Emily and Josh’s wedding at Beth David Congregation was much more than your typical ballroom wedding. Their rustic autumn celebration brought the outdoors in with gorgeous, free flowing arrangements and whimsical details strewn throughout. Kat Braman captured all of the dramatic and romantic details from their traditional ceremony to the end of their ballroom dance party!
Why did you choose this location for your ceremony? Originally we wanted to get married at a non-traditional venue like a farmhouse or a barn. We just love that rustic, earthy feel! However, we were torn between getting married in New York, where we currently live and where Josh’s family is from, and my hometown of South Florida. After a lot of research, we decided South Florida in November would be the perfect location to celebrate our wedding. The only problem was that there weren’t many barn options in South Florida that could fit 300 people. Our caterer suggested that we check out Beth David Congregation in Miami. It was founded in 1912 and it’s Miami’s oldest congregation. The temple has so much history and character. We fell in love with it right away. The sanctuary is beautiful and grand with high arched ceilings, giving it an impressive look when guests enter through the main doors. The sanctuary and ballroom were both rooms that allowed us to customize the venue to our own tastes and bring the rustic elements indoors.
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of your wedding? We chose to take our first look photos with just the two of us at Vizcaya Gardens in Miami. We loved how Kat Braman choreographed our first look. We both held hands, with our backs lined up against each other, and we turned around at the same time so we could each have a “first look.” It was a really special and emotional moment that we’ll remember forever.
What advice do you have for other couples in the midst of planning a wedding? You can stress about the little details leading up to the wedding, but the day of, you just have to let it go. Just know that certain things might not go as planned, but on the day of it shouldn’t matter. Our photographs at Vizcaya were really the only time during the day that just the two of us could really relax and soak it all in. That’s our other advice to couples—make sure you put aside twenty-minutes of alone time for the two of you just to be together. You will cherish that moment.
“It was important for us to have a traditional Jewish ceremony—the venue fit perfect within that theme. Our wedding coordinator suggested that we use lighting to really set the mood. We love that romantic look so we placed candles everywhere. We made the room pitch black with the only light being that which lit the chuppah and a spotlight that originated from the back of the room from the balcony and directed toward the chuppah. My grandfather had a great idea for lighting toward the end of the processional. Before I walked out, we closed the curtain and had a spotlight shining behind me, so you could see my silhouette. Then the curtain opened and I walked through it. It was very dramatic!”
Emily and Josh had a Ketubah ceremony where they sign their marriage contract. Since they had such a large wedding, it was really special for them to gather with their close family and friends before the ceremony.
Your ceremony in three words. Traditional, romantic, meaningful
What were your vows like? The Rabbi had asked us to write about what marriage means to us prior to our wedding day. We submitted our writings to the Rabbi and he incorporated a lot of what we wrote about each other into his speech, but we did not say vows during the ceremony.
What was your ceremony music? Processional music was a mixture of popular music and classic music. Everything from “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, to “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles and “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars. I walked out to “Cannon in D” by Pachebel. Cantor Lieberman, who was my cantor when I was bat mitzvah’s, sang prayers during the ceremony.
Who officiated your ceremony? How did you choose him/her? Rabbi Adam Watstein, the rabbi from my temple in Bnai Aviv in Weston, Florida, officiated our wedding. He was amazing! Rabbi Watstein was able to make the ceremony meaningful, personal and engaging. After hearing him officiate our wedding, many parents wanted his number so they could book him for their childrens’ future weddings!
Did you include any traditions in your ceremony? We did all of the traditions in a Jewish ceremony—seven circles, stepping on the glass, et cetera. We also decided to hang our personal tallit—the talis from Josh’s bar-mitzvah, the tallit of our fathers and our grandfathers—on the inside of the chuppah, which was made out of branches. Before the ceremony, we did our own version of a bedeken. A bedeken is a ceremony in which men and women are kept in separate rooms, and then the groom is brought in to meet his bride and place a veil over her face.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your wedding ceremony? The wedding ceremony was really one of the most special events of our lives. Before we walked out, the Rabbi mentioned to us that we should take it all in, and that’s what we did. Two other special moments during the ceremony were when Josh hugged and kissed his Mom and Dad, and when Josh hugged and kissed my Mom and Dad, telling them that he would take great care of me before completing the walk down the aisle.
“We had the reception in the ballroom of the temple. We didn’t want a typical ballroom so we really added a lot to make it feel like us. The ballroom was basically a blank slate that allowed us, and especially the wedding designers, to be creative with the space. The acoustics in the room were also really good. My grandfather used to be a band-leader and he kept saying “this room is wedding planning 101”—always make sure the acoustics are good! Another great thing about having the reception in a ballroom is that it kept the energy contained!”
What inspired you when you were planning your wedding? Rustic, farm tables, Vintage, Anthropologie. Since the ceilings are very high in the temple, Jim Etkin, our wedding planner, had the idea to make our room feel more intimate by adding hanging flowers from the top of the ceiling—which Raffi from Petal Productions executed perfectly. Raffi also helped us come up with three different gorgeous centerpieces. One was huge branches, the other a vintage candelabra with free flowing flowers and for the last table we had low centerpieces with a lot of candles and mixed metals.
How would you describe your reception? So. Much. Fun! It was one big sweaty and incredibly happy dance party.
Did you have a signature cocktail? We had a “Smojito”—a play on Smolinksy and Mojito; and an Emellini—play on Emily and Bellini.
What type of cake or dessert did you serve?
We served a cake from Ana Paz which was delicious! Each layer was a different flavor.
What was your first dance song? Father/daughter or mother/son dance?
First Dance – “My Best Friend” by the Once
Father/Daughter – “Somebody to Watch Over Me” by Ella Fitzgerald
Mother/Son – “In My Life” by The Beatles
What was the best advice you received as a bride? My uncle gave us the best advice, guests feed off of the couple’s energy so if we’re having fun, they’ll have fun too.
What was your favorite moment or part of the reception? Our band, VoxBlu, was amazing! When we walked out for our introduction, they played “No Diggity” by Blackstreet, but for the lyrics, instead of saying “No Diggity,” they said “Smo-Diggity” which is a Mash up of Josh’s last name, Smolinsky, and the actual lyrics. Another highlight of the night was when my grandfather sang his own rendition of the song, “Tradition” from Fiddler on The Roof. He brought the house down. It was a very special part of the reception.
If you had it to do over again, is there anything you would do differently?We are both very indecisive people, so we would often make a decision and then go back and read ten more reviews just because we thought it would make us feel better. Looking back, we would say once you make a decision, go with it, and don’t waste your time doubting yourself. Just go with your gut.