“GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to have the wedding of your dreams. Whatever it is.”
Amen to that, Risa! Our couples always have so much Jewish and Jew-ish wedding wisdom to pass on, but it’s not every day we get offered up advice that so perfectly describes our mission here at Smashing The Glass.
Risa, who owns a boutique casting house in NYC, and Anna, a lead analyst for a creative agency, certainly had the wedding of their dreams, and it just might turn out to be the wedding of your dreams too. Do have a scroll through Beatrice Moricci’s majestic photos! You can really see why Risa says this awesome photographer was the “best decision we’ve ever made – apart from choosing one another!”
Between the totally swoon-worthy Tuscan setting (that also served to honor Risa’s late Italian father), a hora played by an authentic Cuban band, Michelin-starred catering using ingredients picked out of an on-site garden the morning of the wedding, a sweet floral chuppah, and a gelato card, we’re pretty much sold on this one.
The brides did SUCH a fab job of combining Risa’s Jewish and Italian heritage with Anna’s Cuban background, plus their own sensibilities as a 21st-century couple, and we adore the fact that they decided to BOTH break a glass at the end of the ceremony.
It doesn’t hurt that these two are a seriously stylish duo, either – Risa’s non-traditional blush floral gown from Rara Avis is truly a sight to behold, and Anna’s custom blue tux from Bindle & Keep was super dapper.
Now we’ll hand you over to Risa whose writeup of this exceptional day is truly memorable…
How We Met
Risa: We met through mutual friends and have been together for six years, with a two-year gap in the middle!
A Destination Wedding in Italy
We got married in the small town of Montefollonico, Toscana.
When my wife was 15, her parents took her there on vacation to stay at a family-owned inn in the center of the Tuscan hills. It was a memory that long stuck with her, so around year ago (September 1, 2017 – a week after we got engaged) when we went to Italy so she could meet my father’s side of the family, who all live in Rome, and drink and eat a TON, she decided to take me to La Chiusa to see if the memory she had as a child held up.
It was SO magical there we could hardly handle it. By day 2 of being there, we locked the date for our wedding exactly one year later. September 1, 2018. We had briefly chatted about marrying in Italy so my father’s side of the family could be present but when we were at La Chiusa, with the staff who treated us like family and the vineyards set behind us, we knew immediately it was the place – and a perfect mixture of my family and hers.
A Jewish-Cuban-Italian Wedding
We absolutely used a wedding planner! I think creating an event like this in another country and keeping a balance of three cultures, Jewish, Cuban and Italian, on TOP of this being a proudly gay wedding would have been way too much to handle on our own from NYC.
Finding a rabbi in Tuscany alone was difficult! Many were willing to marry a same sex couple but not interfaith, and my wife isn’t Jewish. My Judaism is very important to me and I am very involved in my synagogue here in NYC (the largest gay synagogue in the world – I’m so proud to be even a tiny part of it!) – so it was very important that I had a religious ceremony and yet made sure it was infused with modern tones and customs that were outside the lines.
Anna is incredibly supportive and active as well in my Judaism (she even fasts on Yom Kippur!), but we knew we had to incorporate her Cuban culture (we circled each other in a flamenco style when we first got to the aisle) and ours as a couple (left! gay! feminist!), which is exactly what we did.
I’d say our wedding style was a little radical, deeply rooted in our cultures, romantic and charming. The combination of a Jew-ish ceremony with a beautiful chuppah, two women BOTH breaking a glass at the end of the ceremony, a Cuban band playing both during the ceremony and throughout the evening, having our sisters as our witnesses sign the ketubah DURING the ceremony (which breaks too many rules to count), and having it all take place in Italy so my father could somehow be present (he passed away 2 years ago) – all of that – made it too unique to count.
We had a cognac toast for my father (his drink) at the end of the evening as well as a hora first taught by our rabbi to my Italian family, her Cuban family, and a few NYC friends, gorgeously played by a 6 piece Cuban band.
What ‘Smashing The Glass’ Did For Us
I was ABSOLUTELY a regular visitor to STG! I found my ketubah through a post Karen wrote about modern options and we ADORE it.
Because our invitations were only for 17 guests/families (we had a total of 32 people at the wedding, including 4 little ones) we kept those pretty simple. Nothing to write home about – just lots of logistics for the Americans who were travelling and for the weekend of events!
Hair + Makeup
Our wedding planners sent me about 6 different hair/makeup teams and I chose mine through them. Ursula and Serena were joyful, patient, talented, and took my ideas to heart as well as executed them even better than I could have imagined. I really wanted a 60s vibe with my hair – a deep side part, a lot of volume and a little greenery peeking through.
Same with makeup – a romantic feel but with a cat eye that felt just vintage/kick ass enough. I essentially asked them to make me look like Sophia Loren!
