Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category

New York City reaped $259 million of economic benefits from same-sex marriages in the first year of the law allowing the practice, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.

At least 8,200 gay-marriage licenses were issued, accounting for more than 10 percent of the 75,000 wedding licenses issued in New York City in the past year, Bloomberg and Quinn said in a statement today, citing a survey conducted by NYC & Co., the city’s marketing and tourism office, and the city clerk’s office.

New York became the sixth and most recent state to legalize gay marriage a year ago after Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the measure into law. More than 200,000 guests have since traveled from outside of the city to attend same-sex wedding receptions, and more than 235,000 hotel room nights were booked at an average daily room rate of $275, according to the mayor’s statement.

“Marriage equality has made our city more open, inclusive and free — and it has also helped to create jobs and support our economy,” Bloomberg, 70, said at a news conference in Lower Manhattan.

Bloomberg has focused on tourism to diversify the city’s economy beyond Wall Street, with employment in leisure and hospitality growing more than 100,000 in 10 years to 362,400 in June, according to the state Department of Labor.

‘NYC I Do’

The city attracted a record 50.5 million visitors in 2011, and Bloomberg has a 2015 goal to draw 55 million people, add 30,000 jobs and increase the industry’s economic impact to $70 billion from $48 billion last year.

NYC & Co. began the “NYC I Do” marketing campaign after the same-sex marriage law passed, with a goal to make the most populous U.S. city the top wedding and honeymoon destination for couples globally.

In addition to New York, same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia, according to Freedom to Marry, a New York- based national advocacy organization.

Sixth State

This year, the legislatures in Maryland, New Jersey and Washington state passed same-gender marriage laws that haven’t taken effect. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill, while opponents in Maryland and Washington have November ballot measures challenging the laws.

Quinn, 45, who with Bloomberg lobbied the Legislature to approve same-gender marriage, benefited from the law when she wed her partner, attorney Kim Catullo, 45, on May 19 at a ceremony attended by the mayor, Cuomo, and U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

“What you can’t quantify is just the joy that has happened in New York City,” Quinn told reporters. “What better thing could government do than pass laws that make people equal, repeal laws that say some of us are unequal, and give families the opportunity to have that once-in-a-lifetime moment when a father can walk his daughter down the aisle.”


A generous New York bridal shop owner never questioned the heartbreaking story of a woman who claimed to have cancer and wanted to marry before she died. The bride’s story opened the hearts and wallets of her community who donated thousands of dollars to pay for her wedding and honeymoon.

But months after the wedding, it was revealed that Jessica Vega, 25, lied about her terminal illness and had duped everyone. Now, she has been arrested and charged with six felonies and one misdemeanor and could face up to four years in prison for each felony charge.

Keri Ciastko is the co-owner of Bliss Bridal, which was Bella Couture when she first met Vega in 2010. Vega came into the shop in search of a wedding dress and said she was getting married quickly. Ciastko noticed Vega’s short hair.

"It came up in conversation that she had lost her hair due to this cancer," Ciastko told today. "She pulled at my heartstrings. I’ve lost a lot of family members to cancer, so I did everything I could to help her."

The shop provided Vega with her wedding dress, a seamstress for alterations, the wig for her wedding, shoes and Ciastko even used her own money sometimes to help the new mom, who said she was struggling financially.

Other community members donated money, wedding photos, plane tickets for a honeymoon in Aruba and a time share for the honeymoon.

"It seemed so genuine. I never questioned it," Ciastko said.

The two developed a friendship and Ciastko remembered getting angry when her husband once asked her if she was sure the story was true.

"I said, ‘Who would lie about something like that?’" Ciastko recalled. "I never questioned it and I was floored when it came up that it might not be true."

Months after the wedding, Vega’s husband Michael O’Connell called Ciastko and asked her if she was sitting down. When she asked why, he said, "Jessica lied about everything and she’s not sick. She pulled the wool over everybody’s eyes."

