January 22, 2019

2018 Chuppah Gift Guide

Looking for a unique Judaica gift for an upcoming wedding? Check
out these options.

Wedding Kiddush Cup
Every wedding is one of a kind. Present the bride and groom with a Kiddush cup to match. Quest Collection’s hand-painted and handcrafted pewter Kiddush cup with Swarovski crystal detailing is a piece of art. ($262.50) It’s also available in silver ($178.50) and gold ($262.50). Purchase here. 

Shabbat Candlesticks
This set of Shabbat candlesticks is carved from natural Jerusalem stone (a pale dolomite and dolomitic limestone in varying shades) and features a small replica of the Ten Commandments etched with glowing golden Hebrew letters set between two stone candle holders in the shape of an eagle’s wings. ($75).

Wedding Mezuzah
Created by glass artist Tamara Baskin, this keepsake mezuzah has “I Am My Beloved’s and My Beloved Is Mine” from the Song of Solomon inscribed in Hebrew. It’s available in many colors, including sky blue, dark blue, black, crystal and ivory. ($34).

Glass Challah Plate
This 17-by-11-inch challah tray is made with thick crystal glass adorned with silver embossed handles and comes with a matching knife. ($125) 


Read more from the 2018 Chuppah Edition here.

The Charm of Jewish Henna Ceremonies

Moroccan-robed bridal party at Esther and Daniel Bengio’s 2008 henna ceremony. Photo by Nejati Studio

Mizrahi Jews from the Middle East and North Africa have practiced pre-wedding henna ceremonies for generations. The tradition is a symbolic way to shower the bride and groom with what they hope will be many years of protection, health and fertility. Today, henna celebrations often are held a few days before the wedding, though some, like Esther and Daniel Bengio’s henna party, are held on their wedding day.

Dressed in traditional Moroccan attire, Esther and Daniel were lifted up on ottomans like a king and queen and carried into a ballroom by four men wearing red fez hats. They were treated to joyful music and dancing before being ushered into a small, embroidered red tent with Moroccan lamps. Female relatives smeared their palms with henna dye before wrapping their hands in cotton pads and red ribbon. 

Their friends and family, many of whom also were dressed in long caftans, fez headdresses and colorful, gold-embroidered robes and headpieces clapped and yelled. The animated women shouted the “Lililili!” sound that is commonly associated with Sephardic and Mizrahi celebrations. In Persian, the sounds are called “kell,” and they’re reserved exclusively for milestone events like weddings and births. 

Daniel was born to Moroccan Jewish parents in Spain, and U.S.-born Esther wanted to honor Daniel’s heritage. Esther’s family participated in the ceremony, wearing traditional Moroccan attire and carrying decorative plates filled with sweets. 

“It was a magical evening for everyone who attended,” Esther said. Her non-Jewish relatives “thought they were in a re-enactment of [Disney]’s ‘Aladdin’ and still talk about the party to this day,” she added.

Yemenite brides borrow headdresses and gold jewelry from older women. Photo courtesy of Liat Nourafchan

Sephardic and Mizrahi communities around the world continue to keep this dynamic tradition alive to the delight of many of their Ashkenazi guests, some of whom have never attended a henna party and who continue to scrub the henna stain off their palms in frustrated wonder for days after the ceremony. 

On the night of the henna party for my sister and her French-Tunisian husband, my mother complained loudly that the dye would never wash off before the wedding. She was right. 

Some people are familiar with the concept of henna from the Indian body art known as mehndi, an ancient practice in the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East. One difference between mehndi, which is often done at Hindu weddings and festivals, and the Jewish henna ceremony is that the former involves intricate designs on the hands (and sometimes feet) while the latter consists less of artwork patterns. Instead, a small ball of solid henna dye is place on a cotton pad and wrapped around the palm with decorative ribbon. The bride and groom then raise their palms together in a show of joyful unity. It also makes for an excellent photo op. 

Brooke Korda, a 31-year-old acupuncturist from Pico-Robertson, always knew that she wanted a henna party. Korda’s father is Persian and her mother is Ashkenazi, while her husband’s mother is Greek and his father is Hungarian. During their 2016 ceremony, her non-Persian in-laws were “totally out of their element but they really did enjoy themselves,” she said.

Couples who hold henna ceremonies see the event as a bridge between familial generations. Dallas-born Liat Nourafchan, 24, lives in Los Angeles but had her henna party in El’ad, Israel, in 2015. Nourafchan’s father is Persian and Russian and her mother is Yemenite, while her husband is Italian-Persian. 

Yemenite henna celebrations are often “bigger than the wedding,” said Nourafchan, who donned a traditional Yemenite bridal headdress covered in red and white carnations and real gold. 

In Israel, brides who wish to have Yemenite henna ceremonies often borrow headdresses and gold jewelry from older Yemenite women who lend such treasures, many of which are family heirlooms dating back several generations. These elderly women attend the events and ensure that every single one of their precious pieces is accounted for. 

“It was important to me to be able to do the same thing my mother’s family was doing for many generations,” Nourafchan said. “The customary dress is a lot more than one would expect. Wearing around 50 pounds of gold all over your body [while] trying to dance is very difficult.”

A highlight of her henna ceremony was when her now late grandmother sang a traditional Yemenite song in Arabic. The lyrics offered comfort for a nervous bride and her grandmother’s presence meant that three generations of Yemenite Jewish women took part in the ceremony.

“I think on an emotional level, this was more meaningful than the actual wedding,” Nourafchan said. “Weddings happen all the time, but it is very rare for a full-bred American to be raised the way that I was and I want to continue the tradition. I only hope my daughters wish to do the same.”

In Los Angeles, there is no shortage of local vendors who offer everything from attire for the bride and groom (and their family and friends) to furniture, lighting and even Moroccan teacups for those who want to hold a traditional henna ceremony. They also provide the henna.

As Nourafchan’s Yemenite grandmother sang during her granddaughter’s henna party, “You get married and you will have everything you need.”


Read more from the 2018 Chuppah Edition here. 

The Marriage Officiant Who Creates Unique Wedding Experiences

Todd Shotz officiates at Moe Davidowitz and Lucinda Anguay’s wedding with nods to Anguay’s Hawaiian heritage. Photo by Martin V Photography

Wedding officiant Todd Shotz takes great pride in creating meaningful one-of-a-kind Jewish wedding experiences. Limiting himself to three to five weddings each year, he puts a great deal of time and energy into working with and getting to know the people he marries. Some of those weddings involve interfaith couples seeking a ceremony from a Jewish perspective.

Shotz is the founder of Hebrew Helpers, a nationwide Jewish studies program that provides personalized education to students of all backgrounds and affiliations. He also is a Jewish educator with more than 20 years’ experience. He has officiated weddings and other life-cycle events for almost 10 years in places as far-flung as Venice, Italy, and as close as Santa Monica. 

The first step in creating a meaningful wedding ceremony, he said, is to find out how the couple wants their wedding to feel. “They usually will always say something about, ‘We want it to be moving, but we don’t want it to be too long.’ They also usually want to laugh and have it feel somewhat informal.”

“It’s so important to me to make sure we create a ceremony that’s authentic to that couple and their families, while at the same time paying tribute to tradition.”  — Todd Shotz

Between his first and second meeting with each couple, Shotz encourages them to write a mission statement for their relationship. “It doesn’t have to be a formally written paragraph,” he said. “It can just be bullet points or words that they keep falling back on [about what makes] their relationship unique or how they feel about each other.” 

He said for one couple the word “companionship” was significant, while another used the word “outdoorsy” to describe their bond. “What I hope is [the mission statement] will help them to make decisions as they go forward in the relationship. It also helps them to decide the rest of the ceremony.”

For the wedding itself, Shotz sticks with a template on how a Jewish ceremony works and then personalizes the running order. He works with the couple to determine how they want to interpret each moment, from the rings and the readings to how many cups of wine for the ceremony and whether the couple wants to be wrapped in tallit.

Lucy Jacobson and Nathaniel Meadow’s outdoor wedding.

“It’s me fostering a unique ceremony based on what they are looking for and within reason,” he said. “I want to make sure it still feels like a Jewish ceremony, because that’s why they came to me, rather than a secular justice of the peace.”

Another big part of the decision-making process that Shotz helps the couple with is deciding on how many of the seven traditional blessings that are recited under the chuppah to use. Most couples, he said, keep the opening blessing: “We commemorate this occasion with a glass of wine, fruit of the vine that is shared today between these two hands and these two lips, as the first of many celebrations a life shared will bring,” and the closing one: “And we celebrate together with the bride and groom the joy in song, pleasure, delight, love, sisterhood, peace and companionship. The sound of joy and the sound of gladness in the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the jubilance of couples from their wedding canopies and at their feasts of song. We sing of the happiness of the groom and the bride.”

However, at the request of one of his couples, Shotz began personalizing the other five blessings. “The other blessings are really somewhat vague,” he said. He has since written more than a dozen custom blessings that talk more about relationships. 

Todd Shotz officiates at the wedding of his sister, Annette, to Anthony DelVecchio. Photo by Cliff Mautner

Whenever he creates a new version of the blessings, Shotz translates them into Modern Hebrew. He then sets them to a traditional tune that he sings a cappella during the ceremony. He said the best part about doing this is that the translations reflect the couple’s relationship and they can involve their friends and family in the ceremony. 

After 20 years together, Lucinda Anguay and Moe Davidowitz finally tied the knot in October in Southern California. After Anguay saw Shotz perform at a bar mitzvah ceremony in Israel, she asked him to officiate at their Jewish wedding and incorporate her Hawaiian heritage. 

Shotz recruited one of Anguay’s nieces, who had studied the traditional Hawaiian language in high school. She helped him come up with a Hawaiian prayer — a beautiful proclamation of love — to open the ceremony, which he did in Hawaiian and English.

“It immediately made the family and friends who traveled from Hawaii feel included,” Shotz said. “In our modern age, so many different types of couples are coming together, not just interfaith, but Jewish couples with different backgrounds. It’s so important to me to make sure we create a ceremony that’s authentic to that couple and their families, while at the same time paying tribute to tradition.”

Celebrating Covering My Hair

On my wedding day, I made sure I packed everything I needed before heading off to the venue. Wallet? Check. Veil? Yes. Toothbrush? Got it. Headscarf? Yup. 

I’d be wearing the headscarf immediately following the wedding. I decided during my Orthodox conversion process that as a married woman I’d be covering my hair. 

There are many reasons given for this custom. I’ve learned that holiness resonates from a woman’s hair and she should protect it for herself and her family. An Orthodox Jewish woman needs to keep a barrier between herself and the outside world, and covering her hair accomplishes that. It also communicates that she is married and unavailable.  

At the time, the reason behind my decision was simply that everyone else was doing it. The women in my Pico-Robertson community wore scarves, tichls, hats, snoods and sheitels galore, and I wanted to join them.

When I was going through my conversion process, I had imposter syndrome. I have blond hair and blue eyes, so I don’t exactly look Jewish. I don’t speak Hebrew. I pray in English, I can’t recite all the bentsching by heart and I don’t understand inside jokes about Jewish day school or camp. So I was looking for a way to fit in, by trading pants for skirts and tank tops for shirts with sleeves. Covering my hair was the final piece that would help me look the part.

“When I go out into the world, hair covered, I am demonstrating that I’m honored to uphold this custom.

And so, the morning after my wedding, I put my hair into a bun and attempted to tie the scarf around my head. It slipped right off. I asked my husband for help, but it started to fall off after a few minutes. There was just too much material on my head and it was heavy. 

Frustrated, and with nothing else to cover my hair, I took a bunch of bobby pins and awkwardly secured the scarf to my head. I walked downstairs, where our friends and family were hanging out beside the pool, and kept readjusting my scarf so that it wouldn’t slip. It was uncomfortable, but I was determined. It continued this way for the next few weeks, the constant messing with
the scarves.

Not long after that, I became fed up with the scarves and I was now self-conscious about appearing to be too religious in public. I was beginning to understand why women wore wigs, and I wanted one of my own. 

Orthodox women can tell right away when another woman is wearing sheitel, but the outside world usually can’t. It was the perfect solution. Plus, I was going to my brother-in-law’s wedding and I didn’t want to wear a scarf with a fancy dress. 

I went to a sheitelmacher in Brooklyn and tried on a bunch of blond wigs —  an incredibly difficult hair color to shop for, because many Jewish women are brunettes. 

The best wig didn’t look natural at all, but I thought, “Oh, well,” because I needed it. I financed it for $1,100. 

The wig was heavy and made me feel self-conscious. In pictures, you could see the netting. I didn’t feel like myself. It was downright annoying and awkward. Every time I walked past the wig, I remembered how much I still owed on it, so I threw it to the back of my closet. I went out into the world, hair uncovered, for two months. 

During that time, it was liberating to be able to show off my washed and styled hair, but much of the time, I felt naked. I realized that the head covering, be it a hat, a scarf or the wig, made me feel like I had a little tent over my head, protecting me at all times. I was reminded of HaShem when I wore one of them. I practiced more mitzvot. I liked that other Jews knew from seeing me that I was a married woman.

I learned from a few rebbetzins about hair covering and I liked their reasons for doing it. I slowly started covering my hair again. First, I just wore hats and showed my hair. Then, I got smaller scarves that were super cute and easy to tie. Eventually,
I ditched that first sheitel for a more natural-looking one that I could wear with the front of my hair showing. It was a little trick I learned from my fellow Orthodox Jewesses. 

Today, I cover at all times, with hats, scarves and sheitels. When I go out into the world, hair covered, I am showing that I’m happily married. I am demonstrating that I’m honored to uphold this custom. And I’m saying, above all else, that I am a proud Jew.


Read more from the 2018 Chuppah Edition here. 

Heading Back to Camp… to Get Married

Jeremiah Levine and Rachel Light. Photo by Jimi Dava

When Rachel Light and Jeremiah Levine were planning their wedding for March of this year, there was no question about where they would tie the knot: Camp Ramah in Ojai. 

