Some real weddings are just so full of love, heart and emotion that it shines through in every image we see, and every word the couple writes. Ryan and Jessica’s Santa Monica beach celebration was certainly one of those days.
Set in the shadow of an enormous fig tree, the tear-jerking day included a uniquely equality-driven badeken (we LOVE this idea, we suspect many couples will be borrowing it), and a ‘web of love’ during the ceremony.
The pair tied the knot in their hometown of Santa Monica, paying homage to their beachy lifestyle and adding in a minty colour scheme, which carried through in all of the details, captured so beautifully by photographer Scott Clark Photo.
While we’re talking details, we adore (amongst many other things) the rustic-look chuppah, succulent buttonholes and meaningful circle-of-life ketubah – the epitome of Jewish wedding chic.
We’ll leave you with Jessica’s lovely write-up now, but pay special attention to the ‘web of love’ image a little later in the post – so very moving and just what getting married is all about.
How we met
Jessica, the bride: Ryan and I met in Los Angeles while pursuing graduate degrees in Business Administration at the University of Southern California in 2011. We’ve been on a long journey together since: over the past six years we moved twice, first to New York and then back to LA. In 2016, Ryan joined the Jewish faith, we got engaged, and less than a year later, we were married.
All roads lead to the Fairmont Miramar
Ryan and I were married on January 15, 2017 at the The Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, California.
The Fairmont Miramar holds particular significance to us and to our families. It’s in my hometown of Santa Monica, and where I’ve celebrated past birthdays, my mother’s 60th, and first met Ryan’s parents over dinner. Although I wasn’t aware of this at the time, Ryan’s parents recall walking the grounds of the Fairmont that evening (after a delicious dinner at the hip Middle Eastern restaurant on the premises, Fig) discussing how perfect the Fairmont would be for a wedding one day!
When Ryan and I decided to move back to LA after a year-long stint in New York, the company that eventually offered Ryan a job put us up at the Fairmont Miramar during his interview. So when we began searching for a wedding venue, it seemed that all signs in our life pointed to the Fairmont Miramar.
In addition to its personal significance to us, the Fairmont Miramar is also an iconic Santa Monica hotel. It’s one of the oldest hotels in the area (although quite modern in decor) and is known for being home to the second largest fig tree in all of California (and possibly the USA), a majestic sight located right in the center of its driveway.
A beachy theme and a minty color scheme
Ryan and I love the beach. We live less than a mile from the Santa Monica beach, got engaged on the beach (at lifeguard station six, to be exact), and spend a lot of time riding our bikes and strolling along the bluffs overlooking the beach. So it seemed apropos to hold the most important day of our relationship (to date) near the beach as well. Southern California is generally lovely year-round, but as luck would have it, we ended up with an idyllic 65% degree day, which was perfect for our rustic winter beach-themed wedding.
Our wedding color scheme was made up of shades of green and white, with touches of mint, which, along with our beach theme, was incorporated into almost every aspect of our wedding. Our save the dates images were taken on the beach by the Santa Monica Pier, our invitations donned little green palm trees, our guests imbibed in our signature cocktail, the Santa Monica Mule (a take on a Moscow Mule, but we featured mint leaves, of course), and Ryan even hand built lifeguard tower replicas of where we got engaged for the escort card table.
We couldn’t be more grateful to our wedding planner, Kiersten Anderson, and her entire team at LB Events who helped us with every detail and aspect of our wedding, from brainstorming and vendor selection to the most organized and well-executed day of coordination!
After scouring hundreds of pre-fabricated designs across the Internet, we decided to work with a designer to create an invitation that felt like us – simple and classic, formal but beachy. We worked with the amazingly talented graphic designer, Sarah Wilde, on our invitations and are so indebted to her – she had such quick turnaround, was so easy to work with, and created stunning invites!
Dance-proof hair and makeup
It was important to me to look like myself on my wedding day. I tend to be pretty natural, and don’t wear much makeup on a regular basis. I wanted to look back on my wedding years down the line and recognize myself.
