We could not be any more overjoyed to be featuring the gorgeous DIY Jewish wedding of our beloved Brides Club member and blogging bride Erin as our very last wedding of 2020!
Erin, a medical education coordinator at the University of Virginia, and Josh, a musician and fourth-grade teacher at a forest school, had originally planned to wed at their synagogue, followed by a reception at a local restaurant. But like so many 2020 couples, they had to retool their day when COVID hit. They were intent on marrying on their original date, but knew they needed a mostly outdoor venue that allowed for social distancing.
Luckily, Erin and Josh live in beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia, and they were able to find a spot that perfectly fit the bill in Camp Holiday Trails, which during the summer functions as a camp for children with medical needs – so not only did they end up with incredible natural scenery requiring very little in the way of added decor (abundant fall foliage AND the Blue Ridge mountains as a backdrop? Yes please!), they were able to support a good cause too.
Erin and Josh were on a tight budget – but luckily they also happen to be super craftsy, and they ended up creating so many incredible DIY touches that really made their day pop. The highlight has got to be the ketubah they created together, featuring a gorgeous composite photo of the couple sitting by a local pond looking up at the Milky Way (with photos by the groom) – perfectly in keeping with their loose theme of “a starry fall night in the mountains.” We also love the cool copper pipe chuppah these two built – which they plan to repurpose in the future as parts for their sukkah! Don’t miss it – and all the other handcrafted touches – in the incredible photos from Steve of Photography Champloo.
The couple also had some help from their wonderful friends and family – Erin’s sister, Kaley Agee, happens to be a professional photographer, and she pitched in with some getting-ready shots on the big day in addition to manning the videography (which Erin and Josh will be editing themselves). And when Erin determined a florist was out of budget, her amazing friend and fellow Brides Club member Karisa, sent over some unused Sola Wood Flowers left over from her own wedding, which Erin dyed and hand-painted herself.
There’s so much more to say about this fantastic wedding, but we’ll let Erin tell you the rest…
How we Met
Erin, the bride: Josh and I met how any good millennials meet – on a dating app! Josh and I had the unusual courtship of two months of talking before we ever met in person (it was the Thanksgiving holiday, then I went down to Florida to see my family over the winter holidays, and then by the time I got back, Josh was on a Birthright trip to Israel!)
We were finally able to meet in January of 2018, and we both fell hard pretty quickly after our first date at a local coffee shop (where we both unknowingly ordered the same drink!)
Change of Plans
We got married in Charlottesville, Virginia – the place where we met and live. Charlottesville is so beautiful, because it’s near Shenandoah, and the Blue Ridge mountains are absolutely amazing. Prior to COVID, we had gone through several iterations of what our wedding was going to look like, but we had finally settled on having the ceremony at our local synagogue – Congregation Beth Israel, a beautiful synagogue and one of the oldest in the American south! We would then make the short trek to The Local, the restaurant that we had chosen to do our catering. We had planned to rent out the second story, which has huge windows and great views of downtown and the mountains in the distance.
However, because of COVID, we completely changed tack. In order to promote social distancing, we wanted a place with lots of space so people could spread out, and we wanted a place that could be mostly outdoors, but with a covering. So, with this in mind, I pulled out the spreadsheet I had made earlier in my planning process of all of the potential local places we could host the wedding.
Unfortunately, because we had very little money to spend, there weren’t many option open, but we were so lucky, because one of the places that we could afford was Camp Holiday Trails. Camp Holiday Trails (during the summer) functions as a camp for children with medical needs, and it felt nice to be supporting a location that tries to be so accessible and give all kids a chance to have a camp experience.
Camp Holiday Trails is perfect. It is nestled in the mountains, and has tons of beautiful trees – which meant lots of beautiful fall colors as a backdrop for our wedding. Tina, who we worked with there, was so helpful and helped us decide to use their large Pavilion for our reception, which was only a few steps away from the ceremony location, which had a firepit (which would come into use later!) For all the changes we went through, I am so happy with what we ended up with. With all of our nature-themed stationary, Camp Holiday Trails was the perfect “vibe” for us, and made the wedding weekend (because we also had the rehearsal dinner there) feel relaxed and fun.
