You know there’s little we love more than a distinctive chuppah design at a Jewish wedding.
At first glance, today’s version may look like a fairly standard-issue floral design… but look again. Specifically, look at the poles – or, more precisely the lack thereof.
That’s right, Jillian, a reporter at the financial news site MarketWatch, and Steven, a dental student, went for a suspended chuppah for their big day, with asymmetrical greenery and white flowers descending from each of the four corners but stopping a good few feet from the floor. How cool does it look in Sam Hurd’s glam photos?!
The non-traditional (yet still permissible according to Jewish law — the couple checked with their rabbi) chuppah is just one of the wonderful ways Jillian and Steven merged Jewish traditions with their own 21st-century sensibilities.
For example, the pair liked the tradition of a pre-wedding tisch (a ceremony for the groom and male guests) and kabbalat panim (for the bride and female guests), but weren’t crazy about the gender segregation thing. Their solution? During the cocktail hour, they held both ceremonies, but made each gender-neutral so that all of the guests could experience both — and get in some valuable time with the bride and the groom. We LOVE that.
There’s so much more to say about this fun, festive wedding, but we’ll let Jillian — who looked so glam in her custom gold lace gown designed by family friend Sharon Wilkes — take it from here…
How we met
Jillian, the bride: We first met through mutual friends – a close friend of Steven’s from growing up was one of my roommates in college – but then began dating while working together at HuffPost in New York, shortly after graduating from college. And of course our relationship continued through job changes and Steven’s career left turn into dentistry!
A D.C. Wedding
We got married at Dock 5, a venue space attached to Washington, D.C.’s Union Market. We knew we wanted to get married in my hometown of D.C., but we’re not exactly a D.C. couple (we currently live in Jersey City, and at the time we were living in Brooklyn). That meant that some of the beautiful historical venues in D.C. didn’t really fit with our vibe (in many cases, they also couldn’t accommodate our 200+ guest list). Dock 5 was the perfect mix of an up and coming landmark that helped us show off D.C. to our out of town guests and had the urban chic vibe we were going for.
Before we saw Dock 5, we didn’t really have a sense of what kind of wedding venue we were looking for, but as soon as we saw it, we knew it was where we wanted to get married.
A Fab Planner
Our wedding took place on December 30, the night before New Year’s Eve, and we wanted it to have the kind of glitzy, festive vibe that fit with the time of year. Our amazing wedding planner, Sara Bauleke of Bella Notte, somehow managed to turn a Pinterest board and a few vague ideas about aesthetics into a beautiful wedding with surprising touches that felt totally us!
Sara brainstormed with our caterer, Windows, to incorporate some our favorite foods (like tuna melts and fried pickles!) into our kosher wedding. She also worked with a slew of vendors, such as Fig 2. Design Studio, Revolution Event Design and Production, Fabrication Events, to design a space that totally wowed our guests.
From a giant sign announcing guests’ seating assignments to menus printed on cloth napkins, Sara dreamed up whimsical ideas and found the right vendors to execute them, which helped set our wedding apart and make it feel true to us.
Hair + Makeup
I’m not a super formal person, so I worried that putting my hair up might look too severe. At the same time, I was concerned that if I wore it totally down or even half up, it would get in the way. Fortunately, my mom’s long-time stylist, Paul Guidi at Bogart Salon in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., came up with an elegant solution: a side ponytail. The look he designed was fun and youthful, but also stayed out of my way.
For makeup, I wanted to look as natural as possible, while still recognizing that I would of course need to look more done up than typical to stand out in pictures. Laura Alcocer for Bridal Artistry did an amazing job capturing what I was looking for. She also recommended a great berry lip color that I’ve imitated for other looks!
A Custom Dress by Sharon Wilkes
The dress process was one of my favorite experiences of the whole wedding. A dear family friend, Sharon Wilkes, custom designed my dress, which meant I was able to wear exactly what I wanted. I tried on dresses at various bridal stores with Sharon, my mom, my mother-in-law, and one of my aunts, which helped give me a sense of the features I was looking for.
