“When planning this wedding, we looked at it like the most epic Shabbat dinner we would ever throw.”
From the minute we read this line from STG Brides Club member Nikki, who works in marketing at a digital health startup (and also gives food tours and teaches yoga on the side), and Adam, who works in tech as an engineer, we were sold on their beautiful Jewish wedding.
Nikki and Adam, both Americans who met and live in Israel, wanted their wedding to be an occasion for their far-flung family and friends to come together and get to know each other – and get a taste of the couple’s life in Israel. And by the looks of the incredible photos and video from Smashing The Glass Recommended Vendor Aya-Avi Photography, a husband and wife team handling photography and videography, they pulled it off with aplomb. Aya’s luminous photos really let the love between the pair for each other and for all their loved ones gathered together to celebrate them shine through.
We’re also in love with Nikki and Adam’s super cool macramé chuppah – and how awesome is it that they found their florist, Tom of Tomka Designs (we featured Tom and Matan’s own wedding on the blog a while back), right here on STG? The East Meets West boho style he worked with the couple to create for their chuppah area is truly beyond.
And we’re totally obsessed with Nikki’s bridal style, from her timelessly elegant gown from Israeli designer Alon Livne to her natural-with a-touch-of-glam hairstyle by Smashing The Glass Recommended Vendor Yehonatan Yaeish – who not only styled the bride’s hair superbly but also brought great energy on the day.
There’s so much more we could say, but we’ll leave the rest to the bride… (and if you want to join Brides Club like Nikki did, click here (we’ve just released a few more free entry places – grab one before they all go!)
How we met
Nikki, the bride: We happened to move to Israel one week apart and met 6 weeks later on Bumble. We decided to meet 10 minutes after our first conversation began and got married 2 years and 4 days later.
An Israeli Wedding
Adam is from New York and I’m from California. We met and began dating here in Israel so even though we are both technically American, Israel is the only place we’ve shared as a couple and therefore felt like the most authentic place to get married. And since our relationship developed while living abroad, most of our friends and family hadn’t met each other. Having our wedding in Israel provided a great opportunity for us to show everyone our life, as well as ensure that everyone got to spend quality time with each other.
We got married at Jonah Club in Netanya, Israel. When we first visited the venue, we immediately fell in love with the intimate size, seaside view and design aesthetic. We had also heard that they had a great reputation for serving up good food (very important!) and loved that it was situated in a hotel so that our guests had a place to crash post-party. Everyone had stayed in various places during the week leading up to the wedding in Tel Aviv so moving into one hotel on the last night together was a great way to end the festivities.
Shabbat Dinner Vibes
If we had to describe the vibe we were going for in three words, the would have been “meaningful, joyful and inclusive.” When Adam and I first began dating, we quickly realized that we both loved hosting shabbat dinners together. Hosting Shabbat represented everything we love in life: good people, good food and good vibes. When planning this wedding, we kind of looked at like the most epic Shabbat dinner we would ever throw. We wanted to create an experience that showcased our life in Israel, incorporated Jewish rituals in an inclusive way and most importantly, encouraged people to eat and hora all night long.
The first decision we made in planning our wedding was to hire Elisheva Goldman Events as our event planner. Neither of us are fluent Hebrew speakers and were planning the wedding completely on our own, so Elisheva proved to be an invaluable resource in helping us refine our vision, source vendors and generally just turn our ideas into reality. We were very hands on in every aspect of the wedding but I really appreciated having support and guidance of a planner and found it particularly helpful on the day of when I was able to really sit back and enjoy like all of of the other guests.
What ‘Smashing The Glass’ Brides Club’ Did For Us
I spent hours perusing the Smashing the Glass website in the initial stages of planning. I was particularly inspired by the Israel-based weddings. As a non-fluent Hebrew speaker, I was intimidated by the idea of planning a wedding in Israel but looking at countless of other people’s experiences gave me hope and inspiration. I also learned about Tomka Designs from the post done about Tom and Matan’s own wedding. I ended up hiring them and it was an amazing decision!
Since the American guests needed to plan before traditional invitations were sent and Israeli guests don’t really expect paper invitations (most invites are sent over WhatsApp), we decided to save money on invitations and create a website instead!
Adam works in tech and created a designed email that we sent out to all of the guests 8 months before the wedding that outlined some of the wedding week events and directed them to the website that I built through Appy Couple. We then followed up a few months later with save the dates (created through Minted) that once again directed people to our website.
