Today’s wedding feature is oh so special. Sent in by a dear photographer friend, Olivia Smartt, based in Oakland, California, we have a wedding where we FEEL all the love and thoughtfulness ooze through.
Eliza and Jacob had an intimate ceremony with close friends and family. They opted for a Jewish cultural wedding, more than Jewish religious wedding. And gosh, I just feel all warm and fuzzy and beautiful when reading Eliza’s story. Then you see the photos, and you’re going to pull out that tissue box.
Tell us about the wedding
Jacob and I wanted our wedding to feel like an intimate dinner party. We had about 55 guests, and worked closely with the amazing co-owner of Sam’s Log Cabin/owner of Boffocart catering, Rhassan Fernandez. He and his team put together a beautiful meal. We had four long banquet tables, and our whole wedding was centered around eating. Sam’s Log Cabin is in Jacob’s hometown, Albany, CA, so spending our wedding party on their patio, eating a delicious, beautiful feast with our family and friends, so close to where Jacob grew up, was really, really special.
As far as the ceremony went, neither of us felt a huge connection to certain wedding traditions–garter and bouquet tosses, first dances, having a wedding party, etc. But it was important to Jacob that we incorporate elements from the traditional Jewish ceremony. I’m an atheist, and didn’t feel very comfortable having a religious ceremony. So we worked closely with my Jewish godparents, Mitchell and Marjorie (our officiants), to put together a ceremony that was deeply meaningful, tied to Jewish culture, and inclusive of our family members.
My dad (an architect) built our huppah; my aunt Jakki indigo-dyed our huppah cloth; our best friends, Rob and Carly, played a James Blake song as we walked each other down the aisle; we picked our seven blessings for our immediate family members to read. They read quotes that were meaningful to us: favorite poems of ours (Jessica Fisher, Pablo Neruda, John Lennon), passages from books (Maggie Nelson), and blessings (the Apache Benediction).
We wrote our own vows. About a month before we got married, we sat down with my godparents, who celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this year, and they interviewed us about our relationship. They wrote a funny, beautiful, heartfelt ceremony that made everyone laugh and cry. At the end of the ceremony, we both stomped on glasses.
The decor was very simple, but beautiful. I sewed our napkins, my stepmom, Beth, made amazing bouquets with flowers from the Oakland Flower Market (Olivia took some AMAZING pictures of these!), and Sam supplied the banquet tables, simple tablecloths, and string lights on their beautiful overhang. We just let the simple beauty of Sam’s patio do its trick. No wedding colors, no extra frills–simple and beautiful, just like we wanted.
Jacob is an audio engineer and a record producer at Tiny Telephone, a local recording studio, and he exchanged some studio time with one our favorite bands he’s worked with, Steep Ravine. They’re a local bluegrass band, and they also play some really wonderful gypsy jazz, a la Django Reinhardt, so they played that all night, plus some Neil Young for our final dance of the evening.
What was the inspiration for your wedding?
We love having friends over for dinner–we like to cook and host together. We wanted our wedding to feel like a dinner party. Sam’s is one of our very favorite places to eat in all of the Bay Area, so we felt right at home there. Rhasaan and his amazing team at Sam’s did such a fantastic job making us feel welcome, and so well taken care of. Whenever we remember our wedding with friends and family, they gush over the food. And it really was some of the yummiest food we’ve ever had!
Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, squash and dandelion greens salad, pickled beets salad, mushrooms and leeks, salad with hazelnuts and avocados, deviled eggs, the BEST cheese plate ever! There are MORE items on the menu that I can’t remember, but I’ll just say: the food was fantastic.
Jacob is also a crazy pie lover. I’m not much of a sweets person, so we decided to follow his wishes and get a TON of pies from Mission Pie in San Francisco. We had a great experience at Mission Pie, too! Their team was so generous with tastings, and the pie was out-of-this-world good!
What was the hardest part about wedding planning?
If I’m being frank: probably dealing with our family’s wishes, because we were doing less of a traditional ceremony. For the most part, people were pretty understanding, but occasionally folks would get upset about something or other. But this is to be expected: weddings are enormous life transitions, not just for the couple, but for their families, as well.
You change your familial constellations when you get married, and it can be really hard to get used to those shifts. So we made sure to listen when people made requests or suggestions about seating charts, guest lists, traditions, etc., because often, they were really working out their feelings about us getting married, and our family changing.
Sometimes, we felt frustrated or impatient, but we always tried to remember: getting married is about your community, not just about you. And so we did our best to be empathetic when folks were feeling sad, or getting worked up over small details. Our mantra during the wedding planning process? “Change is hard!”
Did you do any DIY (do it yourself) or special projects/things at the wedding?
We did pretty much everything ourselves! Flowers, outfits, planning, etc. We didn’t have a wedding planner (although our photographer, Olivia, helped us SO MUCH with figuring out logistics for our evening–she is a total pro!
We couldn’t have had our evening flow as well as it did without her, no question!), and we were on a budget, so we planned everything ourselves. We also let friends and family members help us when they offered, and we didn’t micromanage them. We trusted they would do a beautiful job–whether it was making bouquets, composing arrangements for our aisle music, embroidering our bags for our glasses–and they blew us away every time. It was so nice to be surprised by their beautiful work.
What was your favorite part of the wedding?
The ceremony was really magical. We also had great toasts (Jacob’s cousin, Mimi, who was an educational interpreter at The Franklin Institute in Philly, incorporated a flame ball into her speech) from our friends (we asked certain friends to speak–this was not a free-for-all), which made us laugh and cry and cheer. And the food. Oh, and the getting married part. That was pretty great, too!
What 3 words of advice do you have for future brides/grooms-to-be?
Keep it simple.
Don’t freak out.
Anything else you would like to add?
Our wedding was beautiful and amazing, but getting married is also very, very intense. You’ve got all your family there, all your friends. You don’t get to eat very much, you don’t get to talk to anyone for longer than 5 minutes.
You’re laughing and crying and smiling so much your jaw hurts. And everything goes by so fast! We heard so frequently, leading up to our wedding that it would be the best day of our lives. It was certainly wonderful, but the real treat is being married.
We’re looking forward to everything that life throws our way, because we’ll be confronting challenges and celebrating joys together. Just remember: weddings are amazing! But try not to put so much pressure on one day to be absolutely perfect. Try your best to be in the moment, but also remember: you have a million more moments to come in your life together.
Photographer: Olivia Smartt Photography, Oakland, California
Venue: Sam’s Log Cabin – firstname.lastname@example.org
Make-up Artist: Elizabeth Fox- email@example.com // Hair Artist: Lindsay Melnyk // Florist: Fiber Florist // Dress Store: Elizabeth Suzann (with embroidery by Emily Ritz) // Dress Designer and make/model: Elizabeth Suzann, Marlena // Dress Shoes: Bryr Clogs // Coat: Ali Golden // Earrings: Hannah Keefe // Wedding bands: Lauren Wolfe (hers); Black Barc (his) // Engagement ring: Satomi Kawakita from Esqueleto // DJ and/or Band Name: Steep Ravine (band) firstname.lastname@example.org // Officiant / Pastor / Priest Name: Mitchell and Marjorie Schwarzer (Eliza’s godparents) // Caterer: Boffo Cart/Sam’s Log Cabin // Pie / dessert vendor: Mission Pie