I’m so thrilled to be bringing you today’s thoroughly gorgeous DIY Jewish wedding. Not only are the creative details ALL lovingly crafted by the bride, groom, their friends and family, but Shannie’s write up of her and Steve’s day really comes from the heart; as did Shannie’s efforts for her entire wedding.
All of the DIY details are divine… the centrepieces, the table numbers, the sweet treats, the astonishingly beautiful ketubah made by Shannie, and how can I forget the creative guest book alternative? Plus I’m sure you’ll notice so much more, it’s one of those weddings I think you’ll need to view multiple of times to take it all in!
Oh, and the dog. Don’t even get me started… Storm played a huge part in originally getting Steve and Shannie together (see their ‘How We Met’ story below), so much so in fact, that Shannie even incorporated an illustration of their beloved hound into her ketubah design!
And on a totally separate note, let’s not forget Steve who looks super dapper in his jeans – yes he totally rocked the laid-back look!
Shannie’s boho head piece and an Indian-inspired hand piece (both made by her very talented mama!) are to-die-for and her Catherine Langlois gown is just a dream. She bought her dress at The Brides’ Project in Toronto, a bridal boutique where all the proceeds go to cancer charities. There’s another branch of The Brides’ Project in America, but as yet, one doesn’t exist in the UK. I would love to help set up a branch in the UK (potentially London) and if anyone reading this can help me kickstart this idea, please do get in touch. I would love to donate my Stephanie Allin wedding dress in the first instance.
But I digress… Please do take a moment to read through Shannie’s account of her planning and creative ideas — there are some really lovely DIY projects and a generous helping of brilliant advice at the end – plus you’re going to swoon over Niv Shimshon‘s phenomenal photography.
All of this awesomeness was planned in just four and a half months…
Happy Tuesday folks!
how we met
Shannie, the Bride: I will try to keep this story as simple as possible, but it may be tough a job! Steve and I had known each other for almost seven years prior to the first time we actually ever said a sentence to each other. My parents own a jewellery shop in the same plaza mall that Steve opened his restaurant. My mum (being the yenta that she is) did try to introduce us when he first opened his restaurant, but I was very shy, I thought he was very handsome. Apparently he was just as awkward and couldn’t find the words to say to me. For years we would eye each other. I would often help my parents at their store and see Steve. He would see me, but we never actually spoke.
Years later it was my moving day, the day and I was packing and moving from my condo in Toronto. I remember walking down the street, towards my building, carrying boxes that towered over my 5”1 frame, that I suddenly felt a push and something knocked down my boxes out of my hands. It was Steve’s dog, Storm. She must have escaped from underneath her fence, ran towards me, and Steve right behind her chasing her to grab her. We realised that we had been neighbours for the last three years without even knowing it. It took us seven years and a dog to finally give us the courage to actually start a conversation with each other. The rest, as they say, is history!
A DIY wedding with lots of creative and personal details
Most of our wedding was pretty much projects that I assigned for myself to do as well as my mother and Steve. Being an artist, I specialise in doing everything last minute! So the week before the wedding I was hit hard with how much work I set aside for myself.
A nature-inspired wedding and venue
Our venue was at Estates of Sunnybrook. Steve and I knew we were going to have a very small and intimate wedding, and we have always been outdoorsy, nature loving people. We knew that this venue had that forest-nature feel we were going for our outdoor ceremony and the reception was held in an old home that was converted into a event space. It wasn’t too big, and wasn’t too small. Just the perfect size to fit all our family and give us that intimate gathering we were aiming for. Our guest list was a total of 90. So the venue felt just right for that mount guests attending.
Because we are such an outdoor couple, anything to do with nature appealed to us. Being both artists (me a muralist/ketubah artist), and Steve a chef. We tried to go the DIY route and hand made most of wedding decor. Orange being my favourite colour (could be from my Dutch heritage lol) and green being Steve’s, we thought the two colour combos would be a great way to integrate that rustic theme we were going for.
Our wonderful wedding planner
We did have a wedding planner who also happened to be an old friend of mine for the day of the wedding. Michelle Garber is possibly the most organised woman I know and having her along our side organising the day of, helped tremendously! Being artists we’re not the most organised people in the world(!), so it was wonderful knowing that she was on top of everything we may have forgotten, and made our lives at ease the day of our wedding.