What ‘Smashing The Glass Brides Club’ Did For Us
I initially joined Brides Club because Karen was offering a month free, and I was really excited to get my hands on the manuals, because I had never thrown (or even been to) a Jewish wedding, and I love a good to-do list! What kept me in Brides Club for the duration of my wedding planning experience was the friends I made! I truly made some life-long friends through Brides Club.
I also couldn’t have made it through the stresses of the planning process without a supportive, safe group like Brides Club to vent, problem-solve, and of course share my wedding planning wins (#WPWs.) We also were able to use a Brides Club discount on our customized masks from Mrs. Wendt’s Wares and our kippot from Kippot World. Woohoo!
Starry Night in the Mountains
The very loose theme of our wedding was, “a starry fall night in the mountains,” so we had little touches that either felt starry, or like fall, or like the National Parks, or some combination of them three!
My engagement ring is a gold ring with a sapphire stone, and Josh’s engagement watch is blue with gold accents, so we had a lot of small blue and gold touches in with more stereotypically fall colors. And by “fall colors,” I really just mean the trees all around the campground where we were married. We really leveraged the beautiful natural fall foliage and didn’t do much to take away from that.
Josh and I wanted our wedding to be somewhat traditional and sentimental, but also laidback. I think we achieved this by the special touches we put into the ceremony and the fact that so much of our wedding was “homemade.” I’m pretty proud of what we (and our friends and family) pulled together without the help of a “professional”!
Josh and I designed our own Save the Dates – I edited a photo he took of us stargazing and made it look like a National Parks postcard.
We did however use Greenvelope for our invitations. In the midst of COVID, it felt safer to email out invitations. In a wonderful surprise, Greenvelope actually has an invitation that features the Blue Ridge mountains, which is the mountain range Charlottesville is nestled in, so that was perfect. Greenvelope also made it easy to track responses and contact people as plans changed due to COVID.
For the wedding programs, I once again tried to dust off my Illustrator skills and created two fall mountain scenes – one daytime and one nighttime. They were pretty basic, but the back side did have information about common aspects of a Jewish wedding, which I felt was important, because I wanted people to know what was going on, and over half of our guests weren’t Jewish.
Hair + Make-up
In a two-way decision (safety concerns with COVID mixed with not having enough money for it), I did my own hair and makeup. Makeup-wise, I wanted something very natural, as I very rarely wear makeup normally. Overall, I think it was okay for a definite novice. It was quite understated, but was pretty close to what I’d wanted to have looked like.
As far as hair goes, I did most of it, and my sister pinned the curls in the back, which was very kind of her, as I threw it on her last-minute the day-of! It was a little messy, but overall achieved the look of Jane Austen heroine that I wanted.
An Amsale Dress
My dress was the Cera Gown, by Nouvelle Amsale. The website describes it as a “modern take on the ballgown silhouette pairs a clean, strappy bodice with a full, tiered skirt for showstopping movement.” I love that I was able to buy from a Black-founded brand and designer! I found it at a BHLDN store in Boston – you can see my Blogging Bride post about that trip here.
I am really very picky about lace, so I figured my dress would like be some combination of crepe and/or tulle. I had originally thought I’d go with a minimal a-line/fit and flare type style. However, once I put this dress on, I just felt so comfortable and at home. It provided a lot of support and didn’t have a plunging neckline or a low back, and I loved that it was quite simple, with a nod to a princess gown because of how the tulle was layered at different lengths.
I also loved the racerback, which was such a unique look, but was designed in such a way that it kept the silhouette clean and looked lovely with the buttons running down the back. The dress was understated and graceful, and I loved how I looked in it. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world, and I am so thankful to my friend Keri for being there with me that day, and to my friend Arlyn who generously gifted the dress to me. I felt so magical in this dress on my wedding day.
