Today on the blog we’re introducing our 2nd gorgeous bride from our crop of 2017 and 2018 Real Jewish Brides! Please give a warm welcome to Gillian who will be marrying Pete on 8th September 2017 at the Ballroom at Ellis Preserve in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.
THREE FACTS: (1) Gillian is Jewish and Pete is Catholic (2) A Rabbi and a Priest will officiate at their wedding (3) Gillian is a Health & Wellness Coach and Pete is a Travel Occupational Therapist.
How We Met
Pete and I met almost 9 years ago while attending graduate school in Philadelphia. We became fast friends and dated for two and a half years throughout grad school. We loved experiencing our early twenties in the city of brotherly love. We had the best time trying out new BYOBs around the city, hanging at tailgates with friends, dancing at local bars (I enjoyed this more than Pete lol), and having each other as built-in study partners made school nights much more fun.
However, as grad school came to an end we decided it wasn’t the right time for us to be a couple and amicably went our separate ways. I know what you’re thinking, “This doesn’t sound like a good start to a love story?!” But stick with us, I promise we pull through!
After some years…
We didn’t live near one another (about an hour and a half apart in NJ) so it’s not unusual that we went three years without seeing each other, and our only form of communication was the occasional text and happy birthday message. We each dated other people as we grew in our careers. We grew as individuals and matured into late twenty-somethings. Luckily we grew in the same direction, although miles apart.
We had been chatting a bit in the spring of 2014, and this is when I discovered Pete was invited to a wedding of a mutual friend from grad school, and he didn’t have a date to bring. I thought the obvious answer to this problem was to bring me, right?!
So, I invited myself to a weekend wedding 6 hours away (keep in mind, we hadn’t seen each other for almost 3 years). After some joking back and forth Pete agreed we would have a great time together, as I already knew the groom and neither of us would know anyone else at the wedding.
During that six-hour car ride we caught up on EVERYTHING: Life, family, relationships, work, and our own past together. Anyone who has been on a road trip knows this could have gone horribly wrong or perfectly right. Lucky for us, that weekend was the first of many road trips to come. We had the best time at the wedding and realized we owed it to ourselves to give our relationship another shot. That was in August of 2014, and we’ve been together ever since (I told you we pulled through!)
Now we are traveling the country while Pete works as a travel occupational therapist, and I work as a health and wellness coach from wherever our home is at the time. We have been living in different places and love experiencing new cities, moving every three to four months (so far we have lived in Las Vegas, San Diego, LA, Palm Desert, Monterey, and Portland, OR).
We love adventure and we have the best time exploring new places together. We enjoy going on hikes, eating at great restaurants, and spending time with our family and friends as much as we can while we are home visiting.
It has been the best experience to be on our own in each new location. It has made us stronger as a couple and showed us just how well we complement each other’s weaknesses and benefit from the other’s strengths.
I hope every bride-to-be feels as special as Pete made me feel when he proposed. Now I will forewarn you, his silly nickname is ‘Planning Pete’ so I knew he wouldn’t disappoint, but I had no idea what he was capable of pulling off.
In the spring of 2016, I was traveling solo to the East Coast from California for three weeks to attend a bridal shower and a Bar Mitzvah. Months before my trip home, my best friend Sonya invited me to a FREE Justin Bieber concert, and it just happened to be the one weekend I didn’t have something to do. Obviously this was a BIG YES on my part. In my mind this was just fate, and who doesn’t love the Biebs?!
The night of the concert we headed into Philadelphia to pick up another friend, Shay, for dinner and drinks. The two of them mentioned that the oldest street in the country was right near the restaurant, and they wanted to stop by and see it. I thought, ‘Great, sure, why not? As long as it’s close to the food, I’m all in.’
As we walked down the beautiful cobblestone of Elfreth’s Alley, Sonya demanded to take a picture of Shay and me. As we were cheesing hard for the photo, hand on hip and everything, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see Pete standing there! This was honestly a shock–he was supposed to be in California! He even checked into a golf course that day on Facebook, so I couldn’t believe I was looking at him.
I did what I think any girl would do – I screamed and ran the other way (oops!) Once I realized what was happening, I turned around sobbing as Pete walked closer (poor guy–that probably wasn’t the reaction he was hoping for). He said the most beautiful things to me, and I tried to focus on his words and not miss a moment of what was happening.
He got down on one knee, proposed and obviously I said yes. Spectators cheered and clapped, the whole thing was recorded, and he even thought to have a photographer there. It was absolutely amazing! Obviously (and sadly) the Bieber concert was made up, but that was just the beginning of the surprises.
I was made to believe that no one (my mother included!) knew that the proposal was happening, so we tried to FaceTime everyone to share the good news. Most didn’t answer their phones, and if they did, strangely they were ALL in their cars driving. No one acknowledged this when I brought this up, but I was just so excited I didn’t give it a second thought.
After Sonya and Shay put my face back together (remember all of the sobbing?), we said goodbye and continued on to the night Pete had planned for us: dinner and a hotel in the city. Before we headed to dinner he told me he had scheduled a whiskey and wine tasting up the street.