Light, 39, and Levine, 37, met at IKAR on Simchat Torah in 2015. However, it was Light’s parents who first met Levine, at an IKAR Shabbaton at Camp Ramah in 2014, and felt he was the perfect match for their daughter. So it was only fitting that their wedding took place at camp.

“We decided the greatest place we could imagine getting married would be at camp,” Light told the Journal. “Anyone who’s looking for an opportunity for their friends and family to come together and actually be together, camp takes the destination wedding to an extreme.”

Their celebratory weekend with 350 of their closest family and friends began with Shabbat services on Friday night. Following Shabbat morning services, the couple held a nonsense Olympics after lunch. “People competed to decide whether our last names would be Light-Levine or Levine-Light,” Light said. Light-Levine won.

“The nonsense Olympics people were dressed in crazy costumes,” she added. “A friend built a human foosball setup. There was a big kickball tournament. It was perfectly hilarious when one of my friends turned to me and said, ‘Is it OK if I show up to the wedding rehearsal dressed like a unicorn?’ Magic like that only happens at camp.”

“Anyone who’s looking for an opportunity for their friends and family to come together and actually be together, camp takes the destination wedding to an extreme.”

— Rachel Light

On Friday and Saturday night, guests slept in the camp’s bunks or at nearby hotels.

“Seeing my adult friends staying in a bunk together and loving it more than they ever could have imagined was a life-changing experience,” Light said. “I constantly feel like I have a competitive advantage in life because I went to summer camp. I feel like it taught me so much and it really helped me develop my identity. To be able to offer that experience to people, no matter what age they are is incredibly special.”

Camp also allowed the couple to navigate their families’ religious requirements, allowing everyone to be within walking distance on Shabbat. Light said it was amazing to see their friends put away their phones for the 24-hour Shabbat period. “I don’t think any of them had ever done that before,” she said.

On Saturday night, there was a talent show at the outdoor amphitheater. By the time the actual wedding took place on Sunday, everyone had developed an incredible bond.

“We renamed all of the buildings at camp so they all had meaning to us,” Light said. “The outdoor amphitheater where we got married we called Dodger Stadium. My husband had always dreamed of getting married at Dodger Stadium.” 

Rachel Light at her Camp Ramah wedding. Photo by Ryan Jesena @ Lush Photography

For the wedding itself, the couple brought their own flowers. “We purchased these oversized gigantic roses that people came down the aisle with and later became the centerpieces on all of the tables,” Light said. 

The camp catered all the food and was responsible for much of the support and organization. And guests also pitched in.

“We had friends who ran the nonsense Olympics and other friends who organized the talent show,” Light said. “I’m lucky to have multiple rabbis in my family (IKAR Rabbi Sharon Brous is Light’s sister-in-law) who helped out with the services. It basically became a really big group effort of love to help plan it.”

She added that since their wedding, “We’ve been hearing nonstop from people that it was one of the best weekends of their life, which you don’t expect other people to say about your wedding.”

If someone is thinking about a camp destination wedding, Light said they should consider what kind of experience they are looking to create. “And if they are kids at heart, it’s a no-brainer.” 


Read more from the 2018 Chuppah Edition here. 

Getting Ready for the Big (wedding) Day!

You said yes! Now what? A thousand thoughts must be running through your mind and not the least of which is that you want to look fabulous for your wedding!! You want your skin to glow and no bags under your eyes because you could not sleep the night before your wedding due to all the excitement! Not to mention that when you look into your loved one’s eyes when you say “I do” you want them to melt into those gorgeous eyes of yours rimmed with long beautiful eyelashes! So how do you get your skin to say “I do” on your wedding day also?

I did some research and checked out the top recommended products on various magazines and Rodan & Fields caught my eye. They had great reviews in more than one reputable magazine not just for excellent products but also they are a DTC; direct to the consumer company, which means their consultants are small business entrepreneurs and I am all about supporting home based businesses!

I contacted a consultant; Lori Jakiela and asked her about the product. She uses the products herself and of course that is the highest recommendation. Lori said that in preparation for your wedding, she recommends you use the solutions tool that I mention below to see what products will work best for your skin type.

Then, for spectacular eyes, Lori recommends lash boost. This is a product that R & F is known for and has proven results! They are longer, fuller and darker looking. No fake lashes for you on your wedding day! Lori emphasized that clean eating and lots of hydration is half the battle won and combined with these amazing products, you will see beautiful results.

Achieving a radiant, wedding-worthy complexion is a time investment, so it is recommended that you start right away.  We all know that unless it’s plastic surgery change does not happen overnight! Also, as you will be introducing a new skin care, from cleansers to sunless tanners, you should start no less than a month or two before the big date date, so you can eliminate any products that trigger even the slightest irritation.  If you don’t have any complex skin care concerns, and you want smoother, softer, more even-looking skin—exfoliation is one of the safest, simplest ways to get your skin glowing. Even the best makeup won’t truly hide the look of uneven skin texture, so R & F suggests adding the micro-dermabrasion paste to your chosen regimen, which uses sugar and sea salt to gently scrub your skin. This paste will remove old, built-up skin cells and allow younger, more vibrant cells to appear on the surface and your skin will look brighter after just one use. I have actually used a few samples of this paste myself and it really does give you a glow after one or two uses. BTW, as you are working directly with the company, it means you have a coach and consultant to help you every step of the way. Not some nameless customer service rep on the phone.

Since this is also Hanukkah, they have fantastic specials on that you might want to order as gifts right now! So this is the best time to get these products at a great price, get your skin in great shape and start growing those lashes!

Lori said to use this solutions tool, (click on the link) to go through the questionnaire and see the products Rodan and Fields recommends for your particular skin type. Of course if you have questions you could also check in with Lori. Her contact info is at the end of this post.

On a personal note; as a wedding planner I am aware that many couples are on a budget and that the wedding often erases any and all savings that they may have had. This company not only has amazing products, you can join their community of entrepreneurs and either earn some money as a side income or become your own boss and experience connections with great people, opportunities for personal growth and your own business in the skincare industry.  Lori tells me that their consultants are an enthusiastic group of entrepreneurial individuals who all share a love for the R+F life. This could not only be a chance to have fabulous skin in time for your wedding and maintain it for the rest of your life, but also add some extra cash to your pocket for spending on your honeymoon!

I would love for any brides-to-be out there who are going to try these products, to contact Lori with before and after photos. But… this is not just for brides….. if your bridesmaids or any of the bridal party want to start a get-healthy-and-glowing challenge we will post their pics too! Just remember, being healthy and looking great is a lifetime commitment! Don’t just do it for the wedding day.

R+F has a regimen for various skin types and each one has its own approach. For instance don’t exfoliate if you have a skin concern like adult acne. Instead consider the UNBLEMISH regimen, which targets blemishes and works to prevent future breakouts. If you’ve developed brown spots from sun exposure or hyperpigmentation, the REVERSE Regimen helps to visually brighten and even skin tone. (You might even get away with wearing less makeup.) As the most impressive results are seen over time, plan accordingly. If the wedding is less than a month away, their cardinal rule is to only stick with products that are currently compatible (or are extremely gentle) with your skin. Click on the solutions tool to check what will work best for you.

What should you avoid? In the last two or three weeks, don’t even consider in-office dermatological procedures (like chemical peels or laser treatments) and resist any last-minute temptations to try new treatments. Keep up your natural glow by staying hydrated and moisturizing your skin. Last-minute facials (except gentle exfoliation) are off-limits, as are touching, picking or squeezing, which can all irritate skin. Finally, avoid unnecessary stress and over-cleansing which can cause breakouts. Wear a hat where possible when you are in the sun and apply your sunscreen all the time! Again try these ahead of time so that your skin is used to the new products and you can find a formula that works with your makeup. Ultimately, through thick and thin, your skin is with you for life—so be good to it always.

You can contact Lori by clicking here if you have questions or click here to start shopping!

Thank you for spending time with me! Keep following me for fun articles and reviews about destination weddings and honeymoon venues, delicious wines and food and of course great skin care and nutritional products.

Batyah

 

Grateful for Hanukkah in a Paradise Postponed

Milena Ovseevich and Elijah Pine Cohn with Bonzai Photos by Milena Ovseevich

After losing their home in the Camp Fire in Northern California, Milena Ovseevich, 30, and her boyfriend, Elijah Pine Cohn, 23, have had to put their dreams on hold. 

The couple met in December 2017, drawn together by their Russian roots and their love of nature. Ovseevich, an herbalist and alternative healer, was born in the former Soviet Union. Her family moved to Haifa when she was 2, and then to Sunland when she was a teenager. Cohn, an ecological landscape designer and permaculturist, grew up in Mount Shasta in Northern California. 

“We have a lot of similarities and a lot of passion for healing the earth, bringing people together and connecting back to the earth,” Ovseevich told the Journal. 

At the beginning of 2018, the couple bought an RV and headed up the coast. They spent the first few months working on a vegetable farm near Chico, until someone introduced them to 13 acres of land that was available to rent in Concow, near Paradise. 

Said Ovseevich, “We wanted to create this beautiful abundant land, where like-minded people come together to share the bounty of the land, grow food and contribute to the community with their unique individual skills. Kind of like a kibbutz.”

The owners were happy for Ovseevich and Cohn to rent the property. “They [told us], ‘do whatever you want. Your vision is beautiful. This land needs some work.’ And they were really supportive of our dream,” Ovseevich said.

“I don’t know what would have happened if our friend [hadn’t been] there to wake us up.”
— Milena Ovseevich

The couple spent the next six months developing and investing in the land. Friends came to help, leveling the ground and planting trees and wildflowers. But on the morning of Nov. 8, the couple were awakened in their RV by knocking on their door. One of their friends who was staying on the property had spotted the Camp Fire on the hill adjoining the property.

“The first thing we did was put our dog in the car and check on everyone — our landlord, three workers and two other people on the parcel next door — who were on the property,” Ovseevich said. “Our landlord was packing quickly and was about to come get us.” 

Ovseevich and Cohn grabbed a few things, jumped in their car and quickly made their way down the trail. “At that point the fire was already cresting down the ridge, very close to our land and smoke was everywhere,” Ovseevich recalled. “We were scared [we would be] stranded and we were in a state of panic.”

As they were trying to flee, Cohn remembered that a friend on the property, Theo, had a van with a dead battery. The couple quickly turned around and went to rescue Theo and three workers who were supposed to be leaving with him. 

“Elijah grabbed our pickup truck and loaded [everyone] in it,” Ovseevich said. “We rushed down the road and made it safely to the dome gas station where all the evacuees from Concow had gathered.”

Growing permaculture food gardens for the community.

A few days later, Ovseevich and Cohn received photos of the property from a neighbor who was rescuing animals in the area. Everything was gone. Their RV, Theo’s van, the developed land. Miraculously, the woodshed survived.

“Everybody on our property managed to leave,” Ovseevich said. “We were very lucky to get out, but some of our friends in Paradise weren’t so lucky. I don’t know what would have happened if our friend [hadn’t been] there to wake us up.”

Ovseevich and Cohn have not yet been able to return to the property. The roads to Concow are still closed. They have been bouncing between friends, their landlord’s other house in Chico and Cohn’s family in Mount Shasta.

“We wanted to create this beautiful abundant land, where like-minded people come together to share the bounty of the land, grow food and contribute to the community. Kind of like a kibbutz.” — Milena Ovseevich

“We’re waiting anxiously and trying to keep our spirits up while being patient,” Ovseevich said. “It’s been very hard, but every day that passes, it feels more clear. We feel even more passionate about rebuilding.”

Ovseevich had nothing but praise for the local community, which she described as “incredible. As tragic as this is, you can’t help but see the other side of it — how people are coming together and bringing ideas of how to rebuild,” she said.

With Hanukkah just around the corner, Ovseevich said she is grateful to be able to celebrate with family.

“Hanukkah is the holiday of light and fire, and I think that this year I’m really [feeling] the power of transformation that fire can bring. To know that we can gather together and celebrate the holiday this year, it means everything to us because a lot of people didn’t get that opportunity. When you go through something like this, you realize what’s important is your life, your loved ones, your family, your community and to be here for one another.”

Weekend Chuppah in the Midst of a Fire

Photo courtesy by Gin & July; Instagram:@_ginandjuly

As the Woolsey fire ravaged Malibu on Nov. 9, Lindsey Cooper and Laura Berman’s plans for their wedding, set to take place on the evening of Nov. 10 at Point Dume Beach near their Malibu home, literally went up in smoke.

Making last-minute adjustments, Cooper, 28, and Berman, 31, went ahead with their wedding and exchanged vows on the beach in Santa Monica on the evening of Nov. 10, instead.

“In the midst of the fires that burned, there was something poetic about being with two people whose love burned so brightly as the sun was setting,” Rabbi Paul Kipnes, Congregation Or Ami, who married the couple, told the Journal.

Cooper and Berman’s love story has been a roller-coaster ride, so the Santa Monica Pier Amusement Park was a fitting background for their nuptials. They shared their first kiss welcoming 2014 on New Year’s Eve, started texting nine months later (Los Angeles-native Berman moved to New York for grad school) and didn’t officially become a couple until the spring of 2015. Cooper, who grew up in Toronto, was living in Los Angeles and for months, the couple was unable to sync their schedules.

They spent a year in a long-distance relationship before Berman moved back to Los Angeles. In May, Berman proposed, surrounded by their families, in Palm Springs. They quickly began planning their perfect wedding for six months later.

But on the morning of Nov. 9, they were forced to evacuate their Malibu home, 24 hours before their nuptials. They quickly called their families and their wedding planner, and then headed to Berman’s family’s home in Encino.

“In the midst of the fires that burned, there was something poetic about being with two people whose love burned so brightly as the sun was setting.” — Rabbi Paul Kipnes

It took Cooper, who drove with her sister, five hours to get there. Berman, who said she took short cuts, still couldn’t make the drive in under three hours. In addition, cell service was spotty, so there was almost no communication. Yet, there was so much to do. Wedding guests who were flying in from around the country and Canada, needed an alternative place to stay. And the couple needed a new ceremony location.

