We love it when a couple does their Jewish wedding their way (it’s our mantra after all), and that’s just one of the many reasons we’re so smitten with family nurse practitioner Lauren and director of sales Abraham’s gorgeous destination wedding in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
First off, we love that Lauren stayed true to herself ad opted to marry in a totally chic – and not traditionally bridal – Gucci dress she bought off the rack from Neiman Marcus! It just goes to show, you absolutely don’t have to do the big white gown thing for your big day if it doesn’t speak to you.
We also think it’s fantastic that Lauren and Abe opted to keep their wedding super intimate – they had just 24 guests! There’s something to be said for surrounding yourself with your nearest and dearest – and only your nearest and dearest – on such a special day.
It doesn’t get much better than the majestic Great Synagogue of Florence, where the chuppah took place, and the reception venue – the Four Seasons of Florence – was pretty epic in its own right. It was all captured wonderfully by award-winning photographers D2, Donatella and Damiano, whose natural, atmospheric photos captured all the love and emotion of the day so perfectly.
Also, these two have an unusual – and beautiful – how-we-met story. Seriously, you don’t want to miss this one!
Now over to the bride…
How we met
Lauren, the bride: Our story is quite special. Abe’s ex-wife, named Lauren, and her now husband Ron made the introduction.
I was a close friend of Ron’s for many years, who then started dating Lauren. Ron had met Abe on numerous occasions, as Abe and Lauren have two sons together, Leon, 10 and Felix, 8. Abe and Lauren have a great/friendly/healthy relationship and still admire one another.
Upon meeting Abe, Ron had said to Lauren, I think I have the perfect girl for Abe. I was having dinner with Ron and Lauren and actually met Leon and Felix that evening, when they made a text introduction with Abe and I – an hour later I met Abe and never laughed so hard in my life, and from then on we have been together.
Our ceremony was at the Great Synagogue of Florence, and our reception that followed was at the Four Seasons of Florence. To be married at the Great Synagogue of Florence was a dream of mine when I first saw it with my mother on my return back to Florence after studying abroad. After our visit at the synagogue, I stepped outside and said to my mother “One day I will get married here” I snapped a photo at that moment and posted it to Facebook with that exact caption. 10 years later my dream came true.
Our wedding was a reflection of us in the fashion that it was put together and the way it came about. In five months my mom and I worked with Sofia Sabbo of the Four Seasons who exquisitely put our vision into motion (but she far exceeded any image we could have imagined).
It was 100% stress free even from so far away, without an onsite consult prior to the wedding days. Our vision was always for our wedding to be intimate, and elegant, while being lighthearted and fun.
We had 24 guests, with an exquisite feast and the most amazing pianist/singer – who blew us away at first sound of our first dance song ‘Perfect’ by Ed Sheehan and Andrea Bocelli. We also had a gelato/sorbet bar, and The Four Seasons pastry chef honored my request of having chocolate sorbet – my favorite flavor.
One moment that sticks out is when Abe’s son, Felix, my step-son, brought me three scoops and said “I didn’t see you have any yet.” We share in our love for sorbet.
Prior to our engagement, Abe and I had been invited to numerous weddings all of which had extravagant wedding invitations, that in the end went in the trash. Abe once joked when we plan our wedding we will just have Paperless Post online email invitations, I chuckled at the comment and the thought, and said you must be crazy.
Well, when it came down to it, Abe and my mom agreed on this inexpensive and effective way of sending out invitations, and it was still beautiful. It was again stress free, with out the worry if someone received the invitation or if we in the end forgot to send any out. We were able to easily track our guest list and our responses.
Hair + Makeup
My hair and makeup was something I was a bit nervous about – we weren’t going to have a trial run of hair and makeup prior to the rehearsal dinner – but Sofia Sabbo of the Four Seasons comforted me in saying that the work their hairstylist and makeup artists do for their brides is photo/model ready.
Sonia of the Four Seasons Coiffeur is a blessing! I had originally desired to wear my hair up for our wedding, as I am most comfortable in that way. However, Sonia said, no, and made me feel comfortable with our decision, and the end result – I felt gorgeous, like a quintessential Italian glamourous bride, and most importantly still me.
Sonia also did my makeup and it was flawless, and photo ready. She is talented, sweet and funny. The Coiffeur was like a private oasis, a perfect place to spend the day prior to our nuptials.
A Gucci Dress
My dress is Gucci from Neiman Marcus and it was right off the hanger! I was in Florida for work and visiting my parents during the holidays. Abe had returned to NYC for work already, so it was now time for some one on one time with the Schwartzes.
I was meeting my parents and brother and sister in law for dinner to celebrate my mom’s birthday, when I was told to stop off at Neiman Marcus nearby. Ilyssa, my sister in law, had found my dress. She and my mother always knew I didn’t want to be the typical bride with a large white gown. Even beginning to look at wedding dresses online, I would scroll through and was unimpressed by most, if not all, especially within our budget. I walked into the Gucci boutique where my family awaited my arrival, I put on the dress, and it was a perfect fit! It was exquisite! Glamorous! Elegant! It was ME!
I had gotten a blusher veil at the last moment at the Anthropologie Bridal Boutique, BHLDN. I had decided prior to our departure for Italy that it would be nice to have one traditional bridal element to our wedding. Directly after our ceremony it fell out and I didn’t think about it ever again. Come to think of it, I may have even left it back in Italy.
