Monthly Archives: May 2013

Top 10 Tips Every Bride and Groom Should Know

Randy Lehrman is the owner of Real Genius Entertainment, a special events company that specializes in Jewish life cycle events, making every event unique and different while paying close attention to detail and a high level of personal service. With 20 years of experience, Randy uses his personality to drive the party. He also will help you with lighting design, music selections, room layout, and making your wedding exactly how you want it. Real Genius Entertainment is located in West Hills, California and is available for all your party needs!

In this crazy world of wedding event planning, I tell people all the time that these things have become mini-productions. I envision future weddings to be produced like the Oscars or Grammys with staff using walkie talkies and guests giving red carpet interviews. Okay, so I’m kidding, but only a little. The truth is, so many experts go into helping you achieve your dreams of your wedding day and everyone gets to be star of the day at some point. You’ve trusted some of the best pros in the biz to join you on your wedding day –DJs, entertainers, videographer, photographer, florists, caterers — but, there are two more people that are the true celebrities of your special day: You!

For the most part, as an entertainer, I drive a party to its success with the bride and groom as part of my team to deliver the most amazing event it can be. So believe it or not, there are actually many things you can do to make your own wedding even better. It’s really the difference between good and optimal. Follow this Top 10 List and you might float to your honeymoon on Cloud 9!

#1. Dance! That’s right. Even if you and your spouse are as stiff as boards you need to dance and participate on the dance floor. Why did you hire an awesome DJ for your event? To get people dancing all night! But, if you and your new partner are at the bar all night or yapping outside, how do you expect everyone else to get out there? Lead by example. You are the hosts. Monkey see, monkey do. And you guys are the two best dressed monkeys there!

#2. Know when to schmooze! With only a certain amount of time to visit and thank all of your guests, you usually rush around like little bees to thank them, which is very kind of you. But doing it at the right time can be a scheduling nightmare in itself. So my advice to you is to make sure you eat first (you get fed first anyways) and then there is time go chat and thank. You might also have schmooze opportunities at cocktail hour, salad, dinner, and cake cutting to say thanks! And remember, some of your best conversations might be on the dance floor!

#3. Work with your DJ! Don’t be your own! Of course you want your favorite music at your party. Many brides and grooms are focused on their taste in music instead of thinking of dance music. Use the expertise of your DJ to pick music for dancing. If something you like doesn’t work for the dance floor, it shouldn’t be a problem. Utilize it instead as background music during the meal, or as people enter the party. Green Day isn’t going to fill a floor no matter how much you like it.

#4. Don’t play your montage during dinner. Ninety-nine percent of all weddings are four to five hours long. If you are showcasing pictures of the two of you, the worst thing you can do is play it while your 200 guests are cutting chicken. Allow dinner time to be a time to relax and socialize. Set up the slideshow during dinner and after all the plates have been cleared, voila! It’s showtime! It will ensure you have all of your guests’ attention on something that is very special to you.

#5. More sugar! Have a secondary dessert if you can. The longest lull in the party is when the caterer is slicing cake for each and every one of your guests. I suggest having a candy or extra dessert table. That way after you’ve cut the cake, you can send your guests to that goodie table to nosh, and by the time they get back to their table there’s cake there, too!

#6. Bring money! Even if you leave cash or a check with your coordinator, you never want to run out of green. Many DJs require overtime payment on the spot so if you want to keep dancing the night away, have your coordinator take care of that for you. There is literally one instance at every party where you will need some kind of money for someone, whether it’s a tip or overtime. Count on not needing to pay up, but be prepared just in case, and make it easy on yourself.

#7. Beware of offsite photos. Out of the 20+ years of weddings I have worked, one thing has remained constant: when a photographer requests to take the bride and groom off-site for photos, the couple never returns on time. Try to avoid doing this at all costs because guests have already been there a long time and when your doors open they expect to see you introduced within fifteen minutes. If you aren’t at the beginning of your own party it will be uncomfortable for everyone there. We cant start without you, right? You can also schedule a photo shoot with your photographer where you get all dolled up again and take photos at a cool location or favorite spot. Bottomline, take as many photos as you can before the ceremony or the reception. You will be glad you aren’t late to your own party!

#8. Eat! You should get your plates before other guests, so take advantage of this and eat. This is a long and special weekend. You need lots of energy while dancing, chatting, and just meeting new family. Eat and drink water to keep yourself going. The number of times I’ve seen a bride or groom not eat before or during an event? Six. The number of times one of those people has fainted or thrown up? Six. Do the math.