"I didn’t want to believe him," she said. "I knew they were going through some issues, but it just kind of spiraled from there."

Ciastko spoke to Vega once after that and Vega told her she was not lying. Ciastko has had no communication with her since then.

"Now, it makes me angry," Ciastko said. "It was very hard. It’s pitting someone’s worst fears against them."

The couple, who already had a young daughter, married in May 2010 and four months later, Vega’s new husband accused her of faking the illness, according to the Time Herald-Record.

O’Connell allegedly discovered that Vega had forged a letter that was supposedly from a doctor to prove her illness. He called his local paper and reported the scheme.

The couple divorced and O’Connell moved to Virginia, but she later joined him there and they had a second child, the paper reported.

O’Connell told the paper that his wife needed mental health treatment, not prison. He could not be reached for comment by

Vega was arrested in Virginia on April 3 and extradited to New York, according to the attorney general’s office.

She was charged with one count of scheme to defraud, five counts of grand larceny and one count of criminal possession of a forged instrument for the allegedly fake doctor’s letter.

"By pretending to have a terminal illness, Vega inexcusably took advantage of the community’s hearts and minds, and profited off of their generosity," Orange County Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. "Our office will hold this individual accountable for fleecing the public through lies and deception."

Ciastko isn’t seeking reimbursement or taking legal action, but said she has been saddened by the situation and worries about how it could affect others who are actually in need.

"I am very betrayed by what happened. I am. I feel like the generosity of so many people was put in jeopardy, which is what’s so sad," Ciastko said. "Unfortunately, I think she maybe ruined it for people that really could use the help."

But Ciastko said she hasn’t been jaded by the experience. "Given the opportunity to do it again, I would in a heartbeat," she said.

Vega was arraigned in Orange County Court on Friday and pleaded not guilty. Her bail was set at $10,000 cash or $30,000 bond.

She is expected to be back in court on April 20.

LOCATION:  Carnival Glory  |  DATE:  August 22   GUESTS:  About 20

Our first Bride On The Brink for July will set sail August 22 for a Caribbean cruise with her groom-to-be, a few wedding guests—and it’s also her groom’s family reunion! Talk about a family affair!

Q. When did you start your wedding planning?

A. I became engaged in March 2008. We had already planned since last March to go on a cruise for my fiance’s family reunion in August 2009. I wasn’t sure when I was going to set a wedding date, what type of wedding I wanted to have, and whether it would be in Mississippi, where I’ve lived for the past 12 years, or New York, where my sisters and I grew up, or North Carolina, where my parents live. I actually started planning in May 2009. (Wow! Talk about waiting until the last minute! S) Once we decided the cruise would be a great place to have the wedding, it was a matter of [making arrangements.] We’ll set sail for a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise to Cozumel, Costa Maya, Belize and the Bahamas.

Q. So what’s the most important thing on your mind right now?

A. Right now, I’m just hoping we have good weather and no hurricane. Oh, and I hope the H1N1 flu doesn’t strike.

Q. What’s been the most stressful or difficult part of preparing for your wedding.

A. I like to think I’m “too blessed to be stressed.” Fortunately, the stress is minimal since the [cruise line] is taking care of all the details. The most difficult part was trying to coordinate with my fiance’s family members who had been booked on the cruise for months, since it’s their family reunion. I’ve had to work with the airlines to rearrange [our] flights, which we booked in January. Luckily, I got a sympathetic airline representative in customer service who was happy to help.

Q. Would you have done anything differently?

A. I would have booked [the cruise] earlier.

Q. What’s been the best part of your wedding planning?

A. My fiance is a stickler for being on time and setting deadlines. And he’s great with finances. With that in mind, I knew I had to set a budget and stick to it to keep the harmony. I’m happy that my fiance was okay with having a wedding during his family’s cruise.

Q. You really waited until the last minute to start your wedding planning. Do you have any last-minute details to take care of?

A. My sisters and I are still shopping for bridesmaids dresses. I ordered my own cute cake topper…and plan to order some gifts for the wedding party, like personalized candle keepsakes and mints. I’ll also want to order personalized napkins and a few other favors.