Creating the invitation myself
I hand drew and painted a bohemian inspired flower design and created our invitation. Anything that I could grab my hands on and design on my own, I figured would have some form of sentimental touch for Steve and I, to look back at and smile.
hair + make up
I was so happy that throughout the planning process I had so many friends in the industry who had a helping hand on our wedding day. I usually wear my hair down but trying to keep with the boho style, my old friend and hairdresser, Hari styled my hair to make my natural waves stand out a bit more.
The wonderful Agnes Fallen, who also happens to be an old friend and an absolute wonderful bridal makeup artist, did my makeup. Because I always do my own makeup, Agnes had no problem figuring out what I liked. She knew I liked bold eyes, long lashes and dark lips. Although the day of the wedding, she knew best and toned it down a bit, but worked her magic. Hari and Agnes truly were such a blast to have around me during the pre wedding, and made me feel at such ease. They know me so well and knew exactly what my taste was like.
A Catherine Langlois dress bought from The Brides’ Project
I had a very hard time finding a dress that really spoke to me. I was never much of bridal gown-wedding person so I never really anticipated my wedding gown to speak to me the way that it did when I found it. I knew that I didn’t want a very traditional dress. I really just wanted something lightweight so that I could move around and dance freely. I was attracted to anything soft and not too attention grabbing, I guess :-).
I knew of a bridal salon in Toronto that carried used wedding dresses from previous brides, who donated their wedding gown. The proceeds to any dress that was purchased would go towards cancer research. This place was called The Brides’ Project. I really wanted to be part of something so wonderful as the Bride’s Project so I thought I would start by taking a look there. I’m not much of a shopper and I knew in this salon, I would really have to dig to find something that spoke to me.
One of the volunteers at this salon could tell that I had a certain look in mind. I was shopping with my loud Israeli sister and she heard us talking about what I had in mind (lets be real, Israeli girls are loud!). She came into my room and brought a rare dress that the designer, Catherine Langlois herself, donated to the Bride’s Project. It was a boho style inspired dress. It was not too form fitting, cream coloured, very light weight and delicate dress that had the most beautiful lace detail at the top and A-symmetrical shoulder straps. I tried it on and my sister and I didn’t speak a word. She saw this giant smile on my face that I couldn’t wipe away. She called my mum and told her that she never saw me this happy while shopping for ANYTHING. We kind of knew that was a sign that I found my perfect dress.
My parents are jewellers and my mum is quite an artist herself. I wore a necklace that my dad picked out for me from their jewellery store. It was delicate with feather symbols in 14k gold and tiny mother of pearl. My mother got to her creative side and used some of the remaining lace that I had from dress to make me a bohemian head piece and an Indian inspired hand piece, as opposed to wearing a bracelet. It all tied in so very nicely!
cream lace wedding shoes
I actually had no intention of even wearing shoes for the wedding! Deep down I consider myself quite the hippie, and I walk around barefoot all time, so I thought to myself I wanted to be just as comfortable on our wedding day. Of course the day before our wedding, I realised we weren’t getting married on a sandy beach, and I will be walking on a hot pavement. So last minute the day before the wedding, I purchased a cream, lace detailed TOMS and they ended up matching perfectly with the dress. They actually gave me the opportunity to jump around freely and skip through-out all our wedding photos. Which our photographer loved!
A super cool groom in jeans!
Steve and I are very casual. We choose comfort over dressing formal as much as we can. So to keep with the down to earth, laid back wedding attire, Steve actually wore jeans to our wedding. They were dark jeans with a blue checkered button shirt, a knitted navy blue tie and topped it all off with a taupe vest. He pulled off this look so perfectly and I still have such a crush on him every time I look back out wedding photos. I may be prejudice, but I don’t think any groom could have pulled this off as well as he did 🙂
Choosing not to have an official bridal party
Because Steve and I had a very small and intimate wedding, we actually kept our guest list just family and very few family friends. Keeping with a close family affair, Steve and I chose not to have any “official” bridesmaids and groomsmen. I am very close to my siblings and Steve’s siblings both live out of the country, so it was very meaningful to have them and their spouses to stand by our side near the chuppah. We wanted to make sure everyone felt as comfortable as possible, so all siblings wore what they desired. Keeping with the garden, boho theme they wore very light- semi casual attire and looked absolutely stunning!
