Deena & Ben


Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding

It’s been far too long since we’ve had a traditional Jewish wedding on APW, so I’m thrilled to welcome Deena. She talks about Jewish wedding traditions and about negotiating for what you need within the context of a religious service. I love the way she ponders creating a wedding where the service is the key element and the party is the lovely afterglow (or religious obligation… because as a Jew, it’s one of your obligations to party with the wedding couple!).

Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding
From all the blogs I had in my Google Reader while engaged, it could have been easy to think that the wedding reception is in fact the wedding itself, but it’s not! There are many parts to a wedding, or exactly four if you’re having a more traditional Jewish wedding: bedekin (veiling), chuppah (the ceremony), yihud (seclusion), and sedat mitzvah (festive meal). I feel so lucky that we were able to really embrace all four parts of the day and make them each our own, and we added a fifth, at a nice, yet slightly dive-y bar across the street from our venue.

Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding

Planning our wedding was sort of my job for most of our engagement, as I was mostly unemployed for the majority of that twenty month period. Our families are both on the East Coast, and we live in Boulder, Colorado. It just didn’t make sense to plan a long distance wedding. Wedding research became the thing that kept me from going bonkers at home alone during the day. I was determined not to become obsessed with fussy details and instead focused on making it OUR wedding, picking out the gems from the internet and sharing them with Ben a few times a week. We also quickly decided that we needed at least one twenty four hour wedding-free day per week. So, we made a firm rule: no wedding talk during Shabbat.

Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding

One of my personal hurdles that I had during the whole planning process was learning to be okay with the traditional ketubah text. It was what Ben and our rabbi were most comfortable with, but not me (yet). Once we added on the Liberman Clause (allowing me to initiate divorce proceedings), my biggest issue was that it claimed I was a virgin. After talking with the rabbi we decided that this meant I was a never-been-married woman with no children kind of virgin, not Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” kind of virgin. I just wasn’t comfortable with signing a contract that I felt misrepresented me. Since the ketubah is mine to give, Ben was willing to let me pick it out, but wanted veto power. Finding a ketubah within our budget that had both text and graphics that we agreed on took even more effort than finding my wedding dress! Honestly I’m glad that it did; having a religious document incite more discussions than any other part of the planning process really helped me feel connected to the marrying part of the wedding.

Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding

I went to the mikvah on Thursday night before our Sunday wedding, and Ben stayed on the guest bed in the study. It was a bit awkward for both of us, but made us feel like we were really getting ready to do something big (which we were). Going to the mikvah wasn’t the spiritual experience I was hoping for, but it was relaxing (I got to spend thirty minutes in a huge soaking tub with unlimited hot water) and nice to get away from the craziness of all four of our parents and two of our four siblings assembling programs in our apartment.

Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding

I told everyone, before I left to go to the mikvah, that I was done with wedding stuff. Anything left they were welcome to finish for me or not. I didn’t care anymore because after the Friday rehearsal was a leg waxing appointment and then Shabbat! “No wedding planning on Shabbat” was thoroughly observed the day before our wedding. We went to services (including our auf ruf), ate with  families, and hung out with friends. It was great to have those twenty four hours of downtime to ease into the wedding.

Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding

The wedding whole day felt like a dream, but with photographic evidence! Cliché I know, but seriously, I feel as if I somehow floated through the day while being present and aware for most of the important bits (toasts are a haze, I really just wanted Bananas Foster!). It was like a big love blankie wrapped us all up together and smoothly carried us through (though I wish that love blankie had kept me warmer). The one time I snapped at someone—and apologized two minutes later—felt like a huge deal because I’d been so peaceful all day. Trust me, I’m not usually that zen.

Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding

The only thing I really wish I could have changed about our wedding day was making sure that everyone knew they were invited to the bidekin. There were quite a few people I would have liked to have been there who were outside, saving seats for themselves at the ceremony site. Oops. Maybe we should have included it on the invitations? Bidekin 11:30, wedding ceremony at noon, luncheon reception to follow…. Lesson learned, if you want people to be there let them know.

Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding

Throughout the planning process, our goal was to make all the religious bits as prominent as possible, and to make our families feel included. We wanted our wedding to be about marrying each other and celebrating that, not just a huge party with a mini ceremony to kick it off.

Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding

We had our list of reception things that were important though: hiring a day of coordinator to pass off everything {Ben comments: and everyone!} to, finding photographers whose style meshed with ours, great food, good ambiance, and having a dessert that I’m not allergic to. Things that were lower on the list: fancy makeup, fru-fru flowers, hiring a super-trendy DJ, being matchy-matchy with everything, having an f-ing theme (seriously, our theme was Jewish Wedding, if you can call that a theme). We started the process with what we felt were the basics: a date (101010=42 in binary), our rabbi, a venue that needed no extra attention, and our DOC; she helped us find almost everything else.

Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding

There were so many little details that we felt weren’t important enough to care or fuss about. But having a great catering/venue coordinator, DOC, and photographers meant that we could just trust them to make executive decisions on fussy details for us, since we trusted them enough to not care ourselves. How freeing! It meant they made the schedule without much input form us (aside from what religious things needed to be included and about how long they will take).

Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding

OK, time to brag! I think the chuppah (canopy) and kittle (prayer robe), that my mom made are pretty rad. I’m also super happy with how all the details came together, including the fact that the green and blue LED uplight in the reception room inadvertently camouflaged the exit signs. Yes, it all came out a bit matchy-matchy, but by accident! I didn’t want there to be too many colors going on, so I stuck with greens and blues (not specific Pantones, just broad color families) and it came out awesome!

Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding

I’m really glad that we got to include lots of quirky details that made the wedding more “us,” like simple equations to solve for your table number (√64 = table 8), reading a silly poem during the ceremony (I Like You), and playing lots of awesome ‘eighties music. The mostly unplanned after party at the bar across the street was pretty excellent, too. Most people (myself included) weren’t ready to leave when we had to be out of the venue at five, and ended up hanging around for another two to three hours, eating tots and sweet potato fries, drinking local beers, and playing pool. Spending time hanging out with my new husband and our family and friends, in my rockin’ wedding dress was exactly how I wanted to end my wedding day.

Deena & Ben | A Practical Wedding

The Info—Photography by: Kokoro Photography / Venue: St. Julien Hotel and Spa / Dress: DREW by Melissa Sweet at Priscilla of Boston /Veil: Simple Beauty Veils / Earrings: A Finishing Touch / His Tux: Macy’s clearance rack, tailored at Men’s Warehouse / Day Of Coordinator: Danielle, from Something Classic Events / Florist & Chuppah Frame & Cover Rental: Boulder Blooms

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  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.com/ Amanda

    Yeah, you described it so well: “I feel as if I somehow floated through the day while being present and aware for most of the important bits . It was like a big love blankie wrapped us all up together and smoothly carried us through”.

    and this “Most people (myself included) weren’t ready to leave when we had to be out of the venue at five” .

    We had the same. ended up going to a bar at the beach with friends.

    Congratulations !

  • http://engineerbaker.blogspot.com Caitlin

    This makes me want to find awesome Jewish friends so that I can experience a wedding like this. As a Catholic, the wedding ceremony is also a huge part of the day (especially if you do a full Mass), but what you had seems even more steeped in tradition, history, and meaning. Thanks to you, I’m off to research traditional Jewish weddings!

    • ElfPuddle

      The Catholic full mass that my other half & I are planning seems very much what Deena & Ben had. I’m glad about that, because Deena’s description of her wedding is so very much what the little Elfie, who always dreamed of a princess wedding, was dreaming of.

      “Throughout the planning process, our goal was to make all the religious bits as prominent as possible, and to make our families feel included. We wanted our wedding to be about marrying each other and celebrating that, not just a huge party with a mini ceremony to kick it off.”

      It couldn’t get any better than that! Congrats to the two of you!

    • http://bettencourtchase.blogspot.com Helen

      I agree! I’ve read about all the aspects of a Jewish wedding, but I’ve never been to one. It sounds so involved and amazing. One of my LEAST favorite things about “normal” wedding is how fast the ceremony flies by. We had a relatively long ceremony (and it was only about 20-25 minutes total) because I wanted to have it be a bigger part of the day than just a quick 10 minute ceremony and then on to the reception.

      Anyway, your wedding was gorgeous! Thank you for sharing. :)

      • NF

        While the traditional jewish ceremony is full of meaningful pieces, if you only do the traditional elements it is actually very short. Which is not to say that it can’t be the centerpiece of the day, but that is not because it is a long ceremony.

    • Moz

      HAH! You’re not the only one. I REALLY want to do a Jewish wedding and REALLY REALLY want to go to a Seder. But there aren’t many Jews in Sydney to begin with…..

  • Rizubunny

    This is wonderful. We’ve (OK, mostly I’ve – I present things and she OKs them) spent much more time planning the wedding itself than the reception – because it is hugely important for me for the religious ceremony to be front and center. Good food is awesome, but I can give that to people any day – this is, really, my one chance to showcase what I believe about our marriage in a public religious way.

    And your ketubah is beautiful! And your dress. And your groom. And everything else. AHHHHHH. Awesomesauce.

