Rachel and Nikki put together a Jewish wedding full of warmth and love with a very personal vibe. Their day was all about sharing, loving and being together, and they designed their entire ceremony so that every part of it was intentional and meaningful. It was based on a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, with adaptations for their progressive values and the fact that they were two women.
One element I particularly love is that their processional to the chuppah was led by Nikki’s and Rachel’s 97-year-old and 87-year-old (respectively) grandmothers walking hand in hand down the aisle. Apparently there wasn’t a dry eye in the room from that moment on.
Sustainability was also central theme of their big day. For the centrepieces they chose bamboo, orchids, bonsai trees and succulents planted in driftwood. Guests were able to take these home with them and Nikki and Rachel said how wonderful it has since been to visit family and friends after the wedding and see the plants in people’s homes.
Rachel and Nikki are here to tell you more about their special day, along with images from Michael Temchine.
how we met
Rachel & Nikki, the Brides: We met through a social group for Jewish lesbians in Washington, DC called Nice Jewish Girls. Our first significant conversation happened at an end-of-Passover pizza dinner. We had met at previous events but never really connected until then, but it still took a few more months before we actually started dating.
Our wedding was at Temple Emanuel in Kensington, Maryland, USA. We wanted to do the wedding in the area where we live and the venue matched a number of the things we wanted: lots of natural light and a nature-like feeling without being outdoors (so we didn’t have to worry about the weather) plus the sanctuary had a tree-of-life theme bimah with reclaimed wood; two side aisles in the sanctuary which we could walk down simultaneously; enough space for all our guests; good spaces for the ceremony, reception, yichud, and gathering place for the family before the ceremony.
We both got our dresses from White Swan Bridal in Vienna, VA, which had been recommended by a friend of Nikki’s (and we’ve subsequently recommended it to other friends who have gotten dresses there). We had talked generally about styles but didn’t see each others’ dresses until the wedding day.
Nikki: I ended up with a strapless dress, which I didn’t think I would get going in. I was trying to decide between two similar dresses and then I tried on this third one to “clear the palette.” I was with my mum and when I walked out of the dressing room with this third dress on and saw her face, I knew it was “the one.”
Rachel: I wore a kippah and family pearls. Because I usually wear a kippah during services, I also wanted one for my wedding, but wanted something more bridal than I usually wear, so I found a white laced kippah on Etsy.
Nikki: I wanted to cover my shoulders so I wore a lace bolero jacket for the service only and then took it off for the reception. I wore my Bubby’s pearl earrings and my Nana’s pearl necklace. I also had a hair comb with lace decorations.
Rachel: I wore silver sandals with a small heel for the ceremony.
hair + make-up… by Nikki’s sister-in-law
Neither of us wear make up regularly, so we went simple. We purchased our own make up from Bare Essentials and Nikki’s sister-in-law, Janna’s sister did our make up for us on wedding day. When we purchased the make-up, one of Nikki’s friends came with us and the people in the store did a trial run, complete with directions for the day-of. Then, before Shabbat dinner the wedding weekend, we did a practice run of the make up with Janna’s sister. We both had our hair in partial up-dos, done by the woman who regularly does Janna’s hair. So basically, we can thank Janna for our hair and make up!
A cutomised ketubah
We also had a custom made ketubah. We wrote the English of our “vows” together and spent many conversations talking through what we were promising to each other. Our rabbi then translated it into Hebrew and we had an artist who we found on Etsy create the artwork — it’s a custom made paper cut (with items of significance to us, like bicycles) overlaid on a watercolour with the calligraphy.
A very meaningful Jewish wedding ceremony
We designed our entire ceremony (with our rabbi), so every part of it was intentional and meaningful. It was based on a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, with adaptations for our progressive values and the fact that we were two women. We had friends read parts of our ketubah. Three friends of ours sang the Hebrew Sheva Brachot in a specially arranged harmony and other friends and family read adaptive English translations.
A friend read a wedding poem based on five-element acupuncture, of which Nikki is a student. After we exchanged rings (which were made from a family ring) the rabbi led the congregation in a communal promise of support. We used ritual elements with family significance at various points in the ceremony: We were wrapped in Nikki’s deceased grandfather’s tallit and we used a kiddush cup that Rachel’s mum gave to her dad when they got married.
We each have two siblings and so the four of them held the chuppah poles. One of the favourites was that Nikki’s 97-year-old Bubby was there and even walked down the aisle!
music for the ceremony
We walked in to A Thousand Years. It didn’t have any significance to us beyond that we liked the melody. Nikki’s 14-year-old nephew played it on his violin, with accompaniment by the band leader, as we walked in.
sustainable wedding flowers
It was important to us that the flower choices be sustainable. Nikki worked with the florist from Petal’s Edge Floral Design. For the centrepieces, we had bamboo, orchids, bonsai trees and succulents planted in driftwood. Each table had one and it went with the natural feel/theme. Guests were encouraged to take these with them and it’s been nice to visit family and friends after the wedding and see them in people’s homes. The boutonnieres and corsages were white cymbidium orchids. A posey was designed for Rachel’s 3 year old niece to carry as the flower girl. We had two alter arrangements flanking the bimah, featuring dark blue hydrangea, fuschia gladiola, blue delphinium, and roses in lavendar hues.
our fabulous photographer
We used Michael Temchine as we really liked his photojournalist style, his energy and he had come recommended from friends. The way we went about making decisions like this, was to quickly narrow down our options to two to three, and then meet with those to make a decision.
a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cake and locally sourced food
We mindfully chose not to have a traditional wedding cake because that tradition didn’t hold meaning for us and we preferred to focus our food budget on having locally sourced, healthy, tasty food. Our catering was done by Lauren Levine at Festive Foods, with a focus on local, seasonal (autumn) foods. the food was delicious — many people commented on it afterwards. Our wedding was on a dear friend’s birthday so we surprised her with a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cake and then also had a dessert buffet. We chose the cake because Rachel loves ice cream and Nikki knows the owner of a local Ben & Jerry’s shop.
Music was provided by the Mark Novak Band, who specialise in a combination of Jewish simcha music and “American”/party music. Rachel had seen them at multiple friends’ weddings and liked them. We both loved Mark’s energy and approach.
What was most special to us about our wedding was having family and friends there to celebrate with us and involving them in different parts of the day. Our family members were the processional and it was led by Nikki’s 97-year-old Bubby and Rachel’s 87-year-old Grandma walking together down the aisle. Friends said there wasn’t a dry eye in the room from that moment on. This was particularly special given that Bubby passed away only a few months later. We worked very hard on our guest list and that showed in the feeling on that day. Everyone there was closely connected to us and the love and joy in the room was palpable from beginning to end. A number of Nikki’s friends had never been to a Jewish wedding before and have since commented that it was the best wedding they’ve been too. Even people who had been to many Jewish weddings had similar comments!
advice to other brides and grooms
At the beginning of your planning, have a conversation about what aspects of the day are most important to you and then be sure that those are the things you spend the most time on. For the other things, quickly narrow in on a couple options and make decisions.
Rachel & Nikki’s LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Photography — Michael Temchine
Venue — Temple Emanuel
Wedding dresses — White Swan Bridal
Shoes — Nordstrom’s and Skechers
Hair + Make Up — Nikki’s sister-in-law, Janna
Flowers — Petal’s Edge Floral Design
Catering — Festive Foods
Entertainment — Mark Novak Band