It’s always a pleasure to write up the wedding of one of our Real Jewish Brides, and today’s is no exception! We love that Dawn and Harley made their Jewish wedding all about family and friends. With a “basketball team-sized” wedding party, friendors aplenty, a delicious kosher pareve cake from Smashing The Glass Recommend Vendor Ana Paz Cakes to include kosher-keeping guests, and plenty of family participation in the ceremony, the couple’s day was truly centered around the people they love.
Dawn, a career counselor, and Harley, an online entrepreneur, chose to hold their elegant beach-themed wedding at the Delray Beach Marriott in Delray Beach, Florida, out of deference to their many out-of-town guests.
Their day was captured beautifully by Jack Bates Photography, which is owned by a friend of the couple. Their videographers were also friends–Shelley, the female half of the husband and wife duo behind Gibson Production, even did double duty as a bridesmaid!
And did we mention that Dawn chose her gorgeous Martina Liana gown a whopping 14 months before the wedding?! She made an appointment on a whim after learning about an end-of-season sale, and, despite having barely begun her search, knew she’d found the one.
We’re sad to say goodbye to Dawn here on STG, but we’re sure you’ll enjoy reading about the day in her own words!
How we met
Dawn, the bride: in the summer of 2013, Harley and I both joined JDate. He was moving to South Florida by himself from Montreal and looking to make a connection, and I may have been a bit bored in graduate school looking for some Jewish romance! Although neither of us actually lived in Palm Beach County at the time (he still had a few more weeks in Montreal, and although I am originally from Palm Beach I had one more year of graduate school in North Florida), we both indicated that we were from the area and showed up in each other’s searches. We began messaging, Facebook-ing, texting, and Skype-ing (to ensure that neither one was a 60-year-old cat lady) every day until we finally met on June 24th, 2013… just hours after he had officially moved to the United States!
An Oceanside Venue
We got married at the Delray Beach Marriott in Delray Beach, Florida. It was only the second venue we visited, and we knew it would be the last. It was the perfect venue because it is beautiful, beachy, and convenient. With the majority of our guests being from out-of-town, we knew we wanted to have our wedding at a hotel. This way, the only travel our guests would have to arrange for the weekend was getting to the hotel. They could also enjoy the beach, resort-style pool, and multiple restaurants at the hotel throughout the course of the weekend. The hotel’s wedding coordinator was extremely accommodating and assured us that we could have kosher options for friends and family who observe this tradition, which made our decision even easier. We loved the ceremony and reception space and the ease of having the catering, tables, chairs, and linens checked off by one vendor.
Beachy Elegance with a Touch of Hockey
Harley and I were the planners of our wedding! Luckily, we had a 16-month engagement, so we had plenty of time to plan and decide on vendors who would bring our vision to life. We wanted our wedding to be elegant, yet incorporate the beach across the street from our venue and one of our favorite pastimes, hockey. Our wedding colors were pool blue, ivory, and blush, with silver accents, which I do believe exemplified beachy elegance. Our guest book was a compilation of our engagement photos, which were taken at the beach across from our venue, at our venue, and at a hockey rink. We even had our cake topper designed to look like us, with my figurine in a wedding dress and Harley’s in a Florida Panthers jersey.
Keeping the Invitations in the Family
The invitations were honestly the easiest part of wedding planning because my mom owns her own invitation company, Personally Yours. We didn’t have to research companies, read dozens of reviews, or coordinate a meeting time. All we did was hang out with my mom and decide on an invitation! Although Harley and I originally had a difficult time finding an invitation we both liked (he liked very simple invitations, and I liked more feminine ones), we finally realized that we both loved the pocket-style invitation that my sister and brother-in-law used for their wedding a year earlier. We made some changes to the wording and paper color to not completely copy them, but imitation is the best form of flattery, right?