    • Amandover

      Yes!
      “this is, really, my one chance to showcase what I believe about our marriage in a public religious way.”

      Again I say, yes! For me, the most exciting part of planning was creating a spiritual ceremony that reflected what we (I) believe about marriage. And since we believe marriage is spiritual, personal, and an important part of the greater good (or bad) – all of that necessitated a profound ceremony that was personalized to us.

      Technically, it was secular. But with a great deal of nature imagery, songs about a “Wondrous Love that will not let me go”, and a communal blessing ritual, it was my chance to show people my kind of church. And that was the most important part of my wedding day.

  • http://www.pinoyvey.com/ Christina

    Mazel tov! I love the idea of taking a step back and resting from the wedding planning frenzy during Shabbat. It really fits in with my idea of the spirit of the day.

    What candies did you use for your aufruf?

    • carolineemb

      Use soft candies, like Sunkist fruit gems. Everything else hurts when you get hit in the face with it! (Speaking from experience…)

      • Aine

        Oh G-d. My aunt got married in the Macedonian Orthodox Church, and they have a tradition of throwing candies and money at the bride and groom. Her fiance didn’t know about this, so when his mom told him to go get candy he got bags of things like jolly ranchers and starlight mints. We bridesmaids were using our bouquets as shields!

  • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

    We, too, had a totally unplanned drinks-at-a-bar-til-2-AM ending to our wedding day!

    Also, I think your Ketubah and chuppah are the most beautiful of any I’ve ever seen. Truly stunning.

    Also, I would’ve been the guest who had a panic attack over the table numbers. “What’s the square root of 64? Ohmygawd, I’ll never find my seat!” (Haha, math under pressure is most definitely not a strong suite of mine. ;))

    Mazel tov!

    • http://livingindaydreams.wordpress.com/ Edelweiss

      I love the unplanned bar parties after weddings. As a bar patron, I get such a warm, glowy feel when a wedding walks in the door, complete with bride and groom!

    • http://arduousblog.com ruchi

      Agreed. That ketubah and chuppah are STUNNING.

      Also this:
      “Honestly I’m glad that it did; having a religious document incite more discussions than any other part of the planning process really helped me feel connected to the marrying part of the wedding.”

      Really resonated with me. We have also spent more time thinking through our ceremony/ketubah/vows than anything else and it’s been difficult at times, and yet lovely. I’m really grateful that we both are very grounded in our respective traditions because it’s also helped to ground our wedding.

    • http://ducksandbooks.wordpress.com Deena

      the answeres were printed on the back of the cards in gray, but somehow most poeple missed that and had to either do the math or ask around and find someone else to do it for them :)

      the table cards kinda made for a good mixer of sorts during the cocktail hour

  • Emily

    Love this! What a beautiful wedding. Mazel Tov!!

  • http://weehermione.blogspot.com Hayley

    May I just gush quietly for a moment over your gorgeous ketubah?

  • Mallory

    “Maybe we should have included it on the invitations? Bidekin 11:30, wedding ceremony at noon, luncheon reception to follow…. Lesson learned, if you want people to be there let them know.”

    That’s such a good point. I just had to look up what that was, and never having been to a Jewish wedding I would have NO idea to go to that.

    More generally though, communication to your guests at the wedding is so important! We’re trying to arrange some small tours of the brewery during the cocktail hour where we’re getting married and have been trying to figure out the best way to communicate that. Do we put it on the website? Or on the ceremony programs? I would hate to learn after the fact that someone didn’t participate in part of the day simply because they didn’t know what was happening.

    Such a good lesson for so many aspects of a wedding. Don’t assume your guests will know what you’re thinking/doing.

    On a side note, this wedding looks like so much fun!!! And the ketubah and chuppah are so gorgeous!

    • http://www.thehandmadeevent.com Kari

      I would put it in the ceremony programs (perhaps on the back with a “the celebration continues” agenda) – or on a sign (discreet but not invisible) on an easel in the cocktail hour. Saying “Brewery tours leave from here” etc.

      Also making sure that a few key people know something and spread the word. Whether this is your DOC -and yay Deena for calling out she had a good DOC, we really do make a difference :) – or just your wedding party/parents, once a few people start heading up groups everyone else will get the message.

  • http://livingindaydreams.wordpress.com/ Edelweiss

    “We started the process with what we felt were the basics: a date (101010=42 in binary)”- I love you

    I can’t hear this enough “We wanted our wedding to be about marrying each other and celebrating that, not just a huge party with a mini ceremony to kick it off.” Thank you.