As Berman and Cooper were stuck in gridlocked traffic with others escaping the fires, their families came together, re-planned their rehearsal dinner, found places for guests to stay and figured out where to host their wedding.

“They planned a better wedding for us than we planned in six months,” Berman said.

“My stepsister, who had a baby five weeks ago, coordinated a new rehearsal dinner,” Cooper added. “It was the first time our siblings, parents and grandparents were going to be able to be together, and that was one of the most important things for us.”

By the time Cooper arrived at Berman’s family’s home after her long drive, Berman was in the swimming pool. “I took my shoes off and jumped in the pool,” Cooper said, “and I gave her the biggest hug and kiss and I was crying. And everything was pretty much figured out.”

“That’s the story of our relationship,” Berman added. “We had so many people in our corner; our families and friends are constantly showing up for us.”

“It’s that, and it’s God,” Cooper added.

“It was the most perfect wedding I could have imagined,” Berman said. “I was so happy and present, I had the best time of my life. And I think if I had had it in Malibu, and it had gone the way we [planned], I would never have had as much fun or as beautiful an experience. Everything fell apart and came together in the way it was supposed to.”

In the mad scramble to pull off the wedding, the couple forgot their wedding rings. But during the ceremony, a friend slipped off her own rings and ran them up to the couple.

Kipnes said despite all the rearranging, it was a joyous event. “I wish you could have seen the look on the faces of these two wonderful young people,” he said. “It didn’t matter where they were, because they had each other.”

The feeling was mutual. Cooper and Berman posted under one of their wedding pictures: “We are the luckiest to have an incredible family and rabbi that made our wedding even more beautiful than we could have planned!”

Israel… A Wedding Destination Close to My Heart

I often get inquiries from my clients to recommend a venue in Israel where they can get married. Many are observant Jews who want to book their wedding close to one of the Jewish Holidays so they can celebrate both during one trip. This requires a venue that is Shabbat “friendly”.  Meaning for instance, that there is no key needed to enter the hotel room during Shabbat.

I asked Sharon of  Valerie Wilson Travel to provide me with a venue that will cover all the relevant requirements and she recommended the fabulous Ritz Carlton just outside of Tel Aviv. This venue is perfect for couples who don’t want to be in the middle of the hustle of Tel Aviv, but still close enough to enjoy the fun and able to explore the rich history, holy sites and culture of Jerusalem.

Nestled right above the marina, The Ritz-Carlton, Herzliya is the perfect spot for guests to fully immerse themselves in everything that makes this region so incredibly compelling. Herzliya is known as “the Palm Beach of Israel”, and is just 15 minutes away from the energy of Tel Aviv. The hotel is less than an hour’s drive from the holy city of Jerusalem, where visitors are enveloped in the uncompromising awe of an ancient land. Whether you choose to venture out and explore the area’s many attractions and points of interest or relax on the pristine Herzliya beach and let the sun warm your spirit, you are sure to return home with memories and pictures that will last a lifetime.

If you are into exploring, there are many activities to choose from, such as a one day drive to Caesarea, where the past and the future come together. There are live music concerts in the famous roman theater along with spectacular 18-hole golf course.

Then there is the Dead Sea – the lowest point on earth and known as the ultimate natural healing spa for an unforgettable experience of pampering and rejuvenation.

You could also stroll around the great walls and between the beautiful colorful quarters of Jerusalem. Embrace the spirit feeling of this unforgettable ancient holy city, which is sacred to many religions. Visit the iconic and spiritual Wailing Wall which reveals thousands years of history.

Masada is a UNESCO heritage site overlooking the desert and the Dead Sea. One of the most exciting tour sites in Israel combining a story of historical battles with Archeological pieces.

Israel is not just an interesting and stunningly beautiful country to visit, the Ritz Carlton is one of the top venues should you choose to celebrate your wedding there. They will celebrate each couple’s unique story. You can have your wedding in either their indoor or outdoor areas and their menu will delight the most discerning palate! They have experts on site at your disposal who understand that planning is simply the first step to bringing your vision to life. Imagine the stunning wedding pictures!

Contact Sharon for more information. She will ensure that all your needs are meticulously taken care of!

Sharon Bame Associate Advisor                                                                           sharon.bame@vwti.com  | O 650.485.4545 | D  415.215.1079

Thank you for spending this time with me! More info on weddings and event planning, wine and food pairings and much more coming up on this blog.

Batyah

 

Booking your destination wedding or honeymoon

If you recently got engaged and started the very exciting and challenging process of planning your wedding; one of the first things on the “to do” list will be to decide where you will have your wedding and honeymoon. There are couples who know exactly what they want and then there are those who have no idea and are feverishly discussing all their options. Will you get married locally or do you have an exotic destination wedding in mind? You could have your wedding in Italy and honeymoon in France! So many options and if you follow us, I will be posting about some dreamy and exciting destinations for any occasion.

Destination weddings have become increasingly popular, especially for those couples who don’t want to go through the “father of the bride” situation! Seriously though, having a destination wedding could mean that it can involve just the two of you, a select handful of family and friends or enough guests to constitute a bona fide week-long family reunion or vacation. They can be much simpler and depending on what you envision, also faster than planning a traditional wedding and reception for two main reasons; Most resorts and cruise lines have made it really easy to have weddings on site and many have experienced wedding coordinators to help you with all your requirements. They are familiar with the Country’s marriage license requirements and offer wedding packages that take care of all your ceremony essentials. All you do is spend time with your loved ones, while the coordinator takes care of the rest and follows your direction.

If you are considering getting married in another country, it may have crossed your mind to book everything yourself online to “save money” … You know the deal – you type “cheap tickets/accommodation” in a browser and then you have to go through twenty websites all offering some deal or another, only to discover in the end, that you didn’t quite get what you expected or hoped for. When asked whether I recommend booking a wedding or honeymoon online, my answer has always been a resounding NO! Not unless you want to spend your time dealing with one issue after another and trying to find resources, instead of enjoying your time together. I have literally not heard of one successful wedding or honeymoon booking that was done online by the couple on their own.

People, this is your wedding and/or honeymoon! This is a trip where you want to spend as much of your precious time enjoying each other’s company before you start your life together and have a fabulously romantic, relaxing experience. This is the one trip where you let the professionals deal with the details, or the drama if something should not quite go smoothly during your trip. If dressmaking is not your expertise, would you try to make your own wedding dress? Of course not!

If you are going to travel for your wedding and/or honeymoon, I suggest you work with a travel advisor; a professional travel consultant with the resources, connections and expertise to add great value to your travel plans. They are your advocate, they negotiate on your behalf, they have relationships with suppliers and can get you into places that you possibly could not and they curate the noise for you. This is their expertise, let them handle the details.

You will be busy with decisions such as the timing of your wedding and honeymoon, deciding whether you will buy the dress locally and take it with you or buy it where you are getting married, who will be in your bridal party, who will be invited to come along, what food you would like and what you will pack. Depending on your religious observance or lack thereof, you will need to find a Rabbi or officiant of your choice to perform the ceremony. When you have a travel advisor all you have to tell them is your vision for your special day, where you want to go for your honeymoon, what your budget is and they do the research for you. You just plan on having the time of your life. They can suggest what time of year will be best for your preferred destination and give you tips on the area to ensure a memorable (and insta-worthy) experience.

If you are planning to invite a group of family and friends, everyone might not be travelling together to the destination or back home. Some guests may want to remain after the wedding is over, or go earlier to enjoy some leisure time on their own prior to the wedding. Someone needs to keep everyone’s itineraries straight and ensure they all arrive in time for the wedding! All you need to handle once you are at your destination should be the details with the wedding coordinator. Not worry about your loved ones arriving on time. One thing I do recommend, is to have a scouting trip with your significant other to make sure the venue can fulfill your vision. Once you have confirmed your destination, ask your advisor if she can connect you with the wedding coordinator and go for a scouting trip at least a few months out.

We all know that we plan for the perfect wedding or honeymoon, but we also know that the flight or location details sometimes get muddled up, or the weather doesn’t play along. As I was writing this post, I had a discussion with a really helpful lady who is a travel advisor, Sharon Bame from Valerie Wilson Travel, who came highly recommended. She said when you are thinking about a destination wedding and/or honeymoon, she recommends you start planning as far out as you can; preferably a year or more. This is particularly important if you have a specific place in mind that is exclusive and also wildly popular. Other important factors are of course the size of your group and how flexible you are. If you do your bookings last minute, you might have to settle for the group to be spread out over several hotels and you might not find that spot you have been dreaming about. Last minute arrangements, especially if you have your heart set on a specific location, might also mean additional cost, so it is always best to book your destination wedding or honeymoon as far out as possible.

If you have any questions, Sharon is clearly experienced, creative and on top of it. The colleague who referred me to her for destination travel tips, said she has amazing attention to detail, was extremely focused and is passionate about her work and that is the perfect combination. Sharon specializes in Italy and France; particularly, Paris, South of France, Rome, Florence, Venice, Positano, and the Amalfi Coast. She is also into exquisite food and wine experiences, yoga, and hiking which means she can help you with any additional activities you might want to experience whether you are travelling locally, or outside of the US. In addition to her own travel experience she also has resources through their partners throughout the world and the cherry on the top is they are a member of Virtuoso: an organization with access to resources not available to the general public. You literally cannot go wrong when you have experience and almost endless resources at your disposal and while Sharon may specialize in the above areas, she can help you with just about any location. Sharon’s info is below. Do contact her if you have questions.

Sharon Bame Associate Advisor sharon.bame@vwti.com  | O 650.485.4545 | D  415.215.1079

Last but definitely not least; congratulations on your engagement – we wish you every happiness in the world!

Thank you for spending this time with me! More info on weddings and event planning, wine and food pairings and much more coming on this blog.

Batyah

 

Summer Lovin… Happened so fast!

It is not just the summer lovin that happened so fast… summer is almost over! Officially that is. Fortunately Los Angeles has its own summer months…In fact it’s most of the year! Lucky us! These hot August nights in Los Angeles remind me of the ever popular Grease musical; especially the song Summer Lovin…   since summer is the most popular time for romantic events such as weddings and engagements, although those happen more towards the end of the year. Actually considering the variety of events we get booked for, it is probably the most popular time for any event! I don’t know about you but there is something really special about sitting outdoors with your favorite person(s), as the sun sets with a cool glass of wine (or whatever works for you) and relaxing especially after a long day at work.

Summer is really a popular time for outdoor wedding venues.

Especially when they  transform into a fairytale setting after sunset. Imagine the gorgeous bride walking down the aisle with all the trees sparkling, the fragrance of the flowers permeating the space and candles setting the tone for the most romantic evening of the couple’s life! Yes… I love planning and catering outdoor weddings or events of any description actually including BBQ’s, wine tastings and especially beach proposals! I think they captured the mood perfectly in the picture below!

I always wondered where the tradition of the June bride came from…

Surely it could not just be the gorgeous weather, so I did a little research and was fascinated to learn the tradition dates back to Roman times when they celebrated the festival of the deity Juno and his wife Jupiter, who was the goddess of marriage and childbirth, on the first day of June. In Victorian times, the tradition is thought to have continued because there were flowers available for wedding décor, and the scent of the flowers masked body odor.  How romantic!!? Of course nowadays you can get flowers year-round and almost everybody wears deodorant, but summer is still popular for weddings in general. This is due to it being the easiest time of year for most brides and grooms to take extended leave from work and time away from the office is more flexible between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Not such a romantic reason but practical. In Europe whole cities shut down in August for vacation. If there are kids involved in the wedding; coordinating school schedules any other time of year is a complete nightmare.

Destination weddings are seasonal of course, depending on whether the couple wants tropical, beach or mountains which usually results in better rates as wedding venues aren’t as packed as they are the remainder of the year.

As perfect as summertime is considered for weddings here in the US, this is also the most expensive time of the year for wedding or any event venues. Weekends being the most expensive but Sundays and weekdays are reasonable and the best deals can be found there so if not having your wedding on a Saturday is OK with the couple, then they have great venues at a reasonable rate available to them and they are often totally negotiable!

Some of my favorite summer activities are BBQ’s and wine tastings.

Especially those that take place around a pool or rooftop with a stunning view! If you follow us you will be notified of some of the fun events you can attend. We have them all year round but summertime is my favorite and we get really creative with the tasting, wines and venues. This past weekend we had a fun wine tasting at the Rooftop of Heritage Fine Wines in Beverly Hills with delicious food and great wines for our guests to try and then purchase if they love the wine. Think of it as bringing the wineries to our venues here locally and recreating the winery tasting rooms here in Los Angeles! Here is the link if you are interested in joining us next time. You can also subscribe to our newsletter. https://www.signatureeventsla.net

Many of the best pairings we have experienced  are chocolates with wine or champagne. Some say pairing wine with chocolate cannot be done, but if you choose the right wine to complement the right chocolate it can be quite amazing. Whether you are pairing the sometimes subtle, creamy nuances of a delicate white chocolate or the lively bold tones of dark chocolate with a favorite wine, we keep things simple and start with a wine that is slightly sweeter than the chocolate or chocolate-themed dessert. More about this another time but if you want to try this first hand join us at our next event.

Thank you for spending your time with me. See you next time for more tips on food, event planning, fabulous venues for your events and much more

Warmly;

Batyah

Croatia: The Trending Wedding Destination

Whenever destination weddings come up in conversations with my wedding clients, the countries that usually pop up first are Paris or Italy which are known as the most romantic places for lovers and are the usual Countries that inspire romantic visions. Lately though, couples have been asking more about off the beaten track destinations which got me doing some research about the latest trends that are NOT France or Italy of course, and Croatia kept popping up as trending. In case you were wondering… The country is situated just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. It’s no wonder that it has the perfect climate for making wine and olive oil! Well there is no better way to get the down low about a country, than from a dynamo travel agent with many years of experience and hails from Croatia!

