Calming those wedding-day jitters, virtually

The situation couldn’t be more stressful: convince your ex-boyfriend to sing at your sister’s wedding after the band quits; keep the groom’s sister from making it “her” day; assure the groom’s mother that it is OK to have a store-bought wedding cake; make sure the bride’s divorced parents don’t kill each other; don’t let the bride know the groom had a stripper at his bachelor party; and above all, keep the bride calm.

It’s a good thing all this insanity comes with a “quit” function.

Wedding-themed video games for PCs and mobile phones are a small but growing segment of the industry that offers a fun, tension-relieving distraction for women planning a wedding. Yes, the plots are simple, but the games themselves rely on brainpower and observation — a marked difference from the first-person shooters often found in the groom’s Xbox 360.

“My Bridezilla”

In the wireless phone game “My Bridezilla” (AMA), you play Michelle, the scientist sister of the bride-to-be and default maid of honor. Your sister visits you at the lab and, while walking off in a huff, crashes into a cart of chemicals that turns her into a green monster whenever she gets mad. The player selects a line of dialogue to continue the action in this interactive adventure game. The wrong conversation will anger the bride, and too much anger turns the bride into Bridezilla, which forces you to replay the scene. In the final scene, the groom’s sister becomes the spawn of Satan, and it’s your job to get the bride so angry she turns into Bridezilla for the final showdown.

Given that the soon-to-be newlyweds are named Elizabeth Olivia Greenberg and Jake Winston Weiss, it’s odd that the couple is getting married at Sacred Hearts Chapel. What, no synagogues or hotels in this virtual town?

“My Bridezilla” also features two minigames: One involves tackling people who try to steal food, dresses and flowers; the other takes a little more brainpower as you create cakes and antidotes in the lab. Once you beat the main game it unlocks the minigames, allowing you to play them as often as you want without replaying the entire game.

“Dream Day” Trilogy

The “Dream Day” trilogy (Oberon) — “Dream Day Wedding,” “Dream Day Honeymoon” and “Dream Day First Home” — is a “Where’s Waldo” homage to the big day for your Windows-based PC (98-Vista). This first-person puzzle adventure tests the player’s memory by locating different items as well as solving hidden-object puzzle and memory games.

“Dream Day Wedding” has gamers visiting the florist, gown shop, bakery and other shops to find objects to make your friend Jenny’s wedding day a dream. Minigames between shopping trips helps unlock a secret honeymoon level, and the “Choose a Story” feature allows you to explore how the couple met, fell in love and got engaged. And what would a wedding game be without a few crisis moments to solve?

Once you get the happy couple hitched, it’s off to “Dream Day Honeymoon,” where you help the happy couple solve their honeymoon troubles by uncovering hidden treasures in beautiful and romantic tropical locations.

And in “Dream Day First Home,” Jenny and Robert return from their honeymoon and need your help choosing the house, shopping and redecorating.

While all three titles are highly addictive, anyone who gets a headache from staring at a screen too long might want to set a timer — you can only search for a bowling pin in a jewelry shop for so long before you go cross-eyed. No word yet on “Dream Day Delivery.”

“Wedding Dash”

Fans of the reality TV series, “Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?” will eat up this game version of a wedding planner’s day from hell. “Wedding Dash” (PlayFirst) is from the makers of “Diner Dash” (it even features a cameo by Flo the Waitress) and is available for both PC and Mac.

As Quinn, you have to help the bride and groom put together their perfect wedding. But you have to deal with drunken guests, tipsy cakes and girls that put the “b” in bridesmaid, all the while trying to earn money to keep your business afloat. Piece of cake.

The game is gentle on the first-timer by starting out slow, but “Wedding Dash’s” ending — like plenty of titles aimed at guys — is not so clearly defined and it’s easy to get lost in the game play.

“My Fantasy Wedding”

For those who prefer planning their own wedding instead of someone else’s, there’s the PC game, “My Fantasy Wedding” (ValuSoft). Those who are in the midst of planning an actual wedding might find little entertainment in picking the groom, cake, bridesmaids and dress. But this game lets you also pick the location (so can have that beach wedding you dreamed of). In the end, you can watch the wedding of your dreams take place.

