We were sold on this DIY Jewish wedding on a budget from the moment we read in the brides writeup, “We wanted the wedding to be about the community coming together.” Because isn’t that really what it’s all about?
Super crafty couple Federica and Nathan did nearly everything either themselves or with the help of family and friends – from building their own birch chuppah (from fallen trees on the groom’s family’s property!) to creating their own playlists to setting up on the day. Nathan’s mother grew and picked the flowers, and designed Federica’s bridal bouquet. Even the photographer, Mandelette, just happened to be the groom’s cousin!
And Federica did her own hair and makeup, baked her own wedding cake, AND designed and illustrated the invitations, on the day stationery, and ketubah – talk about a triple threat!
It’s really touching to hear how this wedding brought the couple’s friends and family together – with the bridal party, the families, and the couple themselves all pitching in to help with setup the morning of the wedding. But we’ll let the bride, who looked stunning in her Davidʼs Bridal dress, tell you about that…
How we met
Federica, the bride: We met in 2013 attending Ulpan in Israel. The first time I saw him he had just gotten off his Aliyah flight and still had his suitcase with him. We went from the small Kibbutz where we met to living in Tel Aviv, from Tel Aviv to northern Italy and now Rome.
A Backyard Wedding
We got married in Nathanʼs parentsʼ backyard in Door County, Wisconsin. He lived there from age 5 to age 18. We chose to do it there because we have never lived in the same country as his parents since we started dating. We met in Israel, we live in Rome, Italy (where I grew up and where my parents live). We wanted to honor his family and his roots by having the wedding where he grew up.
We did not use a wedding planner. The “theme” (if we can call it that) was DIY, and being on a farm it ended up looking rustic. We did not have a precise color scheme, it was mostly dictated by the flowers on the property. We wanted the wedding to be about the community coming together, not about spending a ridiculous amount of money. The most important thing for us was to be able to look at our wedding and say “we made this”, and share that pride and happiness with our friends and family who made it happen with us.
What ‘Smashing The Glass’ Did For Us
As a recent convert Smashing The Glass was so useful when it came to deciding how to incorporate our faith in our wedding. I also loved the “outdoor” and “DIY” weddings sections, I got a lot of inspiration from there.
I designed and illustrated the signs and the seating chart, my mother wrote in her beautiful handwriting each guestʼs name on their escort cards. I designed and illustrated the cake toppers that were then printed on wood.
Unfortunately we do not have professional photos of the invitations but I designed them and illustrated them myself.
Hair + Makeup
DIY hair and makeup and I could not be happier. I took two private makeup classes and decided what I liked and what I did not like for my wedding day. I was sick of being told I “needed” fake eyelashes or dark and thick eyebrows. I usually wear no makeup whatsoever, I wanted to look like myself on my wedding. I kept it as simple and natural as I could. I think my final look fits perfectly with the vibe we were going for.
A David’s Bridal Dress
My dress was a Davidʼs Bridal allover lace strapless a-line wedding dress (style WG3805) in ivory. It was my bridesmaidʼs pick that I initially didnʼt even want to try on. I was not sure I liked lace. I was so wrong.
As a bride I think less is more, so I picked an extremely simple drop veil, simple golden earrings my mother gave me and a dainty golden star of David pendant I bought in Tel Aviv and wear every day.
Have I mentioned how I think less is more? My shoes were simple satin ballet flats I found on Amazon. I tried dozen of shoes before falling in love with them. I wanted something I could be comfortable in during the ceremony and something that wouldnʼt sink into the grass as I walked down the aisle.
Regardless of how much I loved my shoes I took them off 10 minutes into the ceremony, you can see my bare feet in almost every wedding photo after that point (including my first dance).
The handsome groom
Nathanʼs suit was a present from my father, they picked it out together in Rome. His bow tie was my late grandfatherʼs, and his cufflinks were his late grandfatherʼs. The dates engraved on the cufflinks are his grandparentsʼ first date and wedding date.
I had four bridesmaids: my cousin, my sister in law, my two best friends. They picked their own dress styles in lilac and steel blue. I wanted the dresses to be long and airy to tie into the summer wedding vibe.
We wanted to build it ourselves, we picked the fabric together and went out to the woods on their property to make the posts out of fallen birch trees.
Nathanʼs father officiated our wedding. He usually officiates interfaith weddings, but even though we are both Conservative we couldnʼt have imagined anyone else officiating. It made the whole ceremony much more special. I designed our ketubah myself in the same style as our invitations.
Our music choice
My bestie and bridesmaid played a medley of ‘What a Wonderful World’ and ‘Canʼt Help Falling in Love’ during the processional. Our first dance was to an Italian song (I am from Italy) ‘Sotto le Stelle del Jazz’ by Paolo Conte. During the reception I played and sang our song ‘Temptation of Adam’ by Josh Ritter.
Nathanʼs mother picked the flowers for the wedding and grew them herself on the property. The arrangements included flowers in various shades of purple and yellow with some white here and there. My cousin and maid of honor helped with the arrangements and Nathanʼs mother designed the bouquet.
Nathanʼs cousin Rachel is an extremely talented wedding photographer in the Chicago area, we could not have imagined going with anyone else for our wedding day. She was able to read my mind and deliver what we hoped for and more. Her style was perfect for the mood we were trying to create.
We hired a local caterer for some of the food, some we provided ourselves with the help of Nathanʼs aunt. I made the wedding cake(s) from scratch and decorated them with the help of a friend. I have always been a baking enthusiast, but back when I decided to make my own wedding cake I had never even taken a class. It took me a year of trials, research and classes to come up with my own recipe and design. Three separate genoise sponge cakes filled with Italian pastry cream and a different berry for each cake, covered in whipped cream.
I have been to several weddings where the DJ messed up so I chose to go with my own playlists. They were very carefully crafted with the help of my husband, and my bridesmaids. One was a mix of Italian and English love songs to use as background music during the meal, the other was for dancing.
We chose to go with an old Italian traditions and gave out small bags of Italian confetti (sugared almonds).
A family and friends effort
My favorite wedding story is how at 8am (ceremony started at 10.30) I was in my pyjamas helping the groomsmen wipe the tables and carrying boxes of plates and silverware. We were so worried about how much time it would take to get everything ready, but so many people came over to help that we were done in under one hour. The bridal party, our dads and siblings, our friends who showed up early to help, everyone was carrying something or cleaning something. It really showed us how amazing and supportive the people in our lives are.
Five of our friends spoke, one of them made me sob with the most beautiful speech about Nathanʼs kindness even through the hardest times.
We are going over winter break, we are not sure where yet and should probably decide soon.
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
Nothing will go according to plan and that is the beauty of it. Breathe, relax, look at your husband and hug your friends a whole lot. DIY weddings are hard and stressful, but so much worth it when you can look around and say “we made this.” Surround yourself with positive people, ignore those who bring negativity. Donʼt feel pressured to spend a lot of money on things you “must have” but think long and hard about what matters to you as a couple.
Federica & Nathan’s little white book
Photography – Mandelette
Bride’s dress and bridesmaids – Davidʼs Bridal
Bride’s shoes – Amazon
Bride’s veil – Anza Bridal
Groomʼs attire – Boggi Milano
Catering – Pink Bakery
Stationery – The Almond Art
Chairs – Vintage Farmhouse Tables
Tent – Shore to Shore Rental