Tales From The Veil: Los Angeles Couple Goes Modern Orthodox Even With Reform Upbringing

Growing up in a small town in Maine, my Jewish identity was defined by cultural Jewish experiences like visiting my grandparents in Long Island where I enjoyed bagel, lox, and cream cheese, knishes and other culturally Jewish delicacies; it was a small taste of what living a Jewish life could mean. It was not until I participated in a Birthright trip during my sophomore year in college that I experienced and became intrigued by Judaism and was eager to learn more.

As a curious teenager, I had a lot of questions about life and I was unable to find satisfying answers. So, I embarked on a journey of Jewish learning that included studying at an all-women’s seminary in Jerusalem, one-on-one learning back in the United States, and slowly adopting practices such as keeping Kosher and attempting to keep Shabbat. When I met my husband, AJ, it was the first time I found someone who came from a similar background, yet was moving in a similar direction. AJ grew up in a Reform synagogue in San Francisco, and became more observant during business school. Together, we are currently paving our path and still figuring out what kind of Jewish home we will keep.

Jewish Weddings

We decided that although we are still growing in our observance and haven’t committed to all observant traditions and practices, it was very important to us to have an Orthodox wedding. There were several reasons to this, but a few included: We wanted all of our guests to feel comfortable. Some of our closest friends are Orthodox and will only eat Kosher food that is under the supervision of a Rabbi. Additionally, many men will only dance with men and women with women. Also, the meaning behind a traditional Jewish ceremony was extremely intriguing to us. It was important that our wedding was a spiritual and elevating experience, not just a party. And lastly, the few Orthodox weddings I had been to in the past were the most moving, exciting, and meaningful.

Obviously, this added a level of complexity when the planning process began because neither my mother nor future mother-in-law had ever been to an Orthodox wedding. The first challenge we faced was deciding where to have the wedding. If we decided to have the wedding in Maine, we would have had to bring Kosher food up from Boston. This just seemed crazy. So, we decided to have the wedding in San Francisco, where we could find Kosher food and had AJ’s mom on the ground to help with the planning. Next, we could only serve Kosher Mevushal wine. This made ordering and selecting alcohol much more complicated and expensive. In the end, we separately ordered the wine from the rest of the alcohol from a distributor in Chicago.

Choosing a band was also hard. We wanted a band that could play “simcha” music (Hora style music), but a band that could also play American music as well. We ended up bringing a band from Los Angeles. Also, we decided that the first 25 minutes would be separate dancing and the rest of the wedding would be mixed. One of the only pre-wedding nightmares I had was about this particular part of the wedding. I worried guests would not want to participate in the separate dancing or that nobody would know what was going on! Fortunately, the separation occurred organically and it seemed as though most of our guests really enjoyed and appreciated this part.

AJ and I decided to not see each other the week before the wedding. However, our parents felt very strongly about having a dinner the night before the wedding with our immediate and extended families. We wanted to respect their request, especially since they were so supportive of our choice to have an Orthodox wedding, so we did not see each other for the entire week up until the wedding, and sat at different tables during the dinner and did everything we could to avoid eye contact. We wanted the moment at the Bedeken (veiling ceremony) to be as special as possible. Many argue the Bedeken goes back to biblical times when Jacob married Leah by accident because her face was veiled, when he really wanted to marry Rachel. Others say it is the groom publicly demonstrating that his love and affection for his new bride goes beyond physical beauty; he loves her for what he cannot see. The Bedeken added a complexity to the photography schedule. Our photographer wanted to take group and family photos before the wedding, which is commonly done. However, we decided we would hold out for the Bedeken and do group pictures during cocktail hour. We wanted our first interaction to be at the veiling.

Jewish Wedding Bedeken

In the end, it all paid off despite the added challenges of planning a wedding that nobody in our family had experienced before. The minute AJ was ushered out of the Tisch escorted by his father and my father, our friends, and family he approached me and pulled my veil over my face, and leaned in and whispered loving words in my ear. I was flooded with emotion and gratitude that not only was I marrying my beshert, but I was participating in a tradition that goes back thousands of years and I have the privilege of living in a time where I can be Jewish and openly, and proudly live a Jewish life.

annabioAfter growing up in non-observant Reform Jewish households, Anna & AJ Prager now live in the Pico Robertson community in Los Angeles, which is typically very traditional. They recently moved from Chicago where Anna was attending graduate school at the University of Chicago. Anna loves to cook, bake challah, host Shabbos meals, and enjoys her daily fitness classes at Equinox with AJ! AJ works in the entertainment industry and is a San Francisco Giants fan. They both love to travel and are enjoying being newlyweds together! You can also see their entire wedding collection and story that was featured on The Wedding Yentas.

