Get ready to be blown away by one of the most stunning Jewish micro weddings we’ve seen yet. When Smashing The Glass Brides Club member Ivi and Ben got engaged in February 2021 after Ivi completed her three-year journey toward conversion to Judaism, they knew they wanted to become husband and wife ASAP, pandemic or no. So in just six weeks of planning, they whipped up an absolute dream wedding, split into several events over two days to follow lockdown restrictions.
First, Ivi and Ben held the most magical chuppah for an intimate crowd of 15 at beloved Smashing The Glass Recommended Vendor Kimpton Fitzroy London, which Ivi found right here on STG! From the beginning, the couple fell head over heels for everything about this venue, from the way it combines opulence with warmth to the gorgeous high-ceilinged ballroom where the chuppah took place to the ultra-attentive personalized service the staff provided every step of the way. Ivi describes the Kimpton Fitzroy as an “absolute gem,” and we couldn’t agree with her more!
Afterward, Ivi and Ben threw an all-day party in a marquee at their garden, with two shifts of thirty guests each attending, so friends and family who couldn’t attend the ceremony were still able to celebrate with them.
Both events were captured by photography and videography team Fire & Ice, and we’re not sure what we’re more in love with, the luminous photos or the ultra-moving trailer. The Fire & Ice team came up with the brilliant idea to record Ivi, a pianist, playing a song to layer over the video – and, in honor of her Chinese heritage and as a tribute to her parents, who live in Malaysia and couldn’t travel to the wedding due to COVID, Ivi chose a classic Chinese love song. How amazing is that?!
Ivi also wore her absolute knockout of a modest wedding gown – customized just for her by the one and only Suzanne Neville – for both celebrations. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to wear such an exquisite dress twice?!
There’s so much to say about this incredible Jewish wedding, but we’ll let Ivi tell you the rest of the story… And if you love the look of the Kimpton Fitzroy (Ivi and Ben’s wedding venue), you’ll want to tune in to our Jewish wedding music Facebook Live tomorrow, Tuesday June 22, live from the hotel, as one lucky couple is going to win an overnight stay (plus you’ll get to see how truly gorgeous it is for a wedding venue). I’ll see you there!
How we Met
Ivi, the bride: Previously at British Vogue, now at Publicis Media and a classical pianist, I took a sabbatical from my career in the City in 2016 and worked for a stint as a fitness instructor, teaching high-intensity TRX classes at Heartcore Studios in St. John’s Wood in London. Ben, an owner of a number of jewellery and consumer brands, came to workout at Heartcore and took my classes for nine months before we started dating. I used to shout “Burpees! Burpees!” at Ben on a weekly basis. Ben jokes that he was the fittest he’s ever been when he used to come to my classes!
On our first date, we went for a post-workout brunch that lasted over four hours. We both knew there was something extraordinary between us straightaway. Ben says that he knew I was “The One” after that date. We fell madly in love after a few months of dating, and we discussed how important being Jewish and having a Jewish family was to Ben. Following a thorough period of soul searching and spending time with Orthodox Jewish rabbis’ and their families, I heeded what I now realise was a lifelong calling, to which Ben was the catalyst, to convert to Orthodox Judaism. Hand-in-hand, we spent the next three years undertaking one of life’s most demanding yet spiritually enriching journeys. Ben wholeheartedly embraced and deepened his connection and observance of the faith he was born into.
I completed my conversion to Orthodox Judaism and emerged from the holy waters of the mikveh, reborn a Jewess on 18th February 2021. On a day already bursting with joy and jubilation, after making me my favourite Nutella crepes, Ben got down on one knee and proposed. Less than three months later, we were married in the presence of just 15 of our nearest and dearest.
A Lockdown Wedding
Even though we were in the midst of a lockdown, our story has been a long journey and we couldn’t wait to finally become husband and wife. It is also a mitzvah not to delay a simcha unnecessarily so we wanted to get married sooner rather than later. Constrained by the lockdown restrictions, we split our wedding into two separate days: one date was for the chuppah ceremony followed by an intimate dinner with family and our closest friends, whilst the later date was for an all-day party of two sessions of thirty guests in a marquee in our garden.
