All together now – say “aaaaw!” Good. Now you’re all prepared for your reaction to today’s wonderful Jewish real wedding.
Serena and Philip got chatting at a family member’s birthday party and love immediately blossomed. So much so that Serena forgot she had a taxi waiting outside (we did prepare you)!
Their beautiful Jewish wedding was a late Saturday celebration, which meant that friends and family could get the party started after the evening chuppah, while the photos were being taken, so that by the time the couple arrived, everyone was already on their feet.
Bride Serena looked absolutely breathtaking in her Ritva Westenius gown, with material from her mother’s and grandmother’s wedding dresses sewn in. Serena also honored her grandmother by wearing her brooch as a hairpiece. Philip’s late father was remembered through the use of his tallit and his wedding ring.
Three fabulous Smashing The Glass Recommended Vendors helped to bring this beautiful big day together. Florist Mary Jane Vaughan created a stunning floral motif that told a story as the day progressed, the stunning spread of photographs was provided by the one and only Blake Ezra (did you catch him in our Smashing Summit?!) and Chazan Simon Cohen
treated the couple to his divine voice under the chuppah.
In fact, you can watch Simon in action in the wonderful chuppah video below, provided by Matt Camlin.
We’ll leave you in Serena’s good hands for the full story – take it away Serena!
How we met
Serena, the bride: Philip was best friends with my first cousin and even though we had been to parties and weddings together over the years, we had never met (probably because he was married at the time).
It was my cousins 50th birthday party (Philip had been separated for a year) and just I was leaving. As my taxi was outside to take me to another party, Philip came over and said ‘hello’. The rest, you might say, is history.
We stood there talking in a ‘bubble’ till the end of the party, unaware of anyone around us and the taxi sat outside waiting the whole time.
Strangely, my parents met him at Christmas lunch the year before and I my dad left saying he knew Philip and I would be together, which is ridiculous because we had never met.
An intimate London venue
We got married at the Rosewood London in Holborn. We went to a wedding at The Grove last summer and the chuppah was outside in the sunken garden and Philip loved the intimacy of the ceremony. We felt the Rosewood offered the winter version of this style of chuppah with guests sitting all around us on the floor and the balcony.
A late chuppah
We wanted a less formal Saturday night party wedding. We had such a mixture of people attending that we wanted to create party atmosphere from the start.
As it was on a Saturday night, we had to have a late chuppah, so we decided to have our reception first so people were relaxed and happy (had eaten and had a few cocktails) by the time the chuppah started.
After the chuppah, we had 15 minutes for family photos and we didn’t want our guests sitting around waiting for us, so our amazing band Muzika got the party started as soon as the doors opened to the ballroom. I heard people went straight to the dance floor instead of finding their tables. It was just what had hoped would happen.
By the time Philip and I entered the room, the party was in full swing.
For the flowers and colors scheme, I chose purples and plums for the flowers whilst the bridesmaids & maids of honor were in dark grey. In fact, after meeting Mary Jane Vaughan (our amazing florist) our color scheme really evolved.
The fabulous David Collins was our toastmaster and he made sure everything ran to the schedule and smoothly.
Simple and elegant invitations
We chose a very simple elegant invitation ivory with a dark grey edge by Big Day.
Trusted hair and makeup artists
The amazing Rina Steinberg did my makeup. She was so calming on the day and my makeup matched my hairstyle and dress. Rina was always on the end of the phone if I needed to know something.
My hair was styled by Ferre Baker, who has known me since I was little and still does my mum’s hair, I always said if I got married, she would do my hair.
I went for a hair trial and she tried out so many different ones but I knew the last one was the style I was going to have, I actually may have shed a tear when I looked in the mirror.
A Ritva Westinius dress with heirloom additions
My dress was from Ritva Westinius and was designed by Chenka. I loved Chenka from the moment I met her and looked forward to all my fittings. She really listened to me and made me feel beautiful. My dress was very simple and sleek and so easy to wear. Chenka made me a beaded belt to change into after the chuppah.
I had a lady called Pamela Chapman come to dress me on the day, she was amazing and helped with the men’s self-tie bow ties and getting the bridesmaids dresses and stayed till after the chuppah in case we needed anything.
I wore my great-grandma’s diamond brooch as my hair piece. I always knew if I got married that I would wear it in my hair and my hairdresser had cleverly stuck it onto a hairgrip for me so I could wear it. I felt very special wearing it.
‘Something blue’ shoes
My shoes were from Loriblu in Bond Street and I loved them. I chose to wear silver shoes and they had a blue sole for my something blue.
The handsome groom
Philip wore an Armani dinner suit and taught himself how to tie a self-tie bow tie for the wedding. We actually bought them for all the ushers to wear as loved the look when they are hanging loose around the neck.
He wore a dark grey pocketchief, as did all the ushers. Philip struggled to find a shirt to fit him properly, so he went to TuxLux and they altered the shirt to fit him perfectly.
Bridesmaids expressing their individual style
I had two bridesmaids and two maids of honor, all different ages and with their own individual style. Thankfully, I found this amazing shop in Wimbledon called Not Another Boring Bridesmaid Dress.