Q. How has the current economy affected your wedding plans?

A. The economy has had an impact on my wedding in a number of ways. This is the second wedding for both of us. We both lost our spouses several years ago to cancer. As far as the wedding, neither one of us was trying to recreate our first wedding experience. So we’ve saved a lot of money by not having a traditional wedding with dozens of guests. Originally, I wanted to go to Hawaii for my honeymoon. But, I’m happy we get to turn a family cruise into our honeymoon. By deciding to have a shipboard wedding, we’ve been able to pay cash for everything in advance and won’t have any credit-card debt when we come back from our honeymoon. I’ll still have a few more bells and whistles, like a limo to take us to our ship. My parents and 13 of my fiance’s family members will go on the cruise, but because of the tough economic times, my sisters and aunt will not be able to come on the cruise. But I’m happy they will be part of the wedding ceremony and reception. I still plan to have an informal celebration/reception when we return for other friends and family who weren’t able to attend. I am having a knock-off designer wedding dress made for under $300, but I won’t know if I’ve made a good choice or not until I receive it. (I’ve secretly fantasized that, as a back-up plan, first-lady Michelle Obama will let me borrow her inauguration gown.)

Q. Any words of wedding-planning wisdom for your best friend?

A. I would tell my friend that, at the end of the day, it’s YOUR WEDDING. If you can afford to have the wedding of your dreams, go for it. If money is a concern, there are always less-expensive options to make your wedding a memorable one without breaking the bank.

Watch for the next edition of Brides On the Brink…30 Days and Counting! It’s for brides, it’s about brides, and most importantly, it’s by Brides On the Brink who are one month away from walking down the aisle.

Become One of our Brides On The Brink!

If you’re about one, two or three months from tying the knot and would like to be a featured bride, please click here to e-mail your contact information and wedding date. I’ll send you the questionnaire to fill out and return. For passing on your wedding wisdom, featured brides will receive a $25 gift certificate* for, where you’ll find fabulous wedding favors, wedding accessories, bridesmaids’ gifts and so much more!

* For shipping only within the US and Canada.


Cheap wedding dress bargains are available to brides who start early and do their research.

As a bride-to-be actively avoiding many decisions about my own pending nuptials (despite the many excellent cheap and frugal wedding tips shared by Consuming Interests readers months ago), let’s talk about how an organized non-procrastinator should search for a gown.

First, consider what you’re paying for. Check out what the authors of the Bridal Bargains book had to say about wedding dresses — given the price range, you’d expect things like high-quality fabric and materials such as lace, right?

At the very least, you’d want properly sewn seams. A good friend of mine recently ordered a dress from a popular retailer and found multiple problems: an exposed metal zipper instead of the covered, hidden one pictured in the catalog, poorly stitched seams that bunched in the back and even an unevenly cut hem.

Next, think about how long you’ll wear this dress. I like to justify expensive purchases by dividing the price by the number of times I’ll wear an item. That won’t work for wedding gowns.

Wedding dresses are also cumbersome heirlooms. Some people may preserve their gowns in acid-free boxes, which is a nice tradition if you live in a home with lots of storage, that you never plan to leave. Otherwise, it will be one more thing to carry around as you move through life. And forget about saving it for your kids. Your offspring may not fit into yours or may prefer a different style for their gown.

Finally, don’t get pressured into making a deal. With all the pressure to find the "perfect" dress, it’s not uncommon for women to find themselves buying more than one, because the style of the dress doesn’t match their venue or because they make a hasty decision at a sale that they regret later.

With that in mind, here’s some great options for purchasing an inexpensive wedding dress that you will love:

Start early.  (And be more decisive than I am). If you’re ordering from a store, they often require more than four months to get the dress, and then at least two months alterations. Order with less time to spare and you may get hit with rush charges even though your event is still months away.

And if you’re considering alternative sources I’m suggesting below, the hunt may take more time.

