Becky & Etan

It’s hard to tell if it’s the New Yorker in me that loves today’s wedding (Shake Shack! Madison Square Park! A BBQ place I used to frequent!), or the Jewish convert in me that loves it… or if I just love it because it’s so exactly right. Becky talks about how you won’t remember the details, but you do have to fight for what’s authentic for you. And that’s why I still write this website, passionately, two years after our own wedding. Because I believe in weddings and the way they usher us through something fierce and powerful. But regardless, this could not be a more perfect wedding to usher everyone back to work after Labor Day. And now, Becky herself:

Being married has been so wonderful in itself, I almost hate to go back and dwell on the details of the wedding.  So I won’t, but I do want to say a little bit about how it felt, the spirit of it all, and what I remember of the blurry beautiful weekend.

Our wedding was the culmination of seven years of getting to know each other, one and a half years of engagement, and over a year of being wed in the eyes of the civil government.  It also celebrated my conversion to Judaism, and the joining of our families and our cultures (I’m apple-pie American with roots in Pittsburgh and Alabama, he’s Jewish with roots in Morocco and Scranton).  But mostly, it was a celebration of two people who were madly in love and so excited to begin their lives together they just couldn’t keep it inside!

Our wedding represented “us” perfectly.  The best compliment we heard afterwards from numerous people was how authentic it felt.  We had originally booked a lovely waterfront Italian restaurant in Jersey City.  It would have been nice, just nice, and we were mainly just thrilled that a place was booked.  Then we went to see a friend’s band play in the basement bar of Hill Country, a TX-style BBQ joint in Manhattan. Done and done.

We re-booked, upset some traditional-loving family members in the meantime, and searched ravenously for a ceremony space. Good thing Manhattan has parks. We ended up holding the ceremony in the lovely Madison Square Park, one and a half blocks from the restaurant, praying for no rain. This made the logistics much more difficult, but in the end, it felt exactly like us. Not too fancy, rough around the edges, just raw love.

The moments that stand out? Parading down Madison Ave in my dress and cowboy boots with my sister on the way to the ceremony. Holding hands under the huppah—a lace tablecloth made by my great grandmother—and seeing the sunshine trickle through on us. Getting a free milkshake and cheers from the workers at Shake Shack. The BBQ bibs. My girlfriends helping me change into the party dress my best friend made for me (God bless double-sided tape).

The cheers and screams after the backflip in our first swing dance. Seeing my Alabama-bred military-minded father lifted up in a chair above our heads, something I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams!

Dancing all night, and turning around on the dance floor and always seeing someone else I know and love. My husband singing to me, in front of EVERYONE we know. Seeing my loved ones laughing, dancing, raucous and ecstatic!

And of course I don’t remember where people were sitting, even after spending days on the seating chart. I don’t remember people complaining about the heat, after fretting anxiously about the unpredictable weather on an August Sunday. I don’t remember the fact that jackhammers drowned out most of the ceremony, despite our last-ditch efforts with a small PA system, because I heard every word between the Rabbi, my husband and myself. I don’t remember worrying if the hora would offend my non-Jewish family, because I felt so much love from everyone on the dancefloor circling with us!

The lesson in all this is don’t give in because it’s easy. Try to make conscious choices that represent who you are. A great wedding isn’t great because it’s in a fancy place, or on a pretty beach, or surrounded by gorgeous flowers. It’s great because it authentically celebrates the two people standing in front, shamelessly pouring their love out.

We’ve been married about a year now, and I’m so happy that our wedding was what it was. It was the opening celebration of our marriage, plain and simple. I’m glad it wasn’t classier, more expensive, bigger, smaller… It was a celebration of us, of love.

The Info—Photography: Junenoire Photography + family and friends / Venue: Madison Square Park & Hill Country BBQ / Dress: JCrew / Suit: Custom made at My.Suit

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  • Carbon Girl

    Your wedding looks like so much fun!! Every picture pours out joy.

  • Kayakgirl73

    Looks like so much fun. I love the picture of both your dads, I think, up on the chairs.

  • Oh how your dress was twirling. Love it. And yes to authentic weddings.

  • “The best compliment we heard afterwards from numerous people was how authentic it felt.” …

    That could not be more true. It’s great that you’re so proud to have had an authentic wedding when a lot of couples would be afraid to have just that. But I completely agree. Having a wedding that was totally us was the best feeling, even in spite of the little things that went wrong. Great post; congrats!

  • I love it… it looks like everyone had so much fun! I think sometimes we forget that weddings are celebrations and celebrations should be fun! And I totally agree about how it all passes in a blur. I was kind of sad at first that I have very few specific memories of our wedding… even some of the photos I am in look completely foreign to me. But honestly I have very few specific memories of last weekend so I can’t be too hard on myself about an event that happened half a year ago and what I do remember gives me such a warm- fuzzy- happy feeling so no complaints here!