A Natural Look for Hair and Makeup
The hair and makeup team I used for our wedding, Lulu’s Hair and Makeup Studio, was actually the only vendor I found through a bridal show. At the bridal show, Lulu Gomez and her team were set up doing mini hair and makeup trials. My mom and I were pampered on the spot, and I fell in love with their work and fun environment! A few weeks later, I scheduled a full wedding hair and makeup trial with Lulu and absolutely loved the natural look she created… so much that I bought a wedding package including hair and makeup for our engagement photo shoot and bridal shower. On the day of our wedding, Lulu’s entire team of hair and makeup artists came to the bridal suite at our venue (remember I had 11 bridesmaids, 2 flower girls, and my mom getting ready with me!) and were so professional that all I could do was relax and enjoy the day with my friends.
A Martina Liana Dress, Purchased Far in Advance
My dress was a Martina Liana dress that I was shocked to find so easily at Mariolka’s Bridal Boutique. After watching so many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress and seeing the seemingly limitless budgets of the brides on the show, I never imagined myself being able purchase my wedding dress from a high-end boutique similar to the the ones on the show. Luckily, I was wrong!
One of my best friends, who also doubled and tripled as a bridesmaid and videographer for our wedding, got her wedding dress at Mariolka’s Bridal Boutique and had nothing but positive things to say about her experience. Once I got engaged, I followed the boutique on Facebook. I made a dress shopping appointment, on a whim, months before I planned on beginning my wedding dress search because they posted about an end-of season sale. I never imagined that I would find my wedding dress so easily during an impromptu post-work appointment with my friend, Shelley, and my mom. At this point, I had only been engaged for two months and had five dresses pinned on Pinterest. Of course, the dresses I pinned looked extremely similar to dress I chose, and one of them was even from the same Martina Liana Essence of Australia collection. It was truly meant to be!
I was a bit nervous about choosing and purchasing my dress 14 months before our wedding. What if I didn’t love it as much by the time our wedding came around, or what if I saw something I liked better in a magazine?? Luckily, this was not the case, and I loved my dress even more by the time I came back a year later for my first fitting. Between the Swarovski crystal beaded bodice, sweetheart neckline, corset back, fit and flare style, and blush toned silk organza train, there was nothing about this dress that could have been any more perfect!
Diamonds and Pearls
There were some things that we planned really well for with our wedding and others that completely slipped my mind until last minute. I decided on my veil well in advance and chose an elbow-length ivory veil with a trim that matched the beading on my dress, as well as a blusher for the bedeken. I also knew that I wanted to wear a beautiful diamond necklace that Harley got me for my 26th birthday, so I wore it dress shopping to make sure it would look good with my dress!
Two items that I was not as cognizant of were a headband/tiara and a bracelet. A few weeks before our wedding, I remembered the one of my best friends and bridesmaids, Simara, wore a beautiful pearl and crystal-embellished headband to her own wedding and asked if I could borrow it. She was more than happy for me to wear it on my wedding day, but nobody was more thrilled for it to be used again than her mother-in-law, who picked it out in the first place!
As if that wasn’t already a perfect “something borrowed,” I realized while getting ready for the wedding that I never chose a bracelet to wear! Best friend/bridesmaid/videographer Shelley to the rescue again with the diamond bracelet she wore in her wedding a year and a half earlier. These oversights turned into very meaningful accessories on our wedding day.
The handsome groom
Harley wore a classic Calvin Klein tuxedo, with a pool blue pocket square and bowtie for the wedding. As nice as his tuxedo was, what really stood out when we saw each other for our first look was his giant smile and the look of disbelief and excitement in his eyes. We joked leading up to the wedding that “he better cry” when he saw me for the first time on our wedding day, but his emotion of genuine excitement for the rest of our lives together was much more authentic Harley.