Pick your venue and wedding date BEFORE you buy a dress. You might have to alter any Cinderella fantasies depending on your wedding location. For a beach wedding on a Caribbean island, you might not want something with a cathedral-length train. Or, if you’re getting married in the winter, you might consider a down quilted dress or one lined in fleece (kidding, kidding). P.S. No matter where you’re getting married, don’t pack a wedding dress in your checked luggage, as one bride learned the hard way.

I’ve also heard some ceremony sites place restrictions on what is appropriate attire for a wedding (for the bride and groom, at least). I don’t know of any that do that, but it’s worth checking before you plunk down a deposit on anything risque.

Consider some alternative sources of wedding attire, including:

* Sales in retail shops. Most bridal salons only carry a few samples of the dresses from the lines they carry. If you have at least a vague concept of the style of dress you want, check for trunk shows, where designers come to a store with more examples that you can often purchase at a discount on that day.

Sometimes stores also sell the samples themselves, which is fine if the dress is within alteration-range of a perfect fit. Check for stains, rips or other wear-and-tear problems — if it’s something minor it might still be worth it.

* Check department stores and other unexpected sources. A good tip for destination wedding dresses that can travel well, or others looking for more modern or non-traditional styles: check out special occasion dresses at department stores such as Bloomingdale’s or Neiman Marcus. Also, some bridesmaid’s dresses can be ordered in wedding colors such as white or off-white, but designers might charge a special fee for that privilege. Rrr!

Unfortunately, Isaac Mizrahi no longer designs wedding dresses for Target. Ann Taylor sells bridesmaid dresses and accessories, but a spokeswoman told me they may offer "wedding dress alternatives" in the future.

* Consider "pre-owned" dresses. The Wall Street Journal had a recent story about bargain-hunting brides buying their gowns from Now, "pre-owned" is a big category, which includes not only dresses that have made it down the aisle at least once, but also some brand new dresses that are new-with-tags (NWT).

Take advantage of others’ indecision. Classifieds at sites such as, Encore Bridal or are full of stories from "two-dress brides" (and even three-dress brides) who changed their minds and found a different dress. You can also buy wedding dresses on Craigslist and bid on wedding dresses on eBay. (Remember how we showed you how to set up an RSS feed for a Craigslist search?)

I recently talked to a woman who purchased a dress at the Filene’s Basement Running of the Brides, where dresses cost between $250 and $699. She ended up buying a different dress that she felt was more appropriate for her reception location — and is now looking to unload her lovely ballgown before she moves.

Goodwill stores were a good wedding dress source for one Boston Globe reporter. I checked out a number of local Goodwills and was impressed by the extent of the formal wear selection, although there were fewer recent wedding dresses than I had hoped. I’m guessing it’s luck of the draw — the best dresses probably sell quickly.

The savvy shopper at Good Morning America also recommended going to thrift stores and consignment shops for wedding dresses. The Surprise Shop in Towson, which raises money for Trinity Episcopal Church, now has a number of wedding dress samples available on consignment for a third of their original price, as well as accessories such as gloves and veils. Newbury and Smith in Mount Washington had two wedding dresses when I visited, and Regal Rags in Annapolis had a few, too.

Other options: Anyone with experience ordering direct from manufacturers in China, renting a dress or having a dress made, please share advice below. You could also look at wedding gowns on Etsy. One bonus: if you have a dress made to your measurements, then hopefully you save on alterations down the road.

(photo: Patrick Smith/Baltimore Sun)

The wedding stinger: Swine flu halts ‘I do’s’

May 6, 2009 Author: John | Filed under: In the News

Wedding trends for 2009

Apr 6, 2009 Author: John | Filed under: General Wedding Articles, In the News

By Nicole Warburton

Vintage. Romantic. Green. Individual.

Those are some of the words you might hear this wedding season as couples choose to make their nuptial celebrations more personalized, yet simple.