Although there’s no rabbi, chuppah or family drama, this is still fun for gals who have a few years to go before their nuptials.

“Cake Mania” and “Cake Mania 2”

“Cake Mania” (Sandlot Games) is an arcade-style game featuring culinary school grad Jill. Her grandparents’ shop is closed and it’s up to you as the master baker to help them reopen. Grow your cake-making business by setting up sites in different locales (Why does anyone need a bakery at the circus or in the middle of a casino?) and keep your customers happy. Buy enough upgrades to make wedding cakes and really start bringing in the “dough.” Warning: Cupids have a very short temper.

Available for the PC and mobile phones, “Cake Mania” might have enough action to keep even the most impatient fiancÃ(c) occupied as you’re picking out the perfect invitations.

While these titles won’t do much to help you plan your wedding day, they offer a much-needed break for a bride-to-be’s brain (and that of her bridal party). Hey, it’s cheaper than therapy.

Looking forward and giving back

When Richard Weiner and Judith Forman geared up for their November nuptials last year, they didn’t register at Crate & Barrel, Macy’s or Bed, Bath & Beyond.

“We’re 65 years old,” chuckled Weiner, a Philadelphia lawyer who has become bicoastal since marrying his Manhattan Beach bride. “We’re at an age when you start getting rid of stuff, not getting new stuff.”

Both already had wine goblets, linens and fine china from previous marriages — so the couple decided to do something to reflect their commitment to tikkun olam (repairing the world). They asked their guests to donate to the Judith Forman and Richard Weiner Family Fund for the Advancement of Interreligious Dialogue, which supports lectures and scholars-in-residence on interreligious issues sponsored by their respective local Philadelphia and Los Angeles American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) chapters.

Weiner and Forman are particularly passionate about intergroup relations, and the two met on the AJCommittee’s Adenauer Exchange Program, an annual event organized by the AJCommittee and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation of Germany. The two organizations exchange lay leaders for the purpose of building bridges of understanding between the Jewish community in the United States and Germany.

The couple’s wedding plans were not as unique as one might think. The notion of repairing the world and helping others in conjunction with weddings is something that many Jewish couples are opting to include in their big day.

Sarah Dakar, owner of Under the Chuppah, a wedding and event production company in the Pico-Robertson area, often fields clients’ requests to include philanthropy in their simchas.

“By attaching some kind of charity to their wedding, I have seen it only enhance the couple’s joy by helping others,” Dakar said.

There are countless ways that couples can incorporate philanthropy into their weddings. Some sponsor a meal at a soup kitchen on their wedding date, donate leftover food to a charitable organization, donate a percentage of their cash gifts to charity, donate their floral centerpieces to a local hospital or donate money or even a wedding dress to local organizations that help brides who can’t afford their own.

For her February simcha, Jennifer Bilovsky, 30, plans to donate leftover food from the event to Global Kindness, a small family-run organization in the Pico-Robertson area that helps feed a base of 75 needy Jewish families in Los Angeles. In addition, she and her fiancÃ(c) will donate money to a local hachnosas kallah (bridal assistance), which helps less fortunate couples pay for their weddings.

“Traditionally, Jewish weddings were a way to give back to the community and to open doors to the needy,” said Bilovsky, a writer who lives in Encino. “[Making these donations] is a way that we could continue that mitzvah within the context of the modern wedding.”

Historically, there has also been a long-standing tradition of Jews helping poor Jewish couples pay for their weddings.

“It is a mitzvah to help out a needy bride and enable the wedding to occur and be a joyous affair,” said Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe Bernhard of Adat Ari El in Valley Village.

But while the act of charity is selfless, isn’t a wedding supposed to be about the bride and groom?

“Even though the focus is naturally on the couple, no wedding takes place in a vacuum but always within the context of a larger community,” Bernhard said. “Being philanthropic reminds us of that and instills within us a sense of gratitude for what we have been blessed with and our obligation to help others in need.”