  • m

    checkered bib + wedding dress = awesome :)

  • ‘A great wedding isn’t great because it’s in a fancy place, or on a pretty beach, or surrounded by gorgeous flowers. It’s great because it authentically celebrates the two people standing in front, shamelessly pouring their love out.”

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m less than two months away from the wedding now and stressing a little about all the details to make it fun and lovely and meaningful. But looking at Becky and Etan’s pictures, what stands out most aren’t the centerpieces or seating arrangement. It’s the fact that they looked like they had a totally amazing time and are so in love. Awesome wedding, awesome post!

    • Manya


      It’s going to be fun because it’s your favorite people all together to drink, eat, dress up and celebrate.

      It’s going to be lovely, because love is (by definition) love-ly, and you are going to look and feel great, and it’s going to be

      Meaningful, because it’s about you and your love joining your lives together, and because you care enough to want the details to matter.

      Enjoy the journey of the details, if you can. Pour your love and creativity into them, if it is fun (if it’s not–then abandon them, NOW!)… but try to know, deep down, that your wedding is guaranteed to be fun, lovely and meaningful because YOU are all of that. And the magic is going to kick in and do the rest. Hang in there and good luck!

      • Those two sentences that Annie mentioned were my favorite too. So simple & true, yet soooo easy to forget in the midst of a wedding.

      • Manya, I might just have to print out your comment so I can look at it when feeling overwhelmed by the planning aspect. Thank you so much for your kind words and thoughtful advice.

  • Moz

    This is a really beautiful, succinct grad post. ‘Don’t give in because it’s easy’. I like this a lot.

    Congrats on your marriage xx

  • What a perfect grad post. Loved every line of this and those photos just have joy pouring out of them. Beautiful.

  • James

    Respect, :-)

  • Oh, my goodness. There is just so much happiness exploding out of all of these photos. Congratulations!

  • april

    What a fun-tastic, joyful day y’all had!

  • Wow, thanks all! After following APW for so long, it’s so surreal to be the one up there for all to see! APW was the ONLY wedding resource I could handle, so I’m thrilled to give back.

    • …so it turns out I am basically stealing your wedding after all. In a couple weeks (!!!) we will be getting married in Madison Square Park, weather permitting, and then having a reception at Hill Country. No idea if you still read comments to this or get email notifications but if you do, any advice would be very welcome and we hope you don’t mind the copying.

  • thesasha

    I almost planned to get married at Hill Country! In fact if our chosen venue doesn’t work out I might still do it there! And either way I find your pictures and happiness super inspirational! Also, I am envious of your guests. (And evidently full of exclamation points). Thanks for sharing this awesome looking wedding.

  • Jen

    Beautiful wedding, and may i just say – you have amazing legs! That picture of the two of you twirling on the dancefloor is awesome!

  • Gosh. Having been reading since mid-2008 (um, wow? how did that get to be three years ago already?), and even after LOVING so many grad posts, I think I’ve just found my all-time favourite. Becky, I bow down to your magnificence.

  • Bethie

    Aaahhh! Hill Country BBQ is SO amazingly delicious and fun! Now I’m hankering for some cornbread and ribs…

  • mimi

    Love the photo of you two dancing! I hope to look that happy in the photos from my own day (whenever that may be…) Congrats and thanks for a great post!

  • Krista

    I love this! You are so smart!

  • Emmylou

    You had me at Shake Shack! This post really speaks to me. Because its so easy to get caught up in superficial esthetic details and forget what this is really all about

    “A great wedding isn’t great because it’s in a fancy place, or on a pretty beach, or surrounded by gorgeous flowers. It’s great because it authentically celebrates the two people standing in front, shamelessly pouring their love out.”

    Seriously…Thank you and congratulations.

  • TLThomas

    Am I too late to this comment party?

    Everyone looks so blissfully happy!
    Becky, that J. Crew dress looks stunning on you. Do you know the style name?

    We are getting married in September (2013);
    I would love to have our ceremony in Madison Square Park and am wondering how strict the parks dept is about bringing in seating (My 80-year-old mother, her siblings, and my fiance’s parents will definitely need chairs.)

    • Becky

      The JCrew dress was the Sophia gown I believe, their bridal shop on the upper east side is very helpful, it’s the only gown shop I went to. It just needed hemming.
      The Parks Dept. allowed chairs (up to a certain amount, I don’t remember), but no tent-type structures or electrical hookup for speakers (which we may or may not have heeded). But every park is different, so definitely check with them.
      Good luck!

      • TLThomas

        Thank you Becky!

  • Nicole

    Your wedding looks like it was SO much fun and strikingly beautiful! I am currently planning a wedding of my own and am having trouble finding information on hosting a ceremony in Madison Square Park. Are there any websites you can refer me to that have more information? How many guests attended your ceremony? Were you allowed chairs for a handful of elderly? Were you allowed an audio device, such as a microphone and a speaker?
    Best! Nicole