  • http://justneedthisspace.wordpress.com ddayporter

    I love that you got married the same day we adopted our dog. I’m sorry I can’t NOT make that connection.

    Gorgeous wedding, congrats! and I love your little gloves..!

    • http://ducksandbooks.wordpress.com Deena

      thanks!

      I’m really sad about those gloves though, they were borrowed from an old friend/my birthday twin and the dissapeared after the wedding! I never saw them again after we took photos in the rotunda before our yihud :(

      my mom gave all of her little 50s gloves to my girlfriend as a way to make up for loosing hers (which actually fit my friend better since they’re a 1/2 size smaller) but I still feel awful for loosing something that my friend had worn in her wedding too. Oh well, if that’s the only thing that went wrong I’m pretty lucky.

  • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

    “101010=42 in binary”

    the rest was quite lovely as well, but that sealed it.

  • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com/ Morgan

    I was raised lapsed Canadian United Church. (They’re good for things like acceptaning gay ministers (30 years ago!) and transgendered choir leaders, bad for rituals for complicated than singing Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus. Seriously. That last one was a major reason my mom left the Church.) I grew up with an almost total absence of ritual in my life – even family Christmas traditions have rested on my innitaive since I was a preteen. Because of this, I grew up ever so jealous of my Jewish friends, whose faith had such clearly definied riutals and traditions. (And no, I swear it wasn’t jeaousy over the B’nai Mitzvahs!) Reading this today made me tear up – your faith is so clearly a huge part of your day, and your life, and your told your story beautifully. Mazel tov!

    Also, on a shallow note? The picture where Denna is spinning and the dress flaring? SWOON.

    • http://blametheweatherman.wordpress.com Melissa

      I. Loved. That. Photo.

      Made me almost wish I’d opted for a short dress with lace ;)

  • http://blametheweatherman.wordpress.com Melissa

    We wanted our wedding to be about marrying each other and celebrating that, not just a huge party with a mini ceremony to kick it off.

    YES. During my own planning, the ceremony spent 6 of the 7 months on the back burner. I was elbow deep in reception planning without even realizing the only reason I was doing THAT was because of what happened in the CEREMONY.

    We had a rockin’ party, but the ceremony was beautiful and my favorite part. Countless friends asked us for copies of the script (I only shared bits & pieces. That sucker was my love child) because they were so enamored with what we said and how we said it.

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

    I love seeing the balance in Deena and Ben’s wedding between beautiful religious traditions/ceremony and a totally awesome reception. Obviously a reception, like any other party, requires a good amount of planning and detail work, but I love reading about all the meaningful details that go into the actual act of two wonderful people getting married. (Also, I think Jewish traditions like a ketubah and yihud are really beautiful. I wish other religious backgrounds had them as well!)

    My fiance and I are doing the full-Catholic-mass thing. I know it’s long for guests, but I really like the ritual and traditional aspects of it, and I tend to find things like that moving. Now just trying to figure out what readings/music work as well.

    • Jennah

      Annie, we did a full mass too, also because I wanted the ritual and tradition. I was also worried that it would drag for guests, but I actually had several (non-Catholic) people tell us they loved it. So go for it! Oh, and definitely look for readings beyond the ones they give you in that little booklet, even if they don’t feel wedding-y.

      Also, I now want to wear a twirly dress every day because that picture is so cool.

      • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

        That’s extremely good to hear (about the guests)! Also, I definitely want to branch out from the standard wedding readings. They’re nice, but I’d rather find something a little more meaningful. Do you mind if I ask which ones you chose?

        Can we instate twirly dress Fridays? It would be a great intro to any weekend.

    • http://engineerbaker.blogspot.com Caitlin

      We opted not to do the full Mass wedding, but for one very important reason – J isn’t Catholic. Or even baptized or raised in any faith. So I wanted to make sure that it was comfortable for him, and a full Mass wouldn’t have been. So as long as your partner is happy and you’re happy – guests will appreciate the symbolism, history, and sincerity in the full Mass. No matter what readings you pick. I’ll second using not-overtly-weddingy passages as well, since 1 Cor tends to get a little old. (I say that, but we used it in ours – it’s a portion of J’s fraternity’s ritual, so that was an important thing for him)

    • Kathleen

      It never even entered my mind to worry that a full Mass would be too long for our guests. Maybe it’s because 99% of the weddings I’ve ever been to have been full Catholic Masses, or because it’s only on the rarest of occasions that Mass seems long to me on a Sunday morning, but I really don’t think spending 45 minutes to an hour sitting still and paying attention is too much to ask of people. If you can handle sitting through a college class, sitting through (and maybe even paying attention to) a Mass is not much a stretch. Even elementary school kids sit still and pay attention for that long at school every day. Why does it being a wedding take something that is a completely expected part of everyone’s everyday life and make it seem somehow heroic?

  • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

    I’m so glad to read about a focus on the ceremony. APW weddings is always awesome about this but is really inspiring to me.

    We’re not religious at all but I have always loved holidays, ritual, and tradition not to mention that words are of great importance to me so I am really looking forward to planning our ceremony. We see the ceremony as a chance for us to promise to each other that we will try to live the life we visualize and through that to communicate to our friends and family the things we hold important in our life together.

    P.S. I’m so glad to hear you worked on the ketubah wording to get it to a place where it was honest and real for you.

  • Rosamund

    “our theme was Jewish Wedding, if you can call that a theme”

    LOVE. Our response all along to people asking “What’s your theme?” has been “The theme is that it’s a wedding.”

    • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

      Our theme was “us”

    • http://www.linseykitchens.com Linsey

      Ha ha! This question kills me. Like, if it’s not My Little Pony or rainbow or punk rock or Parisian or transcendentalist themed, our marriage is doomed–DOOMED! Or, what are your colors? Ummm, bright ones? Pretty ones? Whatever colored flowers they’ll have that day at the store?

    • http://engineerbaker.blogspot.com Caitlin

      Ours was “I like fall. A lot. So whatever goes with the season during which we’re marrying.”

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful. I love so much of this. The grounded tradition and making sure what was important to you was the major focus of the day.

    Every time my husband commented on how much I was doing for our wedding I reminded him that he worked a 9-5 job M-F and I worked a few hours a few days a week (grad student schedules are weird) and so I had the time and he didn’t, it was as simple as that.

    I love the warm blanket analogy. I love that you took time to not plan a wedding. This is just wonderful warm fuzzies for me today.

  • http://www.koruwedding.blogspot.com/ Koru Kate

    Congratulations! We spent time & effort on our Catholic ceremony & it was well worth it. Your wedding day steeped in traditions sounds awesome. I love your description of a love blankie carrying you through the day- so sweet. & I adore the photo of you dancing & twirling!!

  • http://www.marriage.com Jasmine

    Thanks for sharing this wedding with us! I’ve never been to a Jewish wedding so it was nice to get this peak into one!

  • Sue

    This is beautiful, I really like your photos. Congratulations.

    Beautiful Wedding Ideas

  • Moz

    I love it when we have really traditional, steeped in religion weddings on APW. Finding that middle ground can be really hard.

    Congrats on your marriage! x

    • http://blametheweatherman.wordpress.com Melissa

      This is why I’ve loved APW over most other sites & blogs – it really hits the things that matter, not just the pretty dresses & centerpieces.

  • http://angelasw.wordpress.com Angela

    I’m pretty much in love with all of the geek elements of this wedding. It’s all so clever and subtle and beautifully done. Also, I can’t get over how level-headed and on-point your focus is. A wedding is about the ceremony, not the extravagant party that follows, and you seem to have emphasized that well! Congrats!

  • Kathleen

    “We also quickly decided that we needed at least one twenty four hour wedding-free day per week. So, we made a firm rule: no wedding talk during Shabbat.”

    That sounds like such a fantastic rule. I don’t know what your observance of Shabbat is like, but as a Catholic, Sundays for me have traditionally been one of my favorite days the week, relaxing days that start with church and are often spent having leisurely meals with family, etc. Except when we were wedding planning, in which case it was more often church followed by stressful hours of decision-making and fighting. I wish I had thought of maintaining one day of peace!

  • http://ducksandbooks.wordpress.com Deena Rosenberg

    Oh my goodness! Thank you all for your lovely comments, I’m glad that I’m not that only one who wanted a wedding (Jewish, Catholic, earthy tree goddess, whatever) to go with their party :)

    Incase anyone is still in search of the perfect ketubah and is interested in Enya Keshet, you can find her work at Gallery Judaica. I’ll warn you to PROOF READ your ketubah a bazillion times before you OK it. Did you know that it can be invalidated by a typo!? Seriously. Ours is fine, but only because we made sure to read it multiple times over a few days to find the errors before OKing the final copy.

    I’m going to shamelessly pimp my blog (http://ducksandbooks.wordpress.com) to anyone who’s made it this far in the comments and say that I’m happy to answer anyones’ questions about anything you want to ask me.

    Love to all,
    Deena

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  • Billie

    Mazel Tov!! Thank you so much for sharing this. My wedding is in 3 weeks and is also a Jewish wedding. It was so great to hear how you really made the ceremony and the traditional elements important to you. Everything looked beautiful!

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