Nikki and Jem are just the coolest couple and their big day from the world-famous Sydney Harbour Bridge embraces the most beautiful Jewish wedding traditions whilst maintaining a totally free-spirited, energetic and fun vibe. It’s been sensationally captured by Australian photographer Dan O’Day whose work I adore — I could have filled this feature with every image he sent me and you’ll probably be able to tell I struggled to stop myself from doing just that!
I love pretty much everything about Nikki and Jem’s Jewish wedding but one of my favourite details (that I’ve never seen done before) is the couple choosing to shelve the idea of traditional favours, and instead place custom ribbons with their monogram and date on them at everyone’s place setting. They then invited guests to create their own bouquets from the gorgeous wild flowers that were in front of them, tie them together with the ribbons and take them home. Such a beautiful and thoughtful idea.
Nikki also bought her bride posse (note, Nikki doesn’t call them bridesmaids!) a pair of Converse each, and left them on their seats with “dancing shoes” tags.
Fashion stylist Nikki looks utterly gorgeous in her Rue de Seine gown — the New Zealand designers make the most perfect boho bridal romantic dresses combining rich beading, intricate detailing and sheer draping, and they just seem to design for the coolest, most stylish brides. If you’re looking for a more modest dress they cater for this brilliantly with many of their designs incorporating high necks and long sleeves.
Right, shall we dive into this super cool wedding then? Trust me, you’re going to love it…
how we met
Nikki, the Bride: We met in 2009 through a mutual friend who was trying to help Jem and his buddy get a jeans label off the ground. Our mutual friend suggested that I be their first model (because I was the only person small enough to fit in their teeny tiny samples!) I was interning at Cosmopolitan magazine at the time looking to get a career in fashion so it was a common interest for us both I guess. Jem now works in finance but I’m still in fashion. I was not born Jewish, and as our friendship grew, so did my love for Judaism. Once he found out I was looking into converting he also saw it as an opportunity for us to start dating, and the rest is history.
Choosing our wedding venue in Sydney
Our chuppah was at Dawes Point Park underneath the Southern Pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We chose it because it was close to our reception venue, which we chose first! The party was down at Simmer on the Bay, Dawes Point.
Our theme: organic, romantic, moody and a little bit industrial
We wanted our wedding to be organic, romantic, moody and a little bit industrial. We didn’t have a wedding planner and I styled the whole thing myself. I did however, have a coordinator for the day — Jason Kates from Love2Love — who was amazing both on the day and in the lead up. He was an angel sent to me from heaven! He did all of the schlepping, all of the liaising with my vendors and was so helpful when I needed a point in the right direction for vendors etc. He let me do my thing with the styling and was just there when I needed him to put it all together.
a hand-designed invitation
Jem and I co-designed our invites and our friend Pia Ink hand designed them. All of the water colouring and the fonts were done by hand — she is incredible.
har + make up
Hair — Stephanie Estephen — she was recommended by my makeup artist, as they had worked together a lot. She did such a great job at keeping everything simple. There’s nothing worse than oversized hair for a bride and bridal party!
Makeup — Sarah Damichi Makeup — I worked with Sarah a lot on photo shoots for work, so I knew she would be perfect for me. I wanted everything to be super natural and she nailed it.
a super romantic wedding dress
I work in fashion as a stylist so this part came really easy to me. It kind of helped that I had a very clear idea of what I wanted. My dress was by Rue de Seine. I liked it because it wasn’t too feminine, but rather, super romantic. It was embroidered gauze as opposed to heavy lace, which is what really set it apart for me. I also loved the scalloping detail, which was a big selling point for me. I love the little details in things.
fun, bright, platform shoes
I had pale pink and chrome burn orange Fendi platforms. I really just saw the whole shoe thing as an opportunity to buy myself a new pair of designer shoes — the wedding part didn’t come into play. I figured if I’m wearing a white dress, any colour will match! And the idea of something fun and bright and ME poking out of my dress every now and then was more my style.
The handsome groom
Jem wore a custom made suit, shirtand bow tie by Soraya Boutique Potts Point with Church’s shoes, Ray Ban sunnies and Happy Socks socks.
We had a traditional orthodox Jewish wedding, so Jem actually came walking towards me as I sat on my “throne”. As soon as I saw him come around the bend, and I could hear all of the men singing and clapping my heart exploded. I could see how they had made a protective barrier around him, as per the custom, and I just couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the most beautiful moment of the whole day. And he looked SO HANDSOME. It all just brought me to tears.
My bride posse
I had bridesmaids but I refrained from calling them that word. I hate that term. They were my posse! I didn’t ask them to do anything for me before the big day, they were NOT my maids — that was the last thing I wanted. I just wanted the women in my life to be with me on the day and surrounding me like an army as I took the biggest step in life. They all wore black embroidered gauze dresses, in keeping with the romantic feel of the day.
