper than most of the ones you’ll find in, say, Selfridges. Dan spent a fun hour or so in Ian’s studio choosing all the fabrics with him.
Maids of honor displaying their own style
I had two maids of honor, Miri and Georgia, who chose their own outfits. They both have amazing style and I just wanted them to look and feel like themselves.
We also had a whole crew of friends helping us on the day – our ‘Woodberry Wedsquad’. They all looked dapper/gorgeous, and we gave them watermelon badges/clips to match the kippot and mark them out as ‘inner circle’.
A chuppah made with love
We liked the idea of having a silver birch chuppah, and one of my maids of honor, Miri, and her husband, Will, (who are very hands-on makers/designers in their professional lives) said they would help us to make it ourselves. We had a fab weekend with them at their home in Bristol – they got married the week before us and so on this weekend the boys got chuppah building for our wedding, and the girls made lots of personalised plant pots out of tin cans and fabric for Miri and Will’s wedding.
The chuppah was very simple – birch poles, white fabric, and the florist added bunches of green foliage to tie it in with the surroundings.
The day before the wedding, the four of us were up ladders making it in situ – perhaps not the typical day-before activity, but great fun and really satisfying to have done it ourselves. Finally we hung my late grandfathers’ tallit from the canopy as a special way of honoring them.
A moving Jewish ceremony
We first saw each other during a ‘tisch-ish’ ceremony that we decided to have with some of our closest family and friends. He was standing in the middle of a circle of all of those special people, and I walked up with my parents and tapped him on the shoulder. He looked insanely dashing (as ever). We loved having some time together before the madness began!
We decided to follow a traditional reform Jewish ceremony, led by Rabbi Michael Hilton, who has known my family for over 10 years. Rachel Weston is an amazing chazan/traditional singer and she sang the sheva brachot in a traditional style, which was stunningly beautiful. She also learned a Spanish song (Dan’s mum is from Argentina, his dad from Spain) which she sang with our band (She’ Koyokh) for our entrances. The song was Te Regalo Una Rosa (I give you a rose), and then she went into Erev Shel Shoshanim, which means evening of roses – both tunes we love, and both are very romantic, and of course combined our Jewish/Spanish-speaking heritages.
We split the circling so that we did 3.5 loops each, we all drank from the cup of wine (both sets of parents, bride and groom), we both said the traditional vows, and exchanged the rings that we’d made a few months earlier (we melted down Dan’s grandmother’s bracelet to make each other’s rings, with Made By Ore in Walthamstow).
We added a couple of elements – Ruth’s mother read the traditional blessing at the end – we wanted to make sure our parents all spoke at some point during the day. Dan’s dad – who is a poet from Barcelona – read out a poem that he had written especially for the occasion in his native Spanish. Everyone had a translation in the booklets we had made.
As soon as Dan smashed the glass, everyone yelled Mazel Tov and we started some raucous Jewish circle dancing to some live Klezmer music – a real release of happy energy and a highlight for us.
A low-key first dance
For the arrival, we had “Te regalo una rosa”.
Circling “Erev Shel Shoshanim”.
Then we danced to klezmer.
We initially didn’t really want a first dance – we didn’t love the idea of everyone standing around watching us dance awkwardly! But our “solution” was simply to have a fairly low-key first dance, so it wasn’t announced, it just sort of… happened. For the song itself, we asked our DJ – Max, from the incredible Wedding Smashers – to do a live mix on the night of Try a Little Tenderness by Otis Redding, seamlessly mixed into Otis by Kanye West and Jay Z. So we had some slow-ish dancing for a bit, quickly dropping into the upbeat party tunes.
As for the choice of song, ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ is a favourite of ours, not least because it features in my favourite film of all time, The Commitments. From the minute the Kanye/Jay Z beat dropped, the dancing was non-stop.
Foliage and oversized balloons
We wanted to keep the floristry side of things as simple as possible. After all, we were getting married in a wild outdoor space, in late May, when all the beautiful plants, trees and flowers were in full bloom. It seemed unnecessary to bring in loads of flowers of our own. We got married in an open-sided marquee on one side of the reservoir, and then had the reception in a transparent marquee on the other side.
To decorate these, we hired plants in pots from Sophie at Geo Fleur. This was more cost effective (and environmentally friendly!) than buying flowers. The brief we gave her was to keep it simple, which she did to beautiful effect by using understated, textured greenery – typical indoor house-plants like asparagus fern and pilea, in a mixture of pots that she had. These were dotted around the marquee as well as being clustered along the long communal tables where we had dinner. I decided against a bouquet, but wore a hair piece that Sophie made from foliage, fittonia and asparagus fern. It echoed Dan’s button hole and the foliage she had used in the marquees.
We wanted to add some fun color and asked Sophie to provide lots of oversized helium balloons. The hot weather on the day meant that they didn’t all do exactly what we’d planned, but the clusters of hot pink, orange and yellow balloons still looked fabulous in the corners of our marquee, especially against the brick wall that became a backdrop for our speeches. We went to town on the strings of fairy lights that lined the roof of the transparent marquee. As dusk fell they looked amazing.
Our fabulous photographer…
Jordanna Marston was amazing. We spoke to a few photographers but particularly loved her vibe – very relaxed and down to earth (and funny, too). We love how her pictures bring out bright colors and the celebratory nature of a good wedding.
She has an eye for characters and drama and we felt we could rely on her to capture the day. She did not disappoint – we love how she captured all our guests as well as getting some lovely portraits that make the most of the crazy/amazing setting of the Wetlands (not to mention the weather).