Colors are rich and earthy, with blues, browns and even jewel tones being used for table linens and bridesmaid dresses. Instead of bright Gerber daisies, brides are opting for more subdued flower hues.

And wedding and receptions sites are becoming more creative. It’s not all about the catered hall anymore. Some couples are going to music clubs, or even a local farmhouse to throw their wedding party.

“Everyone wants their wedding to be unique and to showcase them as a couple,” said Chelsie Crane with Ruby Avenue Events, a wedding and event design company that serves the Wasatch Front.

From Crane’s perspective, one of the top trends this season is for brides to “go green” with their wedding celebrations. That could mean choosing recycled invitations or creating a menu with locally grown or organic items.

Other trends include using fun patterned fabrics, monograms and unique touches to customize a wedding, according to Crane.

Her advice is for couples to not be afraid to break out of the traditional mold for receptions. A wedding should be a celebration, she said.

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“There’s a lot you can do besides stand in a line and shake hands,” Crane said. “A wedding should be an event where you have the time of your lives.”

Likewise, Emma Harris and Raelynn Johnson with Modern Display say brides and grooms shouldn’t be afraid to design the wedding of their dreams — even if they’re on a budget.

When meeting with couples, both Harris and Johnson will ask the prospective bride or groom to describe their dream event. They will then offer ideas and examples to help the bride and groom plan.

One idea is for couples to forego a traditional wedding cake and instead serve a “favor” cake with small boxes of chocolates or other treats guests can take with them.

Other ideas include using fewer flowers on table settings and instead displaying one or two flowers in a unique vase or jar.

Harris said she believes one of the top trends this season is the desire to create a romantic feeling at a reception and wedding. As a result, styles are becoming more vintage and old-fashioned, with wedding dresses that are no longer the traditional white and flower colors and linens that are more sophisticated, Johnson said.

Either way, both Johnson and Harris believe a couple can have the wedding they always dreamed of. The key is to be flexible and open-minded to different ideas.

“There are a lot of small touches that add a lot,” Harris said.

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TORONTO — National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Greta Hodgkinson says her marriage last weekend to Montreal-born first soloist Etienne Lavigne “was a fairy-tale wedding from beginning to end.”

The dance company revealed this week that Hodgkinson, who hails from Providence, R.I., wed Lavigne last Friday in an intimate, bilingual ceremony in Toronto.

The two, who met while performing with the National Ballet, are on honeymoon and unavailable for comment, said the company.

But in a letter to ballet staff, Hodgkinson writes that the reception at Graydon Hall Manor was attended by 96 people who munched on her grandmother’s Armenian desserts at the sweet table and poutine as a late-night snack.

“The best moment of the day was when Etienne surprised me by playing guitar and singing my favourite song, ‘I’ll Be There,’ by Edwin McCain at the reception,” wrote Hodgkinson, who joined the National Ballet in 1990 and became a principal dancer in 1996.

“I’ll Be There” is also the song that Lavigne – who was promoted to first soloist with the ballet company last year – played while he proposed to Hodgkinson on stage at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, said Hodgkinson.

Hodgkinson wore an ivory and lace gown made by U.S.-based fashion designer Monique Lhuillier. Nicole Miller, another American fashion designer, made the raspberry-coloured bridesmaids’ dresses.

The newlyweds can be seen performing in the National Ballet’s 2008-09 season, which opens Nov. 5.


Cupcakes are for kids. Indeed, mini cakes with colourful frosting dance in our happiest childhood memories, where we recall this bake sale or that birthday party, a walk down memory lane only complete with a debate on what icing was best.

But today is a new age: Cupcakes were for kids. Now they are something else, the new raison d’etre for charm, sophistication and nostalgia all at once. A short decade ago it would have been damning to have both a cupcake and a driver’s license; now the pastries are delicious conversation starters, geared toward the kid in all of us. Retro is in, and it’s cool to be young again.

