There’s nothing like a destination wedding weekend – just you and your beloved and your very nearest and dearest friends and family, away from it all, coming together and getting to know each other and celebrating your love. That’s exactly what Jessica, a speech language pathologist, and Max, a manager for a pipe supply company (#masefourthwithbejess), did, jetting off to the Aruba Marriot and Stellaris Casino with an intimate crowd of 40 to party all weekend long.
These two threw a laid-back, informal centered around a huge dance party – and followed up with another party the next day on a private pirate boat! The couple flew in their photographer, Nela from Christian Oth Studio, and she was, in the bride’s words, a total Rockstar, snapping beautiful, artful photos from start ot finish.
And of course we’re obsessed with the bride’s incredible custom gown from Smashing The Glass Recommended Vendor Lee Petra Grebenau. Lee is one of our very favorite Israeli designers, and Jessica was lucky enough to be able to work with her in person in NYC to create the dress of her dreams – something feminine yet edgy, appropriate for the beach yet not a beach dress – and above all, something with a big bow. Lee came through and then some – we could not be any more in love with the design she came up with for this beautiful bride.
And speaking of the beautiful bride, we’ll leave it to her to fill you in on the rest…
How we met
Jessica, the bride: We met at a bar in the Hamptons. My sister was dating Max’s best friend. After months of messaging my sister to set us up, I agreed to go on a date with him. We have been together ever since.
A Caribbean Wedding
Before Max I got engaged, all I wanted was a small, industrial Brooklyn wedding. Being a Brooklyn native, my dream was to honor my roots while only having my closest friends and family attend our special day. As we searched around, I realized my vision was both too difficult ( bringing in all vendors into “raw” spaces was turning into a logistical nightmare) and unrealistic (most places had a 120 person minimum – we wanted something more intimate).
I realized that I was going to have to give up my “Brooklyn” aesthetic in order to achieve the vibe I was going for – a unique, weekend long affair with a small group of those closest to us. Max and I have been to the Caribbean many times with my family, so it felt right when we picked the venue – Aruba Marriot and Stellaris Casino. We had a weekend long affair starting with a rehearsal dinner at Barefoot restaurant, the wedding (of course) and a private pirate boat party the next day.
Beach Party Vibes
Max and I are not formal people and we hate weddings that follow the same cookie cutter flow. We wanted a party and that’s what we got. From the confetti when we walked down the aisle to the shot glass escort cards to Max walking down the aisle to the Mario Brothers theme song and I to the Sex and the City theme song (I even rocked Manolo’s just like Carrie Bradshaw), our 40 guests knew they were there to party.
We got all the formalities we wanted (speeches, first dance) out of the way for the first 30-40 minutes after the ceremony and then it was just a huge dance party on the beach. We then had an after party indoors complete with a Biggie Smalls rap battle (I still got a piece of Brooklyn) that we had to shut down an hour early because people danced too much- something you don’t hear often! The party didn’t end at the after party, everyone came aboard the Jolly Pirates‘ pirate ship the next day. What we gave our guests was a curated Aruba experience with a wedding embedded in the mix.
Hair + Makeup
I am BEYOND grateful to have found Aruba Makeup Agency. My mom and I flew down to Aruba a few months before the wedding and I had 3 makeup trials. I found a great makeup artist and was so excited to book with him. I asked for a contract multiple times and tried reaching out to him many, many times. I finally spoke to the hotel and they told me that they have heard of this makeup artist not showing up on the wedding day. In a panic, I hired Aruba Makeup Agency the week of my wedding. They were able to do a trial on my mom before I came down and did an amazing job! They were professional, kind and I could not speak more highly of them.
