Today on the blog we’re introducing our latest gorgeous crop of 2020 / 2021 Real Jewish Brides! Please give a warm welcome to Jenna, who will be marrying Mat on 6th September 2020 at The Lodge at Ventana Canyon in Tucson, Arizona.
THREE FACTS: (1) Jenna + Mat have known each other all their lives (2) Their relationship began at the University of Arizona in March 2012 (3) Mat proposed at Jenna’s parents house in December 2018
How We Met
When people ask me what my first impression of my fiancé was, I like to say, “I think he needs a diaper change.” You see, we have a love story you don’t hear every day. The year was 1994, we were both one-year-olds, and we were at a local park in Tucson, Arizona at a baby tumbling class. Our moms connected, and they brought us to the same playgroup until we started school. While we never went to the same school growing up, we both belonged to the same synagogue, and we were even in the same B’nai Mitzvah class together – my Bat Mitzvah was on Mat’s 13th birthday!
We lost touch for the next few years until we both happened to be at a mutual friend’s high school graduation party. Mat was about to start his freshman year at the University of Arizona and I was about to start my sophomore year. They got to talking, and it turned out that Mat was joining the same business mentorship program Jenna had done her freshman year. Mat and his best friend happened to attend the orientation session that following week, and he serendipitously received a book for the business mentorship program that I had read and signed! I was one of 60 students in the program the year before, and of all the incoming freshmen that could have received my book…Mat was the lucky recipient.
Come the beginning of the school year, I was helping our Chabad at the U of A table on the mall (center grass strip of campus), and I may have enticed Mat to come for free food…and my company (which Mat couldn’t turn down). Over the course of the next few months, our friendship began to blossom. FINALLY, Mat asked me to be his girlfriend in March of 2012, and we have been dating ever since. Our relationship has withstood two and a half years of long distance while I attended graduate school at Brandeis and my subsequent move to New York City. Six months after I moved to NYC, Mat followed.
After more than six and a half years of dating, we went to visit our families in Tucson. I am an avid cook and baker, and so I planned a big Shabbat dinner at my parents’ house. Shabbat is something my family has been doing every Friday night with my Bubbie & Grandpa, so being able to prepare a nice Shabbat meal for my family and carry on this tradition means a lot to me, especially as my Grandpa would bake fresh challah every other week.
I had been pushing Mat at this point, as we had talked about the next steps in our relationship before, that this trip, we would take some jewelry I had inherited up to my other Grandfather’s jewelry store in Phoenix that my aunt now owned. Little did I know, Mat had been cooking something up behind my back!
I made two spatchcocked lemon chickens with lemon gravy, lots of roasted veggies, and a new challah flavor – orange and candied ginger. Mat and his mom arrived, early as expected, but we were still waiting for my aunt, her husband, my little cousin who was home from college for winter break, and my Bubbie, who they were picking up.
They finally arrived, and as my mom and I are rushing about the kitchen to get everything ready, Mat starts trying to convince me to come outside. My mom is elbow deep carving chicken, I want to get the challah on the table & kiddish wine poured, but I follow him outside anyways. The sun has already pretty much set (we get the most beautiful sunsets in Tucson), but it is nice out & my parents’ standard poodle is enjoying herself running around the backyard.
Mat starts talking to me, holding my hands, and all I see out of the corner of my eye is him mom yelling at my mom to come to the door quickly! Next thing I know, Mat is on one knee asking me to marry him…my first response, was to turn to our mothers and ask, “Did you know this was happening?” Mat had to pry my hands from my shocked face to even put the ring on my finger. It was so special having my family there to witness this special day. I don’t even remember eating much (although I do know the leftovers were yummy), as I was too busy calling & texting my brother, sister, and best friends to tell them the news!
Our Wedding Planning so Far
We got engaged in December 2018 and our wedding is planned for Labor Day Weekend in Tucson, AZ – September 6, 2020. It has been tough living across the country while planning the wedding, especially with the time difference, and we’ve only been able to be home once so far for a planning trip. Some vendors we were able to book from afar: the venue, photographer, videographer, DJ, and Rabbi. It helps that Mat used to be a local DJ and he worked events at many of the local venues and that we’ve also been to many events at many of the venues.
