A Rebecca Schoneveld Bride for a Magical Backyard Jewish Minimony in New York, USA
We’ve seen our fair share of backyard micro Jewish weddings, and each and every one has been beautiful, but the nuptials of Smashing The Glass Brides Club member Lilia, who works in arts philanthropy as a grants manager, and Alex, a digital solutions manager for an international publishing company, take it to a whole new level.
These two postponed their plans for a big wedding due to COVID but still wanted to make things official, and so they went forward with a micro celebration in Lilia’s parents’ backyard that was nothing short of magical. It doesn’t hurt that Lilia’s mom’s garden is totally stunning, and we love the way the couple ran with the vibe in planning their décor – for instance, how awesome is their chuppah?! Don’t miss Rachel Rodgers’ luminous photos of it, and all the other details of this ultra-memorable day.
Beyond the exquisite aesthetics, we love how much thought Lilia and Alex put in to making their minimony special in a way that wouldn’t leave them feeling like the bigger wedding they have planned for the future won’t feel “like just a performance.” To that end, they opted to leave some traditions, like circling and their ketubah, for Wedding 2.0. In place of a ketubah, the couple decided to write their own take on tenaim (a traditional Jewish engagement document that stipulates the conditions of the marriage that both families need to maintain prior to the chuppah), featuring promises to each other – kind of like vows!
Before we turn you over to Lilia, we want to leave you with her beautiful words about her experience as a member of our Bride’s Club:
I have found the group to be SO warm and welcoming, and a joy to be a part of. Karen has been such a great help – she even helped brainstorm ideas for when we were reimagining a wedding with no dancing (which is my favorite part of weddings!). It has been so wonderful to have so many knowledgeable brides and brides-to-be at my fingertips, and I’m so grateful to be part of the community.
How we met
Lilia, the bride: We met on OKCupid in 2017.
A Backyard Wedding
Originally, we planned to get married at Crystal Plaza in Livingston, NJ, where we still hope to have a celebration in 2021, but of course COVID changed our plans. We ended up getting married in Lilia’s parents’ backyard. We knew there would be enough space to spread out our 30 guests, and my mom takes pride her garden so we knew it would be beautiful no matter what.
What ‘Smashing The Glass Brides Club’ Did For Us
Alex actually found Bride’s Club for me – he suggested I join because most of my Jewish girlfriends aren’t married yet, so he thought that it would be a great resource for figuring out all the questions we had about planning a Jewish wedding! And it has actually been so much more than that – I have found the group to be SO warm and welcoming, and a joy to be a part of. I’ve had questions answered so quickly, and questions I didn’t even know I had answered!
Karen has been such a great help – she even helped brainstorm ideas for when we were reimagining a wedding with no dancing (which is my favourite part of weddings!). It has been so wonderful to have so many knowledgeable brides and brides-to-be at my fingertips, and I’m so grateful to be part of the community.
Shades of Purple
My favourite grandmother’s favourite color was purple, so we chose everything in shades of purples and white. We didn’t have a planner, as our original venue was really quite full-service. When we realized we were going to do a backyard wedding instead, we decided we wanted to make the backyard extra lush and as special as we could. Even though we might have had enough folding chairs and tables to accommodate everyone we decided to use rental furniture to make it feel more like a special event.
Prior to the pandemic, we created and printed our own save-the-dates through Canva.com, but never ended up sending them out. We didn’t order invitations, so for our smaller wedding we used Paperless Post for our immediate family (who were invited in person) and sent an email invite to Zoom guests.
Hair + Make-up
My makeup artist is Ashley Capone from Beauty Marks NYC. She is a beauty activist and is a truly inclusive person, and I knew well before I got engaged that I wanted to work with her. When I told her I was doing a small wedding, she immediately offered to do a virtual consultation with me and helped me pick out the final things I needed to pull my makeup look together!
She talked through my desired look, showed me how to do what I wanted, and was super available the couple weeks leading up to the wedding for me to send her photos and get some tweaks down. I did my own hair, with help from my best friend.
A Rebecca Schoneveld Dress
My dress was from Rebecca Schoneveld, called the Petra – a big deep V, A-line dress with a full skirt, made of this gorgeous jacquard fabric with champagne embroidery. I knew I wanted a lace-like dress and at first I thought I wanted a straight silhouette, but when I tried this on I just knew it made me feel like a bride – which is NOT what I expected. It just felt so gorgeous and right.
I wore a pin from Alex’s maternal grandmother in my hair, and to be quite honest I bought a veil on Amazon! I wore the pin to have something of his grandmother with me, which his mother and aunt really appreciated. I wore his uncle’s late partner’s pearl necklace, and a pair of small drop pearl earrings, and a ring of my grandmother’s next to the engraved initial ring I made with my grandfather, who was a jeweller. For the 2021 wedding, I plan to borrow a gorgeous cathedral-length veil from a friend.
Again, incorporating purple was important to me, so I bought some 2.5” block-heel, purple suede shoes with an ankle strap by Naturalizer. They were actually the first and only shoes I bought – I think I knew they were the right shoes more quickly than I chose my dress.