Coming from two very philanthropic families, Sasha Strauss and Leerone Milstein grew up believing in the importance of helping those less fortunate. When planning their December 2006 wedding, the Los Feliz couple immediately knew they wanted to include a charitable aspect to their big day. But rather than simply asking guests to donate to a worthy cause, the couple wanted something more.

“We wanted a program where [our guests] could participate hands-on in a philanthropic cause to feel like they have already affected someone when they left,” said Strauss, the chair of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles’ marketing and communications committee and the owner of a brand consulting firm.

A few days before their wedding, the couple and about 40 of their guests spent several hours assembling food baskets at the SOVA Food Pantry in Los Angeles. Strauss, his wife and their guests were deeply affected by the experience.

“That type of direct exposure changes people,” Strauss said. “It makes you look at writing that check [for charity] in a whole new way because you envision the person whose life is changing from you writing that check.”

Preparing for one of his frequent trips back to Philly, Weiner, too, reaffirms his dedication to making a difference. He and Forman will continue to make donations to the AJC fund they created.

“We wanted to do something that was meaningful to us and reflects our commitment to the principles that AJC advocates,” said Weiner. “I feel really good about the choice we made.”

For more information, visit

Hachnosas Kallah

(310) 552-2446

Global Kindness
(310) 286-0800

Under the Chuppah

(310) 728-6020

Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles

(323) 761-8800

American Jewish Committee

(310) 282-8080

Israel attracts nuptials with ambience, unique locations

Soon after their engagement, Rosie and Abe Finkelstein, residents of the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim, checked out some hotels and traditional event halls but ultimately chose a kibbutz as the venue for their wedding.

The minute Rosie Finkelstein, a holistic healer, viewed the catering facilities at Kibbutz Havat Ronit, located next to the better-known Kibbutz Ga’ash in the center of the country, she knew it was the right place for her nuptials.

“I saw green, green and water,” Finkelstein said of the kibbutz’s expansive lawns and tasteful manmade lake, where waterfowl glide gracefully under an arched bridge.

“We knew we wanted the chuppah outside but to eat indoors, and there was this beautiful glass dining hall that brought the feel of nature inside,” she adds. “To be able to combine all this beauty with the most beautiful day of my life felt like heaven.”

While they might have had an equally elegant (and priced) wedding in a five-star hotel, Finkelstein said, “I wanted Abe’s family, who live in the U.S., to feel like they were in Israel, not New York or Baltimore. I wanted something uniquely Israeli.”

The desire to make their wedding day a truly Israeli experience is leading increasing numbers of couples to nix bland simcha halls in favor of locales where they can wed — and sometimes dine — under the stars.

These off-the-beaten track weddings may take place at the beach, in a nature reserve or in the middle of the desert, according to Judy Krasna, an event planner and co-founder of , a comprehensive Web site that offers information to anyone wishing to host a wedding or other event in Israel.

“Israelis are less concerned with the menu, the technicalities of the wedding. The place means everything,” Krasna maintains.

Due in no small measure to the fact that Israel has virtually no precipitation from midspring to midautumn, and many warm, sunny days even in winter, “most Israelis do the chuppah outside unless it’s pouring rain,” Krasna noted. “They want scenery, to be in the middle of a garden or somewhere with a view. In Jerusalem, people try to have a view of the Old City. Fortunately, there are a lot of places to choose from.”

Wedding planner Shoshana Tenowitz said weddings in the Old City, preferably with a view of the Western Wall, are particularly popular with religious couples, especially if they’re from out of town.

“Americans and South Africans are looking for an Israeli ambience, and you can’t get much more Israeli than the Old City,” Tenowitz said. “They like being right next to the Kotel and having thousands of people around them. They like the fact that people are davening [praying]. It’s a very spiritual, very romantic place, like no where else in the world.”

Krasna offers catered affairs in some seemingly unlikely places. One such place is the huge Bell Cave at Beit Gurvrin, not far from Beit Shemesh.