After we got engaged, Ben went abroad for work for five weeks. So, we only started planning our wedding properly at the end of March. We somehow managed to organise everything within six weeks! As soon as I came across the Kimpton Fitzroy London on Smashing The Glass, I immediately fell in love with its stunning interior, and the look and feel of the hotel. However, at that time, we thought that we didn’t want to have a Central London hotel wedding so we continued our research and visited a couple of other venues outside of London. But, none of them felt right. So, I gave Kimpton Fitzroy a call.
From the very first telephone call with Jen Irwin, Kimpton Fitzroy’s Commercial Manager who eventually oversaw all of our wedding planning and who we are now so lucky to call our special friend, I immediately loved her enthusiastic and positive energy. Jen invited us for a tour of the hotel and we fell head over heels in love with the hotel (and with Jen!) straight away.
From the magnificent terracotta-coloured exterior facade to all the intricate opulent original features of the hotel, with stunning lighting and uber luxurious decorations, we knew we had found our dream wedding venue. Just beyond the breathtaking marble lobby sits the Palm Court, the hotel’s airy interior courtyard which became the perfect setting for the badeken. When Jen took us into the majestic Ballroom, we were absolutely stunned by its beauty. I had always wanted an elegant and sweeping bridal procession and the Ballroom was perfect for the chuppah ceremony with its super high ceilings and extravagant original features.
We also loved the hotel’s history – the architect of the hotel, Charles Fitzroy Doll, also designed the First Class dining room of the RMS Titanic! The hotel was closed to the public during our wedding day, so we were thoroughly spoiled to have the whole space to ourselves. We stayed at the hotel (in separate rooms!) the night before the wedding. Jen thoughtfully arranged the most decadent and spacious corner suite for me – it was an absolute treat and my bridal party had plenty of room to get ready together.
The Kimpton Fitzroy is an absolutely rare gem – its glamorous opulence yet intimate warmth sets it worlds apart from the conventional swanky hotels a stone’s throw away in Mayfair. What we treasured the most is the loving way Jen and all of the hotel’s staff made us feel like royalty on our big day. No requests were too big or too small, we were met with smiles and genuine well wishes all day, we truly felt the hotel’s joy and pride of hosting us on the most special day of our lives. We are still pinching ourselves that we managed to get married in such an exceptional and luxurious venue. The Kimpton Fitzroy London will eternally be special to us and we cannot wait to return to spend our first wedding anniversary there!
What ‘Smashing The Glass Brides Club’ Did For Us
During the wedding planning period, Smashing The Glass was my ultimate bible, my go-to for everything I needed advice on or inspiration for. Everyone in the Brides Club readily and generously shared ideas and helped each other. It was on Smashing The Glass’ website that we found Kimpton Fitzroy so I’m eternally grateful!
Planned to Perfection
We focused on two things to make our wedding days special: stunning live music and creating a relaxed, intimate yet elegant and memorable feel. I grew up in a home where both of my older siblings are professional pianists and violinists. Music ran in my blood and I wanted our families and friends to experience the joy that live music brings. The past year and a half has been challenging and isolating for our friends and family, so we wanted our wedding celebrations to be happy occasions to reconnect with loved ones, with great food and a charming unforgettable vibe.
Our fantastic wedding and event planner was Esti Nemetsky. Having attended events she had styled, we loved her imaginative and original creativity. Esti exudes a calm, positive energy with a can-do spirit. She oversaw the set up of our chuppah ceremony where everything went seamlessly. However, she really showcased her creative flair when it came time to produce and style our all-day wedding party. She put together stunning colour schemes of creams and pale pinks, paired with gorgeous flowers complemented by her unrivalled knowledge in arranging food displays. She took care of everything and our party looked visually jaw-dropping. She gave us the wedding party of our dreams!
Hair + Make-up
I was absolutely bowled over by my glam squad that I want to shout about them from every rooftop! Twelve years ago, when I was studying my second undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering, I worked for MAC Cosmetics in Harrods as a makeup artist. I worked with one of the best makeup artists I have ever known, Lauren Christy. We remained friends over the years and she was the only makeup artist I wanted for my wedding.