I decided on a simple, understated but elegant look for my wedding day, and thanks to the enormously talented team at Girl Meets Bongga, I completely felt like myself and loved my hair and makeup. I had my hair up in a side bun, so that I could face the wind, an epic hora, and hours of dancing without risk of losing shape. I’m so grateful to the women from Girl Meets Bongga for knowing how to keep it real!
A dress fit to float down the aisle
My dress was designed by Watters. I know not everyone has this epiphany when trying on dresses, but as soon as I put it on, I knew it was the dress I wanted to walk down the aisle in. And luckily, it was only the fourth dress I’d tried on!
The gown was strapless, with a beaded bodice and a big white tulle skirt that trailed behind me. I felt like I was floating in the dress all night!
Tradition meets equality
After a lot of back and forth with my mom, I agreed to wear a veil (the feminist inside me was rather opposed, but it meant a lot to her to uphold tradition). Our Rabbi, Adam Greenwald, a feminist as well, suggested that during our private Badeken ceremony, I symbolically lift a fake veil from Ryan’s face for the sake of equality. It was a very thoughtful and touching moment.
In terms of jewelry, I wore a diamond bracelet my mother had bought me for my engagement, a diamond necklace Ryan had bought me, my engagement ring from Brilliant Earth, and some costume earrings.
I was also married in my mother’s gold wedding band.
Comfy but quirky shoes
After much consideration, I opted for something comfortable. I wore Betsey Johnson shoes, which definitely did the job, and were lined with bright teal bottoms, which I absolutely loved!
The handsome groom
Ryan and his groomsmen rented from The Black Tux, an online retailer that makes it easy and cost effective to rent wedding attire. Ryan, my father and his stepfather, wore tuxes, and his ten groomsmen donned dark grey suits and succulent boutonnieres.
As a gift, Ryan gave each groomsmen whiskey glasses with their initials carved in, and tie clips with their initials engraved. He gave my father silver cufflinks with golf balls (his favorite pastime!) and his stepfather, an engineering professor, silver cufflinks with construction hats. Ryan wore silver cufflinks with palm trees, of course!
Bridesmaids in mint
A chuppah to rival the Fairmont Miramar’s fig tree
The chuppah was situated outdoors, just in front of the Fairmont Miramar’s massive fig tree, so given its proximity to such natural beauty, I didn’t feel we needed to do much in terms of design. We wanted a birch (wooden) frame to maintain a rustic feel, draped in simple but elegant white florals and greens.
A moving ceremony with a web of love
The ceremony was very special indeed. For many people in attendance, it was their first Jewish wedding.
We were married by our friend, mentor and Rabbi, Adam Greenwald, who officiated an intimate, beautiful and moving ceremony. We had spent 10 days in Israel with Rabbi Adam Greenwald prior to our wedding, and he was the Rabbi who sponsored Ryan’s conversion and assembled his Beit Dein.
Under the chuppah, we used the Kiddush cup my parents received at their wedding, over 35 years ago.
In recognition of, and gratitude for, all the people who joined us on our special day, we made a donation to an organization very near and dear to my heart, the American Jewish World Service, which does important human rights work around the world, and is an organization I spent six months volunteering with in Thailand just before meeting Ryan.
Yet, the most incredible part of the ceremony, which came as a surprise to us, was at the end when Rabbi Adam Greenwald asked the crowd to assemble a web of love (as coined by my brother’s friend) for the final blessing. He asked that everyone reach out and touch the person in front of them, who touched the person in front of them, who ultimately reached us, thereby connecting us all. It was an intimate, emotional experience that left not a dry eye amongst the 175 people under the Fig Tree.
A private ketubah signing
We held a private ketubah signing with just our families and bridal parties prior to the ceremony. We each spent some time with our families, and then some time with each other’s, giving us a chance to thank them privately for their blessing and immense support over the years.
Our ketubah was made of three concentric circles, which were made up of many smaller circles, representing the great circle of life, which we selected for its symbolism (and also its pretty color pattern). We found it online (made by Susie Lubell) and selected a text that deeply reflected our values.