#9. Inform your special VIP guests. All too often there is a mother-son dance where mom is floating at the bar, or there’s the emotional cousin who has just been asked to — surprise! — give a toast and had no idea. Tell your toasters, tell your dance partners, tell the people who are doing the motzi over the challah. Tell all your VIPs that you are honoring them with a special duty and then they’ll be prepared and excited about what they are doing.

#10. Have fun! If you have fun at your own party everyone else will, too! Don’t sweat the small stuff at your wedding reception. All too often, brides become upset over just one song they might not particularly like and and then not even realize that the dance floor is packed. Trust your DJ, smile, take pictures, kiss your new partner, and enjoy the best day of your life.

Tom Nicholls Photography

Tom Nicholls Photography

What Is A Mikvah and What Does It Have To Do With A Wedding?

For once, how would you like to get in the water and not have a care in the world about your hair getting wet or being self-conscious over your body? For once, how would you like a renewing experience that makes you feel alive, regenerated, and part of a tradition that spans from generations to generations? Mikvahs are not just for converted Jews. A bride may take a mikvah bath to ignite the start of her journey as a new, Jewish, married woman.

The mikvah, which is done as close to the wedding as possible, symbolizes a sort of rebirth or new life that the bride enters upon her upcoming marriage. The mikvah is a natural body of water, whether it’s a lake or a stream or a man-made pool that feeds from natural waters and resources, like rainwater or melted snow. Cool fact: There are 40 seah each (seah is a unit of measuremement; 40 seah equals about 200 gallons) of water in a mikvah and according to Sharon Shenker, founder and teacher at the Jewish Marriage Institute, the number 40 has significant relevance in Jewish history and culture.

“It is something that has linked the Jewish people together for thousands of thousand of years,” says Shenker. “Wherever you find a community, there is a mikvah there.”

Some interesting connections between the number 40 and rebirth: The rain fell for 40 days in the story of Noah and surrounded the world with water; The Hebrew people lived in the Sinai desert for 40 years and it is said that 40 years represents a period of time for a new generation to be born; Babies are in utero for 40 weeks and come out of the water at birth, purified and clean. There are hundreds of examples associations with the number 40, but perhaps the latter listed here is the most significant to the mikvah.

If you think about it, in Judaism, water is seen as a cleansing element, symbolizing revitalization in various forms of ceremonies and rituals. At Passover, we wash our hands at the seder; after a funeral, we wash our hands after leaving the cemetery and before entering a home; and of course, after a conversion, a new Jew will take a mikvah to mark his or her refreshed status as a Jewish person. So, it’s only fitting that prior to the simcha of a wedding, a bride may choose to mark her new life with a water purification and rebirth. After all, marriage brings change into a bride’s life, and this ritual acts as a preparation for that change. According to Shenker, “mikvah enables you to change your spiritual status.”

Many women may find mystery or awe in the mikvah experience, but it’s not eerie or something to fear. In fact, many modern mikvahs are creating a spa-like ambiance to appeal to current women. Typically, a modern mikvah has a changing room, a preparation room, the actual body of water itself, and a drying room. Some mikvahs even have specially-arranged bride hours! There can sometimes be a wait, but it’s a useful time to meditate, write, or enjoy the solitude and internal experience. We rarely get a break from our work and play lives to devote to just ourselves. Daydreaming about your future ahead and the plans you two have together is some of the most relaxing and rewarding type of meditation.

Before entering the mikvah, you will completely purify yourself. Think about a baby in the womb: nothing comes between a baby and the surrounding waters. It’s the only time in a human’s life that the baby will be absolutely free of any other substances and stimuli. A mikvah is your chance to seek that similar type of purity. So, preparing for your mikvah includes everything from a body rinse, hair detangling, total makeup and nail polish removal, and detaching any other unnatural elements from your body. This is a wonderful chance for you to get to know every inch and nook and cranny of your body. It’s beautiful, and every part has served a purpose for you and will continue to meet your needs as you hold your partner’s hand on your honeymoon or cradle your baby years from now. You can even pamper yourself! Use your favorite scrub or loofah to really get down to business on your parts. You are giving yourself the royal treatment because, girlfriend, you are the queen!

After your preparation bath, a mikvah attendant may go over all the steps to make sure you prepared properly. She’s looking out for your ultimate mikvah experience. Then, she’ll probably offer you a robe or gown to keep your body pure and honor your privacy as you head to the mikvah water.