“It’s the most gorgeous, romantic place,” she said of the popular hiking destination. “They light it with candles. The temperature is 65 degrees Fahrenheit all year round, so it’s always pleasant, and you can have dinner inside or outside the cave. There’s also an ancient amphitheater and beautiful gardens.”

Couples can also have a wedding on the shores of the Dead Sea, where the weather is impossibly hot in the summer but blissfully balmy in the winter.

“There’s a Moroccan restaurant called, Biankini, and it’s authentic beyond authentic,” Krasna said. “They can put the chuppah outside, right on the beach in all its tranquility. The meal can be served either indoors or outside under a tent furnished with couches and pillows on the floor. My partner was driving by and found it by accident.”

Another out-of-the way spot is the Beit She’arim National Park near Haifa, which is full of ancient stone structures.

“The couple can be married in an ancient courtyard, surrounded by backlit arched walls. You feel like everything around you is in nature and as if you’ve been transported back in time,” Krasna said.

One remote site not yet on Krasna’s list is the Beerotayim Ecotourism center in the Negev, which offers camel and donkey rides deep into the desert, as well as Bedouin-style catering. The place has no electricity, so everything is done by candlelight. During the spring Beerotayim is surrounded by a thick carpet of magnificent wildflowers, making it seem more like Switzerland than the Negev. Overnight guests can stay in simple huts or a nearby hostel.

Though they are nature lovers, Adi and Reuven Rivelis didn’t want to rough it. Their goal was simple but tasteful.

“Simple is nice. We didn’t want to have anything too formal,” said Adi Rivelis, whose late-September chuppah took place at Kibbutz Gezer outside Jerusalem, as the season’s first few drops of rain began to fall.

From the start, the young couple, both university students in Jerusalem, searched for a venue that was “pretty outside, not stuffy. We wanted indoors and outdoors, flowers outside, fresh air,” Rivelis said.

Choosing to marry at Gezer, which is a working kibbutz, was not coincidental, the bride said.

“We wanted our wedding to reflect who we are. Israel is important to both of us. We both love this place, and we’re extremely Zionistic and Israeli,” Rivelis explained. “We broke the cup” — which recalls the destruction of the temples — “in the middle of the wedding, rather than at the end, to recall this moment of sadness during the heart of the ceremony.

“We wanted Jerusalem and the Temple to be an integral part of this,” she said. “We intend to spend the rest of our lives in Israel.”

‘Wedding planner to the stars’ focuses on details, details and also details

Jackie and Adam Sandler. Shaunie and Shaquille O’Neal. Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. Heidi Klum and Seal. Jami Gertz and Tony Ressler. Janice and Billy Crystal. When these high-profile pairs have a star-studded soirée to host — anything from a wedding to a bridal shower, a bar mitzvah to a birthday or business bash — they all leave the preparations to one party planner: Mindy Weiss, owner of the Beverly Hills-based Mindy Weiss Party Consultants. But if you think her job is just about selecting flowers and ordering cakes, you’re sorely mistaken.

“I have several roles,” said Weiss, 48. “I become a decorator, a mom, a best friend, a sister, a therapist. I wear so many different hats…. When they hire me, they’re hiring the 10 other people I can be to help them.”

That 10-for-the-price-of-one mentality might be why Brad Delson, lead guitarist for multiplatinum rap-metal group, Linkin Park, and his wife, Elisa, turned to Weiss to help them plan their September 2003 wedding. Despite the low-key nature of their nuptials, held at the Skirball Cultural Center, it stands out in Weiss’ mind because, like her, the Delsons are proud, practicing Jews.

Although Weiss said her clients run the spiritual and religious gamut, she admitted to feeling especially at ease when it comes to planning Jewish weddings, which comprise about 50 percent of her party-planning business.

“There’s some comfort in Jewish weddings,” she explained, “because I’m familiar with them. It’s a little easier for me.”

Still, with Weiss masterminding more than 120 events annually — weddings make up the bread and butter of her business — she does plan plenty of non-Jewish affairs, the sum total of which have established her as one of the most famous party planners in the United States and garnered her a sort of stardom that nearly rivals that of her clients.

