Yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of the day JC and I met for the first time. It just feels appropriate to post all about the day we sealed the deal (besides, it’s Thursday, so this is definitely one big Thing I Love). Let me tell you about our wedding in October.
If you want to have a general run down of vegan wedding related stuff, please check out my posts for 2013’s VeganMoFo
This is going to be long. Phew.
The funny thing about writing a wedding post nearly 4 months later is that in retrospect everything seems better than it did in the days immediately following the big day. Now, I’m tempted to sugar-coat everything into a wonderful fairy tale wedding story where everything happens exactly like we dreamed it would, and nothing went wrong.
I want to tell you that it was perfect. I do.
But do you need to read about another beautifully perfect wedding story? There are enough out there I’m sure.
Our wedding wasn’t perfect. Most things aren’t, but it was beautiful, and meaningful to us. We worked together to make an experience that was significant to us and our families. And I think we did the best we could with what we had control over – ourselves.
While we were standing under the chuppah, in front of our friends and family, I felt like I was watching us standing there holding hands. It was like a dream. Here was my favourite person on the planet, wearing a very handsome suit, absolutely glowing, with the most beautiful look in his eyes, pledging his love to me. And there I was all gussied up, doing the same. Holding back tears while I read my vows on a scrunched up piece of cardboard. Even in that moment, I found myself musing… is this real life? Is this really happening right now?
A recently married friend advised me before the wedding that I should try and pick a moment to remember, and really keep that memory, because the day passes by so quickly that it’s easy to forget. Lucky for me, I remember the whole day vividly, even now, but I made a point to remember the wonderfully surreal feeling surrounding the experience.
I want to focus on some of the good parts first. This isn’t everything, but this is what jumped out at me while I was thinking about it. I appreciate everyone that helped us with our wedding planning, before and during, be it with words of advice, or just by being there to share in the moment with us.
My mom, while occasionally annoying me during the day (as moms are apt to do) I am so glad she was there annoying me. She helped me find a veil the day before the wedding. I have all these wonderful blurry pictures that she insisted on taking throughout the day that now make me laugh. (Some are even not blurry – those still make me smile.) Some also captured my trademarked “stop taking photos of me” look. Also, she rocked the dance floor, and I understand where I get all my energy from. Surprise, my mom can dance!
She also participated in a part of the ceremony that was really important to me: the lighting of the unity candle.
JC’s mom put on a fun Engagement Party for us a year or so ago, and teamed up with my dad to throw a mini-party for out of town guests at Buddah’s Vegetarian Restaurant. She offered help repeatedly, which for the most part we declined being excessively independent sorts. She found JCs purple silk-free Keepah, and with her sister, helped him get this important part of JCs look.
She also participated in the part of the unity candle section of the ceremony that was important to the two of us.
Our photographers were pretty amazing. I kept hearing horror stories from people about their photographer experiences, and while those terrible stories filled us with nervousness at every moment of lacking email contact… we didn’t need to be nervous. Jen and Cara of Triage Photo+ followed the terms in their contract (and got us our pictures in time for xmas printing), were flexible about the things we weren’t comfortable with in the contract, and just put us totally at ease during the whole process. AND they took amazingly beautiful shots, like we knew they would. A little bit of art, a little bit of fun, and a whole lot of memories.
Okay, on with the story
The thing about having a vegan wedding, is that it’s still a wedding. You can go big, or you can take it easy, what matters is that you do what’s right for you and your partner.
First thing I should mention, it was raining. I’m not a superstitious person generally, but that did put a damper on things (I’m resorting to puns, sorry), mostly because we had planned on having the ceremony outside. Alas. We do not control the weather.
I got to our venue very early in the morning. Some staff were already at the space getting the rooms ready for the wedding. I walked in feeling lost, and asked someone where I should go. No one seemed to appreciate the momentous day I had imagined for myself, but I guess most people come in with an entourage, so I could have been anyone.
So it was off to the bridal suite with me. I dropped off my dress, and shoes and snuck over to the groom treehouse to drop off a present. I had made JC a custom Magic The Gathering Card called “wedded bliss” and a pair of Live Long and Prosper cuff links. No surprise there, we are a nerdy pair.
She travelled all the way from Vancouver to attend our wedding, and it was so lovely to see her after too many years of living across the country from one another. Sometimes you just need a person.