As a freelance makeup artist, Lauren now does makeup for the presenters at Bloomberg TV. She works as a pair with an incredible hair stylist, Alisia Ristevski. I had hair trials with two other bridal hair specialists before trialling with Alisia, and Alisia not only gave me what I had envisioned, but miles better! They are the ultimate dream team. Together, they made everyone look beautiful. Not only are they the most professional and the absolutely best at what they do, they are also lovely and warm. They made my bridal party getting ready session so relaxed yet fun. What made it extra special was that Lauren and I share many fun and meaningful years of memories together.
Six weeks before the wedding, a good friend of mine, Laura Bailey from The Richmond Dentist began my smile makeover. She gave me a home teeth whitening course and then she did composite bonding on my top front four teeth. Laura is incredibly sought after and with the short timeframe we had, she went out of her way to fit me in out-of-hours to ensure that my bonding was done in time for the wedding. I absolutely love my new smile!
A Suzanne Neville Dress
As an Orthodox Jewish woman, finding the right dress was not an easy task as I needed a dress that met all the detailed Jewish laws of modesty. After browsing online, it was clear that almost all the dresses I’ve seen would have to be altered. When I was at British Vogue, I came across Suzanne Neville and have loved her dresses ever since. My bridesmaid, Dominique, who is also an Orthodox Jewish woman wore a custom-made Suzanne Neville dress when she got married a few years ago. So, I contacted Harriet Hampton (Suzanne Neveill’s Flagship Store Manager) at Suzanne Neville.
As non-essential retail was still closed at that time, Harriet sent me six dresses that I chose from their website, to my home for me to try on. I would have worn any of the six dresses she sent, they were all exquisite. I fell in love with the Valentine dress and Harriet booked me an appointment with Suzanne herself!
Suzanne measured me and custom built my dress from scratch based on the Valentine dress. Suzanne even recommended four different types of lace to choose from, and we settled on a beautiful ivory corded lace. We chose a lace edged veil to match with scattered diamantes that gave an iridescent glow as I moved. When the big day arrived, I absolutely felt like a queen wearing the dress of my dreams. My dress was superbly crafted with love and attention to detail. The inbuilt corset fitted perfectly and the buttons all the way down the back gave the dress such a beautiful shape, finished off with a flowing mermaid train.
It truly is the most beautiful dress I have ever worn and I am so lucky to have been able to wear it twice! Suzanne and Harriet are also some of the nicest people I have ever met who tirelessly went out of their way to make everything perfect for me.
I wanted to give centre stage to the dress so I accessorised with minimal yet stunning pieces of jewellery. Ben gifted me a pair of exquisite large natural South Sea pearl earrings accented with diamonds from one of the ranges from his jewellery collection. I wore my hair down, and I pinned one side of my hair back with a gorgeous pearl and crystal floral bridal hair comb from Lace & Favour, to showcase the stunning earrings. The crystals, pearls and diamonds were daintily elegant and complemented the intricate corded lace of the dress beautifully.
My bridesmaid Dominique raved about how beautiful yet comfortable bridal shoes from the Rainbow Club are, and I’m so glad I listened to her. I chose the Nelly bridal court shoes made from gorgeous ivory satin with a beautiful crystal butterfly brooch at the front. Being only a mere 5’2” tall, I loved the elegant stiletto heel that gave me much needed extra height. The inside of the shoes were cushioned and they were so comfortable to wear. I wore them for both of our wedding days, including dancing all day and night in them!
The handsome groom
Ben and I spent seven days apart without seeing or communicating with each other. Even though it was just one short week, I missed him terribly. So, I was full of anticipation waiting to see him at the badeken. When I heard the singing voices of the men approaching the Palm Court, I was bursting with emotions. Ben has always been tall, dark and handsome (lucky me!) but when I finally saw him in his Ermenegildo Zegna navy three-piece suit, tailored white shirt, baby pink Brioni tie, pale blue with ripples of pink Ralph Lauren pocket square, my heart totally skipped several beats and the butterflies in my stomach were as fluttery as they were on our first date.