She has her own publicist, she’s a regular on the talk-show circuit — “Dr. Phil,” “The Today Show” — and she is the go-to wedding planner for beautiful spreads in glossy magazines like In Style, Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple and, of course, all the bridal rags. Not to mention that in 2003, ABC turned to her to plan the $3.8 million televised wedding of Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter (the famed couple from the 2002 reality show, “The Bachelorette”), an epic event that courted an estimated 17 million viewers. Last week, Weiss celebrated the grand reopening of Owen’s Market, a 50-year-old Beverly Hills-adjacent fixture on Pico Boulevard she bought, renovated and reintroduced as a specialty food market.

During the peak wedding season, Weiss and her team of eight employees plan and pull off about three weddings a weekend.

During the stressful, prewedding planning stages, especially important to Weiss is her relationships with her clients. “We really become like a family,” she said. “They’re calling us every day; we know a lot of their personal business. There are a lot of sensitive things: prenups, who they’re inviting, how they feel about Aunt Shirley. You learn a lot about a family.”

Details, Details, Details

Weiss grew up in Cheviot Hills. The middle of three sisters, she recalls a childhood filled with intricate celebrations planned by her mother, Marian Hersh.

“In my house, every occasion was decorated and celebrated,” she said. “They were so creative and elaborate. Of course, we didn’t realize it then. We just knew we always had really fun parties … Chanukah in the house was amazing.”

Not to mention her bat mitzvah: “[It] was ridiculous,” Weiss said. “The theme was, ‘From Lollipops to Roses.’ My mother planned everything. She made me sing my candlelighting ceremony; it was to the theme of ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ and she made the songs up, all of them.”

Still, Weiss never dreamed that she would turn her innate sense for unique get-togethers, something she considers to be “in her blood,” into a career designing parties for the rich and famous. “I was planning on going into radio, television, film — doing something creative behind the scenes,” she said.

But after graduating from Cal State Northridge in 1981 and marrying her first husband, Joey, that same year, Weiss landed a job at William Ernest Brown, an upscale stationary store in Beverly Hills. There, Weiss met her best friend, Janis Gurnick, and, after three years, they left to start their own invitation business. It was a choice familiar to many working women at the time: “We both got pregnant and decided to work from home,” she said.

The two women were happily selling custom invitations until one day around 1992, when a client came in and asked Weiss to plan a party. “I insisted I wasn’t a party planner,” she said, though she eventually agreed to do it. “From that one party with 260 guests, I got 10 calls to do more events. I thought, ‘Hmm … maybe this is a good place for me to be.'”

As it turns out, one of those calls came from Brooke Shields, who was planning her 1997 nuptials to Andre Agassi (the two divorced in 1999). Weiss took the job, landed in her first tabloid spread and hasn’t looked back since. She’s now a regular in the pages of Us Weekly, OK!, In Touch and all the other gossip glossies.

When Weiss is not busy working, she says she’s most likely found spending time with her brood — her two sons from her first marriage, Jordan, 23, and Jesse, 16, as well as her second husband, realtor Robert David, and their son, Alex, 9. They gather together for Shabbat dinner every Friday night; Sundays are “family days,” when they dine with her sisters and their families. “My favorite thing is to spend time with my family,” she said. “That’s my number one priority.”

Ever the professional, though, Weiss did take on the Herculean task of planning two bar mitzvahs for her older sons and foresees one more on the horizon.

How to get your favorite things without losing your mind

At some point between “Will you marry me?” and “You may kiss the bride,” a happy couple must devote some time to the gift registry, which will help fill the shelves and drawers of their new home.

But the first time a couple walks into a store to register for their wedding gifts can be overwhelming. Myriad appliances, gadgets, pots, dishes and sheets seem to loom large, and the choices are dizzying.

When the bride’s eye spots a cream-colored coffee serving set, she has no idea if it’s a good brand or if it will fit on the top of the buffet. She just knows it’s really pretty and that she can’t live without it.

