Real Wedding | Mona & Tom

Mona and Tom crafted their wedding to include the traditions and rituals that were most meaningful to them. Held at the school where they live and work, their wedding was a perfect reflection of who they are and their commitment to each other. It was exactly what a wedding should be.

Mona & Tom | June 26, 2010 | Darrow School New Lebanon, New York

How SHE proposed
I proposed to him in front of the whole school community where we live and work, during Friday lunch announcements. Tom and I had already decided to get married and found the perfect rings, but I wanted to let the small community know in a way that surprised Tom and let everyone know (instead of having them find out through rumors). I shared the story of having met Tom (after surrendering the matchmaking to God), and then had the students help me ask the question by rushing in, in a row, holding the painted letters on paper. I held the ME, just to keep it clear, and gave him his diamond eternity ring.

The ceremony
The ceremony was very unique and meaningful, as we had already been legally married (in Maui on Thanksgiving eve)

and could focus on the spiritual, familial, and social aspects of our union. I researched and created a family tree project showing our lineages coming together,

and we made a chuppah (Jewish structure representing the home) out of branches and ivory chiffon.

We hired a female officiant who weaved our ceremony together beautifully. It included a Shinto sake ceremony, where we drank out of three cups of ascending size,

readings of beautiful excepts read by my two sisters and Tom’s two brothers, prayers for our deceased relatives and for equality in marriage rights, our own vows, and a Celtic hand-fasting ritual. At the end, our family and friends were asked to make two concentric circles around us and offer their blessings and hopes for us as a couple, Quaker-style.

The reception
The reception included dinner in a hexagon tent nearby, decorated in our theme colors of chocolate brown, grass green, and ivory, and a trip to a small
family-run bowling alley for cosmic bowling (Tom is a competitive bowler). We had organic, local food served family-style (mixed greens and strawberries salad with a maple balsamic vinagrette, cedar-grilled salmon with a blueberry-mango salsa, filet mignon with garlic herbed butter, grilled vegetables and mashed potatoes. For dessert, we had a chocolate fountain with various dipping choices and flourless chocolate cake. I showed a PowerPoint of the two of us growing up in pictures, and invited everyone to join us for bowling, with the option of riding a school bus (driven by our colleague and friend) to the bowling alley. Everyone had a blast bowling to a CD mixed by a friend of mine, disco lights, and old-school scoring sheets (pencil and paper).

Splurges and Savings
We saved a lot on most things, using the campus where we live and work and met as the venue (my family stayed in the dorm where we have an apartment), making the invitations and centerpieces and chuppah myself, leaving the tent before dark (saving on lighting, dance floor, DJ, etc), using the school bus as transportation, using the school caterer for the food and borrowing their tables and other items, and having a chocolate fountain rather than a wedding cake.

I splurged on my wedding dress (gift from my mom, otherwise I would have spent $300 max), my appointments for the day (manicure, pedicure, hair and makeup), the tent and decor, and mineral baths for our family the day before at Saratoga Springs.

How she knew her wedding dress was “THE ONE”
I poured through tons of wedding magazines and websites, visited several wedding dress stores, including a rental service in Los Angeles, and probably tried on more than thirty dresses before finding the perfect one. Since I wanted the wedding to be “green/sustainable”, I went to a store in Saratoga Springs that sold eco-friendly dresses. I came away with pictures of five dresses that I liked, and emailed them to my family for review (since they live half the world away.) Their selections confirmed my choice, and I went with the one that spoke to me as a person and flattered my figure (even though it wasn’t made of fair-trade cotton).

Her advice for other brides
My advice for other brides is to choose only the elements and traditions that speak to you, and make decisions based on what feels right to you. It is a wonderful opportunity to express who you are as a person and a couple, and what marriage/love means to you, and you can toss out outdated, sexist, or expensive traditions while designing a ceremony and event that comes from your heart and soul.

The moments Mona will never forget
There are so many moments that were memorable from our day, from the drizzle that threatened to move the ceremony inside but stopped just in time, to drinking sake from the biggest cup which represents having children and seeing Tom grin wide, to my father and mother speaking up at the family circle at the end of the ceremony, to enjoying a wonderful dinner and seeing all our closest friends and family in the same place under the tent around us, to the amazing sunset we saw before heading off to bowl, to finding out that there was a full moon and lunar eclipse on the day we had scheduled months before for practical reasons, to Tom and me bowling side-by-side and getting the same score on the first round of bowling (91, good for me and uncharacteristically low for him), to dancing with him while bowling in my dress and him in his suit.

Mona’s Wedding Dress: Rosa Clara 109
Photography: Jane Feldman