I have followed Julia’s travel pictures for a while now on FB and seen her posts about a variety of exotic Countries, but her pictures of Croatia really got my attention. I am just a pushover for blue waters and bluer skies! She told me about the stunning beauty of Croatia’s coastal areas and judging by the pictures I saw online and on her website, I could not agree more!

Apparently Croatia is fast becoming a leading wedding and honeymoon destination, which is no surprise considering its historical cities, vibrant culture, breathtaking scenery and fairytale islands, which all combine to make it a gorgeous location for a wedding abroad.

An ideal wedding needs at least ideal weather and Croatia has an abundance of sunny days. The Adriatic coast has a Mediterranean climate with cool, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. Kind of like Los Angeles. This means that Croatia gives you beautiful weather on the coast throughout the whole year.

Additional points in Croatia’s favor are excellent value for money, safe cities, the tourist resorts are extremely clean, it definitely has the WOW factor effect every bride wants at her wedding and English is widely spoken in the cities which is always helpful. In addition the destination wedding industry there has a proven track record. Beautiful, clean and stylish are all adjectives that describe Croatia.

If you are a foodie you are in luck.  You cannot go wrong with Croatia’s gastronomic delights. Fresh Adriatic fish and seafood combined with homegrown vegetables and fruits; not to mention perfectly balanced spices, will reassure  you that the food for your wedding will leave your guests very pleased!

With all this amazing food you will also expect good wine to accompany those scrumptious dishes! Whether you prefer white, red or rosé – Croatian wines are some of the best in the world! Istria’s signature wine varieties are Malvazija and Teran. Malvazija, an easy-drinking white wine with good minerality and apricot and apple notes, pairs well with seafood dishes. Teran, a robust red, goes well with meat dishes including boškarin and pršut. Your wedding venue management will provide a connoisseur to help you choose the perfect wines for your meals.

This gorgeous country has become quite a festival destination over the years. Ultra festival, Hideout, Electric elephant, Fresh island, Soundwave, Sonus, Dimensions, Outlook…  some of these could be a fun start to your wedding celebrations, or…. be the ideal bachelorette party or girls night out!

With all the festivals, film events, music events, folklore events and carnivals, yacht parties and cocktails, your wedding could be one continuous celebration and become an adventure your guests will never forget. Just imagine the photos on Insta showing a gallery of breathtaking locations with crystal clear turquoise water surrounding them? Imagine the envy from everyone who didn’t join you!

As it would anywhere, your budget will depend on many variable factors; the region you would like to get married in, the time of year, the number of guests attending, your personal tastes … and on and on. Although Croatia is still less expensive than many other European countries such as the UK, France or Italy, do not expect to have a full wedding for pennies.

However, what comes as standard, are breathtaking and luxury ceremony and reception venues (near the crystal clear sea), delicious haute cuisine, amazing wine and the summer breeze!

The best dates for a wedding are between April and October (June and September are great for milder weather and less crowds). Its natural beauty however, is just one of the many reasons why so many couples are choosing to marry here.

Croatia is a truly a best kept wedding destination secret!

I am betting once there, you will also want to spend some time exploring this beautiful country as part of, if not your entire honeymoon, as it is considered one of the hottest travel destinations. From what Julia told me the country’s appeal is its unique combination of culture, history, cuisine, accessibility and affordability. To me, these are all the essentials that makes for a great wedding abroad.

Don’t hesitate to stop and ask the locals for their favourite konobas (taverns), which are casual establishments, where you’ll find some of the most authentic cuisine. Julia recommends you try simply grilled fish drizzled with piquant Istrian olive oil, garnished with parsley and paired with a glass of crisp, dry malvazija wine. Yummy food, delicious wine, summer breezes and those views! What is not to love!

Croatia might be one of the most overlooked destination wedding for the past few years, but it looks like it’s making it’s way to the top, as couples are paying more attention to this gorgeous travel destination. It offers many amazing venues and talented wedding vendors so you will have all the help you need with planning and finding all the vendors you need.

Croatia has been heralded as the “Next Riviera” and with its stunning beaches and islands it makes an affordable alternative to the pricier Mediterranean. The fairytale Medieval cities, warm friendly locals, magnificent cuisine and especially the fact that it has has not yet been “over-touristed” makes it an even more desirable destination and it has an excellent tourism infrastructure that suits both adventurous travellers and those who need a degree of comfort in their planning. Guests who are invited to a wedding in Croatia will be thanking you and their lucky stars for ever!

It is a truly magical country and will be a great choice for your wedding. There is so much more to tell about this often overlooked wedding or travel destination, so don’t hesitate to click on the link below for Julia’s blog about Croatia and contact her directly if you need more information.  http://www.juliastravels.com/croatia/my-croatia-3/

BTW – for those of you who are Games of Thrones fans… Ever since the city of Dubrovnik was selected as the filming location for the fictional city of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones, travelers and digital nomads have been flocking to this seaside country known for its rugged beauty and uniqueness.

Last but not least… if you are Jewish and want to get married in Croatia but want to have the ceremony in a synagogue… there is a small but active community in the country.

Warmly;

Products and Tips to get Glowing and Gorgeous for Your Wedding!

engaged productsAfter the excitement of the proposal wears off, your head starts flooding with all the things you want to do before the wedding day. We know near the top of that list will be looking your absolute best! In fact in all the years I have done wedding planning, EVERY bride has mentioned that she wanted to ensure she glowed outside as much as she was inside and wanted to be in great shape – even if it only meant losing a few pounds for that dress and/or tone up. So I did some research into a couple of products that have had great reviews and at the same time I wanted to support a small or family business.  I found two world class products and have seen wonderful reviews online. Both consultants use the products themselves and they provide tons of support. They both emphasized that clean eating is the start and half the battle and these awesome products are the cherry on top.

BTW I follow both these ladies on Facebook and I was so impressed by their dedication to their products and the support they give via groups and personal attention, that it was an easy decision to jump in myself and start the skin care and weight loss/tone up regimens as well! Ladies I would love it if you provide me with before and after photos as well and remember this is not just for brides….. if your bridesmaids or any of the bridal party want to start a get-healthy-and-glowing challenge we will post their pics too! Being healthy and looking great is a lifetime commitment! Don’t just do it for your special day.

Michelle Souther productsStarting with the skin, I introduce Michelle Souther of Rodan + Fields. If you are on Facebook you would have seen an increased number of posts about their incredible skin care & lash boost serum. In fact whether you’re the bride-to-be, a bridesmaid, mother of the bride or groom. or a VIP guest, you want your skin to be as smooth and flawless as the wedding. But.. how do you get your complexion to say “I do” for the big day too? Achieving a radiant, wedding-worthy complexion is a time investment, so you should start right away. We all know that unless it’s plastic surgery change does not happen overnight! Also, as you will be introducing a new skin care, from cleansers to sunless tanners, you should start no less than a month or two before the date, so you can eliminate any products that trigger even the slightest irritation. If you don’t have any complex skin care concerns, and you want smoother, softer, more even-looking skin—exfoliation is one of the safest, simplest ways to get your skin glowing.  Even the best makeup won’t hide the look of uneven skin texture, so Michelle suggests adding the Micro-Dermabrasion paste to your chosen regimen, which uses sugar and sea salt to gently scrub your skin. This paste will remove old, built-up skin cells and allow younger, more vibrant cells to appear on the surface—and your skin looks brighter after just one use.  I have actually used a few samples of this paste before and it really does give you a glow after one or two uses. BTW – both of these products are sold by these ladies direct to the consumer. This means you have a coach and consultant to help you every step of the way. Not some nameless customer service person on the other side of the phone.

Of course R+F has a regimen for various skin types and each one has its own approach. For instance don’t exfoliate if you have a skin concern like adult acne. Instead consider the UNBLEMISH Regimen, which targets blemishes and works to prevent future breakouts. If you’ve developed brown spots from sun exposure or hyperpigmentation, the REVERSE Regimen helps to visually brighten and even skin tone. (You might even get away with wearing less makeup.) As the most impressive results are seen over time, plan accordingly. If the event is less than a month away, our cardinal rule is to only stick with products that are currently compatible (or are extremely gentle) with your skin. To find out which regimen is best for your skin type click on the link and use the solution tool provided by the doctors….  https://youngforlife.myrandf.com/Pages/OurProducts/GetAdvice/SolutionsTool
You can also see before and after shots on the website and Michelle’s Facebook page and they are truly amazing!

Michelle Lash Boost productWhat should you avoid? In the last two or three weeks prior to the wedding, don’t even consider in-office dermatological procedures (like chemical peels or laser treatments) and resist any last-minute temptations to try new treatments. Keep up your natural glow by staying hydrated and moisturizing your skin. Last-minute facials (except gentle exfoliation) are off-limits, as are touching, picking or squeezing, which can all irritate or inflame the skin. Finally, avoid unnecessary stress (yes it is possible) and over-cleansing which can cause breakouts. Wear a hat where possible when you are in the sun and apply your sunscreen all the time! Again try these ahead of time so that your skin is used to the new products and you can find a formula that works with your makeup. Ultimately, through thick and thin, your skin is with you for life—so be good to it always.

As for the amazing lash boost! Michelle is her own best advertisement!…. just look at those lashes and the dewy skin! Now you see why I was convinced to give it a try myself. For those fabulous lashes the Lash Boost serum should be started about two to three months before the wedding.  To shop visit https://youngforlife.myrandf.com

Erin Postle productFrom fabulous skin care to losing those pesky pounds before the big day… This gorgeous lady with the dynamo body is Erin Postle and an inspiring example of living the life of her dreams. Erin’s story follows:

….”At the young age of 40, I was exhausted, overweight and in financial trouble. I felt hopeless. That was almost three years ago when I discovered Isagenix and began my journey. My initial results were incredible: 17 pounds in 30 days. After years of struggling with my weight, I was blown away. I shared Isagenix with everyone and steadfastly built a team. I made it my goal to be the best! I went from financially unstable to #3 Business Builder, Top Producer 2012 and Isaderby winner! I got my family out of debt and was financially free. Then we moved across the country and my old problems emerged. My weight started to rise and my fitness declined. Deep down, I knew that money and time meant very little if I was unhealthy and out of shape. At Isagenix events, I wore big clothes to hide my weight and drank booze to cover up my insecurity. I felt self-conscious and inauthentic. I had hit my rock bottom. At 5’6, I was 160 lbs and 29% body fat.  I had to make fitness a part of my life and the Isabody Challenge was the kick-start I needed. I found a gym, made a schedule and stuck to it.  finished my first Challenge at 26% body fat and 154 pounds. I made a commitment to my fitness, and followed through. But I knew I had more to achieve.  I immediately entered the Challenge again. I wanted to be a true ambassador for our company. If I could transform my business, I could transform my body too.
Erin Isagenix productI decided to take my lifelong dream of entering a figure competition and align it with the Isabody Challenge. What had once seemed unattainable was now going to be my goal!! The Isabody Challenge taught me discipline and laser focus. I took what I learned in business and applied it to my body. I worked hard, I lifted more, I dug deep. Isagenix was the fuel that transformed my body and the contest was the fire that kept me on track. I re-discovered how the 5 pillars of health could maximize my success. Sleep spray, Brain Boost, Isa-pro and Isa-Omega’s rounded out my Isagenix regime. Consistency was key. I did the Challenge not only for myself, but for my team. As a leader, it is not a choice but a responsibility to be at my peak – in business AND in health. Our Team culture is now infused with the vision of the Isabody Challenge. Dozens of people in our team are now joining!! By the end of 16 weeks, I had gone from 154 to 136 pounds and from 26% to 16% body fat, and now I am at 13%. Thanks to the Isabody Challenge, I now embody all that Isagenix stands for: Weight Loss, Athletic Performance, Healthy Aging and Wealth Creation. I am totally fired up to step on stage and make my dreams come true – at both the Figure Show and at Celebration!!”

With this link you can reach Erin and from there she will guide you to her groups and as I mentioned she also does coaching so she will guide and inspire you all the way!  https://erinpostle.isagenix.com/en-CA/

As I mentioned before, both these amazing products are sold through network marketing and by supporting these ladies you can help them live their dream of owning a business on their terms while spending time with their families. Both have money-back guarantees and you will be purchasing a product that they not only sell, but personally use so they are living proof of how great it really is! They walk the walk! When you purchase skin care from a large store or corporation you are helping their CEO grow a multi-million dollar corporation. When you purchase supplements from GNC for instance you are helping that CEO add to his corporation’s millions. Not that there is anything wrong with that, however ….when you purchase products from these small business owners through network marketing, you are directly helping a guy or girl pay for their college tuition and moms and dads not only provide for their families, take care of their own health and wellness, but also help others do the same. They are spreading the wealth in more ways than one. Besides, the CEO of GNC is not going to take your call when you need help or have questions, but Michelle and Erin will! If you want to earn some part-time income or become the CEO of your own business, do mention it to these ladies. Why not earn some extra cash for your honeymoon!

I am looking forward to hearing from you! Do share your before and after pics with me! Let’s get glowing and healthy together!

Wedding Topanga product

 

 

The Choice to Do the Rite Thing

There is something truly divine about the wedding ceremony. A palpable feeling exists in the room — and especially under the chuppah — that is beyond words. But I have learned in counseling many couples that the experience of the ceremony is significantly deepened as the ritual becomes more fully understood, its hidden meanings revealed.

Each ritualized part of the wedding plays a part in deepening the effect of the ceremony, but each ceremony also must be personalized for the couple. Even the required traditional elements of Jewish weddings — the ketubah, exchange of rings and yichud — can have different traditions or variances that are reflective of the couple.

The ketubah

This is the beginning of the ritual. A concretized manifestation of a couple’s commitment, the action of executing this contract takes their love and locks it into the physical world. The traditional text is “legalese,” but the ketubah also helps the couple understand at a deep psychological level that their love is now becoming physically manifest, and this union is actually real. Although the traditional text is standard and is a contractual obligation, variations abound for the English-language  aspect that can be reflective of the couple’s personality. The amount of accompanying art that is available for ketubot is astounding, often with subtle meanings in the symbols the artist includes.

