Valerie and Noam's eco-friendly traditional Jewish wedding

Updated Oct 12 2015

Val & Noam 2

The offbeat bride: Valerie, Therapist

Her offbeat partner: Noam, Jewish Environmental Educator

Location & date of wedding: Vancouver, BC, Canada — May 30, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: We really wanted to have a Jewish wedding, which was as traditional as possible, while being meaningful, personalized, down to earth, elegant and lacking in pretention. We also wanted to stay true to our egalitarian, progressive, feminist, and planet-friendly values.

Val & Noam
Are these sneakers awesome or what?

First off, what we wore was important to us. Noam, who hates suits and ties, fell in love with the traditional Indian sherwani. We had one custom made for him with stunning embroidery to match my beautiful dark blue wedding dress. It took my mother a while to get used to the idea of a non-white dress, but I think she secretly loved it.

Val & NoamWe also served a kosher, vegetarian meal, grew our own jade plant centerpieces, and chose not to have a wedding cake – too expensive, too stressful to decide on, and it's not a Jewish tradition to boot.

The groom wore a custom-made engagement ring throughout our 18 month engagement (as did I), and I had, not one, but two custom wedding bands made to match my e-ring.

At the reception our friends and family performed traditional "schtick" for us, and we all laughed the night away. We created a relaxed, loving and beautiful day for ourselves and our guests.

Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony was a traditional/egalitarian Jewish wedding.

Val & Noam
Seriously, what was going on at Noam's tisch? 🙂
We had pre-ceremony tischen where we entertained guests before the ceremony. This was also where we got our first look, signed our ketubah (marriage contract) and had our bedekken (veiling ceremony).

Our rabbi mentioned how happy he was to be in Canada where all loving couples can marry (this was important to him and to us to mention).

There were no marriage vows, as is traditional. Instead, the rabbi asked us to each come up with a one page document outlining what we loved about each other and how our lives are different because of each other. We had groups of friends and family read the traditional sheva brachot (seven blessings), but took some liberty with the english translations so they were more modern/progressive.

Val & Noam
The first look.
Val & Noam 2
It is traditional for guest's to entertain the bride and groom and this is how they did it for Valerie and Noam
Our biggest challenge: The biggest challenge we had was the fact that our engagement was 18 months long. It was far longer than we wanted. It was 1.5 years of planning and arguing over details and I had a terrible time recognizing that my husband really was being helpful in the planning. If only I'd just relaxed and been OK with being the principle organizer, a lot of arguments would never have happened.

My favorite moment: So many moments were amazing, The highlights were:

  1. When we saw each other for the first time at our bedekken ceremony while surrounded by friends and family, it really felt like we were in a cauldron of love — so amazing!
  2. Val & Noam 2When Noam got up on stage with the band and sang me a song he'd written. It was off key, off pitch, and totally amazing. He just went for it, and it was beautiful to see him up there.
  3. The "schtick" part of the reception when everyone entertained us with hilarious hats, juggling acts, dancing — you name it. It was so great to be surrounded by so many fun and happy and loving people.
  4. At the ceremony itself, when friends of ours read one of my favourite poems about love and friendship.

Val & NoamMy advice for offbeat brides: Put time and effort into understanding the wedding traditions of your ethnicity/religion and mine them for what's meaningful. Even if you're not a religious person, consider that several thousand years of tradition may have some gems you can either use or borrow from and make your own.

Get a good understanding of what your wedding means and the outcomes you want for yourselves and your guests, and be true to that vision. Once you know that, everything else will get much easier.

Allow your loved ones into your vision and there's a good chance they won't be surprised (because they know just how weird — or not weird — you are) and they'll want to participate in making your vision come to life. Let them!

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Community is the most important thing. If you can remember to keep your community close and connected, love can be everywhere all the time.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

  1. Wow! Valerie, could you BE a more beautiful bride? I think not. Lovely dress, lovely groom, gorgeous wedding contract (hope you are framing that and hanging it somewhere prominent in your home.) I like weddings that have tradition woven through them, but still "feel" like the people getting married, and it looks like that is exactly what you had. Good for you both, and many wishes for great happiness!

