What do you get when you cross the laid-back Israeli attitude with a Canadian sense of ceremony? The best of both worlds, that’s what, and a simply beautiful Jewish wedding… complete with pineapples! SQUEAL!
Yes, Samara and Joe went with a terrific tropical theme, bursting with color, vibrance and fun. How super cute were all the little details? We adored the clothes-peg seating plan, and the positively popping welcome setup, complete with stunning tropical flowers.
Planning an overseas wedding can be stressful, but Samara and Joe sourced both information and vendors from none other than yours truly, Smashing The Glass. We were honored to hear that we played such a direct role in helping to bring this very special big day together.
Samara looked sensational in her beautiful backless Truvelle gown, and her ‘something borrowed’ veil – we love, love, LOVE The story behind this.
Photographer Ariel Aricha captured the story of the day in the beautiful spread of images below, and Samara has provided a beautiful recap of her and Joe’s big day. Over to Samara now – we bet you’ll wish you’d been there as much as we do!
An incredible Israeli venue
Samara, the bride: We got married at The Q, Kibbutz Glil Yam, in the city of Herzliya, in Israel. My husband, Joe, grew up in Jerusalem, and his father, sister, and all his dear friends (high school and army) live in Israel. My father’s side of the family also all live in Israel, including my 97-year-old Safta, who is in excellent form, but would not be able to travel to Canada.
Israel was the first place we travelled to as a couple, and is a place that holds a tremendous amount of meaning for both of us. Over the past four years, we have travelled to Israel every June, first for Joe’s sister’s wedding, then his best friend, and then his next best friend.
Having experienced an Israeli wedding, and one of his best friend’s wedding at the Q, we knew that an Israeli wedding was exactly want we wanted! Montreal weather, even in the summer, is temperamental, and we knew we wanted to be outside be relaxed, breathe in that amazing air and spirit, eat the yummy food that Israel has to offer.
A tropical theme
Our wedding was most definitely about us, since we initially experienced some resistance from our Canadian family, asking them to travel across the world for us.
But we knew, with a little pushing, they would understand why we wanted an Israeli wedding. And that’s exactly what my mom said in her wedding speech (that she finally got why we wanted to get married in this special place.) our idea was to have an Israeli-Canadian wedding: combine the best things from both worlds, including our favourite people from both these worlds, and celebrate our love!
We didn’t use a wedding planner, which is kind of nuts, since I planned the wedding from Montreal. But we had a designer from the Q, who helped out a lot. The style we chose was tropical (think large palm leaves) but intended be as an accent theme and not overbearing.
I designed my own invitation using Vistaprint. I don’t have any experience in design, but I worked with their designers on the phone (5.00$ for this service), and gave sample invitations, and worked with them to change the colors and fonts.
I had some of the graphics from these mason jar glasses that we were using as party favors, so it tied in really nicely.
Also, we wanted it to be a bilingual invitation so we had Hebrew and English text for all our guests to already get a feel of the vibe (blending of cultures).
What’s great about the Q is that they also gave us these translucent maps to include in our envelopes. The stickers that closed the envelopes were pineapples with our wedding hashtag (#JAM (Joe+Sam) or #JAMDOESISRAEL)
Hair and makeup sourced through Smashing The Glass
Being in Montreal, I was not going to have a trial, and had to commit to some one from afar. That’s really where Smashing The Glass came in. I was very busy finishing up my doctorate in clinical psychology, so I knew a lot of my planning would take place while I was in Israel. I consulted with one wedding website, and one only: Smashing the Glass. That’s all I needed: because it was a one stop shop. I could see Canadian/US weddings and Israeli weddings, and really get a sense of what I wanted.
Smashing The Glass had this amazing section on Israeli weddings, which is perfect for someone not from Israel. I scrolled through a few weddings, and a few clicks later, I tumbled upon Diana Frenkel. I love how she did the makeup on Suzanne (from Suzanne and Doron). I sent her an email, and voila.
It was really important that my hair and makeup person spoke perfect English, because even though I am very comfortable speaking Hebrew, on my big day, I wanted to use English when talking about “frizz” or “black under my eyes”. We met over Skype and the rest is history.
Without being redundant, I cannot say enough about Diana. Nice, kind, sweet, warm and TALENTED! At our trial, I kept saying to her “Diana, I know what I DON’T want, but I am not sure exactly what I want”. She kept reassuring me that knowing what I don’t like was as important to knowing what I like. We did a side tie with braids and flowers, since I knew I wanted my hair up and off my face. The makeup was incredible.