The handsome groom
Alex bought his custom-made suit from Indochino. Because our wedding was going to be all outside, he chose a lighter-weight fabric in a bright blue to complement his gorgeous baby blue eyes. He also wore his grandfather’s tallit, which was given to him by the Israeli Air Force on the occasion of his own wedding. It was in remarkably good shape for being nearly 70 years old.
I had two maids-of-honor, my best friend from 5 years old, and my cousin. I am an only child, and these two women are more like sisters than friend or cousin, so it just made sense. For the 2021 wedding, I will likely have them wear something in a purple-scheme, but this year I asked them to wear what they would like.
Our good friend Cantor Leah Shafritz is the cantor at Temple Shalom in Newton and she officiated our wedding. We decided we wanted to have her marry us pretty much the day we got engaged.
One of the things we struggled with was trying to make sure this ceremony felt special, but not to make next year’s ceremony feel like just a performance. For that reason, we decided to leave some of the traditions to next year, like the circling and a ketubah. We also had her do the shevah brachot alone – next year we will include family.
We used two kiddush cups from my family, one which has a date of 1896 on it, and the other which we think is my grandfather’s kiddush cup from his bar mitzvah. I really loved that part, which felt like incorporating our ancestors into our wedding. It went so fast! I am excited to have another opportunity to relive the ceremony next year.
We actually went a totally different direction! As I mentioned, we wanted to have some traditions be unique to each wedding, so we decided to write our own tenaim, which is a traditional Jewish engagement document that stipulates the conditions of the marriage that both families need to maintain prior to the chuppah. While we didn’t include camels or goats to be traded, we did make promises in how we will conduct our relationship, which felt like writing vows to one another.
We asked Alex’s uncle, who is an artist, to paint for us, and we printed the text on canvas and provided it to him. He produced a gorgeous design that we can’t wait to hang in our home. The design incorporates a large circle, and we had all the wedding guests sign their names in the circle as witnesses. Next year we’ll have a ketubah.
We did a lot of image research, (especially on STG!) but after really reviewing our florist’s portfolio, we told her that we trusted her. Our original design request was a copper frame and an asymmetrical design, but with the venue change, we opted for a more traditional birch chuppah frame and lush florals over our heads. Unbeknownst to us, however, my friends called our florist, and as a wedding gift, they arranged to have an addition to our chuppah.
They asked her to create two arrangements for the base of the chuppah to represent that my and Alex’s relationship is based on friendship, and to remind us that even though they couldn’t be physically present with us on the day, they were there with us under the chuppah. It was honestly the kindest, most touching thing anyone has ever done for us, and I cried so hard when I saw the whole thing come together.
Our Music Choice
To be quite honest, we made this decision very last minute. I was reminded about ‘Dodi Li’ through Bride’s Club. Our cantor knew the version that I always loved from the camp I attended, so that was our processional, which was just us and our parents. For a recessional, our cantor started ‘Siman Tov’ and then we put on a recorded version to signal the end of the ceremony. We decided literally on the morning of that we would do a “first dance” to ‘In the Mood’ by Glenn Miller (Alex knows how to swing dance).
Our florist was the best: Alex from Petals and Roots based in Astoria, NY. We worked with her to develop a smaller budget version than the discussions we’d had originally for our bigger wedding, and she really delivered. It was really important to me to incorporate all shades of purple, so she used garden roses in blush, cream, and dusty lavender, along with two types of hydrangeas – my favourite – which I believe are mophead and panicle varieties, and other blue and purple flowers, and plenty of greenery.
Alex came recommended to us by the friend through whom I know Ashley, my makeup artist, and she just has such a spectacular vision. She likes texture and interest and all the florals felt trendy in a really cool way – my bouquet had rosemary and eucalyptus as well, lending a gorgeous scent and cool texture.
Photographer and videographer
Our wonderful photographer is Rachel Rodgers. She came recommended to us by another photographer we contacted, and when we looked through her portfolio and talked to her about her aesthetic, we just knew she was the right photographer. She is the bubbliest, most positive person I’ve ever met and she has so much energy. She has such a great eye, so the photos she takes are fabulous before she even brings them to the computer for editing.
She knows how to capture the small and big moments, and she really knows how to compose a photo. Her documentary/journalistic style combines fluidly with her artistic side, so we got the best of both worlds! And she’s so kind and exactly the kind of person you want around on your big day!
We did not have a videographer, but we used a Zoom-wedding company, Simply Eloped, to help manage the Zoom aspect. Our friend operated the camera for us and actually went above and beyond by hopping up during speech time and recording it all for us.
Food and Cake
This was arguably the most difficult part. We wanted to ensure that we fed people (because I am never happy if I don’t feed people), but we were trying to be extra safe for COVID-related concerns. At first, we were at a loss: we didn’t want servers there, which would eat into the number of guests we could have, and wouldn’t necessarily make our guests or us comfortable. Ultimately, it was through discussing with several catering options that we came to the conclusion that we would do individually packaged food boxes.
We decided to go with a Kosher caterer to accommodate some of Alex’s family who keeps Kosher, and went with a Mediterranean theme (think shawarma, falafel, babaganoush, etc.). We worked with Yosi Kosher Catering out of Northern CT, and the Executive Chef, Ian, was so great.