A very special ketubah
The ceremony ended up being our favourite moment of our wedding. I think the reason for it, may have been because we added so many sentimental touches to our ceremony. Being a ketubah artist, it only made sense that I would customise a meaningful design to our ketubah. I added symbols and designs that Steve and I both felt attached to. One feature in our ketubah was a shadow symbol of our dog, Storm ( who is the main reason we ever got the courage to speak to each other after seven years). In addition to the design, I also handwrote the words in our ketubah which helped give it an overall touch that it was completely designed by me.
An emotional wedding ceremony
Our chuppah ceremony was quite sentimental as we decided to wrap Steve’s tallit from his barmitzvah on one side of the chuppah, and his fathers tallit from his wedding day, on the other side of the chuppah. We also used his parents’ Kiddush cups, that they drank from on their wedding day. In some of our pictures, if you look closely, you can see the engraving on the cup that reads his parents’ wedding day. Our cantor was also wonderful as he shared some funny stories of Steve and I and how we met. He was such a wonderful story teller and you could really see how engaged all our guests were through the ceremony.
But I believe our favourite part of our ceremony was when I walked down the aisle towards Steve under the chuppah. I saw that he was holding back tears, afraid anyone would see him, and I immediately felt the same emotion and attempted to hold back my own tears. We hugged and kissed as soon we came close under the chuppah, which is not usual for the bride and groom to do and our cantor actually made a funny comment about it during our ceremony. It was quite a wonderful moment, and I don’t think either of us will forgot our facial expressions when we saw each other.
Steve and I wanted to keep with the rustic theme and since our ceremony would be held outside with a forest background, we went with a wonderful company who were able to set up four maple trees and beautifully wrap Steve’s and his father’s tallit around the maple wooden poles. The company that did this wonderful job is chuppah.ca.
music for the ceremony
For our processional songs we wanted something meaningful to us. I happened to have two wonderful musician friends, who are also husband and wife, Alex and Justin Raisbeck. Alex and I have known each other since elemtary school. She has always been so musically talented and she and her husband have the most beautiful voices. They sang an acoustic version of Queen’s Crazy Little Thing Called Love for our processional song for Steve and the rest of our families walking down the aisle.
They then transitioned to Elton John’s Your Song for my entry down the aisle. It’s when I saw Steve begin to tear.. Our recessional music was Justin playing his guitar to a soft yet up beat background music. For our first dance Steve and I danced to Anni B Sweet’s Take on Me. It is more of a slow-folk version of Aha’s ‘Take on Me’.
Incorporating friends and family into our ceremony
Steve and I also wanted to include our best friends in our ceremony. Steve is very close with his sister and does not get to see her too often as she lives in Maui. Steve asked her to be one of the witnesses for official marriage license. And as for me, I have three very close friends that I grew up with since I was 6 years old. Because I chose not have “official” bridesmaids, I still wanted all three to have a special part in our wedding. I asked one my best friends to be my witness for our marriage license, and my other friend to be the witness for our ketubah. My friend Terri (who is a natural born speaker) made a speech it was the absolute most heartfelt and yet hilarious speech. She had the entire South African community at our wedding in tears from laughter and ended off her speech with a small tear shed from Steve and I.
flowers to reflect our cultural background
Steve and I tried to incorporate a bit of our cultural backgrounds. Besides orange being a symbolic colour to my Dutch background, we also decided to use flowers that are common in South Africa (Steve was born in Johannesburg). We are both very big fans of wild flowers so for my bouquet I had a hand-tied bouquet with orange pin cushion protea, craspedia, orange mini gerbera daisies, lavender, thlaspia, seeded Eu and variegated pitt. Tied with off white lace.
Steve’s boutonniere was made up of Craspedia, lavender, thlaspia, seeded Eu and variegated pitt.
Making our own table centrepieces
Our table centre pieces were very minimal as Steve and I experimented with A DIY project and made our own centrepieces. We used slices of wood from a tree trunk as the base of our centrepiece and went treasure hunting in an antique market to use old vintage bottles (some happened to be dated all the way to 1915). We used the different bottles and placed various different flowers in each one of them which included high and magic orange yellow roses, lavender, eucalyptus, variegated pitt , orange lilies, thlaspia.