This dress was made for dancing
Every time I thought about my wedding dress, I saw one big word “COMFORT”. I absolutely love to dance, and jump around, so something with a long train or lots of bustling was not for me. I didn’t want assistance to use the ladies room, and I didn’t want to be fussing around with my dress. I also knew I wanted a Canadian or Israeli designer.
I had seen Truvelle (a designer based in Vancouver) on Instagram, and when I saw the back of their dresses I fell in love. I love lace and I love girly bows. When I tried my dress on, it screamed “sexy back”. Literally. The back was so sexy, and the lace was so delicate. The front was classy and kept me pulled in, and the back showed off my shoulders. The added satin bow cinched at the waist gave it extra flair. The skirt was so comfortable and flowed and flowed. I loved the fact that people could hold on to my dress and I could dance around in the middle.
The sisterhood of the travelling veil
My veil was borrowed from a friend who couldn’t make it to the wedding, so it was like she was there in spirit. Veils can be very expensive, and are often worn for such a short period (even shorter than the dress), so among my girlfriends, we have shared a veil. We call it the ‘sisterhood of the travelling veil’.
We all look so different (hair colors, complexions) and our choices of dresses have been so different, that the veil looks different on all of us! I wore fresh flowers in my hair for a pop of color. For jewelry, I didn’t want to distract from the dress, so I borrowed a girlfriend’s diamond earrings: a last-minute decision.
Three pairs of shoes
Confession – I had three pairs of shoes! I know three is a lot, but I have worn all three pairs many times since my big day. Similar to my dress, I knew I wanted the comfort to jump as high as I wanted. So I knew a high scraper heel was out of the question for me.
I bought the first pair online at Anthropologie, from a Brazilian brand called Vicenza. They are a wooden block heel sandal with peach, royal blue and gold fringes. They are my favourite shoes – super comfy, super spunky. I wore these shoes for the entire cocktail and down the aisle (as I wanted a very sturdy shoe).
One month before the wedding, I happen to be at a shoe store, and the nude peep toes Stuart Weitzman shoes were on sale 50% as I am a size 5.5 (I am told Stuart Weitzman never goes on sale). They are a classic evening shoe, and I knew a great buy, so I wore those shoes for our big reveal, and taking pictures with our family and the bridal party.
Last but not least, my mom travels to Hong Kong often, and gets me killer shoes when she is there. I had burgundy velvet sandals with big diamonds on them — so comfy, so vibrant. I wore these all night long on the dance floor, and my feet felt fabulous!
The handsome groom
Joe knew he wanted a suit, but with Israeli weddings being ‘dress as you wish’, we chose navy over black. His tie was Tom Ford. His shoes were a present from my mom. We went with a shoe that he can wear again and again. The cufflinks and watch were from his grandfather who passed at 99 years old in January.
Bridesmaids and groomsmen aka huge bridal parties don’t translate so well in Israel, so I quickly learned what it meant to be a “melave” (or melavim). That’s the hebrew word for escorts, and boy did my Canadian friends have a good laugh with that one #firstandlastimeasanescort. But it worked out wonderfully, because thats what we wanted, our dear friends to “escort” or “accompany” us throughout the day, without some of the more classical requirements of bridesmaids and groomsmen.
Our Melavim wore what they wanted, and spent the day with us! It was the perfect mix of our siblings, friends from the US/Canada and Israel. The colors, cheer chance, worked out fabulously. We gave them as leather wallets as gifts of appreciation.
An understated chuppah
A ceremony blessed by Safta
We signed our ketubah in a beautiful alcove in the venue, with our immediate family and the rabbi. It was perfect. I loved that our rabbi asked us all to place our hands on the ketubah, to touch this special document together.
The ketubah was very special since I went to buy it with my father in the old city in Jerusalem. The Sofer was originally from Montreal, and recommended by our rabbi, so again, for me, its all about the Israeli-Canada links.
We were very fortunate that our rabbi from Montreal was in Israel on a mega mission. He understood the differences between Israeli and Montreal weddings, and merged the best of both worlds. Apparently it is unconventional in Israel, to have the bride walk around the groom seven times. And of course, it is atypical in Montreal Jewish weddings for the bride and groom to face the crowd, and also it is unconventional for the crowd to “rush” the couple after the breaking of the glass. And of course a breaking of the glass song. So it was nice for both sides, our Israeli friends and family to learn new customs and traditions and our North American loved ones to try something new.
Another hugely memorable part of the ceremony was having my 97-year-old Safta come up to the chuppah. She put her hands on our head and blessed us, but the only part that you hear (when the microphone landed) was her saying “yeladim (children), and so the crowd all laughed.
A Jewish Montreal legend
Joe and I are constantly dancing in our kitchen, so music was key to us. I spent months debating my song, and like everything else, I wanted it to be a mix of Hebrew and English.