Im not into OTT chuppahs! I just wanted something traditional, organic and understated. Big flower arrangements exploding from our heads just wasn’t an option for me! So we had old driftwood poles, a tallis overhead and some greenery draped from the front two poles. Well, they were SUPPOSED to be for the front two poles but we kept with the tradition of having pole bearers, and they kind of missed that detail. The greenery ended up being on the side two poles. Typical boys!
a very special Jewish wedding ceremony
The whole ceremony was incredible. We were both so focussed. Before we separated in the week before our wedding we wrote down seven prayers that we wanted for ourselves and for our marriage. As I circled the groom seven times I had those prayers written on a piece of paper and I whispered them to him as I passed him. That way we were praying for the same things, at the same time, under the same gateway to heaven.
music for the ceremony
Israeli musician, Yehuda Glantz, was our singer which was INCREDIBLE. He sang Boi Kallah as I walked towards Jem and The Alter Rebbe’s Niggun as I circled Jem under the chuppah. The leader of our band was a very talented community member, Yehoshua Niasoff, who also sang Im Eshkachech Yerushalayim to us under the chuppah — which brought me to tears. Every time I hear that song now I get very emotional.
a wild forest of flowers
I wanted lots of greenery, lots of natives and anything wild. I wanted it to look like a wild forest of flowers — nothing too “arranged”. We had giant overhangs above our tables and then small amber jars of wild bunches lining the tables. Our amazing florist was My Flower Man.
our amazing photographer
It was a no brainer when choosing Dan O’Day as our photographer. No one even crossed our minds for a second! We wanted candid photos that would catch the energy of the day. We didn’t want anything too formal, so we stayed away from organised bridal party style shots. I preferred him to just catch us in the moment. Even for the “organised” photos of Jem and I, they were very real and raw and revealed our energy and emotion on the day.
Our amazing caterer was John Mulligan from L’Amour Catering. He allowed us and helped us create our own menu from scratch and our guests were so impressed at the standard of food.
The one and only Yehuda Glantz lead the vocals with four very different dance brackets. From traditional to South American to even electronic! The band was put together and headed by Yehoshua Niasoff.
Our first dance was more like a last dance as it was the end of the night and really was just between us. We danced to Mi’ma’amakim by the Idan Raichel Project.
a beautiful alternative to favours
We ditched the idea of favours and instead I got custom ribbons with our monogram and date on them at everyone’s setting. We invited guests to create their own bouquets from the flowers that were in front of them, tie them together with the ribbons and take them home.
There were small touches like my late grandmothers lace tablecloth on the table where we signed our certificates. I also bought all of the bride posse a pair of Converse and left them on their seats with “dancing shoes” tags. The shtick for the dance floor was organised by our cousin who did such an amazing job. Its ALL about the shtick! We had ribbons, hats, balloons filled with confetti which I popped. It made the dance floor that much more fun. I also custom made a mechitzah out of lace ikea curtains and black curtain rods which we suspended from the roof. I personally loved our mechitzah as it was different from the usual plants or satin sheets which you usually see at Jewish weddings.
All of our friends and family said the energy on the day was unlike anything they had ever experienced. Jem and I have a long story and had been on a long journey to get to that point, and everyone could really feel it. Many people have said it was the best wedding they had ever attended. I had friends emailing me afterwards saying they had no idea what was being said sometimes (because of the Hebrew) but they could just feel exactly what was happening. Nothing needed explaining… although we did custom design little wedding programs to explain the course and tradition of a Jewish wedding. It was very spiritually inspired, which was really something special for our non-Jewish guests to understand just how holy a wedding day is.
advice to other brides and grooms
Anyone who tries to tell you that wedding planning is fun is a big fat liar. It is stressful, it is time consuming, it is expensive and you’ll have so many people trying to get a piece of you that you’ll just want to crawl into a hole and sleep through the whole thing. But if you can just remember to be firm, stick to what YOU want as a couple, stand your ground and keep the romantic times up with your partner, you will realise on the day that it was all worth it.
People tend to forget that they are marrying each other because they are crazy in love. Remember that part. It’s the only part that will get you through. Be forgiving to each other, treat each other well during this stressful time and focus on your partner and what it’s going to mean to be a Mr and Mrs. If you come to the party feeling that love and energy and focus, your guests will feel it too, and that is inevitably what will set your day apart. To all Jewish grooms out there — if you are going to keep the tradition of separating and not speaking in the week before the wedding, take a leaf out of Jem’s book and organise nice things for your bride to be to relieve her from the stress and anxiety of not being near you and the nervousness of the lead up. Things like organising massages, flower deliveries and love notes in the mail box make ALL the difference.
Nikki & Jem’s LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Photographer — Dan O’Day
Second photographer — Todd Hunter McGaw
Venue — Simmer on the Bay
On the day co-ordinator — Jason Kates at Love2Love
Bride’s dress — Rue de Seine
Bride’s veil — Nelder Jones
Bride’s shoes — Fendi and Converse
Hair — Stephanie Estephen
Make up — Sarah Damichi Makeup
Ceremony music and entertainment — Yehuda Glantz
Invitations — Pia Ink
Flowers — My Flower Man
Catering — L’Amour Catering