Eventually my Mom and Jen, my bridesmaid, would arrive as well, this time with Chamomile tea in tow (for me of course). Then at that point, things got busy. Photographers. Hair and Make up began. Florists, Chuppah people, Wedding Venue Coordinator. Final details on things that for some reason kept being asked of me (so I started sending everyone to ask JC.)
My makeup was done by Christine Jairamsingh. Obviously, since she’s my friend, I’m biased in her favour in general, but I think she has this really calming presence. You can see from her magazine and fashion work that she’s incredibly talented, and of course, I’m lucky she is my friend, and was willing to work while she was here on vacation. She helped me feel extra pretty that day.
My hair was done by Elena, of Matryoshka Artistry. I had wanted someone that was familiar with doing a lot of braiding, in a Polish-ish style as a nod to my heritage, so after looking through some of her work online, it made sense. Our florists had included some Stock (a beautiful purple flower) in order to braid it into my hair, and tiny white flowers, and Elena did a lovely job incorporating the style I wanted with the flowers. She had recommended I get highlights before the wedding, but I opted not to. I’m sure it would have looked lovely, but I’m still planning on chopping off all my hair and donating it in the next few months, so I didn’t want to alter it in any way.
I put on my lovely custom made dress from Starkers Corsetry. (with help from everyone)
I slipped on my shoes that had been rush delivered from Nicora Johns.
Took a breath, and then all of a sudden… it was time to have the ceremony. The rain had stopped (long enough for us to have our ceremony outside & take a few pictures.)
I walked in with my dad on my arm to Sea of Love by Cat Power. Cat Power has been one of the few musicians I’ve loved for well over a decade, and this song has always made me tear up a little.
We had asked that our officiant make an announcement that people not take pictures during the ceremony, before we did our walk in, but she had apparently decided to change her mind about following our wishes. I understand people’s desire to take photographs, but the walk down the aisle was a little less special when a bunch of people decided to snap photos of me when I really really didn’t want them to. It was actually much worse when I thought they had ignored the “please no photos request” that hadn’t actually happened. (& I wished very much I had ordered these No Photo Cards...)
This is actually one of the parts of the ceremony I wish I could forget and just let go of, but for whatever reason it still upsets me. I realized later that it was one of those moments I imagined going perfectly, but instead there were people clicking their devices distracting me from doing what I should have been doing…. which was gazing at JC. Hopefully I can let go of the hurt about that sometime, but I didn’t realize how important this part was to me until someone messed it up.
I also want to get this thought out of the way. I can’t possibly recommend the officiant we had to anyone ever. There were so many other things about her that were mean and spiteful, that in retrospect, I’m actually quite sad we ended up working with her. JC and I spent a lot of time writing and choosing elements of the ceremony, so the words were still there, and all the lovely things we wanted to say to one another were there, but she was like one more cloud on a rainy day.
But enough about that. Eventually, as I walked down the aisle, I locked eyes with JC who was beaming this beautiful ridiculous grin, and things were back to being right in the world. He looked so handsome in his fancy bespoke suit from Trend Custom Tailors, under a purple and white flower covered chuppah. I will never forget the look of love and adoration in his eyes. But mostly because I get to see it nearly everyday (lucky me).
The ceremony began with an explanation of what a chuppah was, and what it meant to us. Sure, a chuppah is part of a traditional Jewish wedding, but for us, it is symbolic of a home, and the importance of community and hospitality. We had ordered a maple chuppah from Chuppah.ca (this exists), and had to have an extra conversation on making sure to get non-silk/organza fabric, but they had a totally cotton one which worked perfectly. With the help of our florists Sweetpea’s (who have experience working with chuppahs) it was beautiful.
It was important to us to start off the ceremony acknowledging that there are still people out there in the world that are not able to wed the people they love. Being acutely aware of what it feels like to not have the heteronormitive privilege I have now, I felt it was important to incorporate that into the ceremony. We feel grateful that we can express our love for one another without limitations.
The lighting of the unity candle was something I wasn’t sure we’d end up doing, but I loved loved loved this part so much. Our Moms were a part of this, and I’m so happy to have found a good way of really incorporating them, and symbolically joining our families together with this part of the ceremony.
