There isn’t a single thing I don’t love about this wedding. And when I say love, I mean head over heels, squeal-worthy adoration. As I was putting the post together I was genuinely bursting with excitement at how gorgeous everything is, how adorable Jill’s report is, and how fabulous the photography by Chrisman Studios is too. Honestly, I really had to stop myself from including every. single. image. I’m a big fan of Chrisman Studio’s work (I love how they tell a story), and it’s no surprise that I’ve featured their Jewish weddings on the blog many times before.
Jill is a professional photographer herself, and her work played its part in the way she met Mark. It’s a wonderful story and Jill tells it brilliantly. I literally had goosebumps. Although they met in the ‘new way’ (by which I mean over the internet), to me it feels like a truly romantic old-fashioned love story! Have a read and see…
These two married at a gorgeous rustic barn in California, complete with all sorts of travel-related elements (to reflect Jill’s travel photography career) including personalised passports for each guest with all the wedding details and a Jill and Mark crossword puzzle. Fabulous!
This is SUCH a lovely one, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
How we met
Jill, the Bride: In 2012, I received my first assignment from National Geographic. They sent me to Sydney, Australia for five weeks to photograph the National Geographic Traveler Guidebook: Sydney. When I got this amazing opportunity I had never been more excited about anything in my entire life.
About one week into my time in Sydney I got a message on OkCupid from Mark. Mark’s email made me laugh. He was thoughtful. His profile was witty and he looked very cute in his photos. He also took the time to find my photography website, stalk me, and tell me what he liked about my work. I appreciated that effort. Something just intrigued me about him.
I wrote him back telling him I would be gone for the next month and that maybe if he was still single when I returned we could go on a date. He did not seem phased by me being gone at all. He said, “Why don’t we talk on Skype and see if we have anything in common and go from there?”
We decided to start off on Skype with no video, just our voices. Our first conversation lasted hours, as did our second and third. Then we turned on the video, which actually was not as awkward as you may think it could be. Our conversations were very easy. I felt like I was myself from the beginning, probably because I felt like I had nothing to lose.
He started serenading me early on, playing his guitar and singing for me. He would ask me what my favourite songs were and within 24-hours he had taught himself how to play and sing them to me over Skype. I became a Skype groupie. I would send him my best photos of the day and we would talk about my solo adventures. We talked everyday while I was away. I would catch myself on the phone just smiling the whole time, and daydreaming about this mysterious Internet man.
We really had a chance to get to know each other, and by the time we had our first real in-person date it felt like we had been dating for a month. We thought our mothers would be proud that we really took the time to get to know each other before jumping into a relationship.
I never would have admitted it out loud, because it sounds crazy, but there was a part of me that knew he would be my husband before we even met. He says the same thing about me.
The day after I returned home from Australia we had our first date. He came over to my apartment (probably not the smartest idea for a first date with someone you met online – but I felt like a murderer wouldn’t have put in so much time talking to me just to kill me). I was jet-lagged, exhausted and wanted a night at home. We went food shopping and Mark made me dinner. The date was so fun – it just felt right.
That night, he asked me if I would be his girlfriend. I was shocked. I was used to men waiting as long as possible to commit to anything solid, and here we were on our first real date and Mark wanted to be my boyfriend. He said, ‘Here is my rationale – we have been talking for a month and I don’t want to see anyone else. If this does not work out, we break up, if it does then great!’
That made perfect sense to me, and I said ok…
Choosing to get married in a California barn
We got married at Olympia’s Valley Estate, in Petaluma, California on August 22nd, 2015. Olympia’s Valley was the very last venue we visited. We had gone and seen many all throughout California, but none seemed quite right until we got there. The venue had so many unique details, and beautiful spaces. I loved the lake, the weeping willow trees, the rustic furniture, the farmhouse and the barn. The moment I got there, I knew it was the place I wanted to get married.
A travel theme and rustic details
We wanted our wedding to highlight all of the elegant and rustic features of the barn. We used local food, and our favours were apples grown on the farm.
We also threw in some travel elements as well since I am a travel photographer. We made personalised passports that included the schedule of events, introduction of the bridal party, ceremony details, menu, and a Jill and Mark crossword puzzle. Each table was named after a country and postcards were made out of photographs taken by me. To keep up with our travel theme our ring box was a limoges suitcase and we had old-fashioned globes and suitcases at the welcome table.
We worked with Egg Farm Lane to create our invitations. We loved working with them! We designed everything together to make something truly unique. Our invitations were one of our favourite parts in the wedding planning process. Our invitations were grey and purple and throughout the invitation were design elements that represented Olympia’s Valley Estate – bunches of lavender, adirondack chairs that were at the lake and weeping willow trees.
Hair + Make Up
For hair and makeup I wanted to look natural but polished. I used Unveiling Designs By Heather.
A Vera Wang wedding dress
My dress was from Vera Wang. I realised during most of the wedding planning process that what you think you might want in the beginning, is not what you end of choosing towards the end. You have to be flexible and open minded to change. I thought I wanted something very specific with my dress and I basically got a dress that was the total opposite.
I spent time explaining my vision to the people at Vera Wang. The stylist pulled out a lot of dresses and said, “I know this is different from what you said, but I think this will look great on you, just try it”. I was hesitant because I did not want something pouffy. I tried it on, and it looked amazing. It just fit me perfectly. My dress was one of the first ones I tried on, so did not want to commit too soon. I tried on about 40 other dresses and none of them compared. I went back to Vera Wang, and they said, “We knew you would be back”.