Once at the mikvah water, you’ll walk down the steps to a full immersion as you dunk your body completely into the water, toes to head. This will make your mikvah kosher and the attendant will declare it so. One plunge satisfies the requirement, but three or seven immersions can be tradition as well, depending on your affiliation or family customs. If there are women in your family who have done mikvahs, ask them what they do. Or, of course, you can talk to your rabbi. If you’re a rookie, you can either take it upon yourself to follow the customs or create new ones for yourself. That’s the beauty of a mikvah. It’s about you.

“It’s one of the only things in Judaism you do with your whole body,” she says. The other two are sitting in a sukkah and walking through Israel.

After your mikvah, once you have finished your immersion, you may then recite to yourself:
Baruch Atah Ado-nai Elo-heinu Melech HaOlam Asher Kidishanu B’mitzvotav V’tzivanu Al Hatevilah.
We bless you, God, Our God, Ruler of the Universe who has made us holy by commanding the immersion.

You’ll leave the mikvah space to go to a room where you will put yourself back together. Most modern and updated mikvahs that provide a spa-like experience may even have hair dryers and toiletry goodies waiting for you! It’s like a holy country club!

After you leave the mikvah, Shenker says you are not to engage in sexual intercourse until the wedding night. You must preserve your newly cleaned body and mind for your soon-to-be husband. “Some people really have an emotional experience where they feel connected,” she says. “They feel like they’re doing the right thing.” And hey, when we do the right thing, we are in a good mood. And when we are in a good mood, well, you know where this is going. So save your good feelings and moods for the night you become a Mrs.

You can go to mikvah any day of the year except for Yom Kippur and Tisha B’av. Shabbat is a wonderful time to visit the mikvah. The mikvah is reserved for brides only during the day. All other mikvah goers must visit in the evenings. And, most importantly, you must be finished with your monthly cycle when going to the mikvah. So it is important to choose your wedding day in accordance with your cycle. If you’re not on the pill, you might have to do some math. This rule is extremely important, as you can’t visit the mikvah until seven days after the end of your period. Your period is considered to be at least five days (even if it’s shorter, you lucky girl, you), and then you must add on seven more days. So, consider these twelve days while you’re calendaring for your wedding date if you are to do a bridal mikvah within four days of the wedding.

So, overall, this general outline of a mikvah should help in piquing your interest or quelling any concerns you may have. I, personally, did not do a mikvah for my wedding because I didn’t really know about the custom, but have learned about this experience since. I think it’s a beautiful and unique event that I would have done for spiritual growth and development prior to my wedding. Of course, every woman’s experience is different, and between hair trials and dress fittings, it’s one more thing you can do for yourself that also provides a deep reflection and connection to a special Jewish tradition.

To learn more about mikvah practices or additional education about Jewish marriage and relationships, visit the Jewish Marriage Institute. Classes for couples or individuals are available as a wonderful resource for developing healthy and Jewish marriages.

5 Things I Learned About Weddings From Planning My Own

This weekend, Mr. Yenta and I will be celebrating our FIVE YEAR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY! That’s, like, half a decade. Five years ago at this time, we were bustling around picking up caramel apples from an L.A.-based snack supply company and freaking out about the shortage at Target of gusseted clear bags to contain them. I cried really hard when Mr. Yenta and my dad played a joke on me and told me they’d already put the stickers with our logo on the bags before I could even see them. Nerves were high. It was crunch time and details were quickly leaving my control and soon entering into the hands of others. I did not take that well.

Looking back at this snapshot of time just a few sunrises and sunsets away from the big “mazel tov,” I giggle to think how much those things mattered to me. These days, I throw a party if I get a spare minute just to shave my legs. But hey, that’s mommyhood with Baby Yenta and you know what they say… First comes love, then comes marriage…

And here we are.

Photo by Eight20 Photography

Photo by Eight20 Photography

I’m not claiming to know everything (although, I AM a Yenta…), and I know that everyone’s situations are different, but I’d like to think that five years later, as a recent-ish enough Jewish bride, I can share with you five important nuggets of wisdom about wedding planning and marriage.