They’ve grown up with us, though; they had to. After all, adults still pride themselves on their mature sensibilities. So if there is any mystery as to how cupcakes became a sensation overnight, their success is crystal clear. We have no shortage of specialty cupcake shops, or their new availability in big box grocery stores; bakeries offer them, and brides request them. But where most present the basic cake, frosting and perhaps cute decorative topper, Eini & Co. has taken the process a step further, and created The Luxury Cupcake.
“It’s a niche market, and I love my customers,” says Eini Cheng, proprietor and grand cupcake master of Eini & Co. “There’s something about a cupcake that brings out the best in people.”

If cupcakes bring out the best in people, the Eini experience must send hearts a-twitter, or urge birds into flight. The cakes themselves begin with luminous, fluttery flavours like vanilla, chocolate and lemon, iced with buttercreams of lemony lychee, cocoa, mango, vanilla and honeydew.

It’s the topper that’s the kicker, luxury at its finest hour. Cutesy doodads make way for artistically glorious floral marvels, as the flowers crowning Eini & Co. cupcakes are roses, sunflowers, lilies and daffodils. A magnificent icing garden of horticultural masterpiece; spring born in sugar. Give your love a cupcake, then again, give her a cupcake topped with a morning glory flower so very lifelike that for a split second, she’ll mistake it for the real thing.

Cupcakes as art is mind-boggling in its own right, but then unconventional gives birth to its kind. Cheng was not fresh out of school or even a pastry chef by trade; she worked at a digital communications advertising firm in Toronto. But she always liked baking and she always liked cakes, an interest that persisted and led her to request an internship with Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes in New York City.

As fate would have it, a simple, random internet search had taken Cheng to Confetti Cakes in the first place, and she liked the look of Strauss’ creations: High-end traditional, novelty and wedding cakes, manifolds of which have been featured by Martha Stewart. Strauss had faith in Cheng, took her on, and taught her marvelous things with sugar.

Upon the internship’s completion Cheng was even offered a job at Confetti Cakes, but lucky us, she came back home to launch Eini & Co. in early 2006. “People have their dreams and they pursue them, and I have to say that cupcakes were something I found so beautiful. Candy taken to the next level. I think people don’t think to really put so much care and attention in a cupcake; swirlies, sprinkles, that’s it. I wanted to create something spectacular that had not been introduced to Toronto yet.”

Whereas cupcakes were already firmly ensconced in Toronto, flowers such as these only existed in fairy tales.

There are two lines of Eini & Co. cupcakes or rather, the flowers that top them: The Royal Icing and Gum Paste collections. The royal icing flowers are made up of confectioner’s sugar and meringue powder, resulting in a sweet, edible flower, candy-like in texture and flavour. The gum paste flowers are for decorative purposes only, but their sugar, cornstarch and gelatin components give them a realistic look and texture that has to be seen to truly appreciate. It isn’t the ingredients that speak for these flowers, so much as the realization of the intricate work going into each and every one.

Says Cheng of these details, “There is no economy of scale when it comes to making these flowers. That’s why they’re so labour intensive and expensive.”

Expensive they are, at least in traditional cupcake land: $60 per 16 standard cupcakes. Then again, there really is nothing standard about them, certainly not in appearance or artistry. “People who don’t understand the process don’t understand why it’s that expensive. But if you look at the process you realize it’s such a good deal. I have people coming up to me and saying, ‘This is a lot of work.’”

It could be expected that since so much has gone into appearance, taste is second rate. Not so. The vanilla sponge is airy and delicate; moist, but not to a fault. The buttercream is bar none, a likeness to a step above fresh whipped cream, as opposed to a weighed down, swirled butter. The flavour is not an overpowering, fruity mess, but rather kicks in most subtly, so it’s almost like tasting a scent. A slight lychee essence, if you will, or a breeze carrying the bouquet of a far off mango tree.

Heavenly, these cupcakes are, from bottom to top. Really, five bucks is such a small price to pay for a piece of paradise.