A Rara Avis Dress
I knew I did NOT want to wear anything too bridal, white, or traditional, and I also knew I wanted it to somehow fit into the nature of the Tuscan backdrop. I began searching for gowns that had an organic feel to them as well as some floral patterns and somehow I stumbled upon a designer named Rara Avis based in Belarus with a floral collection.
I fell MADLY in love with one dress (named Elba) and immediately began doing a search on how to get it in New York. That turned out to be a big failure, after contacting the company and finding out they mostly sell in Europe.
So it then became a search for how to get it in the States. There was ONE STORE IN THE COUNTRY willing to have a few Rara Avis dresses shipped to them in Melbourne, FL, for me to try on, so I put a call out, became BFFs with that store owner, Sierra Lee of Olivia Bowen Bridal, and off to Florida I went with my mom!
Sierra couldn’t have been more helpful in my travel, stress, shipping and whole shopping experience and the MOMENT I saw my dress in person, I knew. It fit like a glove.
A custom blue tux
Anna had her jewel-toned blue tux custom made for her at Bindle & Keep in Brooklyn. She wanted something bright and fun and that’s exactly what they made for her. It was PERFECT, and the silk paisley lining on the inside of the jacket was the pop that made it all the more special.
I had surprised her the morning of our wedding with a pocket square made from the material of my dress, which worked beautifully.
A Surprise Gold Veil
I never imagined I’d be a veil girl and until my very last fitting in NYC, I hadn’t considered one at all, but my tailor mentioned it while the dress was on and for fun I tried it out. Thank G-d my best friend was with me because I fear I would have been too stubborn to even try otherwise, but it worked immediately and we both couldn’t deny it. The romance of it it with my dress seemed too perfect to discount. So off I went to find a gold colored veil (white wouldn’t have worked) from Etsy and surprised Anna with it walking down the aisle. She knows me too well to think I’d be wearing one!
I had some of the flowers from my bouquet in my hair, as well as some berries picked right off the trees on the property.
As for jewelry, Anna and I took my mother and father’s wedding bands, which was VERY special to both of us. Oddly enough, my mom’s band had been upgraded at some point in their 43 years together with sapphires and diamonds, which a) I didn’t realize until she handed the rings to me this year and b) matched effortlessly with my antique sapphire and diamond engagement ring Anna had given me a year prior.
Anna wore the engagement gift I gave to her – an Art Deco Waltham pocket watch (also from Doyle & Doyle), and I wore a small “M” necklace in honor of my father, Mario, alongside a hamsa, both pieces from Phoenix Roze.
A Simple Floral Chuppah
Our chuppah designer also handled our flowers, which were filled with deep deep garnets and soft soft pinks and peaches for drama alongside the greens of Tuscany. We wanted to keep our chuppah simple, so as not to take away from the landscape of Montepulciano behind it, but rather offer a keyhole to see it through.
Religious and Revolutionary
There were too many special touches to count. Truly.
If I had to choose, I’d start by saying my zio Giuseppe walking me down the aisle. He is my father’s younger brother and I surprised him during a toast at the rehearsal dinner by asking. Half the reason I felt so deeply abut getting married in Italy was so my father (who was born in Napoli and lived in Rome until he met my mother) could be a part of the day. In Italy he is everywhere. In the wine, the air, in the earth… I needed that.
Secondly, Anna and I decided to BOTH break a glass at the end of the ceremony. That moment was very important to us. It was both religious and revolutionary in our own small way. We wanted to claim a space as women that may not have been offered to us if we didn’t grab it ourselves. It is a timeless, gorgeous tradition we felt honored taking on.
Lastly, we called our sisters up to the chuppah to be our witnesses, readers and signers of the ketubah. Again, taking a role that was not always offered to women and making it ours. Our sisters mean the world to us and having them be a part of our ceremony did as well.
Anna walked down the aisle just after my niece as the flower girl and my two nephews as the ring bearers. She walked down holding hands with her parents to That’s Amore.
I walked down to Somewhere Over the Rainbow with my mother and uncle. It’s the unofficial gay national anthem and has special meaning to my family. Who doesn’t love them some Judy?
Our recessional was La Vida Es Un Carnaval by Celia Cruz to both bring in a Cuban classic and get the party STARTED!
I COULD TALK ABOUT OUR PHOTOGRAPHER FOR WEEKS ON END AND IT’LL NEVER BE ENOUGH TO COVER THE GLORY OF HER.
We hired Beatrice Moricci through our wedding planners after Anna (a photographer herself) had taken a look at about ten different portfolios. Everything about her work had a magical feel to it – like she was playing a game with light.
We emailed back and forth a few times and she truly tried to get to know us through those emails – she wanted to hear from each of us separately why we fell in love with the other, what kept us in love – details that made it clear how much she cared.