A Lee Petra Grebenau Dress
I was lucky enough to get my custom dress from Lee Petra Grebenau (Spina Bride). I did not want the beach to dictate my look. I was very clear at every bridal appointment that I didn’t want a “beachy” dress, I wanted a “me” dress. What did that mean? It needed to be a little Avant Garde, feminine and it needed a bow. When I found my dress, my sister, who is the least emotional person, teared up. I knew it was the one! But, it didn’t have a bow. What is amazing is about Lee’s designs is that you can try on any dress in the store and make whatever customizations you want. I was lucky enough to meet Lee when she was in New York from Tel Aviv and tell her exactly what I wanted – bow and all.
In fact, I went to meet Lee with my best friend who I met on Birthright. It was really awesome to have an Israeli designer, and to meet them with my best friend who I met in Israel was a really sweet full circle moment . She did an incredible job achieving my vision and creating a dress that was one of a kind and encompassed who I am. While my dress was light and airy, easy to move around in and perfect for the beach, I would NOT call it a “beach” dress.
For our wedding bands , Max and I both opted for Cartier love rings. We absolutely love them and think they are timeless.
Sex and the City is my all the time favorite show, so as I said, it was not even a question that I would be wearing Manolo Blahnik just like Carrie Bradshaw. I opted for a smaller heel because it was on the beach. Everyone told me I should wear flats but I did not listen! They were very comfortable and because the heel was not too high, it was perfect for the beach.
The handsome groom
Max and I both had custom, one of a kind looks. For Max, he went to Bindle and Keep in our native Brooklyn to achieve his fun, beachy, yet also sophisticated look. He also rocked the coolest Jimmy Choo‘s.
No bridal party
A small detail that made our wedding unique was not having bridal parties. It was so special planning my wedding with my mom and sister by my side the whole time. I did not want a bridal party and instead just got ready with my them (my mom and sister) and my cousin the day of the wedding. It was very calming not having a room full of people. Max also did not have a bridal party and got to hang out with all our friends at the pool the morning of our wedding. How can it be any better than that?
For our getting ready looks, I did not something that I have seen a million times and I genuinely wanted the girls to be able to wear their getting ready outfits again. I got these cute sleeping shirts at J. Crew and was able to get the monogram’s for free at their flagship store in NYC.
I really wanted the décor to be simple and let the natural beauty of Aruba speak for it self. For the chuppah, I wanted to compliment the green in the palm trees. I wanted the chuppah to be a “frame” for the water and not over power the simplicity of being on the water.
Despite the party feel, it was very important that our Jewish religion was honored throughout the course of the wedding. We were married by a rabbi in a traditional Jewish ceremony. One idea that our rabbi incorporated into our wedding that I loved was instead of the bride walking around the groom 7 times, I walked around Max 3 times, he walked around me 3 times and we walked in a circle together, symbolizing us becoming one. I really liked this modern twist on an old tradition.
Another incredibly important Jewish aspect was having a ketubah and ketubah signing. Both these aspects were incredibly important. I wanted the ketubah to be artful and something totally unique. I was thrilled to find Ampersand Made on Etsy. The ketubah encompassed everything Max and I love the most, Brooklyn, our dog Luffy and the signatures of our best friends. One of the best moments of the night was having our 3 best friends sign the ketubah. It was a really touching moment.
To go along with our “funky fasion”, I wanted our kippahs to be unique. I was so happy to find iKippah in our native Brooklyn. The kippahs were so cool and went along with our color theme perfectly. Even our non-Jewish friends rocked a kippah.
Our music choice
As I said before, Max and I are not formal people. Our love is fun and silly! We didn’t want to have the classic sounds you walk down the aisle to. We hired a violinist to still make our choices sound beautiful but we did not want anything stuffy. Max love video games, so naturally, we walked down the aisle to the Mario Brothers theme song. As I said before, I walked down the aisle to the Sex and the City theme song. Everyone thought it was great!
Besides marrying Max, the best decision I made was hiring Christian Oth Studio. I knew that in order to have the best pictures, I needed to fly my photographer in. Christian Oth studios photographs weddings all over the world so I knew his studio would be able to capture artful, beautiful pictures.
