The decision to get married is a life-changing one.
It is followed by hundreds of less significant decisions, all part of the wedding-planning process. While these decisions may be less significant, they are not unimportant, and they can lead to a lot of stress.
The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle interviewed four brides married in southeastern Wisconsin this year to hear how they kept calm, cool and collected in the weeks leading up to one of the biggest days of their lives.
Read a good book
Abigail Backer, 25, originally from Kenosha, was able to keep from sweating the small stuff.
Abigail and her now-husband, Zachary Wainer, 27, met through their involvement in the North American Federation of Temple Youth.
Today, they are still involved as NFTY advisers, living in Chicago.
Soon after becoming engaged, Abigail’s mother, Rabbi Dena Feingold, gave her the book “The New Jewish Wedding” by Anita Diamant, which Abigail would recommend all Jewish couples read.
“That was very grounding for us,” she said, noting that the volume covered not only value-based questions, but also practical ones on invitations, seating, etc.
Feingold performed the couple’s wedding alongside Zachary’s recently ordained sister, Rabbi Jessica Wainer, Sept. 4, 2016 at Beth Hillel Temple in Kenosha, where Feingold serves.
“Just being with our family and celebrating with our loved ones was the most important thing,” Abigail said. “I’ve never experienced happiness and love on such a scale.”
To include more members of the congregation, the couple had a champagne and sweets reception for the whole congregation after the ceremony.
“It was just a really nice way to incorporate a community that’s been so important in both of our lives,” Abigail said.
The couple had similar receptions prior to their big day at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue, in Evanston, Illinois, where Abigail serves as director of youth programs, and at Oak Park Temple, where Zachary grew up.
A reception at the Racine Architect Hotel and Conference Center saw 190 guests.
“The guest list was probably the most stressful part,” Abigail said, noting that she, Zachary and their parents “really tried to approach it as a team.”
Planning the ceremony was a focus for the couple and “everything else was kind of icing on the cake,” Abigail said.
She said if she could relive the day, she would keep an even more “Zen” attitude about the reception details.
“The color of the napkins just didn’t really matter at the end of the day,” Abigail said.
Both scuba certified, the couple will head to Belize in December for their honeymoon.
Focus on the big picture
Like Abigail, Ashley (Rabin) Garson, 28, focused on the bigger picture when planning her wedding to Alex Garson, 28.
“At the end of the day, I was marrying Alex,” she said.
Ashley and Alex met in college. They both attended Indiana University.
Ashley is originally from Bayside, where she belonged to the Shul Center, but the couple now live in Cleveland, Ohio.
They had their July 17 wedding at Pier Wisconsin in Milwaukee with 85 percent of their 220 guests coming in from out of town.
The couple did everything they could to make guests comfortable and ensure that they had a good time.
Rabbi Jody Cook presided over the ceremony. Cook and Ashley have a long history: Cook was Ashley’s babysitter growing up.
“She’s been there every step of the way with us,” Ashley said. “It made it so special.”
Ashley would encourage other brides to make a connection with whomever their rabbi might be. “It really does make the ceremony and the weekend even more special,” she said.
The chuppah was completely mirrored to complement the Garsons’ colors, grays and silvers.
“I’m so happy with how everything turned out,” Ashley said.
The day flew by, so she would remind other brides to take it all in.
“It was just so crazy having every important person in my life in one room,” she said.
Ashley and Alex took a honeymoon in the Mediterranean, leaving for a two-week cruise three days after the wedding.
Taking a few days to unwind, spend more time with family and pack was a good decision, Ashley said.
Invite who you want
Stacie (Snap) Bishop, 44, would agree.
She and her groom, Ben Bishop, 46, were advised not to leave on their honeymoon the day after their March 13 wedding, and she is relieved they listened.
Exhaustion set in after the wedding, she said.
The couple headed to Jamaica and will return for their one-year anniversary in a few months.
Stacie and Ben met online and quickly clicked. They planned an interfaith Jewish wedding at the Italian Conference Center in Milwaukee, where they reside.
They belong to Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, 2020 W. Brown Deer Road, River Hills.
Ben’s father is a Presbyterian minister, so he had a role alongside Rabbi Michael Sommer. Sommer suggested Ben’s dad present an English version of the Hebrew prayers, Stacie said.
“It was completely unique,” Stacie said. “I still have people saying to me that that ceremony was so us.”
Marrying in March, “off-season” for weddings, “we didn’t know what the weather was going to be,” Stacie said. So she presented her bridesmaids with faux fur shrugs to keep them comfortable. Stacie also didn’t mind if their dresses were different styles or if they had matching hair styles and makeup.
One big regret Stacie has is the guest list, she said.
She would tell other brides: “Invite who you want. Don’t worry about the budget in terms of that. Not everybody’s going to be able to make it.”
While people who didn’t receive an invite understood, “I still felt horrible,” she said.
Another regret of Stacie’s is not hiring a videographer.
“The day goes by so fast, and it’s a big blur,” she said.
To ensure everyone stays stress-free all day long, Stacie would highly recommend couples hire a day-of coordinator.
Remember it’s your day
Like Stacie, Carole Mazius, 29, gave her bridesmaids some freedom.
She had all eight of them select their own black dress to wear for the evening.
“I’ve been in a lot of weddings. I’ve spent a lot of money on bridesmaids’ dresses,” Mazius said. “I wanted everyone to feel and look comfortable.”
Mazius, who grew up in Whitefish Bay, married Danny Dolgin, 30, Aug. 21, 2016.
The pair met through friends and have been living together in Chicago.
Their wedding was held at Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, and the reception was at the Wisconsin Club, where 150 guests celebrated with them.
Carole and Danny did a first look prior to the ceremony, which helped calm Carole down, she said.
Prior to seeing Danny, “I was so nervous,” she said. Seeing each other earlier in the day, “it made the rest of the day feel much more comfortable.”
The ceremony was fairly traditional, but Jewish music was not played at the ceremony, Carole said.
The chuppah didn’t live up to her expectations. She regrets not asking the florist for a sketch because she didn’t want to impose, she said.
Carole would tell other brides that “it is your day, so you should know what you’re having.” Asking questions of vendors is important, she said.
The wedding budget wasn’t too big of an issue, but by being patient and shopping around, Carole was able to find some great bargains, like a cake topper from Amazon.com for $4, she said.
Another piece of advice Carole has for brides: Listen to the photographers. She remembers becoming frustrated with the number of photographs taken and the time that took. But she is grateful for those photos today.
“Do all that you can to be able to remember,” she said.
The couple left two days after their wedding for a honeymoon in Bali.