  1. Things have changed in the videography business since your bat mitzvah. The montage with the fade outs and mosaic transitions worked for you and your brace-face dressed in a little sailor dress from 1995, but that’s not going to fly for documenting your bridal beauty in a Monique on your wedding day. I’m all about keeping the vendors in the family, but if your videographer or other mitzvah vendor hasn’t taken their business or craft to the next level in the 10ish years since they were originally hired, you may need to alter your expectations and realize that the result won’t be like the others you’ve seen blogged or Facebooked in recent years. And, a more likely scenario, you may have to look beyond those vendors and start from scratch. Things have changed in the events biz since Clinton was president, ya know?
  2. Choose your bridal party based on your life as it stands in the moment you’re getting married. OK, that’s a confusing sentence, but stay with me. Select the people you want by your side from the pool of people you are close with RIGHT NOW. Not who you used to be close with. Not who you want to be close with. Not who you should be close with. Who is special to you NOW? Those are the people who should be part of your wedding day inner circle. It may change and years later, there may be some individuals who are no longer in your life. Time happens. But don’t use nostalgia as a method for choosing your maids and men. Instead, think of those you love most and who currently have your back.
  3. Whether it’s a groom or a co-bride, let your partner be involved! You’re not the only one getting married here, sister! Allow your love’s opinions to be heard and discussed. You may not always agree, and that’s OK as it won’t be the last time, but it’s important to remember it’s not only YOUR wedding. You’re not marrying yourself. You’re marrying another person. Encourage involvement and even if it’s declined — hey, weddings aren’t everyone’s obsession cup o’ tea — at least keep your partner in the loop with updates and tidbits of information. Hey, guess what. Marriage is exactly the same way and that’s, like, forever.
  4. Don’t get too focused on what other brides are doing. Or what Pinterest suggests you do. Or what wedding blogs tell you you should do. (well, except for The Wedding Yentas. Always follow what The Wedding Yentas says). It’s so easy to get wrapped up in current trends and styles. You know who knows you best? Yeah, you. So, get inspiration. Enjoy new ideas. But stay true to yourself. I know, that sounds super cheesy, like something you’d hear at a 7th grade drugs education assembly, but remember who’s actually getting married. It’s you and the person you chose to spend forever with, not that super skinny shiksa model who’s showcasing a toga wedding dress in a Grecian styled shoot. Educating yourself is good. Veering away from your own personal style and values is not. Find ideas and take advice, and then apply it to your own taste.
  5. Never stop holding hands. Or staying by each others’ sides. Or making eye contact. You’ll never get these wedding day moments back. Try to stay together for the whole day. Remain connected during the ceremony as you soak up the words from your rabbi, cantor, or other officiant. Hold hands and squeeze along to the prayers or music. At your reception, make a pact to travel the room as one. Experience the same event together so you never miss a beat. Keep this theme going throughout your marriage. A kiss goodnight. Every night. Even if you’re mad. It’s hard to stay angry when you have to exchange a peck. A mad kiss is better than no kiss. Kisses make people happy. And that’s how you do happily ever after.

I’m drinking my own Kool Aid here. L’chaim to that. And happy anniversary to my love. Mazels on another year in the books. And mazels to all of you joining our club.

Photo by Eight20 Photography

Photo by Eight20 Photography

Roaring 20s Wedding Styled Shoot

This “Roaring Love” styled shoot was dreamed up by Shelley Cameron, the owner of Better Half Weddings & Events, Inc., after she was inspired by the predicted 2013 wedding trend of styles behind Mad Men, The Great Gatsby, and a chic spin on classic 1920s and 1930s style.

In Shelley’s words: With a background as a bridal stylist, I knew I wanted to borrow gowns & a flashy headpiece from Patricia South’s Wedding Center, because they’re known for carrying designers like Sue Wong that would nail the glitz & glamour flapper after-party dress I had imagined. It was our intention to bring the classic novel, The Great Gatsby, to life through a speakeasy bar with crystal decanters and whiskey tasting, a romantic dessert table decked out in 1920s flare, a cigar & scotch lounge, and ending with a bride and groom jazz dance off.

Vintage Wedding Shoot

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I loved the idea of bringing the Roaring Twenties to life here in South Florida. When people think of South Florida they automatically think of palm trees, white sand, and turquoise waters. I really wanted to bring the sophistication and class of the 1920s right here in our own backyard, without the tropical twist. I immediately thought of the perfect park, which happened to be nestled within my aunt’s neighborhood in Boca Raton called Charleston Place. The architectural details within the community are just stunning. You feel like you’ve stepped back in time and have been transported out of Florida; surrounded by South Carolina charm, hanging lanterns, fancy gazebos, and brick driveways, the community is stunning.