To complete the table numbers Steve and I found rectangular stone pieces and I hand drew the table numbers and doodled flower designs directly on the stone.
Our florist who did the absolutely wonderful job of making our vision come to life was Ni-No Wong of Bayview Blossoms.
Our fabulous ‘candid’ photographer
Niv Shimshon was our wonderful photographer. He was highly recommended by my best friend who is also a wedding photographer and was very familiar in my style and preference for photography. When Steve and I sat with Niv, we could tell right away that we would feel very comfortable around him. Niv’s approach to his photography is wonderful because it is all so candid and a little less traditional than what you would normally see in wedding photography. He was such a pleasure to be around and instantly made Steve and I feel at such ease. I don’t think our day could have been captured more perfectly if it wasn’t for Niv.
A donation instead of favours
We decided not to use wedding favours, but instead we made a donation to our favourite animal rescue, where we rescued our dog, Storm.
a cupcake tower made by a wonderful friend
Our cake was made by my wonderful friend, Jana Shingler of Sweet Dozen. Steve and I decided to use cupcakes as opposed to a formal wedding cake. Jana is a wonderful pastry chef and I knew she would make the most wonderful cupcakes. She created three flavours for our cupcakes: Lemon Drop, Vanilla, and Raspberry cream filled, Dark Chocolate. She designed a rustic wood cake tier and at the very top tier she added a gluten-free cake made up of vanilla and chocolate swirl and a hint of espresso buttercream. Since I have celiac, Jana decided to surprise me with the gluten free cake that I could enjoy too and used all my favourite flavours. It was absolutely delicious!!
My old friends Justin and Alex (The June Gypsies) sang for our ceremony and because we love them so much we asked them to sing during our cocktail hour as well. Our cocktail hour was held outside on a patio, just before our guests entered the room for the reception. So we felt it was a perfect setting. We had another friend who DJ-ed for the rest of the reception and used a mix 70’s classic rock and of course, I asked him to squeeze in some Hebrew music to make Israeli family happy 🙂
My mum designed a head piece and hand piece from the remaining lace that belonged to my dress. And Besides the handrawn ketubah by me and the table numbers, that I wrote on stone and Steve collected vintage bottles, I wanted to also use a piece of our heritage when my family moved to Canada. I found an old suitcase that appeared as if it was from the 50’s in my parents basement. It must have belonged to my grandfather and my parents used it when they immigrated from Israel to Canada. I decided to decorate the suitcase by placing another vintage bottle inside and small flowers, left the suitcase open, and hand-wrote on a banner “cards” so we could use it as a friendly “money box”.
An alternative guest book
Our guest book was not an official guestbook, and we decided to use whatever remaining wood slices from the tree trunk as a message board from our guests. We left a marker pen and our guest wrote lovely notes for us on it.
Advice to couples who are currently planning their wedding
As chaotic as wedding planning can be, it’s hard not to lose your yourself and get swallowed by the madness of planning. Most important for Steve and I was to keep reminding ourselves that we could not be in control of making everything perfect. Things will go wrong, and should something go wrong, than there is no point in worrying over it.
Steve and I could not wait to call each other husband and wife, so we got engaged and married in the span of four and half months. I think the less time we spent having the wedding planning over our heads the less stress we would add to our plates. We were lucky enough that we could plan a wedding in such a quick time frame. But we spent most of the time excited about making and designing things on our own. We didn’t bother too much with others opinions. We definitely had our stressful moments (as all couples do during planning). But after a day or two we let it sit and managed to calm ourselves down. Knowing what stressed us out was so minor in the grand scheme of things, that it was not necessary to be upset over.
It may not be the best advice, but it helped us through the whole planning process. And the wedding was more wonderful than we imagined it would be…
Shannie & Steve’s LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Photography — Niv Shimshon
Wedding Coordinator — Fab Fete Event Planning Boutique
Venue — Estates of Sunnybrook
Flowers — Bayview Blossoms
Bride’s dress —Catherine Langlois from The Brides’ Project
Bride’s shoes — TOMS
Chuppah — chuppah.ca
Ketubah — Mural Mural on the Wall
Make Up — Agnes Fallen
Hair — Hari Spirkoski Ferro hair art
Cupcake Tower —Sweet Dozen
Entertainment — Alex and Justin Raisbeck of The June Gypsies
Bride’s jewellery — The Jewellery Gallery