There’s something so special about Jew-ish weddings. Each one symbolises not only a relatively rare coming together of cultures, but a totally unique interpretation of what that combination looks like in practice. We have yet to see two Jew-ish weddings that are the same – there’s no blueprint and the couple has total license to imprint their own ideas, personalities and elements of their relationship into the proceedings.
Jackie and Jon’s Chinese-Jewish (Chewish) wedding was a delightful cultural fusion, taking the most meaningful, colourful and exciting traditions from both the bride and the groom’s respective backgrounds and merging them into one heartfelt super-celebration.
Bride, Jackie, stole the show in her red-carpet worthy gown from Vera Wang‘s White Collection, which is an impressive feat in a botanical paradise venue like Kew Gardens.
All the details, including a full stationery suite, created by the talented bride herself, were captured with nothing less than expert skill by the phenomenal York Place Studios. A family business, York Place Studio is a cherished Smashing Supplier and responsible for not only the images in today’s post, but also the divinely emotional wedding video at the bottom of this post (SO worth a watch).
The Smashing family was out in full force at Jackie and Jon’s big day. Sensational Smashing Supplier, Shir, one of the UK’s most sought-after klezmer wedding bands, also made a much-acclaimed appearance, before Creation Show Band also performed a roof-raising set. We have it on good authority that Anna Phoebe’s back-bending dancefloor electric violin solo was also an unmissable experience!
We’ll pass you on to Jackie now who has written up all the exceptionally borrow-able and emotional details of her and Jon’s big day. Enjoy!
How we met
Jackie, the bride: Jon is a management consultant and I’m a designer. We were introduced on a netball court in New York City, when we both lived there six years ago. While I had been there for seven years, Jon was on a work/study program with 300 other Brits for a year. The week Jon left for England for good, coincidentally, my work sent me to London. We then spent a phenomenal amount of money flying across the Atlantic to visit each other for the following eight months, before Jon persuaded me to move over to London.
An iconic London venue
It was tricky to nail down a city to host our big day, never mind picking a venue! Jon’s family are based in Manchester and mine are from Hong Kong. Once we settled on London (where we live), we wanted to find a place that was iconic, easily accessible for people who’re traveling in from abroad, with plenty of open green space. Kew Gardens had it all. When we saw the John Nash glass conservatory, it sealed the deal for us.
A fusion of Chinese and Jewish cultures
Jon grew up Jewish, and I’m Hong Kong Chinese, and converted to Judaism. Our families and friends come from opposite sides of the world, so it was particularly important both sides of our heritage were acknowledged, embraced, and celebrated on the day. It was also a wonderful opportunity for both sides to witness another culture and learn from the other.
We had a Jewish wedding, following all the usual customs. We designed an explanatory program that broke down different elements illustrated by doodles I drew to share their significance to us.
We also hosted a Chinese Tea Ceremony, the heart of Chinese marriages, where we paid respect to our parents and other senior family figures by serving them a cup of sweet tea. In exchange we got their blessings and red envelopes with something of value inside.
I wore a traditional Chinese wedding dress for this part. I loved the intricate embroidery, such a contrast to my white dress. It was so special for us to share both sides of our culture to our guests and make it a central theme throughout the day.
Being a creative and huge craft nerd, I was excited to find ways to bring our joy to life and feel invested in the day by making a lot of the elements ourselves. Our place card stands were little animal figures I had ordered from China. With the help of my girlfriends, we spent an afternoon cutting up 180+ bears, lions, gorillas toys and spraying them gold. Thank you gifts for the bridal party were held in tote bags I stenciled on. The signage was made from wood we bought at B&Q, stained at home and was written on by me and my sister.
We worked with Hannah Flax, who was the backbone of our entire year of planning and ensured smooth running of the big day itself. She was instrumental in keeping our heads above water when there seemed to be a million things to think about. She was so brilliant when things didn’t go as planned on the day itself. Our Chinese Tea Ceremony was meant to be hosted outdoors on the lawns, when it began to rain. With ease and grace, Hannah swooped in and ushered 180 guests into another hall. Everyone thought it was intentional!
A graphic designer’s dream project
As a graphic designer, creating the paper goods was a dream project.
Our invitations had three parts to them: a formal invitation that had a mixture of gold leafed Jewish and Chinese motifs and a less formal, more colorful fold out that held all the extra information surrounding the wedding weekend – it folded out into a map of our favourite places in London.
Both items were held together in an envelope with an illustration featuring our journey from New York to London, and eventually Hong Kong.
A guiding hand with hair and makeup
I don’t have a clue when it comes to hair and make-up so it was a miracle to have found Fai Archer who took care of that department.
A vision in Vera Wang
I got my dress was from Vera Wang‘s White collection at David’s Bridal. It wasn’t one I liked initially. I had my eye on something cheaper, and less form fitting, as I wanted to focus our budget on throwing a good party instead.
Friends I brought along to a fitting were not impressed with my choice, so they rolled up their sleeves and found a dress that was red-carpet worthy, fitting for a very special day. It was when the entire shop nodded in approval that I realised perhaps I shouldn’t overlook the importance of finding the right dress. Also, I really love how the lace covering complements the simplicity of the dress.
Engraved wedding rings
The only jewellery we wore on the day were our wedding rings made by Malcolm Sonenfeld. We both have ×—×¡×“ ×•××ž×ª, lovingkindess and truth, engraved on the interior to remind ourselves to live by these morals everyday. Jon also has our wedding hashtag engraved: ‘soyvey’ — a perfect blend of our culture found on a brand of American teriyaki sauce.