As we walked into the bar I was blown away by the best surprise, which was all of our family and friends waiting to congratulate us! The crying started all over again, and I could not believe Pete pulled the whole thing off without me knowing.
Everything made sense – all of the failed FaceTime calls, and why those who did answer were in the car– they were on their way to see us! In reality Pete had planned our engagement party without even knowing it, and it continued the high that we were on. If there are any future grooms out there, I highly recommend taking this play from Pete’s book. It made the best ending to a special day.
Wedding Plans so far…
Because I’m marrying Planning Pete we got right into venue shopping that week, since we only had a short time back in New Jersey. We looked at a few in both Philly and central NJ, but we didn’t find one that checked all of our boxes: outside ceremony, great food, great atmosphere and NOT a million dollars (who’s with me on that one?!).
Once Pete and I were back in Los Angeles, we found the website of a venue located in the suburbs of Philadelphia that seemed to cover everything we were looking for. So, we sent our parents to Newtown Square, PA to visit Ellis Preserve in person. We hadn’t seen the venue ourselves, and as our parents visited they only saw studs and mock ups because it was being remodeled. With lots of trust in our families’ opinions, FaceTime video, and those mock ups… we had a venue!
Our wedding will be held on September 8, at the Ballroom at Ellis Preserve in Newtown Square, PA. It has this gorgeous open field with two large trees creating a frame around where our ceremony will be held, grand columns on the outside of the building, and a brand new inside for cocktail hour and the reception. We finally saw it in September and I am happy to report is it everything we wanted.
We are having an interfaith wedding, as I’m Jewish and Pete is Catholic, so we will be having both a Rabbi and a Priest officiate the ceremony. Since most of our planning was done from across the country we really relied on FaceTime meetings and reviews.
FaceTiming with Rabbis was definitely new for us, but we finally found one who fit our personality and wedding style. Choosing Rabbi Bradley Bleefeld was one of the easiest decisions we have made. Next came our videographer Ethan Wise from Wise Films. He and his brother do such an amazing job creating not just a wedding video of the day, but truly capture the moments with an artistic eye.
We then focused on finding a photographer who could provide us with gorgeous memories of our day and found Blaise Szallasi. He has an eye for natural lighting and a great personality that can handle our rowdy bridal party. Since he is based in Philadelphia, we also found Cassie Morlet who captured the San Diego coast for our beautiful engagement photos.
We knew we wanted a DJ from the start and it was an easy decision to go with Joe Vespe of JSV Entertainment, who happens to be a high school friend of Pete’s. With a reputation that precedes him, an easy going personality and knowledge of Jewish customs it made him a great fit. Picking a florist was difficult until we found Angela at Love Bug Unique. She was so helpful and encouraging, even when I told her we didn’t want to have a ton of flowers at the wedding.
Finding a hair and makeup artist was super simple because I happen to know a ton of talented people, and we went with Samantha White for the win because she also happens to be a friend. The last thing we did was pick our save the dates and wedding invitations and both are from Wedding Paper Divas, they had great choices and an even better Groupon discount we couldn’t pass up.
Style of the wedding
The style of the wedding is modern romantic (what does that even mean, right?). We didn’t really know ourselves but have slowly found our way, focusing more on how we want the day to FEEL than how it looks. So picture lots of candles, simple big bloom flowers, rose gold anywhere I can fit it, acrylic signage, big cursive, as many DIYs I can do without going insane (Pete will be making our chuppah!), and as corny as it sounds love all around.
Our eight bridesmaids will be in mix match tulle gowns in dusty rose colors from Adrianna Papell, BHLDN and Hayley Paige Occasions and the seven groomsmen will be in navy tuxes from an online tux rental (that we haven’t picked yet, if you have a recommendation!).
Marriage and What It Means To Me
So far wedding planning has been a lot of fun, and I am lucky because Pete has been a great sounding board with his opinion, even if he can’t really tell the difference between gold and rose gold â˜º. We did a lot of the planning in the beginning of our engagement and since we were doing it from across the country, we’ve slowed down the past few months.
As we move back to NJ (literally on our road trip this week as I write!) the planning has picked up again, and it hit us that in 4 short months we will finally be married.
At the end of the day, that is what is important to us. After all the planning, all of the choices, all the decision-making, the best part is that we become our own little family.
The idea of marriage for us has always meant being a forever team and #partnersincrime. It is something that keeps us sane during the planning whenever we have a disagreement or a challenging moment. I have to say Pete is better at this then I am.
He reminds me that the choices we are making will be the perfect ones for our big day and when it’s all over, it’s all about us being that forever team – not what font is on the invitations.
Click here to read all Gillian’s planning posts to date.
Gillian & Pete’s Wedding Vendors booked so far:
Photographer — Blaise Szallasi
Videographer — Wise Films
Venue — Ballroom at Ellis Preserve
Bridesmaid’s dress — Adrianna Papell, BHLDN and Hayley Paige Occasions
Hair + Makeup – Samantha White
Invitation — Wedding Paper Divas
Flowers — Love Bug Unique
DJ – Joe Vespe of JSV Entertainment
Rabbi – Rabbi Bradley Bleefeld
Engagement photos – Cassie Morlet