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Photographer:  Traci Burke Photography
Vintage Pieces: Amazing Grace Vintage Rentals
Event Planner: Better Half Weddings & Events, Inc.
Bakery: Cloud 9 Bakery
Hair Stylist: Hair by Alonso
Floral Designer: Julia Rohde Designs
Invitation Designer: Llorente Design
Makeup Artist: Make Me Up Artistry, Carissa Michelle
Dress Store: Patricia South’s Wedding Center

Submitted via Two Bright Lights

  • June says:

    Just beautiful! Love all the attention to detail. You really get a feel for the era.

Go Hug Your Mom

Ten years ago, before I was a bride and before I even met Mr. Yenta, my mom turned 50 and was in the middle of treatment for breast cancer. I was only a college student with a zillion other concerns on my mind and not even at home to be by her side or fully understand the stresses of watching a loved one go through cancer. I knew she would beat it and she did. For that, I am so grateful.

Five years ago, my family participated in the Revlon Run/Walk for Women's Cancers in Los Angeles celebrating my mom's victory!

Five years ago, my family participated in the Revlon Run/Walk for Women’s Cancers in Los Angeles celebrating my mom’s victory!

Things have changed a lot in those ten years: I graduated college, I went on lots of ridiculous dates, I met and married my wonderful husband, I started and ended at a few different companies, I started The Wedding Yentas, and I had a daughter of my own. Thank goodness she beat that cancer biatch and she’s around to be able to witness all of these milestones.

Today is her 60th birthday!

I think back to one of my main milestones, my wedding, and try to think how it would have been different to experience it without a Jewish mother. Who would’ve nagged me to make sure I bring my Spanx to each dress fitting? Who would’ve looked over each contract with a careful eye to make sure that my guests were getting enough to eat? Who would’ve told me I was ridiculous for harping on dumb things? Who would’ve been so, so, so generous with shower gifts or her time at vendor meetings? I know how lucky I was to have my mom so involved in my wedding and am thankful to have had that experience with her.

My mom and me the morning of my bridal shower. It was such a fun experience with her!

My mom and me the morning of my bridal shower. It was such a fun experience with her!

My mom takes my arm as we are about to walk down the aisle at the wedding rehearsal and we got gussied up for the rehearsal dinner later that night!

My mom takes my arm as we are about to walk down the aisle at the wedding rehearsal and we got gussied up for the rehearsal dinner later that night!

I also know that not every bride is in my position to have her mama by her side, so my wish is for every bride to have a special mom-like woman along for the ride who will take on the duties and role of a Mother of the Bride. Whether it’s an aunt, a grandma, a best friend, or a cousin, women should have a mentor; You should be able to count on someone wise, who loves you, but is just objective and fearless enough to play a good round of Devil’s Advocate/Jewish Mother.

So on her big birthday (omg she’s going to kill me for this), I want to wish my mom a happy day and year ahead, and thank her for kicking cancer’s ass ten years ago and being part of my life for the past decade. There will only be more exciting things to share together and while they may not be as beautiful or consuming as a wedding (you SO know what I mean, ladies!), I know the importance of my mother’s role in my life and I hope all of you Yentas also have a lady you can hug who’s been just as important during your wedding planning or other big life moments.

For the past few weeks, my mom and dad have been jetsetting to celebrate another big event; not only is my mom turning 60 today, but next month, they celebrate 40 years of marriage. It was their wedding album that gave me the wedding obsession bug, and, hence, The Wedding Yentas as we know it. And while they’ve been off galavanting through some of the world’s most beautiful cities, I’ve missed her! Chatting through opposite time zones makes it tricky to catch up, and Baby Yenta has definitely been without her Mimi for far too long. She comes back home today (Happy birthday from TSA! Here’s an intrusive pat down that may as well be a pap smear) and I’m so excited to celebrate this big birthday with her.

Thanks for being born, Mom.

Important moments from my wedding day with my mom by my side.  Photos by Eight20 Photography

Important moments from my wedding day with my mom by my side.
Photos by Eight20 Photography

  • Gwendolyn Tundermann Photography says:

    What a beautiful and inspiring woman! Happy birthday!

  • sharon says:

    Thank you very much for the beautiful tribute. We have shared so many wonderful occasions & moments—and there’s no stopping us. We have way more to share. Being able to be by your side as you planned your wedding & then walk you down the aisle was a highlight of my life. Of course you’re glad I was born or else YOU wouldn’t be here. 😉 And by the way, the TSA only had to feel me around my ankles (?)!
    Love you very much! Mom