The chuppah

Although it is traditional to have the posts of the chuppah held by four friends, it also has become customary in many communities to have a free-standing structure. What is important is to realize that the chuppah is a recapitulation of the Garden of Eden, with the bride and groom being like Adam and Eve. It needs to be temporary, so that the couple always remember that everything in the physical world is temporary, but their love is eternal. It is the tallit hanging above them that reminds them that their love is truly divine, and it is a beautiful custom for it to be the tallit of the groom, with new tzitzit that have been tied by the bride.

The circling

As the couple enter the chuppah, often the bride circles the groom seven times. Seven is the number of “wholeness” (Shabbat); and the circling is a physical demonstration of the bride spiritually protecting the groom. In many egalitarian communities, it has become customary to demonstrate a mutual protection by the bride circling the groom three times, the groom circling her three times, and then the pair circling each other.

The wine

Once under the chuppah, the couple drink their first of two glasses of wine under the chuppah: a symbol of partnership. God makes the grapes, but we make them into wine. We need God and vice versa, as the bride and groom need each other.

Vows and rings

Although vows are not a part of the traditional ceremony, many brides have grown up looking forward to saying, “I do.” The best time to do this is immediately before the exchange of rings. Whether the couple are asked the standard questions that are typically found in a secular or non-Jewish wedding, or they make statements that they have written, it can be a beautiful addition to the ceremony. The exchange of rings is another physical manifestation of their love — a love without beginning or end that has existed before they were even born.

The Seven Blessings

The Sheva Brachot (Seven Blessings), which all praise God and the sanctity of the relationship, are a wonderful time to really personalize the ceremony. There are multiple options. One is to have the rabbi say all 14 statements (seven in Hebrew and their English translations) or the couple could honor family or friends by having them recite some of these blessings. The couple also can choose to have the groom under the bride’s veil during this time; wrapped in the rabbi’s tallit; and even have their hands bound together with tefillin (a medieval custom).

Breaking the glass

There are many interpretations of the breaking of the glass, and often we are taught that it is to temper our joy with a remembrance of the destruction of the Temple. The interpretation that I most appreciate is that the breaking of the glass is an explosion of their love together as it explodes into the world. Grooms: Make sure that you hit the glass with the heel of your foot. There have been more cases than anyone wants to admit of a groom trying to break it with the ball of his foot and hurting himself.

Yichud

One of the most underappreciated parts of the ceremony (in the less-observant world) is yichud. Immediately after the breaking of the glass, the couple are to go to a private chamber, with a shomer or guardian outside to make sure no one comes in. There, they feed and nurture each other. Some rabbis will say that a couple must make love at this time, but the reality is that just spending private, intimate time together for a few moments is the culmination and realization of the ceremony. After months of planning, the wedding and reception go by so quickly, and these few moments are consistently some that couples remember forever.

How to do each of these ritualistic parts of the ceremony is a choice that the couple make through multiple dialogues with their rabbi and each other as they prepare for the wedding.

I always remind couples leading up to their ceremonies: This is your wedding. It needs to be a reflection of your love and commitment. By participating in this ceremony, you are literally changing the world, so know fully what you are actually doing in each step. Know the meanings of what you do, and bring a consciousness and depth to the experience; not only will it be more meaningful for you, but in so doing, you will directly affect the lives of those you love who have come to celebrate this special day with you.


Rabbi Michael Barclay is the spiritual leader of Temple Ner Simcha (nersimcha.org), and the author of “Sacred Relationships: Biblical Wisdom for Deepening Our Lives Together.” He can be reached at rabbibarclay@aol.com.

Even a bomb threat couldn’t stop this Jewish couple from getting married

An illustrative photo of a Jewish couple getting married. Photo from Justin Oberman/Creative Commons

Gaby and Dan Rosehill wouldn’t let anything get in the way of their wedding day. Even if that thing was a bomb threat that forced all 218 guests to evacuate the hotel where the wedding was taking place

“I was just about to be named husband and wife when the alarm went off. We had to evacuate,” Gaby Rosehill told The Jewish Chronicle about the incident on Sunday in Brighton, England.

“I had to ask the rabbi ‘Is this divine intervention? Does God not want me to get married?’” she recounted. “But he told me it was ‘just a test’ and we would get through it.”

As the bridal party gathered in a nearby hotel, the couple’s wedding planners managed to put together an on-spot wedding, chuppah and all. That turned out to be a good decision, since it took five hours for the police to clear the original venue.

The couple got married in the new location, though the bomb threat changed the order of events a bit, including police questioning the couple about anyone who may have been angry at them — in the yichud room where couples retreat for a little privacy. But the pair managed to keep up their spirits.

“Dan managed to laugh off the situation the whole way through,” Rosehill told The Chronicle.

After police deemed the incident a hoax, the couple and guests were able to return to the original venue — just in time for dessert.

“It just goes to show all you really need is love,” Rosehill said of her special day.

Turned off by rabbis, Israelis are planning small weddings in Greece

Destination weddings abroad are almost unheard of in Israel, where weddings are all about family and community. And what better place to celebrate Jewish continuity than the Jewish homeland?

But this past summer, a new Israeli company challenged tradition by throwing wedding getaways on Greek islands. The one-woman startup, called Wedaway, is tapping a market of Israelis alienated by the Charedi Orthodox Chief Rabbinate, which controls Jewish marriage in the country.

“A lot of people who can’t or don’t want to get married through the Rabbinate find Wedaway online,” company founder and CEO Gal Zahavi said. “But what really attracts them is the idea of a small wedding like they see when they travel or on the internet. And Israelis love Greece.”

Zahavi, who began planning other people’s weddings this year from her home office in the central Israeli city of Kadima, came up with the idea for Wedaway from her own Greek wedding. She and her husband celebrated in a castle on the island of Evia. They wanted something more than the typical Israeli wedding, which often includes hundreds of guests gathered at a local event hall for a relatively standardized few hours of nuptials, dining and dancing.

Later they officially married through the Rabbinate, a decision she said they regret because so many Israelis are not afforded the same privilege.

There is no civil marriage for Jews or same-sex marriage in Israel, but the state does accept such marriages performed abroad. Cyprus, the Czech Republic and the United States are the most popular destinations. While Israelis cannot marry in Greece, as Athens requires documents that Jerusalem will not provide, it doesn’t mean they can’t party there.

Zahavi can thank the Rabbinate for most of her clients. Of the 12 couples celebrating their unions with Wedaway this summer, seven opted to marry outside Israel at least in part to protest the Orthodox authority. Four are not recognized by the Rabbinate as Jewish or have other issues with Israel’s religion-based marriage system. Just one is getting married in Israel and celebrating in Greece.

Neither the Rabbinate nor the Interior Ministry in Israel were immediately reachable for comment.

Wedaway weddings are the kind of carefully crafted events exalted on wedding blogs, reality shows and social media, with charming local musicians, colorful Greek feasts, high-end ouzo cocktails served under paper lanterns and pool parties complete with floatie toys. The ceremonies are usually contemporary takes on religious traditions, Jewish or Christian.

One downside — or upside, depending on how you look at it — is that couples planning a Wedaway wedding have to drastically pare the invitation list. An average Israeli wedding includes several hundred guests — everyone from the couple’s parents to their favorite barista. Zahavi’s clients usually bring 40 to 50 people with them. Even at an average cost of $300-$500 per head, it can actually be cheaper than being married in Israel.

Still, cutting guests can be difficult. Family and community are central to Israeli culture, and a wedding is the ultimate symbol of that, explained Larissa Remennick, a sociology professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

“Jews have always been very familial, focused on getting married and having children. The biblical mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply is still very influential in this country. You could says it’s our raison d’être,” she said. “What this company is doing is kind of a subversive act in a way.”

Wedaway isn’t the first company to help Israelis marry abroad; an industry has been around since the 1990s. In 2014, some 8,782 couples registered foreign marriages in Israel, compared with 50,797 who married in the country, according to the government’s Central Bureau of Statistics. But the businesses tend to focus on cutting international red tape, not wedding planning.

Wedding Tours is the biggest marriage abroad company in Israel. CEO Igal Lukianovsky said the company, founded in 2001, arranged 1,200 marriages in Cyprus and the Czech Republic in 2015. Of those, he said, the company helped with no more than a couple dozen wedding celebrations.

“Maybe 80 percent of couples make a party here in Israel with family and friends,” he said. “They go to Cyprus just for the formal part, to sign documents.”

Wedaway, by contrast, is all about the celebration.

A growing number of Israelis are holding off on getting married, some indefinitely. The number of unmarried couples living together in Israel have risen 29 percent in recent years — to 88,000 in 2014 from 65,000 in 2012 — according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. Some attribute this trend to the Rabbinate as well.

In a September statement about the rise in unmarried couples, Hiddush, an organization that promotes religious freedom in Israel, wrote: “Israel’s official, state empowered religious establishment arouses disgust among Jewish Israeli couples considering marriage. This is due to the needless tribulations many couples experience at the hands of the Rabbinate on their paths to marriage, and due to their fear of being required to conduct their divorces via the State rabbinical courts.”

“The Rabbinate is good for my business,” Wedaway’s Zahavi concluded, “but I would prefer that people could get married here.”

Valentine’s Day: An ideal date for Jewish weddings?

In December, around the time my wife and I were celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary, we received an invitation to an outdoor Jewish wedding to be held on Valentine’s Day 2016. Printed on a red postcard affixed with a heart postage stamp, the couple, Lena Silver and Aaron Wolfson, “joyfully” invited us to a “celebration of their love and commitment” in Palos Verdes, California.

“Please bring something warm to wear,” the invite advised, since it was being held near the ocean. And warm is what I wanted to feel — there’s a special kind of heat that’s generated at a Jewish wedding, with all the words, rings, glass breaking and guests dancing, encircling the couple and bringing them together.

Adding to that, the bride’s father and I have been friends since we were teens. I had attended his wedding, and he, as a young rabbinic student, had co-officiated at mine. Remembering how traditional the day was, a wedding on Valentine’s Day — with its murky ties to several early priests named Valentine — gave me pause. Would a Jewish wedding on Valentine’s Day be too corny, too cute, too out of Jewish context?

While clearly not a red-letter day on the Jewish calendar, for many Jews of my generation, Valentine’s Day always seemed like a secular and harmless way to express friendship — and later, love — beginning with the time-honored exchange of Valentines in elementary school. Since my teachers insisted we bring cards for every student, even the new ones, I realize now, looking back, that this probably was my first experience practicing the Torah concept of “welcoming the stranger.”

Still, handing out cartoon-character Valentines to classmates is far different a religious, and public, declaration of lifelong love. Checking online, I quickly found three other Jewish couples — two from Los Angeles, a third from New York — who also were planning to stand under the huppah on Valentine’s Day. Were other Jewish couples just taking advantage of Feb. 14 being a Sunday, a popular day for Jewish weddings, as it’s not Shabbat yet still the weekend? Or is this another phase in the continued warming of Jews to what was originally a Christian holiday?

For answers, I went straight to the couple whose wedding I’ll soon attend.

“It was all about Monday being a holiday,” said Aaron, who met Lena on OkCupid, an online dating service, while he was attending Boston University medical school in 2012.

The couple wanted to “maximize the amount of people” who were coming from out of town, and with Presidents’ Day on Feb. 15, having the wedding on Valentine’s Day was a “brilliant” solution, explained the soon-to-be groom, who was now in a cardiology fellowship at Los Angeles County Hospital and the University of Southern California.

“I was actually pretty embarrassed, but it’s a very convenient day,” added Lena, who was attending Harvard Law School when the couple started dating and is now an attorney with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County. “First, we were going to ignore that it was Valentine’s Day, then we decided to embrace it.”

“It sure helped us to decide what kippah to have,” interjected Aaron, referring to the pink suede skullcaps adorned with hearts that will be given out for guests to wear.

The couple is also planning a Valentine’s Day craft table for their guests to make cards.

But that’s not all the crafting that has gone into this Valentine’s Day wedding. Together, Aaron and Lena have modified the Jewish wedding ceremony to incorporate what they feel is an expression of their loving, egalitarian relationship.

Instead of a traditional ketubah — the Jewish wedding contract that is signed before the ceremony — the couple is using a shtar brit, a covenant agreement.

Traditionally, a ketubah is  a “unilateral agreement” in which “the husband guarantees to his wife that he will meet certain minimum human and financial conditions of the marriage,” according to Rabbi Maurice Lamm in “The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage.”

Though today there are various forms of egalitarian ketubot, Lena felt that “they don’t really give couples an opportunity to explore more expansive commitments they make to each other.”

So instead, Lena and Aaron created their own contract. It’s adapted from a variety of sources, including Rachel Adler’s book “Engendering Judaism,” an article on Ritualwell by Rabbi Heather Altman and Heather Sapiro, and a shtar brit used by Lena’s cousin. The final document, painted by Lena’s great-aunt, “memorializes” the couple’s “shared commitments to each other in different facets of their relationship — economic, domestic, and personal,” according to the program the couple will distribute at the wedding.

They are also making changes to the ring ceremony by having a brit ahuvim, a lover’s covenant, a concept they also adapted from the same Ritualwell article.

The traditional Jewish wedding-ring ceremony, called kiddushin, is when the groom acquires the bride by giving her a small token — usually a ring —  and declaring “Behold, you are betrothed unto me with this ring, according to the law of Moses and Israel.”

During the brit ahuvim ceremony, rather than each putting a ring on the other’s hand, Lena and Aaron will each put a ring in a pouch, symbolically joining their beings and possessions. As they lift the pouch, they will be making a commitment to their loving relationship.

“Why not just use two rings?” I asked, as my wife and I had done at our wedding.

“Both partners acquire the other through the ring ceremony,” Lena responded in an email. “We felt that rather than acquire each other — which means we/our bodies are the property of the other — a ceremony that represents the creation of an equal partnership was more representative of what we hoped to express though our wedding ceremony.”