The website was basically free to create and enabled us to house all relevant information, from the event schedule and accommodations to a helpful overview on Jewish wedding traditions. Saving on the cost of paper invitations enabled us to spend more of our budget on the guests’ experience once they arrived. Looking back, I think it was one of the smartest decisions we made.
Hair + Makeup
Yehonatan Yaeish did my hair and Jaquelyn Lawrence did my makeup. I wanted my look to feel soft and natural with a touch of glam. I kept my hair down and in waves for the ceremony and then had it put up in a high pony for dancing. For the makeup, I wanted a warm and natural glow that still let my freckles shine through.
Both artists were incredible at not only achieving the looks that I wanted but also had the best energy on the day of the event. I think the most important element is not technically how you look but how you feel. I had so much fun getting ready the morning of the wedding and owe that feeling in large part to their positive energy and approach.
An Alon Livne Dress
My ceremony dress was designed by Alon Livne. I wanted something timeless and classic that I could look back on in 10 years and still love. I wanted something that had a bit of drama and volume but with no embellishments which was challenging considering how on trend sequins and lace are at the moment – especially in Israel.
My mom flew in from the States especially to go dress shopping and we had one day to find the dress. We went to 6 different salons. Alon Livne was the last salon we visited and this dress was the last one I tried on. I knew immediately that it was my dress. I loved the fact that it made a statement but still felt classic and especially loved the subtle details– like the hidden pockets in the skirt. But as much as I loved my ceremony dress, I have never been a long dress person and knew it would be hard for me to last the night in something with that much fabric.
I’m petite as it is and find long dresses difficult to dance in (my main priority at any occasion where music is involved). With that in mind, I knew I would have a second dress for the reception. I love the prohibition era and long dreamed of a Gatsby-inspired dress. I worked with Adi Grin, a relatively new but totally brilliant designer on creating my second dress from scratch. No one knew about second dress except for my mom so in the months leading up to the wedding I would secretly go over to her studio for fittings. Being part of the creative process from start to finish and then surprising Adam in the middle of the reception was such an amazing moment.
I kept it pretty simple. I wore pearl earrings that belonged to my great grandmother which felt very special and personal and Adam surprised me with a diamond bar necklace before the ceremony which I immediately loved and put on. For the veil, I went for something super long but simple and ethereal. I didn’t want anything to take away from the dresses and find that certain accessories can feel a bit trendy. I’ll try any trend in everyday life but wanted my wedding look to be timeless. I also carried my late grandfather’s chai necklace in my pocket. It wasn’t visible but served as a comforting reminder that he was there with me in spirit.
My shoes were Jimmy Choo stilettos with about a 3-inch heel. They were sparkly but not too glitzy and surprisingly comfortable! I kept them on throughout the entire night and only gave up during the 5th hour of dancing when I swapped them for a pair of white sequined sneakers.
The handsome groom
Adam is admittedly not into fashion but took his suit shopping experience surprisingly seriously and really wanted to surprise me. He settled on a royal blue Armani suit and pink tie.
Bridesmaids in Jenny Yoo
I had four bridesmaids and one bridesman and Adam had 5 groomsmen. The bridesmaids wore Jenny Yoo dresses in all different styles in the same color (morning mist). The men wore navy suits with ties to match the bridesmaid’s dresses. I chose the color because it worked well with the seaside location and all of my bridesmaids liked it when they tried it on. I’ve been a bridesmaid enough times to know what a difference it makes to feel confident in what you’re wearing. It was important to me that everyone felt as beautiful as I thought they looked.
Our florist Tom, of Tomka Designs was absolutely amazing. For the chuppah area, we were inspired by this idea of East Meets West. We we wanted something that felt bohemian-modern and was befitting of the middle eastern, seaside location. To achieve this, We replaced the traditional aisle runner with Moroccan carpets and covered the chuppah in macrame fabric. We used pampas and cotton in lieu of flowers and added couches and lounge seating in neutral tons around the chuppah to help create a casual, familial vibe. If Tom hadn’t suggested it, I never would have thought to cover the chuppah in macrame and absolutely loved the way it came out.
Our wedding incorporated all of the traditional Jewish wedding elements. It began with a kabbalat panim (food and drinks), followed by the badeken, chuppah and reception. We have friends and family from all walks of life and it was really important to us that everyone felt included. Prior to the wedding, we had a section of our website outlining that A,B,C’s of a Jewish wedding, as well as wedding programs distributed the day of that further explained the various customs.
