Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Real Wedding Joy

We're not getting married in a temple. If my parents had been paying for our wedding, I'm pretty sure my mother would have insisted on the cost and sanity-saving benefits of getting married at our synagogue with a reception in the temple social hall.  This is one of the main reasons I pushed so hard for Jason and me to finance the wedding ourselves: it felt vitally important to us to have an outdoor wedding in a location that was intrinsically prettier and more meaningful (our site is emotionally meaningful to us) than a basic reception hall at the temple. I wanted it to be beautiful. I wanted it to feel like us and look like my backyard wedding visions. And I wanted this outdoor beauty to be seeped in our progressive Jewish rituals with a ceremony we craft with our Rabbi. I thought this would be our perfect wedding, far more than any synagogue-based ceremony and celebration.

And it will be perfect for us, because it's ours. But, now that I'm farther along in this wedding journey, I realize that the synagogue-and-social-hall wedding would have been perfect too. I've tried to tell myself time and time again that Love wins out over Pretty every time. I know it's true. But I don't really know it in my core. I've held tight to our outdoor wedding plans to the exclusion of several simpler options. And then, I saw this wedding photographed by Kelly Prizel, and I finally really understood.

I generally stay away from photo-heavy posts, because you can turn to 1000 other wedding sites for visual inspiration. But sometimes, pictures are exactly what I need to make my musings feel real and connect me back to our own personal truths. In a highly professionalized, photo-heavy online wedding world, church and temple weddings get short shrift. The "details" at these weddings are about connecting to thousands of years of tradition instead of "branded" aisle runners (though you can certainly have both, of course, if that's your, um, thing). Thousands of years of history don't really fit in with the blog crush over the newest trends.

So today, I thought it would be nice to have a visual reminder that these weddings matter too, and that they are special and stunning for reasons that are hard to capture on detail-focused blogs. This wedding is probably more akin to the way my parents or grandparents probably got married - in family-focused, non-detail-centric, religious* events - and these rituals and joys deserve more blogland celebration. This wedding showed me that I would have been just as happy getting married at our synagogue and with a plain social hall reception. This wedding reminded me that any wedding celebrated in a simple, unadorned basement (temple owned, or otherwise) can be alive with love, ritual, joy, revelry, beauty, emotion, and everything that really matters to me about a wedding.

D'Alizza and Lonny met at salsa club in Miami. After they fell in love with each other, D'Alizza (who is Dominican) also fell in love with Judaism and had an Orthodox conversion.  She was really excited to showcase to her friends and family what an Orthodox wedding was, and to showcase to her religious community how vibrant and rich Dominican culture is.  D'Alizza and Lonny got married at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, an amazing non-denominational Jewish space in Washington, DC. Their Orthodox community helped them plan and execute the wedding. It was truly a communal affair.

And their reception in the temple basement is the most stunning burst of joy and love and dance I've seen captured in ages, and their intercultural Dominican and Jewish party seemed to be just about perfect. Although our ceremony will be Reform (which is a more progressive line of Judaism), seeing these photos by the incredibly talented Kelly Prizel immediately linked me to why we're having a Jewish wedding and to the beauty in our shared traditions and rituals. They reminded me that the party is in the people and not in a pretty location or elegant decor or perfect dress**. These are things I know. But these are the sort of photos I turn back to again and again and again to really remind myself that our wedding only needs to be about our truths: the ritual matters, the love matters, the people matter, the joy matters, and that I really want our photography to capture the story of the day and not the details.

And, because I completely fell in love with the photos posted on Wedding Yentas, I contacted Kelly to find out more. In Kelly's own words,

"While they did have a beautiful ceremony venue, they partied it up in the synagogue basement. Yes they had pretty things but it was the intense connection and joy and forever commitment that blew me away. D'Alizza is one of the most expressive, excited brides I've ever met- she was literally jumping up and down with joy after coming off of the bimah. I'm also a convert to Judaism from Catholicism, so D'Alizza and I immediately bonded. I told her the day of the wedding, I've never seen such a beautiful Jewish bride and never been so convinced that two people were each other's "beshert" (true love.) Plus, between the Orthodox and the Dominicans they know how to party. I was happy all day photographing it because they were both just so happy to be marrying each other, having a Jewish ceremony, and you can't fake that. There's a lot you can fake, but honest joy is not one of them."