I chose the color I wanted and the girls went round the shop with pegs, picking out the dresses they liked. I am delighted to say each of them loved their dress and whilst individual to their style the overall look was together.
Polly and Rachel at NABBD were so kind and helpful and really went above and beyond for the girls to get their dream dresses.
Everyone under the chuppah
Philip was quite specific about the chuppah and he wanted to have plain columns on the sides, as it was going to be quite a few people underneath.
When we were at Mary Jane Vaughan’s, she was showing us different chuppahs she had created – we came across one and my dad said ‘that’s it.’
I felt it needed some tweaking and so together with MJV and Just Seventy it evolved from the original chuppah we had seen and I absolutely loved it.
A moving ceremony
Philip’s father passed away 24 years ago and, as a surprise to Philip, I had his father’s tallit draped on the inside of the chuppah so it was over our heads as we got married and he became part of our ceremony. I felt he was the only thing missing and this was my way of including him.
We also used his father’s wedding ring to make our rings so he is always a part of our lives. My parents had also bought us a special becher for us to use for the chuppah which has our Hebrew names engraved and our wedding date.
I loved every single part of the ceremony, from walking down the stairs with my dad, seeing the chuppah we had created for the first time, the cheers as we walked down the stairs (I will never forget that), my dad kissing my hand as we got to the chuppah.
Seeing Philip standing there so proud and happy, walking around him, my uncle blessing us, I could go on.
For the Sheva Brachot, we asked men who played a significant part in our lives to say one each. That way, we managed to give friends a ‘role’ to play.
One of the best things I was convinced to do was face out to everyone and I loved seeing everyone there and spotting people that meant so much to me.
An incredible cantor
From the moment we knew Cantor Simon Cohen was singing at the wedding, we downloaded his album and we fell in love with three of his songs and knew that we wanted them for our ceremony.
We met with Simon in the summer to get to know him and also talk through our song choices. Somehow he convinced us we needed a string quartet to get the amazing melodies that we had fallen in love with.
It took 30 seconds for Philip to agree and on the day the music for the chuppah was incredible. Simon was so right.
For the party, we walked in to Marry You by Bruno Mars as we both loved it and knew it would get everyone going (didn’t realise they had been partying since they went in). I asked Muzika to change the chorus from ‘Hey Baby’ to ‘Hey Smajey’ (his nickname) as another surprise for him.
Our first dance was by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell You’re All I Need To Get By. We actually chose this two days after we got engaged. We were up at around 5am talking and we were listening to some wedding songs.
As soon as we heard this song, we knew this was our first dance. We kept it a secret and never changed our mind about, the words really seem to sum us up.
Flowers to tell a story
After our first meeting with the wonderful Mary Jane Vaughan, she sent us four different color palettes to choose from so that she was clear on the vision we had and she could go and create ‘the look’ and she didn’t disappoint.
Through the flowers, we created a story, so the arrangements at the party followed on from the chuppah flowers but were used more color and flower variations and brought in coloured candles to finish off the look.
As the bridesmaids all had different looks, but all wanted to wear flowers in their hair, Mary Jane suggested putting individual flowers on wire for the girls to have in their hair no matter what the hairstyle and it looked fabulous.
I thoroughly loved all the meetings with Mary Jane. She really understood what I wanted and brought it to life.
Our fabulous photographer
There was never a question that we wanted Blake Ezra to tell the story of our wedding through his amazing style of photos. He put us at ease from the moment we met him and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him and having him and his team there as part of our day.
We chose not to have a videographer, as we felt we wouldn’t watch it more than a handful of times and the pictures would tell the story, but we decided to have our chuppah videoed as my 97-year-old grandma was there, as well as Chief Rabbi Mervis, who married us alongside Rabbi Schochet and to have the memory of Simon Cohen’s voice.
For our catering, we had the fabulous Tony Page and his team who made sure the whole day without a hitch and oversaw every detail for us.
Maddy and Laura were great to speak to and put our minds at ease even with the littlest question. Nothing was ever a problem and they always made the planning fun.
From the start, we wanted to Muzika, we knew they would make us a fabulous party and we weren’t disappointed.
We left them to do the music and gave them no direction except ‘let’s party’. We asked them to play one song for 97 year old grandma (which is her favourite) Blame It On The Boogie and they got her up on stage and she had the time of her life.
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
A friend who got married a year ago gave me the best advice: when going up on the chair, make sure you sit sideways so you can have to back of the chair supporting you and you can hold on tightly but also have a great time.
I was also told that at some point during the evening take a step back and look around the room to make sure you take it all in. Remember its just one day and things are bound to go wrong, try to take it all in your stride.
Serena & Philip’s little white book
Photography — Blake Ezra
Florist — Mary Jane Vaughan
Chazan — Simon Cohen
Videography of chuppah — Matt Camlin
Production — Just Seventy
Bride’s dress — Ritva Westenius
Bride’s shoes — Loriblu
Groom’s attire — Armani and Tux Lux
Bridesmaids — Not Another Boring Bridesmaid Dress
Hair + Makeup — Ferre Baker and Rina Steinberg
Catering — Tony Page
Band — Muzika
Invitations – Big Day
Toastmaster – David Collins
Rings – Paul Winton