I have always loved the jewellery designer Mabel Chong. I knew I wanted her to design my bridal jewellery. Working with her was a dream. I told her my colour scheme and styles of jewellery that I liked and we created custom earrings for my bridesmaids and myself.
Flat Wedding shoes
My shoes were nothing special. Finding beautiful shoes for someone with wide feet was a challenge. I ended up with flat Ivanka Trump shoes. They were the simplest part of my outfit. Having flats was a real lifesaver as well, especially being on a farm, and at the end of the night my feet did not hurt at all.
The handsome groom
Bridesmaids in lavender
My bridesmaids all wore lavender floral dresses from Amsale. Originally, I wanted all of my bridesmaids to have different dresses but they all fell in love with this particular dress and wanted the same one! I also had two adult flower girls who wore medium grey dresses. The groomsmen wore charcoal grey suits and dark purple ties.
When I was working with our florist we had a few chuppah options and when I saw the rustic birch chuppah I knew it would fit the venue perfectly. Easy decision.
Our favourite part of the ceremony was the vows. We wrote our own and that made the ceremony very special. People came up to us after the ceremony and said that even though they know us very well, that they learned new things about each of us that they did not know before.
They felt like they really got to know us as a couple. My husband’s vows were written as a sonnet and mine were written as a list of things I promise to him. They were serious, sentimental and comical.
A Pop Art Ketubah
Choosing our ketubah was a bit of a challenge. I looked at many online and did not really like many of them. They seemed to not really represent us as a couple, felt cheesy or the colours were not right. After hours of research I found a website called This Is Not A Ketubah and found ours! We chose a Pop Art/Andy Warhol Campbell Soup painting inspired ketubah. My husband and I consider ourselves more cultural Jews. To us, the holidays, gathering together as a family and the food is how we most relate to being Jewish. My husband was raised more conservative than I was, but for both of us our love of Jewish food is something that we both really relate to. We knew that this is not a traditional ketubah and that was one of the things we love most about it.
Our music choices
-Processional – Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve
-Walking down the aisle – Pachabel Canon in D
-Recessional – Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic by The Police
-First Dance – Ho Hey by Lumineers
-Father/Daughter Dance – Daughter by Loudon Wainwright iii
-Mother/Son Dance – Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder
We had mixed bouquets of lavender, purple and white dahlias, cafà© au lait dahlias, succulents, and anemones. Our florist was Michael Daigian Design.
Our fabulous photographers
Since I am a photographer myself I thought that picking my wedding photographer would be a challenge because I am so picky. I started early researching photographers and in the end, it ended up being much easier than I thought! I chose to work with Chrisman Studios and my photographers were Mauricio Arias and Ryan Zhang. They were so easy to work with, and I loved having them around me all day. Their photographs are amazing. They were creative, artistic, and modern and really showed the story and special moments of our wedding.
A pie bar instead of wedding cake
We did not have a traditional cake. We had a pie bar! We went local and served Petaluma Pie by Petaluma Pie Company (chocolate cream pie, banana cream pie, coconut cream pie, berry pie, and lemon meringue) and Three Twins Ice Cream (chocolate, vanilla and salted caramel).
We had welcome bags for people spending the weekend in Petaluma. Our welcome bag had bottles of water, information about Petaluma, cheddar popcorn and kettle corn, See’s Candy, and Advil. For our favours we had a farmers market stand set up with fruit from the farm.
The bride and groom on stage!
My husband used to sing in a band in business school and at the end of the party he got up on stage and played his guitar and sang for the crowd. Everyone was so excited! Then, the band pulled me up on stage and we helped them sing, Shout as the last song of the evening.
We also really loved being thrown up in the air on the chairs for the Hora (even thought my husband almost fell off the chair!)
Advice to brides and grooms currently planning their wedding
Everyone always tells you that the day goes by very fast, and they are right. It is a whirlwind. I was told before the wedding to make sure to step back, take a moment and really take it all in. It’s hard to remember to do this because you are just so busy going from one part of the event to the next, but try.
It is really easy to get wrapped up in obsessing about every wedding detail. In the end, some of my most stressful design decisions I ended up not even noticing.
It is hard to know exactly how emotional you will be on the day of your wedding so be prepared for anything. I was cool and calm the week before the wedding. I didn’t even think I would cry at the wedding. The morning I woke up on my wedding day, I was very emotional and the waterworks began, I didn’t really know why, and it didn’t stop until after the ceremony. All of my emotions that were bottled up just came out. You spend so much time preparing for this huge life event and then all of a sudden it’s time and it can be overwhelming and very exciting.
Jill & Mark’s little white book
Photographers — Chrisman Studios
Wedding planner — Danielle Walker of Kai Squared Events
Venue — Olympia’s Valley Estate
Catering — Feast Catering
Flowers – Michael Daigian Design
Bride’s Dress — Vera Wang
Bride’s Jewellery — Mabel Chong
Bride’s Shoes – Ivanka Trump flats
Groom’s Attire — Burberry suit and Allen Edmund shoes
Bridesmaids — Amsale dresses and custom earrings by Mabel Chong
Hair and Makeup – Unveiling Designs By Heather
Band – Decades
Dessert – Pie bar by Petaluma Pie Company and Three Twins Ice Cream
Invitations – Egg Farm Lane
Ketubah – a Pop Art/Andy Warhol Campbell Soup painting inspired ketubah by This Is Not A Ketubah