Still, with all this businesslike discussion of contracts, covenants and who may or may not be acquiring whom, I started to think that my search for a romantic Jewish wedding connection to Valentine’s Day had melted like a box of candy left in the California sun.

There goes my thesis that a Jewish wedding on Valentine’s Day might seem more romantic than contractual, I said.

“I disagree,” Lena said. “I think entering into a committed equal relationship is extremely romantic.”

She was right, I realized. Better than any sentimental card or overly sweet candy, the soon-to-be bride gave me a new way to look at the heart of my relationship, 35 years after my wedding day.

Edmon J. Rodman is a JTA columnist who writes on Jewish life from Los Angeles. Contact him at edmojace@gmail.com.

One-of-a-kind weddings in Israel

Israelis love come-as-you-are weddings, where guests are welcome to bring along a friend, there’s no color scheme and the groom wears an open-necked shirt. But whether it’s a jeans or black-tie affair, in many cases the venue itself provides the Israeli wedding’s wow factor because of its great religious or historical import or its stunning natural backdrop.

“I find most people who do an event in Israel want it to be more meaningful and significant, as opposed to focusing on décor and other extraneous values,” said Judy Krasna, co-partner in Celebrate Israel.

In addition to copious wedding halls, wedding gardens and hotel ballrooms across the country, Israel offers many one-of-a-kind places to get married. For engaged couples abroad, wedding planners who speak their language can take care of all the arrangements.

“We have an insane amount of gorgeous ideas for parties in Israel,” said Adena Mark of A to Z Events Israel.

Mark has hung chandeliers in Zedekiah’s Cave under the Old City walls of Jerusalem, creating a fancy, festive wedding inside this legendary 2,000-year-old limestone quarry. She has staged weddings among the ancient Roman ruins in Caesarea, and decorated forest clearings with twinkling lights in the trees and straw mats on the bare ground.

Mark even has schlepped flowers and portable air-conditioners or heaters to marriage ceremonies on the cliffs of the Judean Desert. “At night it’s magical, with a view of the Dead Sea and the rolling hills,” she said.

Krasna especially loves weddings at wheelchair-accessible Genesis Land (Eretz Bereshit) in the Judean Desert.

“The view from the chuppah over the desert at sunset is the most spectacular backdrop for a wedding ceremony I’ve ever seen,” she said.

“You can choose to do an upscale wedding or a funky one with camel rides for the guests and waiters in biblical garb. For guests coming from outside Israel, it’s a really Israeli experience.”

It’s possible to arrange a wedding on just about any Israeli beach or national park, Krasna said. She recommends a beachfront with a hotel or restaurant in which the reception can be sheltered from the strong sea winds — such as Herzliya’s Daniel Hotel, Al Hayam in Caesarea or the Rimonim Palm Beach Hotel in Acre.

For nuptials in nature away from the waterfront, Krasna likes the historic Hulda Forest in central Israel, the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens or Ein Gedi Botanical Garden near the Dead Sea.

What about a wedding in a winery? Several Israeli wineries can accommodate parties of various sizes, including the Tishbi and Binyamina wineries in the Zichron Ya’akov area and the Psagot Winery overlooking the mountains of Jordan.

Krasna’s favorite spot for a dream wedding in Israel is the Bell Cave at Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park.

“It’s so incredibly different! The guests always rave that they’ve never been to such a cool wedding,” said Krasna, though she warns that the venue does present limitations. “Because it’s a national park, you can only have acoustic music, and the terrain is uneven so if you have elderly guests they might have trouble walking,” she said.

For those who prefer to be above ground, Alon Rosenberg of Danny Marx Productions recommends the Ottoman-period Tower of David citadel in Jerusalem and the historic Masada cliff on the road to the Dead Sea.

Rosenberg said a wedding at the Tower of David is “very, very expensive, and you need to bring everything in,” but for those who can splurge, “it’s like you’re entering a castle surrounded by the Old City walls. It’s a historical site that enables you to have an amazing event in an enclosed structure.”

Danny Marx, who often arranges celebrity affairs, including actress Gal Gadot’s nuptials five years ago at the David Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv, added that venues combining an atmosphere of history with modern elegance make Israeli weddings unique.

Jerusalem resident Reuven Prager aims to put some history back into the ceremony itself. His Biblical Weddings re-creates the ancient custom where every bride in the land of Israel wore a Jerusalem of Gold crown and was carried to the ceremony on a royal litter called an aperion.

Prager built a replica of the crown and the aperion as described in the biblical Song of Songs and Talmudic sources. Ten strong men carry it to the accompaniment of shofar-blowers and harpists. (Prager charges $1,500 but says he never turns anyone away for lack of funds.)

“We dedicated the aperion in a ceremony at the Bible Lands Museum during Chanukah 1992, and the next day we used it for the first wedding,” Prager said.

About 100 Israeli and foreign Jewish couples have used Prager’s aperion for their weddings, while Christian couples from abroad have made Biblical Weddings the highlight of their honeymoon or anniversary trip.

Prager hopes to work with the Tourism Ministry to launch a national competition encouraging the creation of hundreds of aperions and golden bridal crowns across Israel to broaden the availability of this unusual package. The Jerusalem municipality and the Israel Museum stand ready to host the competition. If Prager’s dream comes true, the aperion could usher in a unique wedding startup industry that could happen only in Israel.

Bar Refaeli’s wedding set for September

Time is running out for all of those who dream of dating Bar Refaeli – because the Israeli supermodel is officially getting married in September.

EOnline reports that Refaeli, 30, and her fiancé, Israeli businessman Adi Ezra, 40, are set to tie the knot around the second week of September, right after the Jewish high holidays.

This is not the first time the international star has been engaged or in a high-profile relationship – she was previously married to Arik Weinstein and dated Leonardo DiCaprio from 2006 to 2011.

Refaeli’s current fiancé, Ezra, is the heir to giant Israeli food importing company Neto ME Holdings, Ltd. She has previously said that she wants to raise a big Jewish family with him.

Here comes the groom-ing!

Step aside, brides — those indulgent pre-wedding salon, spa and grooming gatherings are no longer exclusively your domain! Grooms, it’s your turn for a luxurious pre-wedding makeover and grooming session. To ensure you’ll look tip-top in your tux and tie, we’ve consulted local experts, uncovered trends and looked at personal products designed to tame any testosterone-fueled challenge on the big day.

Ask an expert

According to veteran stylist-to-the-stars Allen Edwards (based at A.T. Tramp in Beverly Hills and Decarra Salon in Woodland Hills), good grooming habits should be established long before the wedding day.  

“I recommend men come into the salon more often for hair care, and they should not be afraid to spend more money on a good haircut,” Edwards said. “Although men have a tendency to buy inexpensive shampoo, I recommend they buy a good moisturizing shampoo and condition their hair at least once a week. The three best hair products for men are Imperial, Paul Mitchell and Crew.”

Edwards also recommends men get facials and get into the habit of using a moisturizer every morning. And, just as women turn to magazines for inspiration, he said men can benefit from the same practice, buying magazines such as GQ to review haircut and facial hair trends.  

“Don’t get stuck wearing the same haircut your whole life,” Edwards said.

“Beards are very popular now, and I suggest keeping the beard very cropped.

“On the wedding day, men should keep their hair clean and short, and if they have a beard, it should be groomed a little shorter.”

Smooth operators

In the last two decades, men’s grooming products have gone from utilitarian to upscale, while pop culture and general health trends have made masculine pomades, creams, gels and designer shaves more palatable for even the manliest of guys. 

While many women dream about the kiss on the big day, nothing can spoil her moment quicker than getting her face scratched. Newport Beach entrepreneur Michael Finfrock realized this just three weeks into dating his girlfriend. With his female friends weighing in on the scratchy subject, and with heavy body and facial hair being a part of his genetic makeup, Finfrock was prompted to develop Soft Goat ($11.99 at ” target=”_blank”>amazon.com and ” target=”_blank”>jessyjudaica.com, a Toronto-based custom kippot maker and Jewish event planner with clients in L.A. and San Diego. “Others invite close family and friends to share in the mikveh with stories, blessings and food or drink,” she added.

Indeed, Judith Golden, who oversees activity at the American Rabbinical Assembly Mikveh at American Jewish University, said she has noticed a significant uptick in the number of grooms opting to take the plunge in a more meaningful way. She estimates the number has increased by 50 percent since she began working there 10 years ago. 

“It’s fabulous to see more men doing this,” Golden said. “The mikveh is a metaphor for a new beginning, and is one of the best things you and your future wife can do before you marry. When both partners do the mikveh, they are setting an intention for the life they will live together and the journey they will be taking beyond the wedding day.” 

Group Jewish wedding held in eastern Ukraine

The Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk in eastern Ukraine held a group wedding for 19 Jewish couples.

Most of the couples that wed Sunday were already married under Ukrainian law but had not had a Jewish wedding ceremony, or huppah, the director of the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community, Zelig Brez, told JTA.

“It is a huge event in the spiritual sense, and, I’m not afraid to say it – historic,” he said, adding that the ceremonies were the largest group wedding performed in his city – where 50,000 Jews live – since before the communist era.

Ten rabbis conducted the marriages on a terrace at the Menora Center, Dnepropetrovsk’s $100 million Jewish community center, which opened in 2012. The couples received special preparation by Shmuel Kaminezki, the city’s chief rabbi and Chabad’s influential envoy to Ukraine, and his wife, Chana.

Under communism, Jewish life in the former Soviet Union was conducted underground, a reality that meant many Jews did not have a Jewish wedding. In many areas, a majority of Jews were not circumcised.

“The challenge was both logistical and halachic,” the community wrote in a report about the weddings. Special attention went to helping couples feel the moment in their own private context as opposed to a group activity, Brez explained.

For this reason, the weddings were conducted in two groups and not all at once – first for 10 couples and then for the remaining nine.

“It was something special, and I’m happy that I saw my daughter, in the presence of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, finally get a huppah,” community activist Mina Dreitser said of the wedding of her daughter, Miriam Minutova, to Shlomo Skorokhod.

Wedivite: Online wedding planning and sharing

More than 7,000 couples around the world already have used Wedivite, the first free, socially integrated digital platform exclusively for weddings. Appropriately, its alpha launch happened in the traditional wedding month of June.

Conceived and built by Israeli groom-to-be Ben Novak, Wedivite enables sending invitations via email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, SMS or Whatsapp, or adding a QR code to a printed invitation. There’s an option to create a custom page for a wedding registry, too.

Guests can click to RSVP, add the event to their Google calendar, get directions to the wedding, send greetings and gifts, recommend songs for the playlist and add photos to the online album and live wedding slideshow.

An update due out shortly will offer additional features such as a dedicated gift registry, integration with Google contacts and Dropbox (for photo storage and printing), text reminders for guests and designer invitation templates.

“We’re connecting everything to make it more comfortable for couples to engage guests and to make it cheaper and fun,” said the 29-year-old founder.

Wedivite’s website and mobile app were launched in beta in January and became an instant hit with couples in India, the United States, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Canada. A Spanish-language version was added before the alpha launch after increasing demand from users in Spain, Latin America and the U.S., and Novak recently introduced a Korean beta version.

“Three months ago, a wedding organizer from South Korea emailed me and said online mobile invitations are big in Korea but they don’t have everything I am offering, and she wanted to translate all the material for me [in return for putting] her link on my website in Korea,” he said.

While his fiancé is scouting out a gown and location for the couple’s May 2015 nuptials, Novak is knee-deep in the technical side of pending matrimony, and is learning that vast cultural differences require him to tweak Wedivite for specific audiences.

In South Korea, for instance, nobody uses PayPal or Google Maps, which are integral to Wedivite. And because Koreans typically don’t dance at weddings, there’s no need for a song-suggestion feature.

“One of my dreams is to create a big infographic or PDF with cultural differences between weddings that I have learned about,” said Novak, a Tel Aviv resident.

But some things are universal, such as the increasingly digital components surrounding the romance of engagements and weddings.

Mashable’s 2012 social and tech wedding survey revealed that “relationship status” is the digital age’s version of flaunting a new diamond ring, as 31 percent of engaged women update their status within hours of accepting a marriage proposal.

Other trends show that couples are forgoing classic wedding formats in favor of ceremonies and receptions that reflect their personal tastes and create a positive experience for guests while keeping costs down.

“Wedivite is here to reset the standard of wedding invitations from the traditional to the digital,” Novak explained. “By putting social-media integration at the forefront of our platform, we recognize the influence that social media and digital presence has in the lives of today’s couples.”

Novak was inspired to start Wedivite by a conversation with a newly married friend whose wedding photographer had failed to take a picture of the groom’s mother. Though many guests take their own photos at weddings, these couldn’t easily be added to an official album.

“My idea was to make a shareable photo album for weddings, but I decided, why not make it a lot cooler?” Novak said. “Eventually it became what it is today.”

Novak possessed the requisite skills to realize his idea because he has been a graphic designer and Web developer since age 14, and has experience working for an ad agency and as marketing director for New Media College in Tel Aviv.

“I always had my own businesses on the side, but now I am 100 percent working on Wedivite around the clock,” he said. 

That, and planning his own wedding. 

Israeli wedding of Jew, Muslim draws protesters amid war tensions

Israeli police on Sunday blocked more than 200 far-right Israeli protesters from rushing guests at a wedding of a Jewish woman and Muslim man as they shouted “death to the Arabs” in a sign of tensions stoked by the Gaza war.

Several dozen police, including members of the force's most elite units, formed human chains to keep the protesters from the wedding hall's gates and chased after many who defied them. Four protesters were arrested, and there were no injuries.

A lawyer for the couple, Maral Malka, 23, and Mahmoud Mansour, 26, both from the Jaffa section of Tel Aviv, had unsuccessfully sought a court order to bar the protest. He obtained backing for police to keep protesters 200 metres (yards) from the wedding hall in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion.

The protest highlighted a rise in tensions between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel in the past two months amid a monthlong Gaza war, the kidnap and slaying of three Israeli teens in June followed by a revenge choking and torching to death of a Palestinian teen in the Jerusalem area.