Ben wore personalised cufflinks gifted by one of his best men, a Dolce & Gabbana navy belt, and navy blue socks from Falke. To finish off the look, Ben wore his favourite two-toned Rolex sky dweller watch and our favourite Tom Ford Neroli Portofino eau de parfum. I am Chinese by race and there is a custom to wear something red for luck. So, Ben wore a pair of bright red Calvin Klein boxer shorts he bought especially for our wedding day! What really moved me was seeing Ben standing under the chuppah, wrapped in the tallit (prayer shawl) I gifted him on the day we got engaged.
With the tallit, I wanted Ben to know that I will always pray that Hashem will envelop him with his love, and that Ben will always be the centre of my universe. Even though he looked so regal and handsome, it was the raw emotions that shone from his eyes, and the love and kindness that radiated from him at that moment, that I will cherish and remember for the rest of my life.
I had three wonderful bridesmaids – two incredible friends, Dominique and Morelle, as well as my new 12-year old niece, Mia. I wanted everyone to feel their best and most relaxed, so we decided on the colour navy and everyone wore a different style of their choice. Everyone looked beautiful and I felt very blessed to be surrounded by such loving bridesmaids on my big day.
Our chuppah ceremony was very special as we only had 15 guests so we had only our nearest and dearest, as well as the people who played the most significant parts in our journey over the past 3.5 years there with us. Ben and I are blessed to have become a part of the incredible Orthodox Jewish communities in London. We have eaten and even lived with many Orthodox Jewish families who have welcomed, taught, loved and inspired us. They treat us like their own family.
Getting married under the chuppah is the bride and groom’s holiest day of their lives, and our chuppah ceremony was very spiritual and filled with blessings. Due to travel restrictions, Ben’s father (in Spain), my parents (in Malaysia) and my two brothers (in Singapore and Australia) were unable to come. In Ben’s father’s absence, Ben was escorted down the aisle by his older brother and mother, both carrying candles to light Ben’s way. In the absence of my parents, I was escorted by my kallah teacher who is also the wife of the Rabbi marrying us, as well as the Rebbetzin who is like a second mother to me. They both held a candle each for me. We are very close to them all so it was very emotional for me to have them pray for us and accompany me down the aisle towards my new future.
Walking down the aisle to the stirring music in the breathtaking Ballroom, reflecting on the journey we have taken to get here, seeing Ben with tears in his eyes totally overwhelmed me and I too began to cry as I walked towards him. That is a moment I will never forget.
Even though we are members of and we daven at Rabbi Garson’s Ohr Yisrael Federation shul, as we underwent the conversion process with the London Beth Din, we decided to get married via the United Synagogue Borehamwood and Elstree Shul. Our ketubah was provided to us by Borehamwood & Elstree shul. It is a traditional yet beautiful ketubah, which we we love.
We worked together with Miri Moses, the owner of Flowers by Miri, and opted for an elegant wooden chuppah draped with soft peach-coloured sashes, adorned by white, blush and cream roses with plenty of lush green foliage. Miri provided us with a chuppah stage and a long white carpet for the aisle which suited the Ballroom perfectly. The aisle was lined beautifully with tall lanterns holding candles provided by the Kimpton Fitzroy which created a gorgeous ambiance. Miri placed plinths holding tall vases of white blossoms to complete the aisle.
Our Music Choice
Getting the music right was very important to me and we made music a significant part of our ceremony. We wanted to fill the magnificent Ballroom with music to create an emotional and evocative atmosphere. We met with the unsurpassable singer, chazzan and band leader, Eli Tamir where he and his pianist, Leib Roberts gave us an intimate demo of their singing. Eli’s voice is so soulful and beautiful, and Leib is an unbelievable pianist (I am now taking piano lessons from him!).