I had a beautiful locket with a lapis lazuli face with a tiny diamond in it. I also wore a pair of tiny drop earrings that looked like stars. I had intended to wear these really beautiful starry hairpins and barrette, but forgot – whoops! Therefore, I used hairpins with little faux pearls on them to hold down my hand-made drop veil. Additionally, I wore a slip with lace that my maternal great-great grandmother made for my great-grandmother’s wedding, and has been worn by most of the women in my mom’s family.
I also started my day off with a knit shawl, but eventually removed it because I was getting a little warm with all of the excitement!
My ceremony shoes were a sparkly pair of d’Orsay flats from DSW. They were a light pink, so that they were almost nude, but had sparkle, which I love. I really wanted flats, especially once we switched our location to a campground, and when I decided to smash a glass as well (smashing a glass with a heel sounded much more difficult!
For the reception, Josh and I switched into matching pink high-top Chucks covered in white hearts with a glossy red heart. Josh and I love Converses, so after some stalking of their website, when I found these, I knew we had to incorporate them!
The handsome groom
Josh wore a beautiful navy blue, custom suit from Men’s Wearhouse with a gray vest, and a beautiful floral green shiny tie, which matched all of his groomsmen’s ties. Oh, and fun fact: the inner lining of his suit jacket had flamingos! They were so fun and a neat little secret.
He also wore a new pair of glasses, brown oxfords, and his blue and gold engagement Fossil watch. Additionally, he wore a kippah and tallit that were mostly white with geometric shapes in red, green, gold, and blue, that I gave to him in honor of our wedding day.
He looked so handsome and dreamy that day (as he does every day, to be honest), I couldn’t stop staring at him.
I invited six of my friends to be my bridesmaids, but unfortunately due to COVID, one of my friends couldn’t make it (as she is all the way in France being awesome!) I was so thankful for my friends who could make it, that I asked them to wear a long dress in “fall colors,” and let them pick from there. I also know that sometimes it can be a bummer to have a bridesmaid dress picked out in a style that doesn’t completely suit your body, and I wanted my friends to wear exactly what they wanted and would make them look and feel their best!
We had SO many little touches to our ceremony that I could spend all day talking about them, but I’ll try to share just a few here. But an over-arching theme was wanting to include as many people as possible, and for Josh and I to incorporate as many aspects that honored traditions, but also symbolized us sharing equally in the marriage.
Because it was a little difficult to figure out a COVID-safe processional, Josh and I decided that we would be the only two people who would process, and we walked in from opposite sides, and met in the middle before we did our circling. We also shared the circling – I walked around Josh three times, Josh walked around me three times, and then we each walked in a circle together. I really loved the symbolism of this.
We also had seven members of our bridal party read pieces of prose, poetry, or quotes that related to each of the seven blessings, which were recited by our rabbi in Hebrew.
Our kiddush cup belonged to one of Josh’s maternal ancestors – another aspect of our wedding that incorporate our family history.
Also, we read directly from our ketubah, which meant a lot to us.
And finally, we BOTH smashed a glass – I used the “Smashed It” Brides Club pouch, and Josh used a bag that I made that said “Mazal Tov!” in Hebrew (and each had a glass that we had painted inside of it.) I was so happy that I managed to smash my glass.
Josh and I were both really excited to make our own ketubah. We went through a lot of ideas, but eventually settled on using a Milky Way photo and adding text to it. Josh was really the creative director on creating our ketubah. He found a great place to take the photo (a nearby pond), and he had the idea that we should be sitting looking at the Milky Way, similar to our Save the Dates.
After he took the stunning photos, he edited them to get the technical parts of the photo sharp, and then I combined the two photos, and then added the text in a way where it followed the shape of the Milky Way. We were so lucky to have one of our future ketubah witnesses double-check our Hebrew, as she is a native speaker, and Josh and I definitely aren’t!
I think it was really stunning and unique. A truly personal, one-of-a-kind piece that we can treasure forever.