A few months into knowing her via the world wide web, she contacted us and said she’d be in New York for a month and could we meet up? It was a definitive YES. We wound up having a lovely Valentines Day dinner with her at our place in Chelsea so she could meet our babies (Artie, a Havanese and Barbra Streisand, a rescue mutt) and I could test out my Italian!
I made carbonara and we drank vino and by the end of the evening we were the dearest of friends. SO much so, that she came back a few weeks later and shot a TON of engagement photos for us as a gift!
Seeing her in Italy for the actual wedding was like seeing an old friend. Best decision we’ve ever made – apart from choosing one another!
An Olive Oil Cake
We decided on having an olive oil cake very early on because it seemed so fitting both for the landscape and the venue – which used to be an olive oil factory. We wanted something very simple. The designer coordinated with our planner to discuss our flowers and again, some from my bouquet were used to decorate it. Nothing too crazy – no need to cover!
Our catering however, is VERY important. Within La Chiusa, which is an enchanting family-owned inn owned by Umberto Lucherini, there is a Michelin starred restaurant, whose chef, Dania, is a hostess like no other. Both of them made our wedding weekend feel like family was caring for us with one divine dish after another. Our menu was 6 courses and chosen the morning before the wedding to make sure we were using only the freshest of ingredients picked right out of Dania’s garden on the property.
A Cuban Band in Italy
Knowing our wedding was going to be in Italy, Anna’s one request was that there had to be an AUTHENTIC Cuban band for it all. Not an easy task to handle, but Super Tuscan Wedding Planners found Sangre Latino, based out of Milan, and OMG did they deliver!
We gave them no music list but asked for it to all be Cuban and powerful enough to get every stranger (with serious language barriers) on the floor together. That’s exactly what happened and it was overwhelmingly joyful to watch.
By the end of the night, they were just as much a part of the evening as our families were.
Local Flavor Favors
We decided on small welcome bags in the rooms instead of favors – they were totes with a bottle of vino, some cheese, crackers, and wooden wine openers we had engraved with the date and our initials on them. Nothing too crazy.
Well first there was the rain. We were so worried about it all day… we felt it looming above us and the clouds were constant. But somehow, the universe allowed us a beautiful ceremony without a drop.
JUST afterwards though, when cocktails began and the first of two speeches had happened, it came down. Anna and I got separated as all of us ran into whatever door was closest and it allowed for a few touching moments…. one of me with my mother-in-law, mother, and sister in the kitchen chatting about the downpour, one where Anna’s uncle joined in the band, and one where Anna and I walked into the venue to see our gorgeous long table perfectly put together by our florist and planner (VERY speedily I might add) by hand inside. We quickly realized the rain didn’t matter at all.
There were two speeches throughout the evening that will never be forgotten. The first was a mistake – sort of. Our mothers were supposed to be a part of the ceremony as well as our sisters and read the poem If, by Rudyard Kipling as a nod to Anna’s maternal grandfather, but unfortunately, the rabbi forgot.
After our quiet time together as a couple post recessional, we realized two things didn’t happen: I didn’t carry my gorgeous bouquet down the aisle and our mothers didn’t read the poem out loud. We quickly gathered ourselves to correct both matters and entered the cocktail party with flowers in hand and an announcement to make. Our mothers came up and shared the poem with the family and it wound up being exactly as it should have. Intimate and standing on its own.
And then there was Anna’s father, who made a toast so precious I don’t think anyone at that small table will ever forget. He spoke about Anna and me, he spoke directly to my family (in Italian I might add – a language he does not speak), and he spoke to our friends and Anna’s family with such a pure of heart. There wasn’t a person who didn’t feel like they were a part of that moment. Who didn’t feel connected. To one another or to us. And he did that. Not a dry eye in the house.
SO IMPORTANT – a gelato cart! I mean… we WERE in Italy. We decided to surprise everyone at around 10 PM with a little gelato cart rolling up to the entrance. After a few hours of boogying inside, running outside into the cool night air and grabbing a cone was almost as exciting as saying I Do!
A Tuscan Honeymoon
We went to a small port town off the coast of Tuscany called Porto Santo Stefano 2 days after our ceremony. It was quiet and local and unexplored by tourists which is exactly what we love. We spent 3 glorious days there and just relaxed.
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to have the wedding of your dreams. Whatever it is.
Risa & Anna’s little white book
Photography – Beatrice Moricci
Wedding Planner – Super Tuscan Wedding Planners
Venue – Ristorante La Chiusa
Risa’s dress – Rara Avis found and fitted at Olivia Bowen Bridal
Anna’s suit – Bindle & Keep
Risa’ shoes – Coach
Accessories – Doyle & Doyle and Phoenix Roze
Hair + Makeup – The Tuscan Beauty Wedding
Flowers – Flowers Living
Cuban Band – Sangre Latino
Ketubah – This Is Not A Ketubah