Nela from Christian Oth Studio was a ROCKSTAR! Nela arrived Thursday evening and got right to work. She walked around scouting locations and met with me to discuss her ideas. I was blown away by her tenacity and dedication to her craft. She was studying, taking notes- a true professional. The next day Friday, Nela and I walked around the property for around an hour, discussing the plan for the next day. I insisted she enjoy the beautiful weather and go to the beach but she continued to work.
On Saturday, the day of the wedding, Nela was an energizer bunny and ninja rolled into a petite frame. She was running around for 8 hours getting every shot, no matter the angle. She braved the elements, heat and even rain with poise and grace. As I said, I’ve seen a few shots and she is incredible. I am confident they will all be beautiful.
Besides being an excellent photographer and a true professional, Nela is an exceptional human being. All Max and I wanted was to have a non traditional wedding that was small, intimate and just huge dance party. We were lucky that 40 of our friends and family made the trip to Aruba so we can achieve our dream. Being in such an intimate group, Nela ended up becoming our 41st friend who came. It’s hard to put into words but she just seamlessly fit into our group. Everyone there loved having her. My family and I enjoyed getting to know her as a person and we believe we have a friend for life from this experience. I don’t think this could have worked if we had anyone other than Nela. Since it was so intimate, it was imperative that the photographer be easy to get along with. We had people from all over the country, from every walk of life and Nela was able to relate every single person.
Being in paradise
Everyone tells us our wedding was the best they have been to (I hope they are telling the truth). Max jokingly says we cheated because we were in paradise, how can anyone have a bad time. But, I think it goes beyond being in paradise. Having a small, weekend long affair, allowed us to be present the entire time, we knew we had a whole weekend full of activities to be with our friends. At the end of the weekend, the 40 of us were one big happy family. Getting married is not just about 2 people coming together, its about their families and friends coming together. Aruba allowed us to do that. Each event, was unique and memorable.
As I’ve said before, it was very, very important that our wedding was not typical wedding. Max and I do not like how at most weddings, dancing is broken up by food courses. We just wanted a huge dance party. We did however, want to maintain some level of tradition. During our rehearsal dinner, since we did not have a bridal party, we opened the mic up for anyone that wanted to give a speech. Everyone was so excited to “roast” Max, that essentially everyone came prepared to the rehearsal dinner with the most beautiful and funny speeches. At the actual wedding, my sister and Max’s brother made the most beautiful and touching speeches.
Another very unique aspect of our wedding was instead of hosting a brunch the next day, we chartered a private pirate ship! It was such a fun way to end the weekend. Our guests were so happy to have a unique experience.
It was soooo important for us to have an EPIC hora. I searched everywhere for the perfect hora. Finally, I decided to just make my own. I remixed two horas on garage band. It was totally awesome and fun!!! Everyone was sweating when they were done dancing and not just from the Aruba heat.
Max and I went to Japan for our honeymoon! This was the first trip we went on as a couple and now, it is the first trip we went on as a married couple. We highly recommend staying at the Andaz in Tokyo and taking a Tsukiji fish market and sushi making class with Sushi Mafia. The Andaz was a beautiful hotel but also their concierge helped us secure reservations at Michelin Star restaurants before we got there!
Jessica & Max’s little white book
Photography – Christian Oth Studio
Venue – Aruba Marriot and Stellaris Casino
Bride’s dress – Lee Petra Grebenau found and fitted at Spina Bride
Bride’s shoes – Manolo Blahnik
Groom’s attire – Bindle and Keep and Jimmy Choo
Hair + Makeup – Aruba Makeup Agency
Sleeping shirts – J. Crew
Rings – Cartier
Kippahs – iKippah
Ketubah – Ampersand Made via Etsy
Rehearsal dinner – Barefoot Aruba
Private boat – Jolly Pirates
Honeymoon – at Andaz
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