I was super-excited to make our chuppah. Since we couldn’t afford a florist, we didn’t really have an option for a chuppah to be provided by a vendor. I decided to make one out of copper pipes (because they seemed easy to transport) and I thought that we could use them later as parts of our sukkah (I’m really looking forward to this.) It was 6’ W x 6’ D x 7’ H, with a sheet over it, and it had four tallits – one on each pole – and each of those from Josh’s paternal family: his from his bat mitzvah, his father’s, his grandfather’s, and one from his great-grandfather.
There was just enough room for us, a small table, and (mostly) the rabbi under the chuppah, it was simple, and perfect, and with some help from zip ties, tape, and rebar, all parts stayed where they needed to on a windy day!
OUR Music Choice
During our ceremony, we didn’t have loads of music, but we had three pieces that were special to us that we chose. For our processional, Josh and I walked in to a song he wrote a few years ago titled, ‘Life Has a Way of Working Things Out’ as the artist, First of Three. The song we circled to was ‘Dodi Li’ by Elana Arian. The song we recessed to was ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ by Jubël.
Since we didn’t have money to buy flowers from a florist for our wedding, my amazing friend (and fellow Brides Club member!), Karisa, sent me some of her unused Sola Wood Flowers! I dyed and hand-painted the finer details on the flowers. The flowers ended up looking like carnations, roses, anemones, and dahlias. I added dried leatherleaf ferns and eryngium (blue thistle) to the bouquet to beef up my bouquet. One our tables, we had jars filled with dried lavender, broom blooms, and on the head table, some dried eryngium.
Photographer and videographer
Our photographer actually works with Josh – and has for years! They are both photography geeks, and we knew that we could trust Steve with our photos. He’s great with natural photography, and is good at capturing special moments. He was also really understanding and worked to get all of the shots that I asked of him (I essentially just gave him the entire shot list that is in the Brides Club Members’ area.)
I was also really grateful to have my sister, Kaley Agee, at the wedding (she is also a professional photographer) as she could get some getting-ready shots in the ladies’ cabin, and she also manned the videography (which included a normal camera and a super-8 camera.)
Steve of Photography Champloo was really fast with the turn-around time on our fabulous photos. Unfortunately, as Josh and I couldn’t afford an actual videographer, we will be editing and putting together our own wedding videos at some point, and cannot promise the speedy turn around that Steve did!
Food and Cake
Our catering was done by The Local. Originally, we were going to have our reception there, and I was really looking forward to their buffet with appetizers and great local selection of beer, wine, and cider, but unfortunately, as it became clear that it would not be the safest idea to have an indoor ceremony, we had to switch to having a catered meal. Due to safety concerns, we had meals individually packed (though I sourced compostable carriers and utensils to keep our ecological impact down somewhat), which meant that we no longer could have appetizers and we provided our own wine, cider, and beer.
The food we did have from the Local was delicious! Guests had a choice between a filet with delicious fingerling potatoes and vegetables or Scottish salmon with a spicy sauce, rice pilaf, and asparagus, and both were absolutely delicious!
As our main dessert, we had a waffle cake (yes – you read that right!) Since we had meat as one of the meal options (and because Josh can’t eat dairy anyway), we commissioned a dairy-free waffle cake to be made by our friend, Kathryn Matthews, owner of Iron Paffles and Coffee. Josh and I had actually both worked there for a number of years, and we knew Kathryn would create something FANTASTIC! Our waffle cakes were circular waffles layered with vanilla icing, cinnamon apples, caramel sauce, and edible fall-colored leaves!
It was so fantastic looking, and Kathryn also made individual quarter-cuts of the cake so that people wouldn’t have to be served from all one cake. It was just as beautiful as it was delicious, and we topped it off with a sign that said, “I Love You and I Like You” (a quote from one of my favorite shows – Parks and Rec, in which the main character’s favorite food is waffles! I loved how it all tied together.)