Eini & Co. cupcakes come in three sizes: Grand, standard and bite-size. They don’t even stop at flowers, as there are chicks and company logo toppers, too. Brides opting for the Eini experience, instead of the usual wedding cake or bonbonierre, can watch their guests ooh and ah at the gorgeous cupcakes either on towering display, or individually nestled in transparent Chinese takeout containers.

Ordering Eini & Co. cupcakes for more personal reasons, or just because, is another experience altogether: The cupcakes are delivered in a basket lavished with chocolate and blue grosgrain, customized with a message to the fortunate recipient.

The giving doesn’t even end there, as a portion of Eini proceeds are donated to charity. The company is partnered with the Hospital for Sick Children, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the AIDS Committee of Toronto.

For the time being the cupcakes can only be ordered online or by phone, but Cheng is looking to expand into the retail market, bakeries and even cafes. She’s had wonderful response to far, and is positive about the future. “It’s a step away from tradition and it’s also whimsical. I think the people that are open to it are positive and cheerful. That’s the thing that keeps me going.”

As for Eini Cheng herself, young in years but already so experienced in business and the fanciful, hers is the face you’ll never see featured on the website. “I prefer the cupcakes to speak for themselves.”

Photos by Ted Pun, used with permission of Eini & Co.

Campers learn Jewish tradition

Jul 3, 2008 Author: John | Filed under: In the News, Multiculutral Weddings

of the Journal Star
Posted Jul 03, 2008 @ 09:35 PM


The groom was 10, the bride was 9 and the rabbi wore shorts.

A few dozen young people took part Thursday in a mock Jewish wedding at Camp Gan Izzy, a Jewish day camp run by Lubavitch Chabad of Peoria at Peoria Academy.

The three-week camp is held annually as a way to impart Jewish values, teach Jewish traditions and have some fun. Each day has its own theme. Thursday’s revolved around a traditional Jewish wedding.

The mock ceremony followed the outline of a real Jewish wedding, which the campers got to see in the form of a video of Rabbi Eli Langsam’s nuptials. Some of the details differed, however.

For example, the blessings to be imparted over the groom took the form of popular children’s songs, such as “Old MacDonald,” and Camp Gan Izzy chants, like “I’m a Jew and I’m proud and I’ll sing it aloud, that’s what forever I’ll be!”

The huppah, or canopy, held over the heads of the couple was made from plastic table covers instead of a prayer shawl and hoisted on sticks rather than poles.

And the glass cup broken at the end of the ceremony to shouts of “Mazel tov!”? Paper, not plastic.

But the sense of joy at a Jewish wedding that Langsam wanted to impart in the demonstration was authentic.

“There’s a lot of dancing,” the rabbi said.

The celebrants gathered into separate circles of boys and girls, joined arms and danced around to the disco-ish music, sometimes spinning off into silliness before being reined back in by one of the seven counselors.

Finally the group gathered around a chair, first hoisting the bride, Samantha Savage, and then the groom, Joshua Eckhart.

Throughout the dancing the kids stole back to tables to nibble on the wedding feast of popcorn, pretzels and Twizzlers.

Adam Raso, who was the groom in last year’s demonstration, presided over the ceremony as the rabbi this year, complete with a black hat and rubbed-on beard. Before the wedding, he walked around with two notebook sheets filled with facts about Jewish weddings that he would recite later.

“The bride always has to cover her head,” he told one observer.

“Everybody wish mazel tov to the bride and groom, who’s sitting over there,” said Rivkie Shuchat of Toronto, one of the camp counselors, before she ran over to Eckhart with mock tears of joy, screeching, “Oh, I can’t believe it!”

After the dancing subsided, a few skits and songs were performed as the celebration wound down, but not before a final blessing was sung.

Mindy Eckhart arrived in time to see the last part before picking up her son, the groom.

“The camp is fabulous,” she said. “He just loves it. They make it fun, enjoyable. It’s like the kids don’t know they’re learning, but they are.”

The camp, the name of which stands for Garden of Israel, continues the next two weeks.

Michael Miller can be reached at 686-3106 or