I love the words and the meaning of the Jewish prayer Boi Kala played to other genres of music, and originally I was set on Boi Kala to Andrea Bocelli. But then I stumbled upon from the Smashing Glass Facebook group a special rendition of the Jewish prayer to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Leonard Cohen is a true Jewish Montrealer, he was a member of our synagogue (the Shaar Hashomayim) and is laid to rest in our congregation synagogue. When Joe and I heard the song, it all clicked perfectly.
We ended up having a first dance, but very informally after speeches to Gravity by John Mayer, and had all the couples join.
A flower station
My designer, Danielle of Dushka Design, organized all the flowers. We talked on Skype a few times before the wedding, and we really got cracking when I came to Israel.
She used different vases and all sorts of flowers. The best part was having a flower shop – where our guests could get special wearable arrangements made for them.
Our fabulous photographer
Our photographer came highly recommended by Joe’s two best friends who had used him. I think he was the first person we booked after the venue. Ariel Aricha was just a pleasure to work with, easy going and really helped me understand that we could do things differently than in Montreal, and still get exactly what I wanted.
I love that my photographer did not show up at 8am, but rather at 2pm, and I had the morning to be with my loved ones, my gals and eat a bowl of cereal by the pool. Another amazing touch that it’s very Israeli is having a fridge full of magnets from the weddings you go to. As a treat, we also got a bag of magnets for us, including some incredible photos from that night, which hang in our house.
Being both foodies, it was hugely important to us that Joe and I loved the food, and that we ate on the day of our wedding. The caters were Taam VaSevah (Taste and Color), and the food was INCREDIBLE!
Our Canadian friends thought the appetizers were the main meal. There were five stations, from pho buns to a tandoor making focaccia, to noodle boxes with different toppings. All the stations were interactive, so people could personalize. And then we had some passing hors d’oeuvres. It was originally hard for our Canadian family to get on board with a buffet-style wedding in contrast to a sit-down meal, but that was exactly what we wanted.
I didn’t want a wedding cake, since I am not a cake person — I am much more of a cookies/doughnuts/ice-cream kinda gal. So thats what we had! All of it. We had the servers going around with popsicles on the dance floor and gelato/ice cream. We had churros/doughnuts/ tons of chocolate and sweets, and a huge fruit platter in a wooden boat.
When you have a kick ass DJ, it feels like a live band! Our DJ met with us a week before the wedding and reviewed the type and styles of music we like. We wanted a mix of Israeli songs and modern pop, with also a little “UMTZ UMTZ (trance music/electro house) too. We specifically asked for a lot of modern tunes to keep our crowd very lively. We had a saxophone come jam out on the dance floor, who matched perfectly with our DJ.
Doing what makes us happy
Joe and I worked together as a team, and really it was OUR wedding. I remember Joe saying to me early on,: “Think about what people remember about weddings, Sam. It’s the ‘ruach’, the spirit, of the couple that spreads. If we are happy, everyone else, will feel it.” And so that’s exactly what we did.
We were selective about the things that mattered to us, like food and music, and less selective about other things such as flowers or chuppah design. We put photos of all our friends and family on clothes lines and in frames on the piano. We both chose to mingle with our guests during the cocktails before the ceremony, and we laughed, ate and were embedded in the wedding. We had all of our parents speak at the same time, and pass the microphone rather than re-introduce one at a time.
A henna break
Another special piece is that we had a mini henna break out during our wedding. Joe changed into a jalibah and fez hat, and I wore a family heirloom kaftan (over 100 year old dress) from Morocco, that passes through all the different brides in my family. We had our version of a henna in the middle of our wedding.
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
Planning a wedding is hard work, but keeping a marriage happy and healthy for years and years is really where the hard work lies. If you invest it all in your wedding day, you won’t have enough stamina for the next decades. So work to make your wedding day special, by prioritizing, asking for help, relying on each other’s strengths, and letting go (of the smaller things).
And when the day arrives, don’t work at all! The work is over, and its now time to relish in the moment. Be present. Be a guest. Be a bride. Be a groom. Dance as hard as you can. Soak up all the love. Be you the whole day through!
[I would also add, that both Joe and I come from divorced families, so there can be a lot of cooks in the kitchen. We always tried to be inclusive and mindful of our loved ones’ feelings).
Samara and Joe’s little white book
Photographer – Ariel Aricha
Venue – The Q
Designer – Dushka Design
Bride’s dress – Truvelle purchased at from Sash and Bustle
Bride’s shoes – Vicenza and Stuart Weitzman
Groom’s attire – Tom Ford
Hair + Makeup – Diana Frenkel
DJ – Ofir Goffer
Invitation – Vistaprint