I put a lot of focus into the songlist for the chuppah ceremony and creating the stirring and emotional atmosphere we wanted. Leib usually plays on a keyboard, but having been blessed with playing on a grand piano since I was a child, I initially wanted to transport my Boston grand piano from our home to the Ballroom. Luckily, Butler Smith, the piano moving company we used, had a top of the range Yamaha grand piano available for hire. So, we brought it into the Ballroom. There is really no substitute for the rich and powerful tones of a grand piano, and with Leib playing on it, the result was gorgeous.
At the very last minute, we also added a cellist to give an extra layer to Eli’s voice and Leib’s grand piano. Having played some cello as a child and listened to the string quartet rehearsals taking place at home growing up, I knew that the combination of vocal, piano and cello is one of the most beautiful trios possible. We chose the lyrics of ‘Mi Adir’ to the melody of ‘Vehi Sheamda’ for Ben to walk down the aisle to. For my entrance, I asked Eli for an evocative and wistful arrangement of ‘Boi Beshalom’ to its original Hebrew melody with a minor key ending. ‘Eyshet Chayil’, which Ben has been singing to me every Friday night for the past three years, moved Ben to tears as I prayed fervently for our future during the seven circles.
Eli, with his incredible talent, incorporated my requests for soulful arrangements, lush chords, rich vocal harmonies between Eli and Leib into all the songs. I was alternating between beaming with utter elevation and being moved to tears by the beautiful music throughout the ceremony. The highlight of the ceremony was when Eli sang ‘Im Eshkahech Yerushalayim’ just before the breaking of the glass. Perhaps it coincided with the recent unrest in Israel, or perhaps it was the other-worldly room setting or perhaps it was the intimate nature of the ceremony, Eli himself was holding back tears whilst singing it. Eli’s passion and emotions added to the poignant atmosphere of the moment. Most of us were moved to tears too. We loved Eli and Leib so much that we asked them to sing at our wedding dinner that same night. They truly created the most electrifying yet stirring mood, we will cherish their music for years to come.
Miri Moses, owner of Flowers by Miri created the beautiful flowers for both of our days. My bouquet was bursting with my favourite cream roses and gorgeous ranunculus. The men had matching cream roses buttonholes. For the all-day wedding party, Miri put together the most stunning table centrepieces. Matching flowers were used to decorate and transform our wedding cake which really brought the look and feel of the marquee together. Everything was breathtaking and picture perfect.
Photographer and videographer
When a friend shared her wedding photographs a few years ago, I remember being captivated by how original and unique their photos were, it left a deep impression on me. When it came to choosing our photographers and videographers, I remembered them and called Christian O’Reilly from Fire & Ice. It was the best call we have ever made, by far. Having loved photography my whole life plus having had the privilege to work at British Vogue, I wanted something extraordinary and totally out of the box for our wedding photos and videos.
When I showed Ben some of their previous wedding videos, Ben’s first response was, “Wow, they look like Netflix movie trailers!” Each video for each couple was completely individual, crafted with passion and a genuine understanding of who the couple is. We were in awe of their cinematic feel and vivid imagery. From the get go, we were all blown away by Christian and the Fire & Ice team’s excitement and enthusiasm for our wedding – ours would be their first Jewish wedding ever! Having never documented a Jewish wedding before, their meticulous research during the planning stage filled us with absolute confidence. Plus, they are some of the nicest and most passionate people we’ve ever met. We absolutely love them.
We had two photographers and two videographers from the team, led by Christian to cover both of our days. For our chuppah ceremony, they had four cameras trained on Ben and I the entire time and they shot beautiful footage that we have watched on repeat since. Knowing that I’m a pianist, after the chuppah ceremony, Christian surprised us as he directed the piano movers to move the piano into the hotel lobby, where they shot incredible photos and videos of us.
On the day of the wedding party at our home, all four returned (it was like seeing old friends again!) bringing black out curtains to block out my piano room, and filled the room with haze with a haze machine! It was like being in a music video, I definitely had a mini Beyonce moment. They came up with the idea to record me playing a song special to Ben and I on the piano to lay over our wedding video.
