Miriam & Zachary's Casablanca-inspired Old Hollywood wedding

August 1 |
Photos by Deborah Huber

The offbeat bride: Miriam, Graduate Researcher

Her offbeat partner: Zachary, Student and Marketing Associate

Date and location of wedding: Scott's Restaurant, Jack London Square, Oakland, California — March 27, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: We did our own spin on a traditional Jewish wedding and also incorporated a lot of DIY and thrift store finds. In the end we created something that reflected our personalities and fit our (limited) budget.

My husband and I both really respect the Jewish historic and cultural traditions that have been carried on for many generations. So we created something Jewish that reflected our personalities, egalitarian beliefs, and equal partnership. When he veiled me during the traditional veiling ceremony, I also gave him his traditional kitel (white robe worn on special occasions).

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We used the traditional Aramaic Ketuvah (marriage contract), with the non-egalitarian wording, and the rabbi explained to our guests why this document was so important to us for historic and cultural reasons. It felt surreal to get married using the exact same wording that has been used for thousands of years.

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Our theme popped out at us when we were discussing all the elements we wanted to include in our wedding. We met in Israel and have traveled around the Middle East, I have a master's degree in Middle Eastern studies, and we both have a love for everything vintage and art deco. So, we added all that together and got Casablanca — Old Hollywood meets the Middle East.

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We were still planning the wedding while living in Israel so we bought a lot of our decor there: the Middle Eastern/Arab-inspired scarves, the charms we used as wedding favors, and belly dancer bangles. We got good deals buying them at small markets in bulk. In America, we bought lots of Moroccan lanterns on sale at Amazon. We used them not only as non-floral centerpieces, but to decorate the entire venue and ceremony space.

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This wedding was also very DIY/thrifted with a lot of decor borrowed from home: frames, an old suitcase, and ribbons. In order to afford the wedding, we had to cancel our florist altogether, and instead I fashioned all the non-floral boutonnieres myself and had my husband's sister construct the bouquets and flower arrangements using vases I bought at the Goodwill for $0.99 each.

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I did all the calligraphy myself with my grandparents. We printed everything at home and arranged all the centerpieces for the tables. My sister-in-law constructed the photo booth with her boyfriend, and we bought a bunch of cheap, silly props for it. I folded all 100 cootie catchers with my bridesmaids as well.

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Tell us about the ceremony: In addition to the veiling ceremony and ketuvah, the traditional seven blessings were said by both men and women who meant a lot to us in our lives. With our rabbi, we discussed each section of the ceremony and how we could recreate it into something very personal.

One important change was rearranging the order of the ceremony. We decided to sign the ketuvah during the ceremony, rather then before. This was important because on many occasions the groom and the "guys" sign the ketuvah without the bride present, and we definitely didn't want that. And, we also wanted all our guests to witness the signing of the marriage contract. So we decided to include everyone and the document was signed in front of all our friends and family.

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Our biggest challenge: A month before the wedding we had a serious budget meltdown and entertained the notion of calling off the wedding altogether (the party, not the marriage). But, in the end I am happy we went through this tiny bump. We were able to pull off the wedding by compromising and reshaping our vision and doing a lot of work ourselves.

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In addition to canceling the florist, we had to do the calligraphy ourselves and all the printing. We overcame it by putting in a lot more time and energy, and also relying on friends and family. They were happy to help, especially when we were honest about our financial situation. Some people brought in extra liquor we passed around during dancing since we did not have an open bar. We only paid for the wine.

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My cousin did hair and makeup for some of my bridesmaids and family so we didn't have to pay out more for a salon. Two of my husband's friends did all the ceremony music on violin and guitar. My father-in-law's film school students did the lighting and transported the furniture rentals. My grandparents even helped out by using their traditional cursive writing skills to do some calligraphy.

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My favorite moment: For my husband and I, the most meaningful moment was walking into the reception after the ceremony. We were surrounded by our friends and family. The space was overwhelmed with love and support. In addition, seeing the reception space completed was very meaningful. We looked around the reception and were surrounded by all the hard work put in by ourselves and our loved ones. It was a very rewarding feeling.

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My funniest moment: By far the funniest moment was during dinner. The Gipsy King's rendition of Hotel California started playing and one of the groomsmen got up and reenacted the Jesus' bowling scene from The Big Lebowski, one of my favorite movies.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I didn't really expect anything to be disastrous, but I was nervous entrusting so much to my friends and family on my wedding day: what if something was forgotten, what if someone didn't have time to finish something, what if someone resented doing all the work, etc.?

I didn't even get to see my flowers before they arrived, as my sister-in-law and friends bought them at the San Francisco flower market the day before, when I was busy entertaining family. But in the end everyone came through, and if something was forgotten I didn't even notice it. I am so happy I trusted my friends and family.

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My advice for offbeat brides: My biggest advice: be flexible. Don't be afraid to do it yourself. Don't be afraid to ask talented friends and family to help. They are usually more than willing to oblige.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Compromise and trust. It is okay to compromise on your vision and trust yourself and your friends. No, we weren't able to have professional flowers, professional musicians, or fancy calligraphy, but we did do some amazing work ourselves and the wedding was better for it. Professional doesn't necessarily mean better, but it certainly means more expensive!

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. WOW! Those bouquets were DIY? Amazing! It looks like a good thing you didn't get a pro florist. I love how all the bridesmaids' bouquets are unique yet go together so well. Very beautiful wedding and couple!

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  2. I love the lanterns and books! Gorgeous–and I love that dress! What's the style?

    (…if you're interested in selling, give me a heads up?)

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      • Thanks for the info! I just love the lace so much!

        Just FYI… our wedding isn't until summer 2013, so if you're anywhere near 5'6"/street size 2-6, if you decide to sell after your anniversary shoot (love the idea!), give me a holler at kristophine at hotmail dot com! :)

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  3. Absolutely beautiful! Looks like you had an unforgettable day, congratulations :)

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  4. what a beautiful wedding! I love that you guys respected the history of the traditions and made it your own. Mazel tov!

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  5. This is by far the most beautiful wedding I've seen on OBB. The bride and groom are simply stunning, the theme looks amazing and everything seems so heartfelt and so honest.

    Plus I LOVE the groom's hat! Beyond fabulous.

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  6. it all looks so pretty and the two of you are adorbs!

    confetti fondant…i die!

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  7. This is crazy! My husbands name is Zachry and mine is Mariam. We are both one letter away from the bride and groom in this post. How strange, especially because there are not many Mariam/Miriam's out there.

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  8. I love, love, LOVE your dress! Everything looks wonderful & your husband & his groomsmen are adorable!

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  9. my jaw dropped when i read this as: 1) i LOVE this and it's all just beautiful – congratulations!!! and 2) my man and i are tying the knot in a month, and our decor scheme's VERY similar: indian sari fabric sewn into runners, the same exact moroccan lanterns (bought wholesale – i should've done amazon though!!!), and his mom has been scouring shops to find postcards of diff countries as we want the tables to be country names. which leads to my question for you, pretty please: where did you find those awesome postcards??? (e.g. the Tunis one)??? thanks so much

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