Now this is a wedding that I seriously would have LOVED to have attended. It’s so different, so creative and incredible fun. I mean what could be better than a vintage tea party at London Zoo culminating in an outdoor Jewish dancing session and big party (not forgetting a drunken guest attempting to climb into the gorilla enclosure!)?
Just scroll down and you’ll see the bride arriving in a flower-bedecked Karma Kab, the groom arriving by canal boat, a seriously jaw-dropping vintage styled bride, a hand-drawn animal-themed ketubah, stunning photography by Steve Poole and David Klein that captures some of the most amazing Jewish dancing energy I’ve ever seen, and on top of everything this report is a little bit special as not only do we hear from Sarah, the bride, there is also a bit of commentary thrown in now and again from our groom, Ben. A Smashing The Glass first! The idea for holding their wedding at such an unusual venue was triggered by Ben proposing to Sarah in the Penguin Pool building…. aaaah, I’ll let Ben take over from here:
IMAGERY BY STEVE POOLE UNLESS OTHERWISE CREDITED
WHY WE CHOSE LONDON ZOO
Ben, the Groom: I proposed to Sarah at London Zoo as when she was a child she wrote to Jim’ll Fix It to ask him to let her into to the zoo’s penguin pool building. She loved the architecture as a little girl – that space age type of feel – and she was a bit besotted with the building. When I proposed to her I organised with the zoo to take her round and then led her into the Penguin Pool building and proposed to her in there.
We also knew that we didn’t want a party in a hotel or ballroom, and we ideally loved the idea of getting married somewhere outdoors, but finding an outdoor London venue that could hold 250 guests for both the chuppah and the party on the same site, and that could also incorporate a kosher caterer didn’t leave us with many choices. Luckily London Zoo ticked all the boxes and we chose it as our wedding ceremony and party venue.
Sarah, the Bride: We knew that we wanted to have a summer fete / vintage tea party feel and that really worked in the beautiful garden terrace where we held the chuppah and Jewish dancing. We were fortunate enough to have an amazing, sunny day and the space couldn’t have worked out better for us.
KARMA KABS + CANAL BOATS
I got ready at the York & Albany and drove down with my mum in a magnificent Karma Kab which was great fun! Ben had his Tish on a barge and arrived with all his friends down Regents Canal in a fabulous barge from Floating Boater!
VINTAGE BRIDAL STYLE
Sarah: I found my dress at Elizabeth Avey‘s wonderful shop in Tufnell Park, North London. She collects and sells really fabulous vintage wedding dresses and has an amazing collection. I was expecting to go to a few different places but Elizabeth’s shop was the first one I tried and I found the dress that I wanted immediately!
As far as accessories are concerned I went to a vintage wedding fair in Chiswick and I got a few bits and pieces there, most importantly, a shrug to cover my shoulders under the chuppah.
I bought my shoes from Rachel Simpson. I did a lot of googling on who makes vintage looking shoes and I found Rachel’s designs and was delighted with them.
CHUPPAH + CEREMONY
Ben: With the sun shining, everything went to plan for our ceremony on the lawn and we were able to hold it all outdoors. The chuppah itself belongs to our shul and was created in the name of my my grandparents.
My mum, my auntie, Sarah and a few others decorated it with ribbons and flowers and it looked great. I actually took some of the cuttings away with me after and the hydrangeas that were holding it down are just starting to flower in the garden.
The rabbi who married us, Rabbi Laitner, he is an old friend of mine from school so that was very meaningful and personal, and my brother in law, and my very old friend, Levi Levin, sung us in. Levi was the ‘Lev’ of Gilev but he’s doing his own thing now. His singing and music is simply breathtaking and was definitely one of the highlights of the day.
Sarah: Ben’s cousin who lives in New York is an artist and she designed a wonderful hand-illustrated ketubah. Very early on when we were dating I told Ben that everyone has a spiritual animal which is the animal that they most resemble in mannerisms and behaviour. Ben thinks that he’s an elephant because he’s very tall and they’re gentle and spiritual creatures, but I think that he’s a polar bear because I think he looks like one! The ketubah is designed with a picture of the penguin pool where Ben proposed and as well as elephants and polar bears, there are also beautifully drawn squirrels because my spiritual animal is a squirrel!