In-keeping with the breakfast theme, we also had a late-night snack of individually-packed vegan doughnuts from our favorite local doughnut shop, Glaze! The two desserts at our wedding made me so happy, because I love breakfast foods so much.
Before the dancing commenced, we had four toasts: one by Josh’s brothers, one by my friend, Keri, one from my parents, and one from Josh’s parents. They were all so incredibly wonderful and made us feel so special. After those, Josh and I gave a quick little “thank you” to everyone who was there.
For entertainment, Josh and I created a playlist (we love to make playlists) of songs we loved that would be fun to dance to. We didn’t have many people at the wedding, and even fewer danced, but it was fun – especially when one of our youngest guests got in on the fun!
After the dancing, we went and sat by the bonfire, listened to music (accompanied by my new husband on the ukulele!), and chatted.
We did our wedding favors in two parts:
For the ceremony, everyone got a bag with enough programs, kippot, masks, hand warmers (it was a somewhat chilly day), and hand sanitizer for their group. While this bag was more practical, I like to think it helped people feel more comfortable during the ceremony, and things like our customized masks added a fun touch!
At the reception, I etched glass mason jar mugs with “L’Chaim!” on them so that people could have reusable cups (name tags were tied on to them so everyone could keep track whose was whose), and it gave them a fun item to take home from the wedding.
Josh and I went on a minimoon to a house in the town next to Charlottesville. I was set on not immediately returning home the night of our wedding. We stayed at a very cute Air BnB, and mostly just spent our time there relaxing, opening wedding gifts, and enthusiastically calling each other “HUSBAND!” and “WIFE!”
Hopefully someday we’ll be able to go on a “full” honeymoon that’s a combo trip between Edinburgh and Israel. (Our dream is to convince Honeymoon Israel to let us go on one of their trips.)
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
I have so many wedding-based thoughts, but I’ll stick to a few.
If you can afford to have a day-of coordinator, that is great! But if you can’t, delegate to family and friends. The bride arguably needs the most time to get ready. Your friends and family want to help, and delegating will reduce stress. Once the actual day starts rolling, then definitely just enjoy being a bride.
It’s okay to not have the picture-perfect, fancy wedding you thought you would. It’s okay if everything is a bit different, and it’s okay if you need to mourn all of the work and thoughts you put into your previous plans. But there is also a lot of beauty in the new plans you will make. Your day will be beautiful because it is yours.
Final Note: While our wedding was much smaller than we originally planned, getting to spend the weekend celebrating (safely) with some of our nearest and dearest was so lovely and has left us with memories that we’ll never forget. I am so grateful to my family and friends for making our wedding as special as it was, and I’m grateful most of all to be married to my wonderful husband.
ERIN & JOSH’S LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Photographer – Stevan Michaels, Photography Champloo
Bridal getting ready shots – Kaley Agee, Lifelong Photography
Videography – Kaley Agee, Lifelong Photography
Venue – Camp Holiday Trails
Space Heaters – MS Events
Rings – Holden
Bride’s dress – Nouvelle Amsale bought at BHLDN
Bride’s shoes – Mix No. 6, Converse
Bride’s accessories – Ana Luisa, BHLDN
Groom’s attire – Men’s Wearhouse, Aldo, Converse, Fossil
Yair Emanuel Tallit and Kippah – Judaica Webstore
Flowers – Sola Wood Flowers , Cavall Studio
Ketubah Printing – PhotoWorksGroup
Masks – Mrs. Wendt’s Wares
Kippot – Kippot World
Catering – The Local
Cake – Iron Paffles and Coffee
Doughnuts – Glaze
Invitation – Greenvelope
Rabbi – Rabbi Tom Gutherz
If you’re a Jewish or Jew-ish bride-to-be, you’ll want to join Smashing The Glass’ Brides Club. Guided by the world’s number 1 Jewish wedding expert, Karen Cinnamon, Brides Club is the private community for Jewish and Jew-ish brides that removes wedstress and indecision and gives you what you need to plan with confidence during these uncertain times. Join our Brides Club here.