The badeken was a first time experience for many of our guests and I was a bit worried that people who weren’t as familiar would feel lost. But that wasn’t the case at all. The band, really helped create a warm and joyful vibe and everyone really got into it – especially our moms who got up and danced with each other. After the badeken, we had the traditional chuppah ceremony. Traditionally, the seven blessings must be recited in Hebrew by Jewish men. We also wrote seven accompanying blessings in English that our female relatives recited to ensure as many people as possible were included.
Our music choice
Adam walked down to ’59th Street Bridge’ by Simon & Garfunkel, our wedding party walked down to ‘Here Comes The Sun’ (The Beatles) and I walked down to ‘Mitachat L’Shemayim (Under the Stars)’ by David Broza. It’s an Israeli song that my dad and I used to listen to on repeat growing up. I always knew I wanted to walk down the aisle to it and the fact that we got married in Israel made it all the more perfect.
For our first dance, Adam and I surprised everyone with a choreographed mashup of four of our favorite songs all in totally different genres – jazz, pop, country and hip hop. We choreographed it ourselves and spent weeks practicing it. Everyone was shocked and it was by far one of those moments I’ll never forget.
Tom of Tomka Designs is a creative genius and was an absolute pleasure to work with! She used a variety of flowers in neutrals with a pop of orange for the bouquets and table-scapes. She also incorporated different non-floral materials like pampas and cotton to evoke a more bohemian vibe. On the tables we also used gold candelabras with black candlesticks and a touch of lace to have a slightly more sultry effect. We really wanted people to enter the reception room and instantly feel like they were ready to party.
Aya-Avi Photography did our photography and videography. Aya is the photographer and we chose her because we loved her work and felt she had very calming, warm energy. The photographer is with you the entire day and capturing your most intimate moments, so it was really important to us that we chose someone who we got along with. Aya’s husband, Avi, is the videographer. I had heard that sometimes photographers and videographers compete with each other for shots during the event and can make moments somewhat tense. I felt confident that Aya and Avi would work well together for obvious reasons and they absolutely did!
Our event space is owned by a well-known catering company in Israel called Ta’m Vetzeva. We chose the venue in large part because we were confident that they would deliver on the food front. The kabbalat panim reception before the chuppah featured 5 different food stations inspired by different cuisines around the world. We had Peruvian ceviche, Cajun salmon, Indian dahln and kofta, arayes sandwiches and a classic deli meat station.
For dinner, we had a first course of Israeli salads (my favorite), chicken and fish for the first course and entrecote or vegetarian lasagna for the main course. We knew we wouldn’t be able to have a dairy cake (according to kashrut laws, you can’t mix meat and milk) so we skipped the cake and went for a dessert bar instead. We wanted to make sure people kept their energy levels up throughout the night so we also had a late night food station featuring fish and chips.
We had a band (Eliran Sade) for the first four hours, followed by a DJ (Uri Bronfman from Shablul Entertainment). It’s not as common to have a band in Israel but we are so glad we decided to go for it. Eliran and his band did an amazing job at keeping the vibe upbeat from the badeken to the chuppah to the reception. We had a fist-pumping, hour long hora, followed by 4 more hours of nonstop dancing to modern music. It was epic and exactly what we had in mind. All in all, it ended up being nearly 6 hours of nonstop dancing at which point many of our guests ran straight into the ocean for a much-needed cool down.
I have the biggest sweet tooth and always need to munch on something sweet post-party. In honor of this, we ditched the idea of traditional favors for a candy party. On their way out, there was a buffet of all of our favorite sweets with monogrammed bags for them to to help themselves. We figured you’re never too old to feel like a kid in a candy store. 🙂
Take A Shot And Find Your Spot
We worked really hard to incorporate personalized touches throughout every aspect of the event. Immediately upon entering the venue, guests were asked to choose their place cards – all situated in tequila shots alongside a sign that said “take a shot and find your spot.”
Our signature cocktail was “Buddy’s Beach Drink,” a cocktail that my late grandfather invented and used to make at every family gathering. My grandfather and I were very close and it helped us feel he was represented in a small but meaningful way. We also placed old family photographs of our grandparents and parents around the room. It was a way to honor our families’ love stories and bring everyone into our union – even those who are no longer living.
We had a notecard on every guests’ plate with different messages like “Get Up and Dance!” or “L’Chaim Ya’ll.” It was a subtle but cute way to help elevate the vibe. After the chuppah, we turned the balcony area into a hangout zone. Even though we love to dance, we wanted there to be a comfortable place for people to hang out and take a well-deserved break.
