Offbeat partner: Hannah
Offbeat partner: Ben
Date and location of wedding: Childhood family friend’s ranch in Penn Valley, CA — June 24, 2017
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Our theme was Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Jewish (we are both Jewish). Here are some of the highlights:
- Our invitations! They were a great combination of Star Wars and LOTR.
- Costumes! My grandfather and another guy friend were both Princess Leia, my aunt was Yoda, and her husband was Legolas. Ben’s two close friends were Clone Troopers, my Uncle and Ben’s father were both Gandalf, our Day of Coordinator was Rey, my cousin had an inflatable costume, and so many others. We even had friends come as the One Ring from Lord of the Rings. It was so cool and inspiring to see how creative everyone was.
- My mom ordered 25 cheap light-up lightsabers, and 100+ glow sticks that we put in a bucket near the dance floor for everyone. So many kids had lightsaber battles in the woods at dusk.
- The Surprise Battle (to all but us): we had with two friends ending our first dance and starting the dancing (Ben with their Lightsaber, and me with my sword, Sting).
- My Aunt hired a professional face/body painter to paint the guests. She truly turned our wedding into a Festival.
- We had a dry wedding, and so instead had an Italian soda bar with different drinks named after different characters from Star Wars and LOTR.
- We hired a Jewish band that not only taught us Jewish dances, but also brought their own lightsabers and had FIVE DIFFERENT COSTUME CHANGES throughout the evening!
- My aunt made my wedding dress inspired by Galadriel, and Ben wore custom-made robes reminiscent of Moses from The Prince of Egypt. And both of us wore flowers.
Tell us about the ceremony:
One of the most majickal parts about our wedding was that so much of it was infused with ceremony and intention. Being Jewish, we followed the Jewish wedding structure — with some tweaks. We got married on a Saturday (the Jewish day of rest), but since we could not conduct “business” on Shabbat, we instead signed our ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) with just us, our Rabbi, and two friends as witnesses the afternoon before Shabbat began. Then the next day we split our wedding into two ceremonies to accommodate Shabbat: a non-religious Blessings Ceremony at 5:00 p.m., and then our Jewish wedding ceremony after the sun went down when Shabbat would be over.
Before the Blessings Ceremony, Ben and I hosted tishes, a Jewish tradition where the couple hosts two individual parties prior to the ceremony. Ben gathered their friends and family under a grove of oak trees on the property and gave a teaching on the weekly Torah portion and how they felt it related to our marriage, which then culminated in a fabulous Star Wars Prom photo. My godmother put together a ceremony for all the women in my life wherein they wrote a blessing on a small card with a string attached, and one at a time wrapped the strings around me, embraced me, and shared their blessings with me. It was what each of us needed to ground ourselves before such a vulnerable day.
We held the Blessings Ceremony under a chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy) built by my dad with the chuppah covering handwoven by Ben’s mom — we were literally wrapped with love from both sides of our family. The Blessings Ceremony began by having close family friends and my uncle play The Hobbit theme song as we walked down the aisle. Seriously, though, I am a hobbit at heart and in height and that was literally a DREAM COME TRUE!
Another uncle, dressed as Gandalf (as was Ben’s dad!), facilitated the Blessings Ceremony and started it with a bang by doing an all-hands-in cheer with our immediate family. Our parents then gave us their words of love and blessing that they had written, as well as gifts that they thought best represented that (my parents gave us a box they had made to put photos and mementos of our adventures together, and Ben’s parents gave us the Talmud that they studied out of and connected over).
Then our grandparents gave us blessings they had written. This was such a gift, especially given that, at the time, Ben’s grandfather was 93 and is a Holocaust survivor and my grandma was 95 (note: both are still alive… such badasses!). Then our sisters each read a poem: Ben’s sister read a poem by Maya Angelou called “Touched by Angels” and my sister read a poem by Khalil Gibran entitled “On Marriage.” Then, since we weren’t actually getting married until later, my uncle had Ben and I turn to each other and share our impromptu thoughts by finishing the statement, “In a matter of hours the sun will go down and I will marry you, and before that happens I want you to know…” This was one of the most vulnerable and powerful parts of the day for me — hearing from and sharing with each other the vulnerability, heartache, love, and laughter that had brought us and connected us together. I can’t remember most of what was shared, but I do remember feeling SO full of love. With that, the Blessings Ceremony concluded and we got a fantastic surprise from our friends who heralded us up the aisle to the Star Wars theme song — LOTR going in and Star Wars going out.