TEA PARTY + DANCING
Sarah: After the ceremony we went to have a few pictures taken, and It was lovely for our guests to wonder around the zoo and enjoy the animals! Some of our photos were on the merry-go-round and a lot of our guests got onto it with us which was fun.
After that we came back to the garden terrace for the Jewish / Israeli dancing with Shir, a fabulous klezmer band, and I have to say – that was my favourite part of the wedding. To be outdoors for that was very special. Funnily enough, because that part of the zoo is quite public, we had an audience of people staring at us looking very bemused too!
As it started to get dark, the tea party on the lawn which culminated in the Jewish dancing ended, and we continued the party with an amazing DJ (Dig It Sound System) inside the function hall in the grounds of London Zoo alongside a buffet dinner.
When you hold a function at London Zoo, you have to go indoors once it starts to get dark as the animals need to get some sleep! Our caterers were great – I would recommend them 110%. We dealt with Aviva Elias from Saffron and she was outstanding from start to finish.
Ben: One of our party-loving and by now, drunken, friends tried to jump into the gorilla enclosure at the end of the wedding. The zoo weren’t impressed… We begged them to give us the CCTV footage but they haven’t released it so far!
THOUGHTS ON LONDON ZOO AS A WEDDING VENUE
Ben: As much as we loved the zoo as a venue they unfortunately proved quite difficult to deal with on various points throughout the day. In particular they struggled to accommodate the kosher caterer. I think a lot of the problems would have been avoided if we had done everything according to the way that they usually do it – but then the point of the wedding was that we wanted to do things our way.
AN ALTERNATIVE IDEA FOR A GUESTBOOK
Sarah: Instead of a guest book I got a massive piece of white card with a space in the middle cut out for a future wedding photo, and got all our guests to sign it in different colour markers. With books you rarely look at them again, but with this, I thought we could hang it up on the wall and enjoy it on a daily basis.
ADVICE TO OTHER BRIDES
Sarah: You can plan to the ‘nth’ degree but the day will end up in the shape that it does, and once the day arrives you just have to let go and enjoy it to the max.
Ben: It was lovely to have people we knew and loved doing stuff with us on our wedding day ie. Levi singing us in to the ceremony, my cousin designing the ketubah, the rabbi being a very old friend of mine, as was the DJ. It made everything incredibly personal and meaningful.
SARAH + BEN’S LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Venue — London Zoo
Photography — Steve Poole and David Klein
Bride’s dress — Elizabeth Avey
Bride’s shoes — Rachel Simpson
Bride’s accessories — Vintage Wedding Fair
Chazan / singer — Levi Levin
Klezmer Band — Shir
DJ — Dig It Sound System
Catering — Saffron
Transport — Karma Kabs / The Floating Boater
Aren’t these some of the most beautiful wedding pictures you’ve ever seen? I especially love the ones of them under the chuppah, and the energy emanating from that Jewish dancing! And I am totally wowed by Sarah’s vintage bridal style and her bold red lips – what a beauty. I really love this wedding for its creativity, its style and its joyous intimacy – a truly ‘smashing’ smashing the glass wedding – thank you to Ben and Sarah for sharing your special day, and I wish you both a very happy One Year Anniversary for next week!
Sara - Darling Lovely Life editor says
Karen you won’t believe this. One week after our wedding, life was pretty stressful as things were getting into full swing caring for my dad. John and I decided to have one last fun, carefree day out and went to the zoo with my mum and her boyfriend. As we were leaving, we spotted a Jewish wedding happening. At the time I was a wedding blogger and so I stopped to have a sneaky peek. That’s when I saw Shir setting up to play, who had played at our wedding the week before. I thought “what are the odds of walking into a Shir wedding the week after our own?” I’ll never forget that I phoned my dad and he was so excited to hear that as he was a big Shir fan. It’s a really fond memory, one of the first in my married life and one of the last really positive memories with my dad before he became more unwell. I’m absolutely gobsmacked to see this wedding on your beautiful blog as I was one of the crowds standing around gawping – but I was gawping at the massive coincidence and the beautiful wedding. Thank you for bringing this bizarre story full circle for me!
Karen - Smashing The Glass says
Wow Sara what an incredible story. It really warms my heart – thank you so much for telling me. The power of klezmer music and blogging!!
How lovely to find out that our wedding had this fantastic ripple effect and touched your life, and your dad’s, so very movingly.
Thank you for sharing the story. We will treasure it.