A group called Lehava, which organized the wedding demonstration, has harassed Jewish-Arab couples in the past, often citing religious grounds for their objections to intermarriage. But they have rarely protested at the site of a wedding.

The groom told Israel's Channel 2 TV the protesters failed to derail the wedding or dampen its spirit. “We will dance and be merry until the sun comes up. We favor coexistence,” he said.

'DEATH TO THE ARABS' THREATS CHANTED

Protesters, many of them young men wearing black shirts, denounced Malka, who was born Jewish and converted to Islam before the wedding, as a “traitor against the Jewish state,” and shouted epithets of hatred toward Arabs including “death to the Arabs.” They sang a song that urges, “May your village burn down.”

A few dozen left-wing Israelis held a counter-protest nearby holding flowers, balloons and a sign that read: “Love conquers all.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, sworn in last month to succeed Shimon Peres, criticized the protest as a “cause for outrage and concern” in a message on his Facebook page.

“Such expressions undermine the basis of our coexistence here, in Israel, a country that is both Jewish and democratic,” Rivlin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud bloc, said.

Lehava spokesman and former lawmaker Michael Ben-Ari denounced Jews intermarrying with non-Jews of any denomination as “worse than what Hitler did,” alluding to the murder of 6 million Jews across Europe in World War Two.

A surprise wedding guest was Israel's health minister, Yael German, a centrist in Netanyahu's government. She told reporters as she headed inside that she saw the wedding and the protest against it as “an expression of democracy.”

Arab citizens make up about 20 percent of Israel's majority Jewish population, and the overwhelming majority of Arabs are Muslims. Rabbinical authorities who oversee most Jewish nuptials in Israel object to intermarriage fearing it will diminish the ranks of the Jewish people.

Many Israeli couples who marry out of their faith do so abroad.

Malka's father, Yoram Malka, said on Israeli television he objected to the wedding, calling it “a very sad event.” He said he was angry that his daughter had converted to Islam. Of his now son-in-law, he said, “My problem with him is that he is an Arab.”

Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan

Tom Hanks, Justin Bieber dance together

Amidst a tumultuous world, a reminder of life’s simpler pleasures. We humbly offer you a video, shot by Justin Bieber at his manager Scooter Braun’s wedding, of Tom Hanks, resplendent in a tallis and yarmulke, singing and jiving to Montell Jordan’s 1995 dance classic, “This Is How We Do It.”

Note: Bieber, in posting this on his Instagram account, describes Hanks as “dressed like a Rabbi.” Technically, from a sartorial angle, Hanks could be any well-dressed male shul-goer. The important thing is that he brings to the role his inimitable  charm and relatability that make him one of America’s favorite actors/Jewish imitators. 500,000+ likes can’t be wrong.

 

Israeli couples say ‘I don’t’ to Orthodox Jewish weddings

For most Israelis in the Jewish state, there is one legal way to get married – God's way.

Israeli law empowers only Orthodox rabbis to officiate at Jewish weddings, but popular opposition is growing to this restriction and to what some Israelis see as an Orthodox stranglehold on the most precious moments of their lives.

Some of Israel's most popular TV stars and models have come out this week in an advertisement supporting a new bill allowing civil marriage. A political storm is likely when it eventually comes up for a vote in parliament.

The Rabbinate, the Orthodox religious authority that issues marriage licences in Israel, says it is charged with a task vital for the survival of the Jewish people, and a recent poll showed more Israelis oppose civil unions than support them.

Nevertheless, many Israelis want either a secular wedding or a religious marriage conducted by a non-Orthodox rabbi. Facebook pages have been popping up, with defiant couples calling on others to boycott the Rabbinate.

In September, Stav Sharon, a 30-year-old Pilates instructor, married her husband in an alternative ceremony performed in Israel by a non-Orthodox rabbi.

“We wanted a Jewish wedding despite being secular. We feel connected to our Judaism, even if we are not religious. It is our people, our tradition,” Sharon said.

Weddings such as Sharon's fall into a legal no man's land. They are not against the law, but neither are they recognised as valid by the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for registering marital status on the national identity card every Israeli is required to carry.

In a twist in the law, the ministry will register as married any Israeli couple that weds abroad – even in a non-religious ceremony – outside the purview of the Israeli rabbinate.

Some couples hop on the short flight to Cyprus to marry. The Czech Republic is another popular destination for Israelis wanting a civil wedding.

Sharon and her husband decided against that option. “Marrying abroad means giving in. We wanted to marry in our own country,” she said.

No formal records are kept on the officially invalid alternative ceremonies held in Israel. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, nearly 39,000 Jewish couples married via the Rabbinate in 2011. About 9,000 couples registered that year as having married overseas.

Muslims, Druze and Christians in Israel are also required to marry through their own state-recognised religious authorities, making interfaith weddings possible only overseas.

WHO IS A JEW?

Secular-religious tensions have simmered in Israel, which defines itself as a Jewish and democratic state, since its establishment in 1948.

About 20 percent of Israeli Jews describe themselves as Orthodox while the majority of citizens are only occasional synagogue-goers. There are also non-Orthodox communities such as Reform and Conservative, but these are proportionately smaller than in Jewish populations abroad.

Ultra-Orthodox zealots have drawn anger in recent years for separating men and women on some public buses and harassing women and girls for what they see as immodest dress. Orthodox rabbis insist that brides take ritual baths to purify themselves before marriage, a practice to which some Israeli women object.

Immigrants to Israel, which since its inception has appealed to Jews around the world to live in the Jewish state, can find marriage through its Rabbinate a gruelling process.

Anyone wed by the Rabbinate is required to provide evidence of being Jewish, usually a simple and quick process.

But when it comes to new immigrants, the Rabbinate requires an affidavit, usually from an Orthodox rabbi in their home country, attesting they were born to a Jewish mother – the Orthodox criterion for determining if someone is a Jew.

And, Orthodox authorities in Israel can pile on more problems by digging even deeper into Jewish roots by requiring additional documentation proving that a bride or bridegroom's grandmother was Jewish.

“It took a year,” said a 34-year-old Argentinian immigrant to Israel, who asked not to be identified.

“They said the papers I had were not sufficient. They kept asking for more and more crazy documents. At one point they wanted me to provide a witness, from Argentina, who knew my grandparents and who had seen them, inside their home, celebrating a Jewish holiday,” he said.

His case was ultimately brought before the Chief Rabbi who ruled the man was Jewish and could marry his bride-to-be.

Israel's government is less strict in determining “who is a Jew” and therefore eligible to immigrate to Israel. Under its Law of Return, proof that someone has at least one Jewish grandparent is enough to receive automatic citizenship.

The Rabbinate says it is charged with preventing intermarriage and assimilation with non-Jewish communities which would endanger their people's survival.

Ziv Maor, the Rabbinate's spokesman, said strict adherence to Orthodox ritual law and practices had bonded Jews across the globe and set common rules for all.

“A Moroccan Jew knew he could marry a Jewish woman from Lithuania,” he said. “Rabbinical law guides us in a very clear way on who is Jewish and who is not … and we do not have permission from past or future generations to stray even a hair's breadth from those criteria,” Maor said.

According to the Rabbinate, only two percent of the men and women who apply to it for a marriage licence are turned down because they are found not to be Jewish.

GAY MARRIAGE

There are other groups to whom marriage is forbidden by rabbinical law.

Same-sex marriage, as in other religions, is out of the question as far as the Rabbinate is concerned. Israel's Interior Ministry recognises gay marriage – but only if it is conducted in a foreign country where it is legal.

Margot Madeson-Stern, a business consultant, was wed in Israel by a non-Orthodox rabbi at a celebration attended by more than 300 guests. The ceremony had no legal foundation in Israel.

“The (Rabbinate) would not marry me. The person I fell in love with was a woman,” said Madeson-Stern, 30. “I'm Jewish. I wanted a Jewish wedding. It's my family, my tradition, it's how I grew up.”

She later travelled with her wife to New York for another wedding ceremony. New York recognises gay marriages, so Israel's Interior Ministry did the same, registering them as a couple.

At least two parties in the coalition government are promoting a bill to allow civil marriage in Israel, including for same-sex couples. One of them is Yesh Atid, which tapped into anti-religious sentiment in last January's national election and finished in second place.

“It cannot be that people who do not believe or whose lifestyle does not suit the Rabbinate will be forced to get married by people whose way is not their own,” Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid told Israel Radio this month.

But tradition could die hard in Israel. A poll published in November in the Israeli newspaper, Maariv, showed that while 41 percent of Jewish Israelis supported Yesh Atid's Civil Union bill, 47 percent objected.

Such bills have been floated at Israel's parliament before. But for the first time in years, ultra-Orthodox parties, which oppose civil marriage, are not in the government.

Yesh Atid believes it has enough votes from lawmakers across the board to pass the law in the next few months. The Rabbinate says it will oppose the measure strongly.

“Matters of marriage, divorce and conversion are our most important fortress. It must not be touched and we will defend it fiercely,” said Maor.

Editing by Jeffrey Heller and David Stamp

Hearts remarried

Marriage means so much, to all of us. Including to unmarried people. We all want to live paired up, don’t we? To die not alone? What’s sadder than a grave all by its lonesome? Two side by side, we feel we can protect each other through all eternity. 

Marriage is also the inner pillar of our psyche. We think of it all the time, even more than of sex. Why we have marriage, why we don’t, why and when did it become better, at last? Look around. Marriage is our life’s top ingredient, as guaranteed as the sun on a bright day.

I could go on. You see my wife and I just rededicated our vows. I’m still bubbling.

Rededication, by the way, is an American invention we should applaud. Even if one remarries not 50, just five years in, those would be some important five years! In the case of Iris and I, we clocked 30 and then decided: We’re redoing it, in Europe where I’m from — where she stems from, too, one generation past. 

I do remember the times when she, or I, doubted that we would last. A counselor told us to beware when you stop fighting, when you have “peace.” Peace means the end of being unique to each other. Better unique and bleeding. So we rededicated — bleeding and all. We have littler fights these days, and better friendship in between. 

Thirty years. And we’re hoping for another 20.

Wow. 

In honor of our roots, we flew to Eastern Europe. Iris comes from Holocaust survivors. I’m from the other survivors, the runaways from communism. 

The logistics were complex. We’re an interfaith marriage, although we don’t live interfaith; the blood that lost the most is the blood whose traditions we follow. So we were looking for a Jewish environment to remarry. 

For our first vows all those years ago, we eloped to Utah, of all places, because I’d been invited to Robert Redford’s Sundance writer’s workshop. We were married by Brother Johnson, a colorful Mormon judge, and enjoyed a Hopi dance and a bridal suite, both arranged by Mr. Redford, on our first night. 

This second time, we wanted something more traditional. But who would marry two Americans — one a Jew, one not — in Hungary or the Czech Republic, lands where my wife’s folks survived? 

Answer: Uh, apparently not anyone mainstream.

We were thrust from something we expected to be so intimate and personal into hectic East European, post-communist politics, with a very bitter-before-sweet feel of déjà vu. 

Europe is not America; its Judaism, like its Christianity, is barely beginning to become flexible. Liturgical adjustments, so familiar in California, are unheard of. My wife researched a comprehensive number of congregations, which would not deal with interfaith couples, period. Discouraging. But at last, a congregation that called itself Reform agreed to revow us. Its leader, guide and navigator came to talk to us at the apartment we had rented in a street behind Budapest’s Belle Epoque parliament building.

“Hi, I’m Ferenc,” the rabbi said to us, walking in.

He was a robust 60-year-old with a light Hungarian accent, friendly, hands-on, beaming American nonconformity. Rabbi Ferenc Raj, whose stature in today’s Judaism I’ll not detail — Google him if you want; he’s far from being obscure — was the only congregation leader who agreed to remarry us despite the interfaith kink. 

We’ll make the service quintessential, he told us. When the groom (me) is told to say, “According to the law of Moses and Israel,” we shall say, “According to the law of God.” For God — he smiled at both of us — is God for all, not for the chosen alone. At last, the groom crushes the glass. (I’d always wanted to do that!)

Surely, this felt so momentous because Iris’ family memories drifted so richly above this city by the Danube — where her mother and uncles hid with fake papers in 1944, helped by the occasional well-meaning Catholic. Iris and I visited the Dohany Street Synagogue, one of the largest in the world, where footsteps from the past resounded in our minds. Compared to the tests and trials of 1944, this year of 2013 should be like a breeze of reconciliation. Well …  

On this mild September afternoon, up in the Buda Hills, in a family’s backyard, standing inside a sukkah — the model of all sacred Jewish spaces, even the wedding canopy, Rabbi Raj explained — Iris and I were rejoined. In attendance, including our son and daughter, were some 30 people only. Careful they were, almost like refugees. Because they were Reform, a sect still fighting to be officially recognized in today’s Hungary. 

I felt so many things on that afternoon. 

I felt the presence of my own tragically departed ones, starting with my deceased twin brother, whom communism killed. I felt reconnected with my wife, and with my deepest lone self. The ritual was too primal not to touch hidden-most memories, which unlocked and flowed in abundance. We drank blessed wine, my woman and I, surrounded by unprepossessing Reform worshippers who deserve to be accepted even if there were just a handful of them. 

To my readers: Take note that such exclusions still exist. Help leaders like Rabbi Raj — through inclusiveness of them and others, the past might have been different. Help people like Rabbi Raj, even if you’re not Reform or not even religious. 

I could write more about the passive-aggressive relationship of Europe’s Eastern lands to their Jews. Hungary’s erraticism is up there, and then some. When you pass the plaques on this and that building, you’re reminded that Budapest birthed Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb — on the plaque, his name is duly Hungarized, Teller Ede. Equally honored, Herzl Tivadar. Huh, who? THEODORE HERZL? Hey, you’re ours again, Tivadar! I felt like moaning: Would the real Europe ever stand up and say, “I regret that I oppressed my Jewish sons and daughters who so often carried my name to the heights. I repent, I do. Deeply and sincerely, I weep over my cruelty and vow not to restart it!” 