He has a pastry chef on site as well and offered to do our cake for us too. Alex is lactose intolerant, so getting a pareve cake was a big bonus for him. Ian offered us a list of cake flavors, and we chose chocolate with orange with a vanilla buttercream, which was incredible. For guests, Ian was able to do individual 3” cakes that were boxed in adorable carrying cases so folks ended up taking them home!
We were pleased and surprised that our guests helped themselves to the bigger cake as well. We had one vegan guest and one gluten free guest and he was able to accommodate not only their meals, but their mini cakes as well.
Dancing was more or less out of the question for us, but my best friend put together a playlist of music to be played in the background. Because Alex and I are both only children, we were sad we couldn’t have our friends with us, so we asked my best friend to put together a video with well-wishes from friends and family.
She went above and beyond, and not only got so many friends and family to participate, but actually emailed my and her favourite band and explained the circumstances around our wedding – and they participated! The video ended with a short clip of the lead singer sending us the band’s well wishes and I have never been so surprised by anything in my life.
Our photographer is multi-talented and is also a classically trained flautist – so when she heard we weren’t having live music, she volunteered to play a short set and she killed it. So cool to have her share her talents with us, and what a treat to have live jazz at our wedding!
I bought us personalized M&Ms with different designs, including a photo of us, our wedding date, “mazel tov!” and clinking champagne flutes. I put these into little jars and put a small tag on that said, “You’re so sweet for coming!” When we emailed our guests to get their food request, Alex added a fun question to the questionnaire: “If you could be any animal, which one would you be?” With those answers, we bought these little squishy animals to put on everyone’s tables.
They were cute and quirky and represented nothing except we wanted the wedding to be fun. We also bought personalized wine glasses, which we mailed along with extra kippot to some of our friends so that they could cheers with us, and put the rest on the tables.
When we committed ourselves to holding this wedding, we decided that as long as it was reasonably priced, we would do anything that we could to make a backyard, small, COVID wedding feel special. My parents had redone their kitchen last year and still had their old kitchen island countertop, so I used chalk markers to turn the countertop into a welcome sign as guests walked into the backyard. Instead of having placecards, I put my calligraphy skills to good use and made small chalkboard nametags that hung on the back of the chairs to indicate guests’ tables.
My mother has a collection of baskets, which we used to house all the drinks (wine, water, juices) and glasses as well as the masks and kippot at the front. We bought a custom guestbook on Etsy and set up a guestbook station with an Instax camera. I spent about six weeks with my mom creating DIY string lanterns to hang above our heads from the house to the treeline.
We filled the lanterns with battery-powered fairy lights. We ended up with 18 lanterns, which was symbolism that felt really appropriate to us. We found photos of us with all our guests – some of which were of us when we were babies! – and put them in frames on each guest’s table.
Alex’s best man emceed the wedding for us and did a fabulous job of keeping us (relatively) on schedule and being welcoming to both families. We turned the toasts into an open-mic type situation, which was charming. Our families were so helpful throughout the whole day – aunts, uncles, cousins stepping in to direct cars to various neighbors’ driveways or putting the final touches on the tables, and Alex’s best man’s wife even helped him do his hair, and then helped his mom do her makeup!
Truly our wedding was put together and made possible by everyone who loves us.
We went to Maine for a week following our wedding because we were able to remain very distanced and it had exceptionally low COVID numbers. We knew we wanted to be outdoors after spending so much time cooped up in a NYC apartment, so it was great to hike and be in nature the whole trip. We stayed in Brooklin, Maine – which meant that Alex got to make the bad joke that we were honeymooning in “Brooklyn” (30 minutes from our apartment) about a million times.
We will definitely be planning something bigger for the future, as long as it’s safe. We highly recommend the AirBnb where we stayed – it had everything we needed, and the view was to die for. We were right on the water and there was a bald eagle’s nest literally 500 feet away! Picturesque and magical and felt very much like a return to normal.
Advice to couples currently planning their wedding
If we had known how incredibly special and magical this day would feel, we might not have postponed our bigger wedding. It was not easy work, because we had to do a lot of reimagining, but it was so worth it. Alex’s aunt gave us great advice: she said, “If anything doesn’t go the way you wanted or expected it to, you two are the only ones who will know.” It was so true and was a great help to us to remember all day.
LILIA & ALEX’S LITTLE WHITE BOOK
Photography – Rachel Rodgers Photography
Videography – Simply Eloped
Bride’s dress – Rebecca Schoneveld
Bride’s shoes – Naturalizer from Nordstrom
Groom’s attire – Indochino, Tie Bar
Groom’s Wedding band – Mountain Spirit Jewels
Hair + Makeup – Beauty Marks NYC
Flowers – Petals and Roots
Catering – Yosi Kosher Catering
Cake – Yosi Kosher Catering
Ketubah – Tenaim – custom painting by Alex’s uncle, Dr. Benjamin Wrubel
Stationery/Invitation – Paperless Post
Officiant – Cantor Leah Shafritz
Honeymoon – AirBnB – Air BnB
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