From there, Sharon and I talked about what I might like. I knew I wanted a sleeve of some kind because of the time of year and I was also interested in a train for drama during the ceremony, but didn’t want to have to deal with it during the reception. We also took a trip to Mood Fabrics, where we found the most amazing lace with gold embroidery – a perfect material for the pre-New Year’s Eve vibe we were going for.
Then Sharon started sketching. We went through a few revisions of her initial sketches, but the final dress was pretty close to what she originally dreamed up. After that, I went through several fittings with Sharon’s seamstress, who was conveniently located in New York. My mom came up on several occasions to participate in the fittings, which only added to the fun.
In the end, I wound up with a unique dress that was dramatic, flattering and very comfortable. It featured lace sleeves, a sheer back with some lace designs, a wide neck, and a gold belt with a detachable train that I took off after the ceremony.
We also paired it with a white leather jacket that Sharon magically found at T.J. Maxx for about $100, to keep me shielded from the cold during outdoor photos.
A Custom Veil
I wore a crystal floral hair comb by Wedding Belles that featured gold accents. It matched nicely with the gold embroidered lace in my dress. Sharon also designed a custom elbow-length veil to go with my dress. It began as a simple tulle veil, but at the last minute Sharon decided to add some flowers from the lace to the edge of the veil. She worked until about 5 a.m. the day of my wedding, and all of her hard work really brought the veil over the top!
In addition to all of that, Sharon used some of the extra material from my dress to create a beautiful handbag that was both practical and something I can have as a keepsake from the day.
Badgley Mischka Pumps
For my shoes, I chose Badgley Mischka Daisy D’Orsay pumps. They’re gold and sparkly, which I thought would be a perfect fit for a wedding the night before New Year’s Eve. I wanted a bit of a heel (about 3 ¼ inches), but nothing too high as I’m already pretty tall and I almost never wear heels outside of formal events.
I also bought a pair of rose gold, Steve Madden Foxie Metallic Platform Sneakers, which I changed into after dinner to make dancing more comfortable.
The handsome groom
Steven wore a charcoal suit from Hugo Boss that he purchased at Nordstrom and paired it with a white shirt and black skinny tie. We wanted our wedding to be festive, but not stuffy, so we decided suits made more sense than tuxedos.
Bridesmaids in Gold
I had five bridesmaids who, in keeping with the New Year’s Eve theme, I asked to wear gold dresses. All I specified was that the dresses be short and not strapless. Finding the dresses turned out to be a bit challenging, but in the end they each picked out beautiful looks that tied together well, but weren’t cookie cutter.
A Suspended Floral Chuppah
Sara had a dream of doing a suspended floral chuppah and luckily our rabbi, Simeon, checked his sources and found it was kosher. Our amazing florist, Isha Foss, designed and installed the chuppah, which featured asymmetrical greenery and white flowers. The result was something way beyond what I could have imagined.
Tradition with a Modern Twist
Steven and I both grew up going to Jewish day school and feel a strong cultural connection to many Jewish traditions that we knew we wanted to incorporate into our wedding, but with a modern twist. During the cocktail hour, we had a tisch – the typically male-only groom’s pre-wedding ceremony – but we left the door open and made it gender-neutral. Sara worked with Sparky Hopkins at Atmosphere Lighting to light the room in such a way that Steven’s tisch looked like an old time-y men’s scotch club.
While Steven was in his tisch, I participated in a kabbalat panim, a pre-wedding ceremony where the bride, surrounded by her mother and other important female relatives, greets guests and offers them a blessing. I sat in the middle of the cocktail hour, which gave me the opportunity to talk to a wide swath of people.
Probably our favorite aspect of the ceremony itself was that we were able to have our close friend, Rabbi Simeon Cohen, officiate. Simeon and Steven have known eachother since high school and he’s been a great friend to me since Steven and I started dating. Many of our guests commented on how personal Simeon was able to make the ceremony.
As an added bonus, Simeon’s wife, Ariel Fein, designed our beautiful ketubah!