Then it was time for us to exchange vows. JC went first, and I’ll admit that don’t really remember what he said, just that he said it with love.
I had scribbled mine on a large brown cardboard gift tag that morning, interspersed with words of encouragement to myself, and had been holding on to them for dear life, wrapped around my bouquet of flowers. They were smudged, sweaty, and the paper was crinkled, and while my voiced trembled, somehow I managed not to cry while saying them.
We exchanged rings, we signed documents, and suddenly we were pretty much married. Phew.
Our officiant read out the contents of our ketubah (a Jewish marriage document that also happens to be really really beautiful – now living on our dining room wall)
On this day of great joy and celebration, on the 13th hour, of the 13th day of the month of October, in the year 2013, here in Toronto, Ontario, among family and friends, Jordan and Michelle hereby declare their love and commitment as they perform the rites of marriage.
Today, we vow to be equal partners, loving friends, and supportive companions as we choose to walk life’s path together.
We promise to be ever open while cherishing each other’s uniqueness, to enjoy the freedom to be ourselves, and to build the life we imagine together. May our love allow us to share life’s joys, and comfort each other through life’s sorrows. We vow to challenge each other to achieve intellectual and physical fulfillment as we honour our talents and are patient with our weaknesses.
Together we will search for personal and emotional peace as we live each day to the fullest. We will build a home filled with joy, laughter, family, compassion, and love as we stand before our community, and all who inhabit the earth.
May we live each day as the first, the last, the only day we will have with each other. We joyfully enter into this covenant and accept its obligations from this day forward.
JC and I joined arms, and broke glass (light bulbs) together and everyone yelled Mazel Tov.
We walked out together to the Star Wars IV: A New Hope Throne Room End Title song. And retreated to our 10 minutes of Yichud.
(Yichud is a tradition in which the first few moments of a marriage are spent alone together. It gave us time to breathe, hug, and relax. Plus, we were able to take the first of many silly married selfies before getting back to the festivities.)
Our photographers joined us upstairs for the beginning of picture time. And this is where they were extra awesome. We spent the next hour or so getting our pictures taken, in a group, alone, with family, with friends, it was silly, and fun, and wonderful. And I (usually) hate getting my picture taken. I appreciate having some really natural or fancy shots of JC and I together.
One of the nicest parts of using the venue we did, was that it was full of beautiful photo spots, indoors and outside.
While we were getting our pictures taken, other folks were hanging out eating some snacks & drinking our custom cocktails. My mom snapped some photos of these items, they seemed to disappear, so hopefully they were good!
The cocktail reception was a buffet of assorted sliced vegan meats in semi-traditional Polish style, daiya, olives, hummus, baba ganoush, breads, pita chips, pickles. With assorted breads, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, hummus, tapenades and vegan mozzarella, cherry tomato, and basil skewers.
Our first dance song was “The Way I am” by Ingrid Michaelson. Second song was “What Does the Fox Say?” by Ylvis to wake people up a bit. Though I also learned that some of my friends were too cool to dance to Ylvis.
Then it was time to eat!
There is a Polish wedding tradition centered around bread, and a Jewish tradition centered around bread, so I worked that into the reception. Luckily, a few months before Sweets from the Earth (our cake maker) had started making challah for high holidays. We saw the owners at the Vegetarian Food Festival and asked if they could make a really gigantic challah for a wedding. So they did!
We walked around handing out bread to everyone at every table and saying hello. It was a nice way for us to meet all the guests and also feed them tasty bread before dinner started. Another one of those moments I didn’t realize would be important to me, until it happened. And as you can see by our happy faces, we loved it.
One thing that was fun to see was how people we put together at tables got along. Some of them had never met, but I noticed they became Facebook friends in the coming weeks. We also named tables according to nerdy things we were into, rather than just by numbers. So there were tables for Zelda, Mario, Magic the Gathering, World of Warcraft, Dr. Who, Sonic the Hedgehog, Android, and more.
I made the signs on a whim, because the idea of using only table numbers didn’t seem like our kind of thing, and I’m so glad I did.
Here are a couple of them:
Finally, it was time for dinner.
Our menu was fairly simple (except for dessert). And of course, I took pictures of the food.
A cucumber wrapped red onion and tomato salad with a blood orange vinaigrette.