My earrings were a perfect match and a perfect additional glamorous element to my dress. They are from a jewelry boutique in NYC called Jennifer Miller.
Christian Louboutin Shoes
My shoes were Christian Louboutin, from Saks Fifth Avenue. I must say, they were very comfortable, elegant, stilettos that didn’t have me stumbling throughout Florence navigating the cobblestones for our photo shoots, and a night full of DANCING.
The handsome groom
Well, the photos speak for themselves, check him out 😉 The way he looks at me, and smiles at me and laughs at and with me – he is my king. Abe wore a Theory slim fit suit, with Ferragamo shoes, and an Hermes tie. When we first went to look at suits and try them on prior to our wedding, I remember saying to myself with a beaming smile, wow – I get to marry him! He knows how to wear a suit!
With the size of our wedding and given that it was a destination wedding far from home, we decided not to have a bridal party.
We really let the synagogue speak for itself. We had not designed a chuppah as it was already onsite, and we really did not want to take away from all the natural elements and lighting and beauty of The Great Synagogue.
A Moving Ceremony
Our favorite parts of our ceremony was our ketubah signing, as it is traditional and symbolic of our union as a Jewish couple. Rav Amadeo followed it by saying we will forever be a part of the Great Synagogue of Florence and the Jewish population of Italy.
Another special moment was when Abe and I were at the ark together with our parents, and the rabbi asked Abe who he would like to open the ark, he stated my father. My father had a smile and teared filled eyes that showed just how special he felt in that moment.
Our ketubah was printed by the rabbi, as Abe’s tradition is to have the mother of the bride hold it for safe keeping, rather than hanging it as art on the wall.
Our music choice
Our first dance was ‘Perfect’ by Ed Sheeran and Andrea Bocelli. Maurizio our singer/pianist had the room in tears – he was perfect. We also had dances with our mothers. My mom and I danced to ‘Let it Be’ by the Beatles, as during the same visit when we toured the Great Synagogue ten years earlier, we were sitting outside the Uffizzi Museum following dinner and there was a guitarist/singer, who had a very large international crowd singing this song together – I remember the moment so clearly, and it is now forever our saying.
Abe and his mother danced to a U2 song, ‘With or Without You’, as his mother is an avid fan. Additionally, during our first bite of cake with Leon and Felix by our sides, we had requested ‘Holdin’ My Own’ by Eric Church – one of our favorite country singers. It was a beautiful moment that had Leon in tears.
My bouquet was a beautifully simple, elegant arrangement of white calla lilies. What made this bouquet even more special is that it was wrapped with ribbon from my mother’s wedding dress, and my favorite charm from a necklace my grandmother has worn for as long as I can remember. My grandmother unfortunately was not able to join us on our special day, and this was a beautiful surprise that my mother arranged for me.
Our table centers were really a vision of the very talented florist Vincenzo Dascanio. I was adamant about that in the table settings we were to have crystal candelabras, and high and low elements, also to keep with the color scheme of the beautiful artwork in the gherardesca ballroom. When we first walked into the room, actually when all of our guests walked into the room, the expressions spoke for themselves. The room was truly the most beautiful image we could have every imagined. It truly took our breath away.
The award winning D2, Donatella and Damiano, delivered such exquisite natural photos that caught Abe and me, our guests and our wedding in the most natural way. Each and every photo you can see the expressions and the atmosphere, they painted the picture of what embodied our ceremony and reception, and the personality of Abe and me. We are now able to relive our day over and over again without the loss of any detail thanks to these two talented, and sweet photographers.
We chose to have a millefeuille with raspberries. We also had a gelato/sorbet cart for all to enjoy. The Four Seasons catered our feast, a Michelin star worthy event!
We had Maurizio, he is an incredible pianist with a voice that left us spell bound. I would recommend him time and time again and wish we could listen to him daily.
At each place setting we had five almonds, in tulle bags, called bomboniere, to signify five wishes for the bride and groom: health, wealth, happiness, fertility, and longevity.
We really allowed the day to unfold as it was meant to, there wasn’t much planned in way of speeches, and dances – and in the end Abe stated “well, if it has to end now, I’m ok with that, because it was beyond perfect.” My father and brother spoke, Abe’s brother and mother spoke, and our dear friend who is my Italian brother, spoke as well. The words were all filled with love, laughter and tears.
Honeymoon in Italy
We extended our stay in Italy – we went to Tuscany, Rome, Naples, Capri and Amalfi, I think I am still trying to get back into the swing of things after our incredible journey.
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
Have a vision, and make it happen. Having a vision will decrease the feeling of being overwhelmed and influenced negatively. The vision will keep you on track, If you have a dream, follow it through, the man worth marrying, no matter how far the dream may be, will allow it, encourage it, believe in it, and ensure that it comes to life and exceeds any expectation. and per Abe, “if all else fails, at least you are with amazing company” so choose your guests wisely and choose those who will always be by your side.
Lauren & Abraham’s little white book
Photography – D2 Photography
Venues – Great Synagogue of Florence and Four Seasons of Florence
Bride’s dress – Gucci purchased at Neiman Marcus
Bride’s veil – Anthropologie at BHLDN
Bride’s shoes – Christian Louboutin purchased at Saks Fifth Avenue
Bride’s jewellery – Jennifer Miller
Groom’s attire – Theory, Ferragamo and Hermes
Flowers – Vincenzo Dascanio
Invitation – Paperless Post