Emily & Geoff's Jewish Rockabilly Wedding

Updated Oct 12 2015
 
Photos by: Axel Koester
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The Offbeat Bride: Emily, Web Master/Science writer (and Tribesmaid Ellamie)

Her Offbeat Partner: Geoff, Teacher/Poet

Location & date of wedding: Valley Beth Shalom Temple, Encino, CA (I had my baby naming, my bat mitzvah and went to elementary school here) — May 25, 2008

What made our wedding offbeat: First of all, we skipped most of the really formal photos of the bridal party and did them the day before in an amazing photo shoot. Way more fun to have two wedding dresses than just one!

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We had a dear friend of mine arrange "Here Comes your Man" by the Pixies for a string quartet for the groom's entrance and "Say Yes" by Elliott Smith for the bride's entrance. The groom's father made all the wine for the nearly 275 people. The groom's mom dyed my crinoline neon green to match our decor. Our graphic designer friends made our ketuba for us, including an amazing crest they created from my husband's tatoos and the literal translation of my Hebrew name, which means bumble bee.

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Every one of our guests was given a one-inch round button with the word "beshert" (intended) on it, both as an homage to our punk rock roots and as a reminder that, for better or for worse, we're all related now. Our bridal party was totally mixed gender. We had groomsbroads and bridesmen. I saved a bunch of money by doing the invitations and programs by hand (remember, 11 by 17 inch paper can be cut down into smaller sizes) and by making my own veil.

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Since the groom and I are both California natives and really big food lovers, all of our arrangements included native edibles like kumquats, artichokes, oranges and asparagus. We skipped the wedding cake all together because we had to have a kosher meal and kosher cake just sucks. We had cake the next day at the post-wedding brunch, when we also did the bouquet toss and a few speeches that were skipped during our hard drinking celebration.

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The DJ was a friend who played for almost nothing. We used MyPublisher to make our wedding albums. Yes albums. Because the online software lets you customize the books easily, I made separate hard back, professionally bound books for each side of the family, with photos emphasizing the people they cared about most. The photographer was actually a stringer for the LA times (http://www.axelkoesterphotography.com). His photos really made the event. However, if you look at his website, you don't see wedding photography. You see a picture of two men standing on a pile of burning trash. Amazing. Oh, and did I mention that it was a conservative Jewish wedding and the photographer is the son of an Nazi SS officer? Full circle.

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Our biggest challenge: The biggest problem was getting everyone communicating. With three sets of parents, all interested in contributing financially but no one wanting to loose face in front of the other by seeming to contribute too little, there were quite a few moments when things got strained. Eventually we made a rule that no parents were allowed to talk to each other directly about anything involving money. They could talk about table arrangements, hotel rooms, rides to the airport, but all money talk had to be addressed to their children and we would keep the final budget.

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The other really big challenge was that enlisting so many talented friends to help create the elements of our wedding required me to be a real ringmaster to make sure they got stuff done on time.

My favorite moment: The ceremony in general was my favorite memory of the whole day. But the best moment actually came from a conservative Jewish tradition to which we gave a new twist. Traditionally, the bride and groom stay separated for 7 days before the wedding and then the first time they see each other is the bedekin, when the groom places the veil over the bride's face. We simply put a curtain up, dividing out cocktail hour in half, to keep Geoff and I separate and let out guests pass back and forth between us.

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Just before the end of the cocktail hour, the cantor started singing and they paraded me around the partition and I got to see my soon-to-be husband all dressed up. It was like everyone else in the room disappeared. With all of our wedding guests standing around us in a circle, we sat down, signed out ketubah, and told the rabbi that yes, the person sitting across from us was the indeed the person we wanted to marry. Then his mother and my mother placed my veil on my head, and our fathers wrapped Geoff in the prayer shawl. Our parents blessed us while we held hands, and everyone we loved stood around singing. And this was all before the wedding ceremony started! It made such a difference to have that intimate moment before we walked down the aisle and did the really big deal ceremony. It totally calmed our nerves.

My advice for other offbeat brides: Look for things that are not specifically "wedding-related" for inspiration. Just because a color combination, a flower arrangement, a type of stationary doesn't look wedding-y doesn't mean you can't make it work for you. As much as you can, involved your creative and talented friends. It's a lot of work to coordinate them, but they will help make every element of your wedding something truly personal and unique to you.

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And the last piece of advice is somewhat contrary to what most people say. You'll be told just to let it all go and not worry about the details. And yes, try to do that. Most of us can't. Instead, pick the one or two things that matter most to you (for me, it was the music and the graphic look of the wedding) and take control of those things. Let everything else go. Delegate it. Hire it out. That way the things that are most important will be exactly the way you want them to be.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!:

  1. This is so wonderful! As my faith is very important to me, I always find it inspiring when people have offbeat weddings that still manage to keep faith at the heart of the experience – and this shows that you can blend "conservative" and "offbeat" elements quite happily. Mazel tov!

  2. How beautiful! That neon green is just stunning. You're right – not usually a "wedding-y" color, but it totally works!

  3. Beautiful wedding! I love the way the dress cumberbund shape mirrors the chuppah design. And – ah-mazing center pieces!! looks like you had a rockin' first dance, too.

  4. This is amazing! What an awesome celebration of the couple's cultural and religious background blended with their own unique style. I love seeing celebrations that come about from the collaboration of lots of different people's talents and love. It adds depth and feeling to the ceremony… and also cuts the budget, which people are always asking me to help them do!

  5. Fantastic–how beautiful it all is. Question: is that Amber Tamblyn in one of your wedding photos? How wonderful. Congratulations to you both! I love the idea of a brightly colored crinoline!

  6. Your wedding looks AMAZING!! I especially love the wacky retro paper lantern centerpieces… Congrads!! 😀

    P.S. You two are so lucky… Mike McGee is the BALLS!!! lol

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