Matzo ball soup
Entrees were either an autumn vegetable cassoulet or a mushroom barley risotto.
And oh so many different desserts (plus wedding cake.) There were 4 different types of tarts: Salted Caramel Chocolate, Chocolate Tart, Fruit Tart, Brandy Cup w/ fruit, and a platter of assorted fruit (which I don’t remember seeing, but it could have gone fast.)
We had tried to work with the venue to create food we and our guests would love. Or at least, I thought we did. There were some dishes that turned out wonderfully (dessert was fantastic), but then we got one of our entrees and it was not great at all. Unfortunately, it was the entree with the most sentimental significance too, so it already had too much attached to it.
The Cassoulet. It’s sentimental because it was the first thing JC had ever cooked for me, and it was amazing. It was pretty wonderful at our tasting, but for the wedding they had moved it from the cute little bowls they had showed us for tasting to big ugly plates, and one part of it was more like a scoop of texture-less re-fried beans than a cassoulet.
Considering how much we like food, and how much potential this dish had when we tried it during the tasting, the end result was not something I was excited about. People said they thought it was great, but what else are they going to say.
Another food related thing that wasn’t wonderful – the venue coordinator promised ingredient information and never delivered on that (she also left midway through the wedding and left us with someone we had never spoken to…) They had some binder with something saying things were vegan, but that was the bare minimum requirement we had for our food. We tried, and we explained what vegan meant. But it feels as though the venue dropped the ball on following through with this one.
Our beautiful cake came from a company I trust – Sweets From the Earth. There were three tiers – chocolate, lavender, and pineapple coconut. But for some reason we ended up taking more than half the cake home (and part of it is still living in our freezer). There are a few gum paste flowers as well as some fresh flowers from Sweetpea. I can’t remember if I had a full peace, but I definitely enjoyed pieces of it later on that month… Working with Illana was a pleasure, and it was nice to have such an experienced cake maker, based right in our city.
The cat topper was me, JC, our ginger cat Emmie, and our Tuxedo cat Kes. Unfortunately, they couldn’t make it to the wedding (as they had several cat naps to take that day.)
Finally, it was just time to party.
One ever present tradition in any Jewish wedding (or even a Jewish-ish wedding) is probably the Horah. Now, I’m find with dancing around in circles, and clapping, but inevitably, the chairs come out, and that was something I wasn’t very keen on, but once the music started I was enveloped in the moment, and held on to the chair for dear life. Sure, it was fun, but it was also terrifying being up in the air on a chair held up by a mix of friends and strangers. Either way, I’m glad I did it.
Once the evening started winding down, we started planning out escape.
We left in a 1951 Rolls Royce. JC chose this one because it had a naugahyde interior & seats (a non-leather option with a knit fabric backing and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic coating) diving off into the light rain and starlight to a quick one night stay at The Ivey.
Venue & Catering: Berkeley Events & Catering
Photographers: Triage+ Photo
Hair: Matryoshka Artistry
Make up: Christine Jairamsingh
MeShell’s Dress: Starkers Corsetry
JC’s Suit: Trend Custom Tailors
Shoes (hers): Nicora Johns
Shoes (his): Novacas
Cake: Sweets from The Earth
Cake Topper: MudCards on Etsy
Ketubah: This Is Not a Ketubah
Rings: Brent & Jess
I Have Final Words Of Advice
A few things, if you want to have a child-free wedding (like I did), you might have to be more direct about expressing that desire than you’d ever expect to. People seem to like bringing their kids to stuff. Even weddings. And as a non-parent, this isn’t something I understand, but most of my parent friends understood how I felt about it. But not everyone did. Surprise!
If you don’t want people to take pictures of the ceremony/reception, have a back up plan. Your guests don’t want to be jerks (I hope), they don’t know what you want unless you or someone else tells them. Put up a sign or something.
Set expectations with vendors, confirm expectations with vendors, and make sure people understand what you want, but also be flexible. Sometimes things wont work out. Sometimes it will rain. Sometimes your officiant will be a spiteful jerk. Sometimes you’ll be worried your shoes wont arrive on time. Give yourself some time to sort these things out.
But if you are last minute like me, please remember to breathe. Things will work out, and if they don’t, you’re still going to be okay. It’s just a wedding after all.