{Real Jewish Weddings} San Francisco, CA

In the winter of 2011, Anna participated in a trip to Berlin, Germany, with the organization Germany Close Up, a trip that brings American Jews to experience modern day Germany. On the first evening of the trip, she connected with a fellow participant, Elannah, and the two quickly bonded. Within a few hours of their meeting, Elannah realized Anna would be a perfect match for AJ, one of her best friends back in Los Angeles. The problem was that Anna lived in NYC and AJ in L.A. Nevertheless, Elannah immediately sent AJ an email telling him that she had found his “bashert” (soulmate) in Berlin, Germany. After Anna returned to the States, she and AJ spoke a few times by phone and eventually AJ flew across the country to meet Anna in person.

Anna & AJ got married in San Francisco at the former federal bank called the Bently Reserve. They had a modern Orthodox wedding that reflected their connection and commitment to traditional Judaism. It was the first Orthodox wedding for the majority of their guests, including the couple’s families. The energy and ruach was outstanding and contagious.

Mazel tov, Anna and AJ!

Please also enjoy the highlights reel produced by Blue Moon Productions!

Anna + AJ | Bently Reserve | San Francisco from Andy Hirsch on Vimeo.

New York Jewish Weddings

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Photography: Todd Rafalovich Photography
Venue: Bently Reserve
Lighting: Enhanced Lighting & AV
Cake: Have Your Cake
Rentals: Classic Rentals
Band: Nefesh Orchestra

{Real Jewish Weddings} St. Paul, MN

Sean is a successful musician in the Twin Cities, and he also happens to run Trivia Mafia, a local bar trivia company. Rachel and her friend decided to start doing bar trivia as a way to get out of the house, and he was the host at Sunday night trivia at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis. Sean and Rachel met and gradually started talking more and more, and then finally one day (10 months after she started attending trivia) he asked for her number. Rachel was so oblivious, she remembers thinking “I wonder what he wants that for?!” They dated for two years before they got engaged. Rachel knew he was going to propose, because they had talked about it and he told her he was driving to visit ner parents (in Fargo) to formally ask for Rachel’s hand. Then on a Sunday morning in October, he suggested they go out to Lake of the Isles and take a look at this boat race some of his friends were doing. He played it so cool that Rachel didn’t even suspect anything, so she went out in a hoodie, unshowered, with no makeup. Turns out there was no boat race; it was just an excuse to get her to go to that spot. Then boom, she turned around and he was down on one knee! He really managed to surprise her, which is no easy feat.

As a couple, one thing Rachel is really proud of is how much they work on communication. They try hard not to assume that feelings or needs “go without saying.” Sean is open emotionally in a way Rachel didn’t think men could be, which has allowed her to be more emotionally open (again, no small feat, since she’s pretty introverted).

Rachel and Sean are a perfect couple, and that’s no trivial matter!

Mazel tov, Rachel and Sean!

St. Paul Minnesota Jewish Weddings

For my dress, I didn’t want to feel pressured to look like what was trendy or expected. I went to Andrea’s Vintage after finding it online, and the staff there was amazing in helping me create and execute a vision.

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Besides the actual ceremony, I really loved when we signed the ketubah (Jewish marriage contract). It was like a little mini-ceremony before the actual ceremony. We were all gathered together, just close friends and family, to see us sign the contract and for our parents to say some kind words. It was really special.

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For the bridesmaids, I was 100% committed to asking them to wear something that they could wear again. I figured, a JCrew sweater will last forever and is always in style, and my friend found a pin on Pinterest that paired a cable knit sweater with a full tulle skirt. We both loved the look, and she offered to make them at cost, since she’s a skilled seamstress. I thought the navy blue color would look appropriate for fall, not clash with anything else, and be timeless.

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Sean picked out the colors, which I liked and so we ran with it. We chose the library theme for the invitations and centerpieces/table numbers because we were in a library, so why not go with it? As for the chevron, we just thought that looked cool and unique. We didn’t particular like the idea of flower centerpieces, so we collected books from thrift stores and our bookshelves to put on the tables instead.

We just had honest conversations about what was important and what wasn’t that important, and what we really envisioned, and went from there. I tried my best to save money where I could. It was incredibly easy to get carried away, but I think I did a good job of editing.