A Basketball Team-Sized Wedding Party
My sister said it best in her Matron of Honor speech: “When Dawn first told me she was having a basketball team-sized wedding party, I thought she was going a little bit overboard, but now I see it. You make lasting relationships everywhere you go and cherish every one.“
My “basketball team-sized” bridal party wore the same beautiful pool blue Alfred Angelo dress, except for my sister and matron of honor, who picked out her own style dress in the same color. I chose one dress that I felt was flattering for all of my bridesmaids because I thought that coordinating different dresses for eleven women would have been a nightmare! Harley’s nieces, our flower girls, wore gorgeous ivory dresses with pool blue accents to tie together the color scheme perfectly. The dress company went out of business a week after our wedding, and I felt so fortunate to have used them prior to their closing!
An Elegant Chuppah
Our chuppah design was simple and elegant, as we wanted all of the decor to be. Our fabulous floral designer decorated our chuppah with a champagne-colored drape and floral sprays and tiebacks to connect the chuppah with the room design. It went so perfectly with our color scheme and reception flowers.
A Family-Oriented Ceremony
Our ceremony was extremely family-oriented, or as our rabbi described it, “full of mazel.” It was important to us that our family members (living, deceased, present or not) be represented in our wedding ceremony. One of my grandfathers was not able to travel to Florida for our wedding, but we used his kiddush cup, and my cousin FaceTimed him in for the entire ceremony. Family members from both sides recited the Seven Blessings under the chuppah, the rabbi wrapped us in my grandpa’s bar mitzvah tallis, we used Harley’s parents’ (who were married for 42 years) wedding bands, and we even used the candle sticks that Harley’s mother left him as a wedding gift before she passed away. It was so beautiful and meaningful for us that our family members were such a cornerstone of our day.
A Mix of Traditional and Modern Music
Music is such an important part of a Jewish wedding ceremony. Would we go with traditional hebrew songs? Modern romantic songs? A mix of both? I wanted our wedding songs to be a nice balance of traditional and modern, but I also wanted them to be unique from the many weddings we have been to and will continue to attend over the next few years.
The one song that wouldn’t necessarily be considered unique to our wedding ceremony was the song our bridal party walked in to, an instrumental version of 1,000 years from Christina Perri. I absolutely love this song and feel like hearing the first few chords let you know something beautifully romantic is about to begin. My processional began the trend of songs that were traditionally Jewish with a modern twist. It was a song recommended by our rabbi, Boi Kallah sung to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Our processional was another cover song, Lecha Dodi to the tune of John Legend’s All of Me, sung by Muzika. The thought put into choosing the perfect songs did not go unnoticed, and I received many compliments on the tone of our ceremony the next day!
For our reception songs, we went the modern route. For our first dance, Harley and I danced to How Long Will I Love You by Ellie Goulding, my dad and I danced to My Little Girl from Tim McGraw, and Harley and his grandmother danced to Come Fly With Me by Frank Sinatra.
A Beautiful Bouquet
Harley and I were so happy and relieved when we met Julie, the owner of Polished Petals. After meeting with several other florists, she is exactly what we had been waiting for… a kind professional who could bring any vision to life and explain floral decorations to a couple who could not discern a lisianthus from a peony.
After meeting with Julie one time and reviewing her extremely detailed proposal, we knew we would have nothing to worry about when it came to flowers and decorations. She incorporated white hydrangeas, light pink garden roses, and ivory and champagne roses into the bouquets, boutonnieres, chuppah, aisle flowers, and centerpieces beautifully while keeping in mind our unexplainable dislike for too much greenery throughout the process. She even met with Harley and I a few weeks before the wedding at the venue so that she could be fully prepared and aware of her surroundings for the big day. Luckily, Julie hand-delivered my bouquet to the bridal suite before my makeup was applied because I started to cry as soon as I saw the perfection and thought about walking down the aisle holding such a beautiful bouquet in just a few short hours.