My parents are also retired, so they have been a great resource as well. I think I told my mom only two requirements for the venue: mountains and sunset. Our selected venue, The Lodge at Ventana Canyon , not only provides amazing mountain views, but they will also take us up to one of the holes on the golf course after the ceremony for the most amazing mountain sunset photos! And the venue is not even 5 minutes from my parents’ house!
We knew right away who we would ask to be our wedding videographer, as the mutual friend whose graduation party Mat & I reconnected at does amazing wedding videography! We booked our friend Tad of TS Cinema, and I cannot wait to see our future video – he’s already done a few of our friends’ wedding videos, and they are so beautifully done.
For our photographer, I researched both on websites like The Knot and Wedding Wire, but also asking family friends who’s kids have gotten married in recent years. As we looked into Shelley Welander of She.We Studios, we even saw photos of family friends’ kids’ weddings in her featured galleries! She has been absolutely amazing, and we were able to do an engagement shoot in downtown Tucson when we were home October 2019. We had so much fun that she went almost 2 hours with us! We are absolutely in love with how our engagement photos turned out – both Mat and I hate super posed photos, and she did a great job of just capturing us as we were together. She even caught the silly candid photos, like when I accidentally knocked Mat in the nose (whoops)!
DJ was also super easy – our two good friends, and also the original owners of Mat’s DJ business (who taught him the trade), are coming out of retirement for us. I think one of the first things we had set after the venue was the DJ and our music list! We have everything already set to go for the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception, although I am keeping secret the first dance song as a surprise for my fiancé. I like to play a game with him telling him at every song we hear, that nope, it’s not the first dance song!
Our Rabbi who will be officiating our wedding I could go on and on about. I have known Rabbi Billy Lewkowicz since he moved to Tucson from Johannesburg, South Africa when I was about 2 years old. His son even went to preschool with me at my Conservative synagogue, despite being Chabad-Labuvitch. Rabbi Billy is the Judaic Studies Director at the non-denominational Jewish day school I attended from 1st-8th grades, Tucson Hebrew Academy. He is a one-of-a-kind man, and I am honored to have him as our officiant for our wedding!
During our only wedding planning trip so far, we met with potential florists, did cake tasting at two places (which I think was the most fun of all the vendor meetings), and I even had my makeup trial. Florist we still need to meet with again, as we don’t have a contract yet, but we picked out cake from Ambrosia Cakes (vanilla almond cake with lemon curd filling and vanilla buttercream), and my makeup trial was amazing! I did an outdoor Zumba/Pound class in the Tucson heat, and my makeup did not budge.
We still have a lot left to do, and I am bit disappointed that we have had to move our next planning trip scheduled for April back, but it is for the better. My bridal shower has also had to move, but with everything going on right now, I’d say I’m lucky it was just a trip for planning. We have sent out our Save the Dates, invitations are picked out and just need to finish personalizing, and we already have a first proof of our Ketubah. We picked out something amazing from an artist on Etsy, and my brother and sister are purchasing it as a wedding gift! I feel like we have already accomplished so much and yet have so much left to do with our wedding planning!
What Marriage Means to Us
We can’t wait to be married – it is a way to show our connection to each other, and we believe we are truly Beshert. Our marriage will be a way to show our continued devotion to our Jewish faith and traditions, as well as getting to show all our friends and family that we have each found our other half.
There is a Jewish midrash that before a baby is born, an angel takes the soul and shows it the entire world, including its soul mate. But before the angel takes the soul to the baby’s physical body, it touches the spot right under our nose and above our lip, thus causing the soul to forget everything it was shown. Some of us are lucky enough to find our soul mate, Beshert, and Mat I are lucky that ours lived 10 min down the street. I cannot wait to marry my best friend and get the rest of our life together started!
Click here to read all Jenna’s planning posts to date.
Jenna & Mat’s Wedding Vendors booked so far:
Photography – Shelley Welander of She.We Studios
Videography – Tad of TS Cinema
Wedding venue – The Lodge at Ventana Canyon
Cake: Ambrosia Cakes
Makeup: Amanda Nolan (freelance)
DJ: close friends, Eric & Robert, former owners of the no longer active DJ company my fiancé took over, Revolution Entertainment
Rabbi: Rabbi Billy Lewkowicz
Invitations: purchased, but not yet completed from Minted
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