  2. "Even if you're not a religious person, consider that several thousand years of tradition may have some gems you can either use or borrow from and make your own."

    THIS! This, this, this, this, this!

    • Hi Cortney, I'm glad you appreciated my little bit of advice. I think that there's always room to riff off old traditions, but we shouldn't discard them because they are a) religious and b) traditional. I hope in planning your wedding or other celebration you did (or are doing) the same.

  3. Wow that wedding was beautiful! Was your dress as blue as it is in the pictures? That is a gorgeous color!!

  4. What a beautiful wedding. I love love love the photo of you in your bridal outfit! From where did you get your dress? It's gorgeous!

    I'm also curious what was 'eco-friendly' about your wedding. Any tips you can give would be great for brides planning their own weddings!

    It looks you guys had a wonderful time. Awesome.

    • Hey Lori Del Genis, thanks for asking about the "eco" aspects of our wedding. We try to stick to the ideals of sustainability as much as possible, so we did the following to live our principles at the wedding:
      1. vegetarian meal (the meat industry, and cows in particular are responsible for a massive amount of carbon and methane entering the atmosphere)
      2. no cut flowers (aside from the 10 sunflowers in my own and my sister's bouquet). many flowers are flown in from other countries and/or grown in hot houses that increase their carbon footprints exponentially. we grew our own centrepieces and then gave them away. many friends proudly display our wedding jade plants still.

      3. held our reception and ceremony in the same place. cuts down on the carbon footprint of the event as guests aren't driving all over the place.

      4. rented decor, rather than buying it. it's a perfect example of the "reuse" principle of environmental consciousness

      • Excellent! You guys truly rock. And what a great example you set!

        (I was also going to ask about the dress, but you answered someone else's question elsewhere. Well done on that too!)

    • The wedding was 'Eco' in the following ways;
      1) Vegetarian food, locally sourced where possible
      2) Home grown centerpeince, Jade plants for people to take home
      3) DIY invitations using as little paper (recycled) as possible
      4) Air travel of guests was Carbon Offest with a trustworthy not for profit offsetter
      5) All events where at the same location to reduce travel
      6) Cash gifts where encourgaed to reduced unneccesary consumption

  5. At first glance I thought you had almost the same dress as me. Yours is longer, shinier and has more of a skirt however. Looks beautiful too! (I'm mildly jealous of the extra shiny.)

    I love your comments on mixing traditional and personal elements too. It's a great approach.

  6. Hi all,
    I bought my dress in New Westminster, just outside Vancouver at a shop that went out of business, actually. And I would never recomend it anyway, because the sales service was pushy and bad. BUT – the dress was designed as a grad or bridesmaid dress. Through alterations i had additional boning put in and added a bustle (which i never used, of course). and YES, it really was as blue as it looks in the pictures. it's my faovurite colour!

  7. Yay! This is the first time that I've known the couple (or half the couple). I met Noam in Israel this summer and have been working a bit with a Jewish environmental project, so our paths cross.

    Gorgeous wedding, wonderful use of tradtition.

    And amazing dress. Simply amazing.

  8. It is so nice to see an offbeat traditional Jewish wedding!
    Things I'm kvelling over
    the simcha reserve wine bottles! the gorgeous Ketubah (where did you get it?), your dress (beautiful), your mom's (I think that's your ma walking you down the aisle, apologies if its not) dress (my ma would love that!). It was truly wonderful to read about and see the pictures and share in your joy.
    Many mazels,
    Brooke

  9. Yay, another bride in blue! I had my wedding and reception at an Eco-resort on St John, USVI (Estate Concordia) in the Carribean. Almost everything we used for our wedding was recycled or re-usable and we donated all the decor to the resort to be re-used by future brides. My dress was custom-made and I made my turquoise veil myself. See our photos here: http://www.usviphotographer.com/p29977890

  10. Hi everyone,

    I found a great website for anybody trying to plan a Jewish wedding. http://www.jewbilation.com

    It looks like you can use their site to find all types of services for party planning, professional services, Temples, etc. Seems to be a really great idea! they all have an online product store for all things Jewish.

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