Custom Nike dancing shoes
During the day, I wore a pair of no-nonsense sandals with a little heel, knowing full well I could walk around without tripping over. For the evening, I loved dancing in my customed Nike Air Force Ones. They had Mrs Abel engraved on the heel.
The handsome groom
We wanted to give our friends and family a reason to dress up so we had a black tie affair. But we thought Jon might get lost in a sea of black tuxes so he decided to go bold and went for a stunning blue tux, custom-made at Edit Suits, and paired with Grenson shoes.
Bridesmaids in eclectic dresses
I gave my girlfriends a colour palette and asked them to find something they would feel fab and comfortable wearing, but, more importantly, something they would likely to wear again. The result was a stunning mixture of styles and complementary colours.
A best-of-both-worlds ceremony
In keeping with the theme of blending our cultures together, our guests were given kippots embossed with å›, which means double happiness, a common motif used in Chinese wedding dà©cor.
We also handed out pins with our childhood faces on for our guests to subtly identify which side they belong to, although in the end, everyone was decorated in them.
We loved involving Jon’s two little nephews to play a part in the big day. They walked down the aisle with cheeky signs, a great comic relief for everyone!
One of my favourite parts of the ceremony was my first look at the hall when my parents and I were about to walk down the aisle. Seeing Jon under the chuppah along with all our friends and family who have travelled the distance to be there for us was incredibly special. I’d never felt such love before.
We also wanted to open up the ceremony and have friends participate, so we had six of our closest friends recite each of the sheva brachot for us.
An emotionally significant Ketubah
The significance of a Ketubah means a lot to us. Not only is it a tradition passed down through generations, but it’s a physical and creative manifestation of our marriage.
It was something we knew we would like to hang up in our future home with pride, so we contacted Danny Azoulay from Israel to create our ketubah. We love the combination of modern and traditional techniques he uses to make such a beautiful work of art.
Traditional live music
Shir was our top choice for our ceremony. We loved their slightly folksy spin on traditional Israeli songs. Jon knew he wanted to walk down the aisle to Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, a beautiful song that resonates from multiple trips to Israel.
As for me, I wanted something that would be recognised by both cultures, and Shir played a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Boi Kallah to the tune of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.
We hired Creation Show Band for the evening. Their talent and showmanship provided such an irreplaceable atmosphere for us to party the night away.
Flowers in their natural habitat
That Flower Shop helped us with all our flower needs, from buttonholes to bouquets to the Chuppah. We wanted something unfussy and neutral in color to complement Kew’s stunning landscape.
Both Jon and I are unversed in flower speak so we were happy to give Hattie Fox and her team full reign with flower choices.
Their centrepieces were made up of various vases, of different heights, displaying different flowers. They were such a hit, our guests took a lot of them home!
Our fabulous photographers and videographers
We’re obsessed with the folks at York Place Studios. They’re a talented family quartet, made up of two photographers and two videographers.
We were sold when we spoke to them on video chat. We love them because a) they are genuinely nice people to work with, they made us feel relaxed and ourselves on the day, b) they work seamlessly as a foursome, meaning they won’t get into each other’s shots and know how to work with one another, c) have I mentioned they’re ridiculously good at capturing meaningful moments?!
Dancing the night away
For our first dance, we danced to a slow version of Home by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, performed by Creation. We closed the night with Od Yavod Shalom Aleinu, danced with our closest and dearest surrounding Jon and I.
All smiles for the speeches
Jon had four best men, and I had four maids of honour. Both sets of friends gave heartwarming speeches in the evening with lots of photos projected onto a screen. My cheeks have never hurt so much from laughing for so long.
As we both love to travel, and also value things with a practical purpose, it felt fitting to send our guests off with a leather luggage tag with our hashtag embossed so they’ll always remember our special day. They were made to order by Florida-based Porter Leather who were super easy to work with.
Another Chinese element we wove to our day was playing door games before the Chuppah, a wedding tradition where the groom’s love for his bride is tested with a series of lighthearted games.
When Jon and his army of groomsmen arrived to the Badeken, my bridal party gave each of them a mystery shot to down. They then had to race around with chopsticks, holding bits of candy and peanuts. Finally, Jon had to read aloud a declaration of his undying loyalty and duty to me in Cantonese before he was allowed to see me. When I saw him for the first time, it was hard to hold it together.
As the evening went on, we handed out flip flops for ladies to get comfortable. Glow sticks and pom poms were thrown on the dance floor at some point.
In lieu of a guest book, we designed note cards with headings like ‘honeymoon bucketlist’ and ‘advice for the newlyweds’ for our guests leave us a little message.
Advice to brides and grooms currently planning their wedding
The day will go by so fast. At various points of the day, create time with your partner and stand back from the crowds to soak up the atmosphere and appreciate the people who have come to be there for you. It’s a feeling that kept us on a high for weeks after.
You may be planning and stressing about details right up to the last minute, but once the day comes, let it all go. Relax and bask in the day you have put so much effort into. If something goes wrong, you’ll be the only one who notices it.
Jackie and Jon’s little white book
Photographers and videographers – York Place Studios
Venue – Kew Gardens
Bride’s dress – Vera Wang purchased at David’s Bridal
Bride’s shoes – Nike
Groom’s attire – Edit Suits and Grenson
Hair + Make-up – Fai Archer
Flowers – That Flower Shop
Bands – Shir and Creation Show Band
Favours – Porter Leather
Ketubah – Danny Azoulay
Signage – B&Q