5 days celebration
Most of the guests from abroad (80 in total) arrived to Tel Aviv 5 days before our wedding. Upon arrival, everyone was given a “L’Chaim” tote bag stuffed with Israeli snacks, an itinerary and a recipe booklet of our favorite Israeli dishes. Each day leading up to the wedding contained a different day trip or excursion. We hosted a welcome event at our favorite local bar, took a day trip to Jerusalem, and I personally led everyone through a food tour of the Carmel Market (I work for a food tour company so this was a must!).
On the Friday night before the wedding, we hosted a white party themed shabbat at Beit Otzarin, an ancient house turned event venue that overlooks the sea in Jaffa. The day before our wedding, all of the women on both sides of our family hosted a women’s circle for me where they offered me love, support and words of advice for a long and healthy marriage. I knew I didn’t want a bridal shower (opening gifts in front of people stresses me out!) so this was a great way to celebrate.
Simultaneously, Adam and his friends had their annual fantasy football draft on the beach. Every year the same group of guys do it in a different location so getting to host it in his adopted hometown city the day before his wedding was a real treat for Adam.
When it comes to speeches, we appreciate the opportunity to hear from loved ones and to thank everyone, but we also didn’t want to break up the party. To mitigate this, we had the bulk of our speeches (including a joint speech that we delivered together) on the Shabbat dinner before the wedding.
Mix And Mingle
All of our guests from abroad (80 in total) were at the Shabbat dinner so it was a great way to hear from everyone while still keeping the vibe going on the night of the wedding. On the wedding night we had assigned seating but on the Friday night dinner before the wedding, we asked everyone sit next to someone they didn’t know. It was a great way to get people mingling so that everyone felt like one big family by the time the wedding came around. Adam and I were very aware of the sacrifices people made to travel so far to be there for us and wanted to ensure that everyone felt loved, appreciated and included.
I am admittedly a bit event-obsessed and spent months leading up to the wedding scouring Pinterest for unique decor ideas. But I would also say that it was directives like forced mingling and making sure that everyone was included in the dancing, etc that made our wedding feel like a true union rather than just a beautifully executed event.
We had another friend’s destination wedding in Jamaica so we incorporated it into our honeymoon by arriving a bit early for a mini-moon at the Rockhouse Hotel in Negril, Jamaica. We loved it and highly recommend it! After our friends wedding, we headed over to Italy for a week in Tuscany during their wine harvest. Each place we stayed at and ate at was better than the next so I would just recommend going there any time in late September/early October and you really can’t go wrong!
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
In the initial stages of planning, I think it’s really important to work with your partner to make decisions that are authentic to you guys and no one else. When we first considered getting married in Israel, we had a lot of pushback from family members in the US. As natural people pleasers, it was really hard for us to make a choice that not everyone would favor. But ultimately. we decided to go with our gut and it was the best decision we made. In the end, not everyone was able to attend but everyone who did come had the best time and choosing to have a destination wedding created a more intimate vibe and brought our diverse groups of family and friends together in ways that I couldn’t have dreamt of.
For the day of, I really walked in with a mindset that I planned as much as I could and that everything would unfold the way it needed to. And I’m so glad I did! I had the best time getting ready with our moms, grandmas and bridesmaids and didn’t feel an ounce of stress. I never wanted to look back and be embarrassed for losing my temper or getting stressed out over something petty and therefore didn’t worry if we were running a tad late or if something didn’t go exactly as I had expected. I knew how lucky and grateful I felt to be marrying Adam and that there was an entire team of vendors working on creating the most incredible party we will probably ever host.
I would tell any other bride to focus on those aspects and ditch her long list of rigid expectations out the window. Of course things will happen that you didn’t expect (my ceremony dress literally ripped in half during the hora!). But at the end of the day, it was kind of hilarious. I had a second dress that I knew I was going to change into and had just gotten married to the love of my life. A moment of wardrobe malfunction was nothing to get bent out of shape about. If you can work it into your budget, I also believe having an event planner was incredibly helpful in being able to relax the day of the event.
Nikki & Adam’s little white book
Photography and videography – Aya-Avi Photography
Hair – Yehonatan Yaeish
Wedding planner – Elisheva Goldman Events
Venue – Jonah Club
Bride’s dresses – Alon Livne and Adi Grin
Bride’s shoes – Jimmy Choo
Groom’s attire – Armani
Bridesmaids – Jenny Yoo
Makeup – Jaquelyn Lawrence
Flowers and decor – Tomka Designs
Branding – Studio Nona
Band – Eliran Sade
DJ – Uri Bronfman
Invitation – Minted
Website – Appy Couple – 10% discount for Brides Club members
Honeymoon – at Rockhouse Hotel