Oh well. Evil didn’t stop in 1945, and doesn’t target Jews only.  See what’s happening right now to the ancient minority Christians, burned in their churches, routinely killed, in Syria, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, while the world is in busy conference talking about anything else but that. 

Let’s all do the little that we can do. Like, let’s all remarry. 

You know what I mean.


Petru Popescu is a Romanian-born, best-selling novelist. He lives with his family in Beverly Hills.

How to buy the best diamond wedding ring for your buck

When Jeremy Ziskind of Pico-Robertson proposed last year to his then-girlfriend, Allyson Marcus, he had a basic idea of what kind of engagement ring he would give his future wife.

“Allyson told me pretty early on in our relationship that she loved the idea of a heart-shaped ring,” he said. “So I knew that’s what I wanted to get.”

Relying on a tip from a friend, Ziskind searched for rings on

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I am my beloved’s: How to avoid making your wedding day one to forget

It’s no secret that all the planning and decisions required to pull off a wedding can cause stress and worry. From flower designs to musical selections, there are a million things that might drive you meshugge.

But that doesn’t mean you have to accept that there will be unavoidable hiccups and “oy vey!” moments. With a few insider tips, you can avoid some problems the way you avoid Aunt Helen’s chopped liver.

No matter what happens, remember to enjoy the experience. At the end of it all, you still get to marry the love of your life. 

Stay on your chair

During the horah, tradition calls for the newlywed couple to be lifted up in chairs and raised above the crowd like royalty. It’s fun! It’s festive! It could leave you with a co-pay at the ER! 

No need for that. Just make sure your venue has two armchairs. The arms keep you stable, and you’ll also have something to hold on to as your tushee gets bounced around. Be sure to tell your venue coordinator or wedding planner that this is a must-have and that your designated lifters should grab the correct chairs.

Keep your dress white

During your ceremony, you’ll be instructed to take sips of wine. But in all your excitement to get down with a little “borei p’ri hagafen,” you might giggle or get shaky and then — drip! — wine on your dress. Avoid a mess and heartache. Use white wine in your Kiddush cup so that if any spills, it won’t be as obvious. 

Think about your ink

When it comes to your ketubah, you should use only the best pen to sign your John Hancockstein. After all, you’ve spent a lot of time selecting the right words and artwork, and most likely you’ll want to hang it in a special place in your home. So why would you use an office pen? Or a permanent marker? 

Those inks will fade or ruin the fine ketubah paper. Make sure to use an archival pen with a fine point. Go to your local art supply store. They’ll point you in the right direction. 

Break the glass, not your foot

At the end of the ceremony, the groom stomps on the glass that’s wrapped in a cloth or bag and the guests yell, “Mazel tov!” That’s a perfect scenario. What if the groom steps on the glass and then … crickets! … It doesn’t break?

Avoid this scenario or you’ll have over-eager bubbes shouting, “Mazel tov!” over whole, unbroken glass. Grooms, take note: Use your heel — not your toe — when stepping on the glass. More pressure and control can come from the heel, and you’ll hear that perfect crunch that leaves no doubt that you just tied the knot. For bonus points, step on the glass with your heel on a hard surface. Avoid sand or grass, and try to make sure your chuppah ceremony takes place somewhere paved. 

Why you should yichud

After your ceremony, you’ll be giddy with hot-off-the-presses newlywed excitement. You’ll probably want to join your guests and start the party off with drinks and appetizers at cocktail hour. I urge you: Wait. Take a breath. Enjoy some private time with your spouse. 

This period of seclusion is called yichud, and it’s a special moment to be alone together after you leave the chuppah. Back in the day, this would be the time that the couple would consummate their marriage, but if that doesn’t sound all that sexy to you, that’s OK. No pressure. Consider this as your time to savor all that you experienced together under the chuppah. Your guests will be fine, and you won’t miss out on much. 

Have the venue coordinator or your wedding planner bring you a special spread of food and drinks so you can share your first married bites and sips together. Take a few minutes alone together to reflect and collect yourselves — and finally relax! Then you can rejoin your friends and family and continue the party.


Alison Friedman is owner and editor-in-chief of The Wedding Yentas (theweddingyentas.com), an online guide for Jewish brides. She lives in Thousand Oaks. 

Here comes the … wedding dress

The inspiration for Mor Kfir’s wedding gown design — lace interwoven with embroidered, braided threads and silk chiffon fabric — was the tragic bride possessed by a devilish dybbuk in the classic 1928 Yiddish play starring Hanna Rovina at Habima National Theater of Israel.

For Yael Geisler, inspiration took the form of her Turkish-born grandmother’s dowry chest brimming with hand-embroidered tablecloths, napkins and linens. She tailored a gown of silk satin and delicate gold lace adorned with hand-embroidered oriental motifs.

These two dresses are part of a new exhibition, “Here Comes the Bride: Bridal Gowns Embroidering a Jewish Story,” at Tel Aviv’s Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of the Jewish People, through the end of February 2014. From Tel Aviv, it will go on the international road, stopping first in Austria.

“Here Comes the Bride” results from a unique collaboration between Beit Hatfutsot (bh.org.il) and Ronen Levin’s third-year wedding-gown design students at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv.

Each of the 14 students received a sketchbook and access to the museum’s entire collection of synagogue models, Judaica, marriage contracts, musical instruments, embroidery, dowry chests and family photos, according to Irit Admoni Perlman, director of the museum’s Israel Friends organization and the innovator of the collaboration.

“Initially, we thought the synagogues would best connect them with the Jewish lifecycle traditions,” Perlman said. But many of these talented students delved deeper, as chronicled in their sketchbooks, which are part of the exhibition.

“Most of them started with one idea and ended with something else,” Perlman said. “At the end of the day, they all did something related to their roots.”

The exhibition of 13 bridal dresses, one henna ceremonial gown and one groom’s outfit reflect styles and traditions of Jewish communities in Yemen, Iraq, Turkey, Salonika, Spain, Poland, Germany, Morocco and Algiers. It was first debuted at the 2012 Tel Aviv Fashion Week and at an event of the Nadav Foundation, a Beit Hatfutsot supporter and cosponsor of the exhibition.

“There is nothing like this in the world,” Perlman said of the show, which opened in September.

Wedding gown by Chen Ariel Nachman, whose ancestors are from Greece. Photo ocurtesy of Israel21c

Tradition With a Modern Twist

In her sketchbook, Adi Bakshi explains that her crepe-and-organza creation copies the delicate woodcuts and thin silver cords on the oud and qanun, two traditional Middle Eastern stringed instruments that formed the soundtrack of her childhood in an Iraqi Jewish home.

Tiny horizontal silver beads are stitched in two lines down the bodice of Bakshi’s dress to evoke frets, while hand-cut leather insets join the front and back of the dress to mirror the woodcuts.

Delicate crochet embroidery incorporated into Hadar Brin’s voile gown evinces the meticulous scribal arts practiced by her great-grandfather in Poland, who hid a mezuzah upon the advent of World War II that was retrieved by her family 60 years later.

A replica of a wall of the El Transito Synagogue in Toledo, Spain, inspired Levi Shenhav.

“The synagogue’s design integrates elements from Islamic decorative art and from Christian painting styles, blended into Jewish traditional art and calligraphy. Together, these elements create stunning visual themes,” he writes. His white chiffon gown incorporates beaten copper leaves and flowers adorned with leather strips and light pearls, reminiscent of the synagogue’s structure.

Chen Ariel Nachman’s ancestors are from Thessaloniki, Greece, where Jewish women once adorned their heads with amulets embroidered with baroque pearls in the shape of the Tree of Life symbolizing the Torah and the cycle of life.

Twelfth-century wedding rings inspired this gown by Eyal Ran Meystal. Photo ocurtesy of Israel21c

“I tailored the gown from wrinkled chiffon embroidered with baroque pearls, lace and beads, sequin leather and ropes coiled with embroidery threads, reminiscent of the fringes adjoined to Jewish prayer shawls, wishing to create an organic and natural look,” he writes.

Twelfth-century German wedding rings in the shape of a house inspired Eyal Ron Meistal to incorporate the rings into the wedding gown he created.

“The gown borrows from the formal structure of the ring … tailored of wild silk embroidered with thread and beads with ornamentation borrowed from the ring. The silk organza strengthened with Plexiglas rods symbolizes the wedding canopy rods that adorn the bride’s veil.”

Shani Dahan and Shani Zimmerman together created a Moroccan-style bridal gown, henna dress and groom’s ensemble inspired by the Dahan family’s heirloom baby outfit used at circumcision ceremonies, as well as the traditional jalabiya robe used in the henna ceremony.

Perlman notes that the student designers used tradition as a springboard to design garments “with a modern twist.”

For example, Chen Meron fashioned a simple but revealing bridal gown inspired by the leather straps of the tefillin worn by Jewish men as a symbol of connecting to God and preserving Jewish identity through the trauma of the Holocaust that the Meron family survived.

Meron’s gown contrasts the masculine elements of tethering, binding and clasping the leather to the arms, with the feminine, flowing bridal gown tailored of heavy crepe fabric accented by pale leather straps embroidered with golden beads.

New and improved: These upgraded wedding venues aim to add ‘wow’ to your vows

Some brides look for the hottest new places for their wedding ceremonies and receptions. Others are interested in staging their nuptials at L.A. mainstays. There are places, however, that offer the best of both worlds — locations that are definitively part of the local DNA, yet have undergone renovations or added new spaces that make them modern and more relevant than ever for today’s brides.

Skirball Cultural Center

The most recent addition to the area’s venerable venues is in the Sepulveda Pass at the Skirball Cultural Center. That’s where bride-to-be Danielle Cohn expects to be the first bride to marry at the Skirball’s ” target=”_blank”>skirball.org), is just as enthusiastic about how the expansive, 17,500-square-foot event facility conceived by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie will expand ceremony and reception options. One of the most stunning features of the project is a fully retractable window-wall that gives a dramatic view of a cascading terraced garden, providing an Impressionistic mural-like feel. The entrance plaza, meanwhile, is accented with coral trees, enamel art panels and a monumental fountain. 

“The Skirball is deeply rooted in both Jewish tradition and the local Jewish community,” Delanoeye said. “We are proud of our history as a gathering place for Jewish families of diverse ancestries. Based on the way the concept of a chuppah has been built into the architecture [an effect achieved with arched ceiling appointments and tiered gardens in full view], for example, wedding ceremonies can take place indoors or outdoors.” 

Guerin Pavilion interior at dusk. Photo by Elon Schoenholz

The facilities also include a bridal suite, rooms that can be used as a private space for the groom and his groomsmen, a room for the yichud following the ceremony just for the newly wedded couple and a family room for gatherings of the immediate family. While there is one caveat — the 4,000-square-foot kitchen is not equipped for glatt kosher events — award-winning chef Sean Sheridan and his team are able to plan menus tailored to the tastes and preferences of the couple using kosher products or kosher-style service. 

“We really look at the total needs of the family and the extended community as well as the couple getting married,” Delanoeye added. 

The Skirball’s Herscher Hall and Guerin Pavilion accepts listings and bookings for up to 18 months in advance, though Delanoeye said that there is a greater demand for wedding bookings between the months of March and October. 

Sportsmen’s Lodge

Sure, the five-star prestige hotels dotting L.A. County have name recognition. But when it comes to historic name-dropping, it’s hard to top Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, which opened in the 1880s and later evolved into a popular “rural” hangout for Hollywood legends such as Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Although Los Angeles’ urban sprawl has since spilled over into the San Fernando Valley, it is still a popular place for Hollywood productions, including the television series “Parks & Recreation.”

Throughout its history, Sportsmen’s Lodge Event Center (The Sportsmen’s Lodge has a country charm that makes it attractive for weddings. Photo courtesy of the Sportsmen’s Lodge

Meanwhile, the landscaping and country charm are still major selling points for Jewish couples, down to a gazebo that can be adapted into a chuppah on the north end of the property, said director of sales Angie Groves. 

“It is a unique venue in the Valley, as not too many other places in the area have lush ponds, waterfalls, bridges and century-old trees,” Groves said. “While we don’t have a kitchen, what makes Sportsmen’s Lodge appealing to the many Valley Jewish communities is that we do allow outside kosher catering. 

“While some families love the Hollywood history behind it, others come for one of our two unique ballrooms. We have the 9,550-square-foot Empire Ballroom that features a built-in stage and can accommodate up to 600 guests, while our Starlight Ballroom has windows on two sides of the ballroom that overlook our gardens. The spaces are certainly not the typical four-wall banquet room.”

Other features and amenities include portable dance floors, bars, high-tech audio/visual capabilities, individualized décor and assistance in booking all sorts of live entertainment. While the event page on their Web site promises, “We’ll help you plan an old-Hollywood soiree for the ages,” the staff is also sensitive to the needs and concerns specific to Jewish weddings. Weddings need to be booked up to 18 months in advance. 

The Olympic Collection

Although the Olympic Collection (The Olympic Collection has six ballrooms and a large, open-air terrace. Photo courtesy of the Olympic Collection

As a chuppah is traditionally connected to the outdoors, according to Morea, the large Regency Ballroom includes a garden terrace with a built-in gazebo that can be customized with florals and greenery. For the winter months, the ballroom includes a skylight at the top of a beautiful curved marble stage that opens fully to the sky. The smaller Atrium Ballroom, accommodating up to 150 people, features windows and sliding glass doors for clients desiring natural light during their events. 

The Olympic Collection’s executive chefs hail from Spain, France, Iran, Armenia and Central and South America, and can fully integrate the client couple’s desired culinary style with the dietary requirements of the family and guests. Behind the scenes Morea said there is a separate on-site kosher kitchen under supervision from the Rabbinical Council of California. 

The Olympic Collection accepts listings and bookings for up to 36 months in advance, and its staff of wedding planners can assist couples with the items necessary to fully customize their wedding and reception, including dance floors (with a mechitzah, or divider, if desired), bars, tables, chairs, custom linens, lounge furniture and specialty lighting and even the wedding cake itself.