Days Like This
Steven is a big music fan and is particularly fond of the Grateful Dead, so when he and the groomsmen walked down the aisle they were accompanied by Ripple, a beloved Grateful Dead tune. The bridesmaids walked in to the Beatles In My Life and my parents and I processed to The Weight by The Band. We recessed to Sultans of Swing by the Dire Straits. Chris Dunn, a professional guitarist, played all of these songs and was able to find beautiful acoustic arrangements for them.
Steven and I danced to Into the Mystic by Van Morrison for our first dance. My dad and I (and later my mom joined in!) danced to Wildflowers by Tom Petty and Steven and his mom danced to Days Like This by Van Morrison.
Since our wedding was in the winter, there weren’t a ton of flowers in season, but Isha used what was available to design beautiful florals that pulled from a color pallet of deep purple, burgundy, greens and whites. She used flowers like anemone, mini callas, allium, delphinium or stock, dianthus, orchids, lisianthus for the bouquets.
For the tables, Isha created a mix of high and low arrangements that were so much more innovative than your typical wedding centerpieces. She had greenery elevated on open metal stands so that guests could still talk to one another and made beautiful use of candles and a variety of votives.
The overall effect Isha achieved was somehow subtly dramatic – a result I didn’t know was possible!
Our Fabulous Photographer
Steven and I aren’t super into PDA, so we worried a bit about taking couples photos and wanted to make sure we got someone who didn’t solely rely on those more traditional nose-touching, kissing shots. With Sam Hurd, we got that and more!
Sam has an amazing eye and seemed to compose creative shots effortlessly. In one of my favorites, he told us to stand by a red drape and gave us some posing instructions. The resulting photo featured us surrounded by greenery because Sam took it looking through a floral arrangement!
In addition to his creativity, Sam was super easy to work with. Whereas often at weddings you may find yourself standing around for several minutes while the photographer poses family and bridal party shots, Sam and his assistant Nate made quick work. In fact, they were so fast that my bridesmaids didn’t freeze too much during our outside photo session.
A Soulful Band
As I said before, music is really important to Steven and so he was the driving force behind our music choice. We knew we wanted a band and through Sam Hill Entertainment we were able to find Blue Tips Rhythm Revue, a Fredericksburg, Virginia, based band. Blue Tips has a soulful sound that sets it apart from other bands we listened to. They also had a Motown and classic rock heavy catalogue that was more aligned to our taste (they didn’t play anything contemporary at our wedding).
Blue Tips also agreed to come up with an arrangement for a hora lasting at least 12 minutes. They had played horas before, but we knew we wanted ours to be long enough for our friends to perform shticks – or funny dances, often featuring costumes – they had prepared.
For our out of town guests, we created tote bags that were waiting in their hotel rooms with snacks and other information about the wedding. Steven’s aunt, who owns Harry Hoffer Advertising Specialities, made them for us and one of my bridesmaids designed the logo we used.
Our wedding, our way
All of the details from the decor, to the food, to the ceremony combined to create a wedding that we felt truly reflected us and our priorities – having a great time with family and friends.
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
This may seem cliche, but keeping perspective is important! Steven and I knew that what we wanted most from the event was to celebrate with our favorite people and so even if the details, like food and aesthetics, hadn’t turned out exactly the way we wanted – which they did! – we would have been happy.
Jillian & Steven’s white little book
Photography – Sam Hurd
Wedding planner – Bella Notte
Venue – Dock 5
Production and design – Fig 2. Design Studio, Revolution Event Design and Production and Fabrication Events
Bride’s dress – Sharon Wilkes and Mood Fabrics
Bride’s shoes – Badgley Mischka and Steve Madden
Bride’s accessories – T.J. Maxx
Groom’s attire – Hugo Boss purchased at Nordstrom
Hair + Makeup – Bogart Salon and Bridal Artistry
Flowers – Isha Foss Design
Catering – Windows
Guitarist – Chris Dunn
Band – Blue Tips Rhythm Revue
Favours – Harry Hoffer Advertising Specialities
Invitations – Minted