As my family weren’t able to be involved with the wedding due to the pandemic, I chose a classic Chinese love song from the 70’s by Teresa Teng that my parents loved (and which Ben can sing in Chinese perfectly to!) as a homage to my heritage and to my parents. The end result of our wedding highlights video is beyond anything we expected. It was unbelievable that so many beautiful moments featured were filmed in our own home, on my piano. Having a song I played myself as the soundtrack made it even more meaningful. When I shared it with my family, my parents especially were overwhelmed with emotions.
The photos you can see here, too, surpassed all our expectations. It is our privilege to have Fire & Ice document our wedding so beautifully. Most exciting of all, is that we are doing a third shoot in Scotland in July to complete our wedding collection. We truly cannot recommend them enough for anyone wanting magical memories of the most special day of their lives!
Food and Cake
For our wedding party, we worked with our incredible wedding and event planner, Esti Nemetsky on the food, cake and styling. From gorgeous table settings to the spectacular way she showcased the food, Esti’s attention to detail and magic touch assembled the most gorgeous backdrop for our celebrations. We had a relaxed buffet-style set up for both of the sessions and Elie Ghattas, an extremely talented chef and food designer, provided the food. For the daytime party, we had a gorgeous sushi bar, salad platters from Hendon Bakery, afternoon-tea style sumptuous cakes and pastries from Parkway Patisserie, and a chocolate fountain which was equally loved by both adults and kids!
For the evening session, Elie himself wowed us with a Lebanese-style shawarma bar, delicious chicken and lamb skewers complemented with the most eye-catching and mouth watering selection of fresh salads, creamy hummus and vegetables dishes. Our guests absolutely loved the food and raved about it for weeks afterwards! We had a free-flowing bar and three signature cocktails. The Happy Wife, Happy Life Lychee Martini was a hit!
For our all-day wedding party, Eli Tamir brought a five piece band with a drummer, a guitarist, a saxophonist and pianist as well as the stunning female singer, Larissa Eddie. They were absolutely sensational! We danced the day and night away from Israeli songs to Whitney Houston, no one wanted the party to end!
I worked with the fabulously talented Alex and Sahar from Elari Events on several British Vogue events. They built the most gorgeous balloon and floral wall with a personalised sign in gold saying, “Mr. and Mrs. Green” for our all-day wedding party. The wall was bursting with pale pink, cream and gold balloons. It was the most stunning and celebratory backdrop for us to greet our guests. Everyone gasped as they arrived and we took beautiful photos with everyone. We’ve kept the gold sign and we’re looking for a place in our home to put it up!
After our chuppah ceremony, we had a wonderful week of Sheva Brachot hosted for us by our wonderful friends and family. After the Sheva Brachot week, we managed to book a last minute four-night minimoon to Portugal. We were so exhausted, we slept through most of it! We hope to be able to head to our favourite adults-only getaway in Corfu in August for our proper honeymoon. We go there every year and this year will be extra special.
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
We decided to turn the lockdown constraints into a positive! By holding four separate events, we were able to group together the right crowd for each event. For the chuppah and wedding dinner, we had a spiritual and holy day filled with blessings with family and our religious and observant nearest and dearest. For the day-time party, we had our family friends, friends from shul and kids for a relaxed yet elegant affair. To finish with a bang, we had all our good friends to end all the celebrations with a night of singing and dancing!
Ivi and Ben’s little white book
Photography & Videography – Fire & Ice
Venue – Kimpton Fitzroy London
Wedding planner – Esti Nemetsky
Bride’s dress – Suzanne Neville
Bride’s shoes – Rainbow Club
Bride’s accessories – Lace & Favour
Groom’s attire – Ermenegildo Zegna
Bridesmaids – ASOS , Silk Fred
Hair + Makeup – Alisia Ristevski, Lauren Christy
Smile Makeover – Laura Bailey at The Richmond Dentist
Flowers – Flowers by Miri
Balloon and Flower Wall – Elari Events
Singer, Chazzan and Band Leaer – Eli Tamir
Catering – Elie Ghattas
Cake – Peshy Confectionery
Ketubah – Borehamwood and Elstree Shul
Rabbi – Rabbi Raphy Garson from Ohr Yisrael
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.