She calls to her fiancé to ask his opinion and finds that he has left for points unknown — and he has the scanning gun. When she finally tracks him down, she finds that the registry now contains 12 beer glasses, a creme brule torch, a lava lamp and a leopard-print sheet set.

Make a plan or prepare for some tears (and no one wants to see the groom cry). A little advance planning is all you need before you set foot in the store or sit down in front of the computer. Sharing expectations with each other is crucial, and getting advice from family and friends can help provide you with a realistic idea of what you’ll need as you begin your life together.

When to Register

Most couples register six to eight months before the wedding (while most brides unofficially register at the age of 7). Some prefer to register before their engagement party, while others sign up just prior to a bridal shower. Those hoping for cash, checks or gift cards might prolong registering — or skip it altogether.

Once you register, make sure to check and update your lists periodically; getting baking pans from Linens ‘N’ Things means you probably can remove the ones you registered for at Bloomingdales. Also, some stores carry seasonal items (Crate & Barrel is renowned for its constantly shifting stock), so the napkins you put on the list in December might be gone by March.

What You Want

Almost all stores offer some sort of checklist of must-not-forget items. You can also print out similar lists from a wedding Web site like or

From there, go through what you already own. Just because the checklist says you need an iron doesn’t mean you have to replace the one you are using now if you love it. On the flip side, this is the time when you will be able to upgrade.

Next, consider your new digs. If there is no room for the margarita maker on your counter, will it fit on a shelf in the cabinet? What colors are the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen? If the appliances are chrome, will the yellow towels you want work?

Another great tip is to talk to parents, grandparents, friends and co-workers to see what they recommend. If your uncle is a whiz in the kitchen, ask what brands and types of pots and pans to select. If your grandmother has everyday dishes that have been around since “I Love Lucy” was in first-run episodes, you might want to look up the company and see if they’re still in business today.

And don’t feel you need to pick what is “traditional.” If music and movies are more your passion than Merlot, why not put some DVDs or an iPod on the list?

Also, some department stores now sell Judaica. But if you don’t find what you want, spread the word that you need a Havdalah set, mezuzot or a menorah.

Where to Register

A standard wedding registry usually breaks down into six categories, according to

It’s about the marriage, not the wedding

It’s the marriage that’s important, not the wedding.

When planning my wedding, I repeated that mantra each time wedding details began to overwhelm me. Hors d’oeuvres, centerpieces, flowers, music, cake — the to-do list kept growing.

A few days after Ron proposed, I told him I wanted to avoid the inevitable stress involved with planning a big wedding.

“I just want something simple,” I said.

“Great, me too,” he replied, cautiously eyeing the big stack of wedding planning books I had just checked out of the library.

After skimming through a number of these books, I learned that even planning a simple wedding can be complicated.

In order to make the process as simple as possible, I spent an hour at Borders selecting the most appropriate wedding organizer. On Page 14 is a wedding planning checklist and the first heading is “Nine months and earlier.” The only thing on the list we’d accomplished so far was selecting a date — six months away. I hadn’t yet reserved the ceremony or reception sites, booked a photographer, ordered my dress or selected a color scheme.

All that to do and I haven’t even gotten to the second heading: “Six to nine months before wedding.” We were already behind in booking the caterer, musicians, videographer and florist.

But a conversation with Lori Palatnik, an author and Jewish educator, reminded me that I shouldn’t let details like flowers and wedding cake distract me from the real purpose of the wedding.

“You should spend as much time planning your marriage as you do your wedding,” she advised.

So that means that in between choosing invitations and centerpieces we should also focus on what happens after the glass is broken under the chuppah? Hmm, good idea. But how?

First of all, Palatnik says that engaged couples must throw away misconceptions fed by the movies.

Marriage is “not like the movies,” she said. “You’re not going to feel ‘wow’ every day.”

In fact, if a person thinks their fianceé is “perfect,” it may be a case of infatuation rather than love, since of course nobody is perfect. Love is both eyes open, she said. You see the virtues and acknowledge the challenges, then decide if you still want to go through with it.