We had an excellent videographer, Sam Gordon of Olive Grove Films, who had recently moved back to the UK from the US and is breaking into the British wedding video industry (he’s a very experienced filmmaker). He was very careful to document the day without getting in the way and made us a brilliant film that we can’t stop watching!
A cheese tower
Instead of cake, we had a huge tower of amazing cheeses from Wilde’s Cheese, who are based in Tottenham. We had an awesome day with Keith and Philip at their dairy choosing our cheeses. We had the big base cheese washed in Redemption Big Chief IPA which was one of the beers we had at the bar.
The catering was fully vegetarian (we’re both veggies) by the brilliant (down-to-earth, experienced and charming) Skye at Honey and Thyme catering. She’s local to us in Walthamstow and came round to cook us a sample meal, which was insanely good. We had family-style sharing plates of all sorts of sumptuous mains, including nods to our favourite tapas dishes, and an homage to my mum’s legendary baked cheesecake.
Everyone raved about the food – even those dedicated carnivores who were originally making jibes about the lack of meat on offer.
Keeping the dance floor full
For the “disco” we used the awesome Wedding Smashers. They’re “alternative wedding DJs” but they weren’t too cool for school at all. Their musical knowledge is unparalleled – from chart pop to UK garage to Scandinavian death metal, if that’s your thing – but they totally took our lead in terms of the vibe. Max read the room so brilliantly, and kept the dance floor full from start to finish. (As Jordanna’s pictures show so brilliantly)
Playing music as guests arrived, and then also for the Jewish dancing that directly followed the ceremony, we were lucky enough to have the amazing klezmer band She’ Koyokh. At our behest, they even kindly learnt an old Spanish pop song for us, which they played as we walked down the aisle. Accompanying them during the ceremony was Rachel Weston, a Yiddish singer with a beautiful soprano voice (who did a great job of singing in Spanish, as well as Hebrew!). Rachel then sang with She’ Koyokh during our Israeli dancing that followed the ceremony.
Preparing for all eventualities
We didn’t really have favors, apart from our kippot (watermelon style, hand-knitted, from Kippah King) and we made booklets for all our guests, explaining who the ‘main players’ were, and what the traditions of the ceremony meant, as well as including a map of the wetlands and even a spotter’s guide to the wildlife people might see on the day. We really enjoyed writing it and hope it meant everyone knew what was going on.
When prepping for the unusual forecasts (it was a heat-wave… but we all know what comes after a heat-wave, and sure enough… there were storms) we bought brightly colored fans to give out, as well as cheap umbrellas, and finally blankets for the evening. All of them were needed: classic British wedding.
We had lots of speeches – my brother was a funny, warm, delightful MC throughout. My dad kicked off proceedings with a charming welcome speech; Dan’s mum brought the house down with her Jewish/Argentine mother shtick; Georgia (maid of honour) did an incredible speech, imploring everyone to bring their A-game as wedding guests; Lionel (one of Dan’s best friends) had people in tears with his thoughtful and beautifully composed words.
Then it was just down to me to say my piece, and Dan to say his. As we’re both journalists, we felt a lot of pressure to express ourselves in the way we wanted. I was nervous about speaking beforehand, and cried every time I practised in the week before the wedding. But on the day I was on such a high, just so very happy. It had been such an amazing day that by the time it came to standing up there I was without any nerves – I could have gone on and on! I would encourage every bride/groom to make a speech – it’s not often you get the chance to tell everyone you love what they mean to you. Dan’s speech was fantastic – very funny as well as incredibly touching and emotional.
Fancy dress area
As mentioned, my maid of honor got married the week before us (we dubbed the whole month ‘wed-fest’) and they had a fab fancy dress area at their wedding. When we helped them pack up from their big day they encouraged us to hold onto the fancy dress, and Will set up a special area in the corner of the marquee, with a backdrop and a polaroid camera. It was worth it as we got some awesome group shots with all their amazing props, hats and wigs.
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
Use your friends! We couldn’t have got through the last days before the wedding and the day itself without the amazing support (and manual/physical labour) of our closest friends. They schlepped, they built things, they had difficult conversations with suppliers, they turned up early, stayed late, and four of them even went back to our venue with epic hangovers the next morning to collect our stuff, while we were swanning off on our honeymoon.
We made a big list of things we needed people to take care of, from handing out booklets to keeping our wedding certificate safe to picking up bagels for midnight (yum!) and assigned each task to someone. We realised that people like to feel involved and useful, and it makes a big difference to you – you have enough on your plate! A
lso, as good as your communications/relationship with the venue or your suppliers may be, there are always things that don’t quite happen as you’d intended them to on the day – in these cases, it’s amazing if one of your friends can leap to the rescue before you’ve even noticed, so you can just relax and enjoy the day.
Ruth & Dan’s little white book
Photography – Jordanna Marston
DJ – Wedding Smashers
Videography – Olive Grove Films
Venue – Woodberry Wetlands
Bride’s dress – BHLDN
Bride’s shoes – Asos and Kurt Geiger
Groom’s attire – Paul Smith, Dr Martens, Ian Scott Kettle
Hair – DevaCurl
Makeup – Lauren Oakey and Bobbi Brown
Flowers – Geo Fleur
Caterer – Honey and Thyme
Cheese – Wilde’s Cheese
Chazan – Rachel Weston
Band – She’ Koyokh
Stationery – Malarko
Kippot – Kippah King
Rings – Made By Ore and Tamara Gomez