Musical choices from childhood
We spent a lot of time thinking about our musical choices. As a young girl, I had always wanted to walk down to the classic Hebrew love song Erev Shel Shoshanim. So in addition to Erev Shel Shoshanim, we selected two of our favorite songs for Ryan and the bridal party to walk down the aisle to: Home by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and You and I by Ingrid Michaelson. These were acoustically played by a duo violinist and guitarist, thanks to the wonderfully talented Jason Sulkin.
Rustic wonderland flowers
I had really hoped to turn a classic ballroom (with gorgeous sweeping chandeliers) into a rustic wonderland, and with the help of my incredible florist, was able to turn that vision into a reality.
We placed long garlands down farm tables, which we entwined with white florals and lined with blush and silver mercury votive candles. We mixed up the farm table arrangements with round tables to add a more dynamic feel. The round tables were decorated with more traditional centerpieces, but in matching accents and hues as the garlands and bouquets.
Our fabulous photographer…
While I loved all my vendors (I really lucked out!) some were just exceptional to work with, and Scott Clark was hands down one of them. Having spent so much time together, from the engagement photo session to the wedding, I felt we had made a new friend, in addition to scoring a brilliant photographer. Scott was easy to work with, enormously talented, and a great listener.
Our videographer Hessler De La Cruz of Beyond Cinema was really excellent as well. He even brought a drone and filmed the Fairmont Miramar from up above! He was incredibly easy going as well.
Wise men say only fools rush in…
For our first dance, we part-waltzed, part-improvised to I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You, by Elvis Presley. An oldie but a goodie.
We were beyond lucky, we were able to have the eight-piece band from Bob Gail Special Events, led by Brian Pincus, perform at our wedding. Without a doubt, we wouldn’t have been able to have such a magical and fun-filled evening without their endless energy and lyrical talent. They gave it 110%. They were simply incredible. They played all the party favorites from Bruno Mars to Journey, Madonna to The Temptations. Thanks to them, our dance floor remained packed all night long!
One big surprise — we were joined by a gorilla and a dog as shtick during our Hora!
Our caterer, Nir Weinblut of La Gondola Catering, put together an incredible menu. We incorporated our love of travel with food stations from around the world. During the reception we had a Tapas Station, a Brazilian station and rotisserie of assorted meats, Kosher bacon (true story — this was a huge hit!) and many passed hors d’oeuvres. For dinner, we built a shawarma station, a hot rock station and fish station.
We wanted the evening to be one huge party. Our focus was on having a good time — the drinks flowing, the food abundant, the dance floor packed. To help facilitate this, we kept the speeches to a minimum (we’ve all been to weddings with one too many speeches), served warm (spiked) apple cider and champagne before the chuppah started, and set up food stations rather than doing a traditional plated meal. The ballroom was designed to encourage people to be up and out of their seats most of the time.
Celebration of our union
What made the occasion so special and unique was the joining together of two different families, and cultures, in celebration of our union. My family and family friends are boisterous, fun-loving, spirited Israelis, and Ryan’s family is a large Catholic family filled with equal parts love and kindness. Watching our families connect like they had known each other for decades warmed my heart. It was a moment and feeling I hope to never forget.
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
Lead by example! If you want your guests to have fun, you have to be having fun yourself. Guests feed off the energy of the bride and groom, so don’t stress over the small stuff (or the big stuff for that matter — there’s not much you can do about inclement weather, a busted tyre, or family drama). Just enjoy your day. I assure you if you do, everyone else will as well.
Jessica & Ryan’s little white book
Photographer – Scott Clark
Videographer – Beyond Cinema
Wedding planner – LB Events
Venue – The Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows
Bride’s dress – Watters
Bride’s shoes – Betsey Johnson
Groom’s attire – The Black Tux
Bridesmaids – David’s Bridal and Inbal Mishan
Hair + Makeup – Girl Meets Bongga
Florist – Elegant Thorn Floral Events
Caterer – La Gondola Catering
Ceremony Musician – Jason Sulkin
Band – Bob Gail Special Events
Invitation – Sarah Wilde
Photo Booth – AAV Entertainment
Ketubah – Susie Lubell
Rabbi – Rabbi Adam Greenwald
Engagement ring – Brilliant Earth