“Infatuation feels like love and looks like love, but it’s counterfeit,” she said.

However, infatuation after marriage is ideal, she added. Then it’s OK to put on the “rose-colored glasses” and see only the positive qualities of your spouse.

“Love is the emotion that you feel when you focus in on the virtues of another person and you identify them with those virtues,” she said. “Unfortunately, what people end up doing a few years into a marriage is you start focusing on the negative qualities and you forget the positive qualities. They’re still there, but you made a choice not to focus in on them.”

The second aspect of marriage that Palatnik mentioned was a person must make what’s important to his or her spouse important to them.

Her third piece of advice is: The more you give, the more you love.

“Giving leads to loving,” she says, and compares it to the love mothers have for their babies. “For the first few months, what do you get back? Sleepless nights and throw-up down your front. And yet you love this thing more than life itself.”

However, most people make a mistake with his or her spouse and move away from this attitude.

“If you focus on giving in your marriage, you will have a loving marriage,” except in abusive situations, she said.

Palatnik has been married for nearly 20 years and has divulged the “10 Secrets to a Great Jewish Marriage” across the United States, as well as Canada, South Africa, England and Israel, for six of those years.

“It took me over a decade of marriage to really get it,” she said. “And I’m still working on it.”

Palatnik, former host of the Toronto television show “The Jewish Journal,” offers one last bit of advice.

“The No. 1 piece of advice I would give anybody — I don’t care if you’re about to get married, if you’re thinking about getting married or you’ve been married for 20 years — learn the wisdom that the Torah has about how to have a good marriage.”

In the first 18 months Ron and I knew each other, we went to seven weddings (two of those couples also met on JDate). Whether held in a formal ballroom or in an informal intimate garden setting, each wedding was beautiful. And they all ended the same way — with two people ready to begin their new life together.

And that’s what’s really important.


These are more stories of beshert, of relationships thatare “meant to be,” with a little help from The Jewish Journal. Overthe past year, at least five couples have called us to announce theirpersonal-ad-inspired nuptials. And, no, they weren’t ashamed to admithow they met. Gone is the stigma that ads are for people who arereally desperate, they insist.

Linda Frankeland Alan Sherry

Alan Sherry, 39, for one, calls personal ads “the greatequalizer.” The businessman, who also plays drums in a jazz band,used to hit “every singles dance from L.A. to Orange County.” But hetired of the posturing, the rejection, the mingling based only onlooks. With the personals, he found, “at least people met me andheard what I had to say.” One of those people was Linda Frankel, themanufacturer’s rep Sherry married in late1995.

Sam Mindel, 37, a computer consultant, answered Michele Gruska’sad in June 1996 and immediately knew it was beshert. The flash cameto him during their first date at a Valley coffee shop: He rememberedone day in the 1970s, when he was 15 and a guest at a party for aLatin-Jewish youth group. Suddenly, a sultry brunette in a sexy,chiffon, black-and-white polka-dotted dress took the stage and, in athroaty voice, began to sing “By Mir Bis Du Shayn.” All the smittenteen could do was stare.

Michele and Sam Mindel

Two decades later, Mindel couldn’t believe he was staring at thesame woman, now a professional singer, over coffee. On their weddingday, Sept. 28, 1997, he pulled a piece of the polka-dotted dress outof his pocket and told the story.


Attractive, slim blond, 5’6″ JF interested in reading, dining,theater, movies & travel, seeks JM 5’10″+ 50-55, fit, honest,financially secure. (818) 555-@’$%

In November 1994, Vera Kauffman-Holzman, was a svelte, fiftyishdivorcee with a plan. The Paris-born executive assistant had beenmarried for 34 years to the wrong man, and she was determined tomarry the right one. So she placed three ads in The Journal, includedher real phone number, and carefully screened the numerous responses.

She asked pointed questions, took meticulous notes, and met atleast 50 men at assorted coffee shops, sometimes scheduling datesback to back to back. Along the way, she kissed her share of frogs,such as the guy who took her to Jack-in-the-Box and scarfed severalhamburgers in a row.