Our fabulous Photographer…
Choosing our photographer and videographer was another simple task, which required no research, due to personal connections dating back to high school. We were fortunate to have friends in the industry to make this decision so much easier! For photography we used our friend, Jack Bates, who owns Jack Bates Photography. He did such an incredible job of capturing our love and the fun we have together at both our engagement photo shoot and wedding.
Our great friends Shelley and Eric, a husband and wife duo who own Gibson Productions, made us the most beautiful wedding video. Shelley doubled as a bridesmaid, so she was probably the best dressed videographer ever. Not only were the final products fantastic, but I felt much more comfortable in front of the cameras knowing that my friends were behind them!
A Delectable Kosher Cake
Although catering and a wedding cake were provided by the venue, our wedding coordinator allowed us to bring in a kosher pareve cake from Ana Paz Cakes in Doral, FL. I was a bit skeptical of how a kosher pareve wedding cake would taste, but we were pleasantly surprised at our cake tasting! Ana Paz makes exclusively kosher cakes and has even baked cakes for celebrities such as Eva Longoria and Jennifer Lopez. We chose one of her classic cakes with alternating layers of chocolate and almond cake topped with buttercream frosting. Ana was extremely professional and even solved a last minute mini-crisis… getting our heavier than expected cake topper to stay standing using cake dowels. Like most brides and grooms, we only had a few bites of cake on our wedding night and can’t wait to eat the top layer on our first anniversary!
Dancing All Night
Harley and I loved the DJ my stepsister and brother-in-law used for their wedding, which was a year and a half before ours. As soon as we set a date, we got DJ Ray’s contact information and booked him right away! DJ Ray is the vice president of Eddie B & Company, and the passion he exudes for entertaining is evident within one minute of speaking with him. He had guests of all ages dancing all night and helped us coordinate playing a video my grandpa recorded saying the Hamotzi. It is our family tradition that he always recites this blessing, so we wanted to keep up with tradition even though he couldn’t be there.
All About Family and Friends
Family and friends were the cornerstone of our wedding, and we are so thankful that we can look back on the day with so much love and pride. Not only was our rabbi incredible, but he is our friend’s dad! This added to the personalization of our wedding ceremony, in addition to how comfortable we felt with him in pre-wedding sessions.
My favorite wedding gifts were extremely sentimental. Arguably the best gift I’ve ever received was the scrapbook my sister, Jill, made for me. Each bridesmaid, as well as my parents, grandparents, and Harley, created their own page of pictures from our favorite memories and a letter for me to read on the morning of my wedding. This started the waterworks, which did not stop all day! Another amazing gift from another Jill in my life, one of my best friend’s moms, was a mezuzah and colored glass for Harley to smash at our wedding. The mezuzah is clear, and now filled with the glass that was smashed under the chuppah, so we can be reminded of our wedding and vows when we walk by it everyday!
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
My advice to future brides is to try to stay as “in the moment” as possible and realize how fortunate you are for this day. It is unlikely that all of the people you love will be in the same room again, especially for both you and your groom, so soak it all in. Several people told Harley and me that they were impressed by how present we were, and I was surprised that I didn’t feel like the night flew by. If possible, have a get together the night before your wedding, the morning after, or both! Having this extra time before and after the wedding with family and out-of-town guests helped us feel less pressured to spend enough time with each guest at the wedding. Having brunch with everyone who stayed at the hotel the morning after our wedding extended the fun and let the reminiscing begin early!
Dawn & Harley’s little white book
Venue – Delray Beach Marriott
Photography – Jack Bates Photography
Videography – Gibson Productions
Bride’s dress – Martina Liana purchased at Mariolka’s Bridal Boutique
Groom’s and groomsmen’s attire – Calvin Klein from Men’s Wearhouse
Bridesmaids – Alfred Angelo
Hair + Makeup – Lulu’s Hair and Makeup Studio
Flowers – Polished Petals
DJ – Eddie B & Company
Cake – Ana Paz Cakes
Rabbi – Rabbi Jonathan Kaplan