And, as an extra treat, please go take a look at the full slideshow here. I've gone back to it at least ten times, and it's made me tear up each and every time. Kelly also sent the links to videos from the wedding that capture celebration and joy at their purest. These snippets hit the core of something so much more essential about weddings than we generally have the chance to see here in weddingblog land, and I've been reveling in the ceremony and joy bursting out of each moment. These pictures are keeping me sane and keeping me focused on what matters.And these photos are making me yearn for our own wedding to happen right now, and for all the important parts and emotions that I'm looking forward to most of all.

*in my family, you probably have to go back to my mother's parents and my father's grandparents to find serious religion, but the rituals, traditions and visual symbols of Judaism have framed my progressive Jewish upbringing and are incredibly emotionally and culturally resonant.
**although yes, can we all take a moment to gasp about that dress and the way it came alive with D'Alizza's dancing? I truly think there's an entire party in that dress too. Da-yum.


  1. It's so great to hear a blogger writing about not only having a ceremony in a religious place but the reception as well. When I hear people say "it's literally impossible to find a reception venue for less than $XXXX" I always want to point out the church wedding route. Many churches are beautiful already, they add the convenience of no transportation between ceremony and reception, and they often already have things like tables, chairs, tablecloths, kitchens, candles... so many things that you might not find included in an outdoor or non-church site. It's not perfect for everyone, obviously, but I think a lot of people overlook a great location because it's not trendy.

  2. Thanks for sharing these! The photographer is sooo right about the bride having a wonderfully expressive face.

    Also, "the rituals, traditions and visual symbols of Judaism have framed my progressive Jewish upbringing and are incredibly emotionally and culturally resonant" is such a brief yet accurate summation of how most "secular Jews" I know feel, including Collin. Great post all around!

  3. Great post!

    I consider myself both spiritual and religious, and so much to my parents' surprise, I wanted an outdoor wedding at our farm venue. I feel very "connected" and prayerful in nature so the idea seemed perfect.

    But then, in an effort to thwart an all-out war among our families, we ended up moving the ceremony to a very simple Quaker "church", which is really just a large space in a historic and rustic house. I am SO ecstatic about this compromise. I realized that in an effort to think outside the box via an outdoor very religious ceremony, I completely abandoned the idea that I could havean equally moving, customized, hand-made ceremony in a traditional venue. Who knew?!

    So yeah. There's an appeal to being unique but I'm glad that that's no longer the driving force behind my choices. Thanks for this post!

  4. What a great find of a wedding. Thank you for sharing. The joy in all of these photos is electric.

  5. Such a great wedding! The story is just beautiful, as well as the photos and the couple :)

  6. I truly believe now that it is not the venue or the details or the food or the whatever that makes a's the people. As long as you are surrounded by your close loved ones your wedding (and your marriage) will be magical. When you feel that support from all the people who have touched you and your husband throughout your lives it is overwhelming and powerful and amazing! It won't matter if you are on a mountain top or in a basement. I am so happy that we chose to have our wedding in middle-of-nowhere Massachusetts on a holiday weekend because the people who were there really WANTED to be there and truly love us and we could feel it, man. It was heavy. :) Of course, lots of booze and good tunes helps loosen everyone up too! The love really starts flowin' then!

  7. such a great post and gets to the core of what it's all about.

    and that last photo is phenomenal! absolutely phenomenal!

  8. Those photos are amazing. I agree that love trumps pretty. I do believe it... but like you said I don't always feel it in my core.

    I think our wedding days will prove us wrong and we really will feel it in our core. I think it will be enlightening and eye opening and beyootifull.

    I've heard people equate traditional religious weddings with stuffiness and these photos prove them wrong. I hope your wedding is everything you want it to be- traditional, outdoorsy, local, communal and awesome. :)

  9. If someone had done the splits at my reception, I would've ended it right can you top that?

    Both the hubby and wife have great, expressive was fun to look at their pics.

  10. what I am must struck by is how happy she looks. I want THOSE pictures!

  11. At the risk of sounding like a total ass kisser--this post is reason number 99 why I love your blog.

    I've done weddings that were styled and perfect and expensive as hell, and I've done weddings that were hippy and non-traditional and simple and cheap.

    It's about the love. It really, really is.


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