Among the parade of men was Lewis Holzman, a manufacturer’sre-presentative and amateur ham radio enthusiast who was immediatelytaken with Vera. “I saw this gorgeous blonde stepping out of her car,and I went, ‘Yesss!'” he says of their first date.

Theirs was a whirlwind courtship, and, within three months, Veraproposed. But Holzman, a perennial bachelor, simply wasn’t ready.Whenever a previous girlfriend had given him the marriage ultimatum,he had hopped the nearest plane for Mexico or the Caribbean.

But Vera was patient, and after some months of premaritalcounseling, Lewis was ready to set a date. The couple was wed on Feb.11, 1996, after which they hopped a plane together for the Caribbean.


<BruceSchweiger and Amy Brotslaw

They said it couldn’t be true: 43 yo SJM, great schmoozer, funshopping pal, wonderfully secure in life, eclectic in tastes. Seekingindependent, self-confident SJF who not only knows what she wants butlives it. If U want intimacy vs. neediness & friendship vs.infatuation laced together w/ humor & love, call NOW — only onemodel left!

Bruce Schweiger and Amy Brotslaw are getting married this Sunday,Feb. 15, exactly one year to the day that she answered his ad in TheJournal. The ad that brought them together will grace the cocktailnapkins at their nuptials at the Wilshire Ebell Theater.

It all began in January last year, when the public defender wasdining at Boxer with two galpals and discussing his “miserable lovelife.” His friends exchanged a conspiratorial glance: “You’ve beenvery whiny,” they chided Bruce, “so we’ve decided to place an ad foryou in The Jewish Journal.”

Had Amy leaned out of her bedroom window at that moment (shehappened to live just 150 feet from the bistro), she would have hearda man loudly exclaiming: “You did what?”

Later, a calmer Schweiger left a blunt message on his Journalvoice mail. “I don’t golf, ski or bungee jump,” he said,emphatically. “But I do like theater, restaurants, dinner parties andhanging out.”

Schweiger also had a personal caveat: No entertainment industrypersonnel allowed. “I once had a TV executive spend 45 minutestalking on her cell phone in my driveway before she actually knockedon my door for our date,” Schweiger says. He wanted someone with alife.

Coincidentally, Brotslaw, at the time, was a former TV associateproducer who had dropped out of show biz because it didn’t allow herto have a life, at least the one she wanted to lead. Instead, she wasworking as office manager for the Bella Lewitzky dance company whileearning her MBA in nonprofit management at the University of Judaism.”What I’d really like to do in the next two years,” she wrote afriend, “is fall in love, get married and have a baby. I’m 38 and theclock is ticking.”

Brotslaw co-wrote a screenplay about three women who form a datingclub, with rules about how many blind dates and personal-ad responsesrequired per month.

Life imitated art. Brotslaw went on “1 million blind dates” anddutifully perused the personals — until a fateful Saturday evening,when one ad practically jumped off the page. “I felt compelled topick up the phone and answer it,” says Brotslaw, who was so flusteredby the sound of Bruce’s voice that she forgot to leave her telephonenumber.

When the two finally “did lunch,” at Engine Co. No. 28 downtown,it was chemistry at first sight. “Before the date was over, I waspossessed to kiss her,” Schweiger says.

Turns out both had attended the same Allen Ginsberg performance;the same world music concerts; and both had 90-year-old Aunt Friedas.”Very quickly, we fell into each other’s life,” Bruce says,describing how the couple hosted dinner parties, traveled to Big Surand chateau-hopped in the Loire Valley.

Eight months later, at 1 a.m. on Oct. 5, 1997, Schweiger satBrotslaw down on his bed. He whisked out the antique Victorianengagement ring he had hidden in a tennis shoe, and asked her to behis wife.

“Now my Los Feliz bachelor pad is turning into a family home,”Schweiger says, “and I couldn’t be happier.”A sign now graces hisoffice: “10/5/97, 1 a.m.: Hell Freezes Over.”