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My advice to brides: Have a real conversation with your spouse-to-be about how you envision your wedding day. Figure out what things are truly important to you and need the most brain space, and focus your energies on those. Remember that this is a big event for your parents, too! It’s not just your day; its theirs too. Ask for their input and keep them involved in the process as much as you feel comfortable. They will be flattered and there will be less conflict.

Don’t be afraid to delegate! Everyone has people around them who are willing and able to help, whether it’s with event setup, vendor research, makeup, snacks for the bridal party, etc. Your people are excited for you, and they would do anything to make the day go well for you!

A lot of the talk out there is about how it’s the bride’s special day, the bride is the queen, the bride is the one who calls the shots, and the groom is either unwilling or incapable of getting involved. This is BS. Ask the groom what he thinks about things, figure out what’s important to him and let him own at least one thing about the day. Trust his judgement, because the more involved he is, the happier you both will be. I remember reading online “The wedding should not be a surprise party for the groom.” Don’t assume that he doesn’t care or that he’s too stupid or unfashionable to have an opinion! He’s marrying you; he’s obviously got good taste.

Photographer: Erin Johnson Photography
Reception Venue & Lighting: James J Hill Library
Event Coordinator/Designer: Ashley from Simply Elegant Bridal Consultants
Rentals & Linens: Apres
Flowers: Fleur de Lis
Dress: Andrea’s Vintage Bridal
Shoes: Kate Spade
Bridesmaid Dress: JCrew sweaters, skirts made by one of the bridesmaids
Bridesmaid Shoes: Nine West
Bridesmaid Accessories: Francesca’s
Groom Attire: Hubert White
Hair Stylist: Blowdry! Blowdry bar in Uptown
Caterer: Brasa Rotisserie
Transportation: Total Luxury Limo
Ceremony Venue: Temple Israel, Minneapolis
Officiant: Rabbi Jennifer Gertman

{Real Jewish Weddings} Malibu, CA

This wedding, you guys, is eye candy. But instead of lollipops and chocolates, it’s stunning bride and breathtaking venue. Both adjectives also apply to both nouns.

Mackenzie was constantly beaming her entire wedding day. And why shouldn’t she? She was marrying her handsome groom, overlooking some of the most gorgeous Southern California landscape, and celebrating on a property that made her feel like the queen she truly was. After all, it is said that on the wedding day, the bride and groom are royalty, and there was nothing less than the royal treatment given to this couple.

Eric and his groomsmen all looked devilishly handsome as they got ready together and, later, celebrated with the entire wedding party.

It’s hard not to drool over all the modern touches of this Jewish wedding: their take on a chuppah with a floating chandelier in the center was chic to the chic-est power; Mackenzie’s dress was the perfect combination of sexy and romantic with classic and timeless nods thanks to the lace; and their tablescapes, while draped in whites and silvers, whispered hints of geometric styles in the centerpieces and chargers.

What a truly remarkable wedding!

Mazel tov, Mackenzie and Eric!

Malibu Jewish Weddings

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Photographer: Sergey Green through Luxury Estate Weddings and Events
Venue: Private Vineyard Estate through Luxury Estate Weddings and Events
Rentals: A1 Party Rentals
Cake Designer: Hansen’s Cakes
Floral Design: Petals By Xavi
Cinematographer: Sergey Green
Photo Booth Equipment: SoCal ShutterBooth

Submitted via Two Bright Lights

Surprise Wedding Dance at A Los Angeles Jewish Wedding

David and Dorsa’s traditional Jewish wedding took place at the Universal Sheraton in Los Angeles, and the two sparkled while they exchanged smiles with each other, their friends, and their family. Dorsa’s walk down the aisle was dramatic and stunning as she edged her way to the chuppah under the dark sky, complemented by twinkle lights. Then, when she circled her handsome groom, the tears of joy tickled her face in a way that most brides understand as she experienced generations of tradition.

After their ceremony, festivities came to life with joyous dancing and classic, feminine decor. The room was filled with cheers and laughter along with stunning aesthetic details (notice the table linens! Elaborately delicate!). The true highlight? A surprise that took a twist! You know David and Dorsa are clearly a perfect match when they know each others’ shenanigans too well!

Ahava Films did a wonderful job capturing David and Dorsa’s beautiful wedding, and, as usual, integrates the perfect mix of music, camera shots, and clever editing. If you’re on the fence about hiring a video crew to document your wedding, films like Ahava’s should convince you to go for it! Your photographs will last you a lifetime with beautiful still images, but a video will also allow for you to see dances and hear speeches for all your days to come.

Dorsa + David from Ahava Films on Vimeo.

Los Angeles Jewish Wedding

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