Then after eating and much dancing, the next ceremony commenced after sundown, sometime around 9:00 p.m. At that point the band corralled all 150 of us into a circle and led havdalah, the Jewish ritual separating Shabbat from the rest of the week. Chanting, lighting candles, drinking grape juice, smelling spices, and being in ceremony with every one of my closest family and friends was truly mystical, and so beautifully set the stage for our final Jewish wedding ceremony.
The chuppah was then brought onto the dance floor, and with all of our family and friends encircled around us under the twinkling California stars, our Rabbi asked us to slowly turn around and truly see the community that had supported us, loved us, and made us who we are. I truly realized then that this wedding wasn’t about me, but about everyone who helped make Ben and I who we were, and who would continue to support and love us in our marriage. Our Rabbi then facilitated the ceremony with all the needed blessings and we then read our ketubah to each other. The most powerful part of our day for Ben then occurred at the end when Ben’s father gave us the Priestly Blessing — considered to be one of the oldest and most consistently used religious blessings in human history — and spoken at all important Jewish rituals.
Ben then broke the glass, the chuppah was whisked away, the band came back out, and we danced with our lightup lightsabers and each other under the stars until almost midnight.
Tell us about the reception:
The theme was Middle Earth with a Star Wars twist. The food included lots of multicolored grains I didn’t know existed, roasted veggies, and the largest turkey legs I have ever seen. We labeled the tables with locations from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Guests had fans that matched the location where they were seated — and also to keep cool in the 105F heat. We printed maps of Middle Earth rolled inside tall glasses with electric candles that flickered merrily into the evening. Oh, and my mom planted lightup wristbands and lightsabers near the dance floor.
The reception took place out in the middle of a meadow with the most stunning view of the California stars. The tables were circled around the dance floor that Ben and I had painted with a hamsa — a Jewish symbol for good luck — and chai, which is Hebrew for “life.” The lights were strung on poles across the dance floor, providing a truly majickal glow.
The band played Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up” for our first dance, and then transitioned ever-so-sneakily into the Imperial March while two of our close friends stormed the dance floor challenging our marriage with a lightsaber battle. We quickly grabbed a lightsaber (Ben) and sword (me) and battled them to victory, kicking off an incredible evening of dancing the hora, so much laughter, and lots of love.
The evening only ended after midnight when my mom was pushed into the pool by a close friend, starting a hilarious pool party all in our wedding costumes.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
Be YOU. At first we were really worried that no one would support us in the nerdy-religious wedding we wanted. But instead, most all our family and friends not only supported us, but celebrated us in making our day a majickal celebration. It was a powerful reminder of what happens when we show up in the world as our wholehearted selves. Those who truly care about me will love and support us no matter what.
Additionally, Ben and I wanted to have a dry wedding, and given the pseudo-expectation of having copious amounts of alcohol at weddings, we were worried about any complaints or controversy. Although we did receive some (some humorous, some not), almost everyone understood and supported our decision. Though one of the funniest moments leading up to our wedding was when my 95-year-old grandma called to see if she could bring a flask of whiskey to our wedding. How do you say no to that kind of chutzpah?!
Another lesson learned was to be flexible. We found out just days before that it was going to be 105 degrees. I first had a minor (or not so minor) meltdown. Then my amazing mom created some last minute miracles by ordering big fans for the ceremony spaces, orchestrating all of us to make individual fans for everyone, bought little spray bottles for everyone, and ensured there were extra glasses and ample water for all. Needless to say, no one passed out, no one died of heatstroke, and only half of our Jewish relatives complained loudly of the heat — a success all around!
Caterer: Kayla Wexelberg of Taste Your Roots • Photographer: Cole Hatcher • Band: SHAMATi • Flowers: Soil Sisters • Lights: Josh Schwarz of Lighthouse Installations • Tent: Michael Lefler from Life’s Best Inn Tents • Face/Body Painter: Penney the Clown • Invitations: Paper Truly