Where we’re at: I’m recapping my travels in 2019, including this time in Israel in October.
After all the amazing good vibes of the first City Hall wedding I’d ever attended, in New York, I pretty much made the decision in that moment to attend the large-scale celebration happening later that month in Tel Aviv.
With invites like this, and a description of the dress code as “Met Ball rave,” I had to know it was going to be an incredible party, right?
And dang, was it ever — it was a never-ending wedding weekend for the ages. What greater privilege could a traveler hope for than to experience a one in a foreign land?
But that’s not at the heart of why I finally decided to hop on a plane and spontaneously attend. I’d grown very close to the couple, and had been eager to be there for this joyous occasion since the moment the invitation was issued. And it turned out that a joyous trip to Israel was just the healing I was craving.
Jannah, a New York native who made aliyah to Israel — moved there and became a citizen due to her Jewish heritage — and her Israeli future husband Nim had planned a full slate of pre-wedding activities and events to show her family and friends from abroad the best of Tel Aviv and beyond. Happy hours, dance classes, tours and trips filled the itinerary and I showed up just in time, ready to fight my jet-lag through it all.
I was super excited about our food tour of Carmel Market with Jannah’s friends at Bhuka Tours, as I was in the planning stages of a Wander Women Israel retreat and was eager to add one to the itinerary.
(It’s now waiting list only, however there are a few spots on our High Flying Israel aerial arts trip!)
As you can tell, the street art was as enticing to me as the food that day — though I did love finally trying Malabi, a rose water pudding-like dessert that’s extremely popular in Israel (and now with me, too.)
The next day I headed to Nok Beauty in Tel Aviv, escorted by one of my Israeli girlfriends who had recommended the place, and insisted that she come translate my desire for a messy bun after we’d met for lunch. It was a super cute spot and I’ll probably return even when I’m not in the self-indulgent stage of grief haze where even basic grooming that could easily be performed by one’s self is outsourced.
I was fully panicking at this point about what I was wearing that night, since everyone kept telling me how casually Israelis dress for even the fanciest of weddings. I’d looked up the venue, and OK-ed my look with the bride, but I was definitely getting the feeling I was going to be way more formal than the median look of the event. Please make it look like I did it myself, I asked Omer to translate for me. And I am very bad at hair, I added, as an after-thought, which exactly no one laughed at.
Pretty soon, I was walking down the sidewalk in Tel Aviv, definitely getting a few odd looks in my full length gown, heading to the shuttle for the main event. The wedding was at Hagan Beshefayim in Hof HaSharon, which probably doesn’t mean anything to anyone who isn’t Israeli, but essentially it’s a bit north of Tel Aviv, half way to Netanya (and no, nothing makes me feel like a honorary Israeli like throwing around the names of outlying cities all casual like that.)
I did a double take when we got to the venue — we weren’t at City Hall anymore!
After many hugs and drinks at essentially what would be the cocktail hour at an American wedding reception, we were called to the ceremony. It was a very untraditional one, designed with love by the bride and groom, and deeply reflective of their love for each other and for this life.
While it may not have been a traditional Israeli wedding ceremony, I loved all the beautiful elements I recognized from the Jewish weddings I have attended and stood up in throughout my life — the chuppah, the breaking of glass — and the ones that were new to me, like the majority of the ceremony being conducted in Hebrew.
It was one of the most unique wedding ceremonies I’ve ever attended, and it filled my heart right up with joy!
And then, it was time for the reception. Again, when we entered the venue, my eyes got wide. How magical was this place!
The party kicked off with an amazing choreography designed by one of the bride’s best friends, a dance teacher in Tel Aviv who’s Move With Joy classes you should totally look up when you go, and practiced with enthusiasm by the bride, groom, and their besties.
Out of respect to the eyes of everyone in attendance, I chose to cheer from the audience rather than participate, despite having gone to rehearsals. Let’s just say keeping step with group choreography has never been one of my skill sets — perhaps why I was drawn to individual aerial performing, ha.
The bride immediately changing into bright gold sneakers, sequined hot pants — and her mom’s wedding top, for a sweet touch — set the tone for the dance party that was about to come.
Speaking of dancing, enthusiasts also shouldn’t miss classes with Mor Movement — I’ve taken a few of her classes in Tel Aviv now with Jannah, and they are so much fun! (And I am so bad at them!)
Suffice it to say that no Israeli wedding is too offbeat for a good Hava Nagila sesh. From the moment I turned 13 and first experienced the burning envy of every boy and girl in my class who had a bar or bat mitzvah rager, I have always admired how well Jews can party.
By the way, most of the incredible wedding party photos are from the talented photographer Shani Cario. If any look like they were taken by a tipsy, sweaty girl with a point and shoot in her purse, those are credit of yours truly.
I loved when the wedding photos were posted, finding these surprise sweet moments between me and the groom’s best man Gil, who’d officially asked me to be his date after the City Hall ceremony and some resulting fireworks a few weeks prior.
He’s even a package deal — with two of the best roommates in Tel Aviv.
It was a night to remember — or forget!
When I told my American friends about this wedding, I was like guys it was so lit, I swear I saw a grandma do a shot on the dance floor at midnight and the shuttle went back to Tel Aviv at 2am — and everyone gasped when I said 2am because we are now thirty and thus the idea of a social even extending beyond 11pm is an actual scandal.
Is anyone surprised to hear I side with the Israelis on this one?
They had to peel these girls away from the dance floor! But luckily, we wouldn’t be apart long…
…because there were just hours to sleep before the post-wedding party at the Dead Sea!
When I peeled one eye open that next morning, I texted the brides bestie Julia, “you’re going to the Dead Sea with us, right?”
“Yes,” came her prompt reply. “Physically and metaphorically.”
I’d decided to keep my black, one-shouldered ensemble look going strong for the weekend, and packed this cute scalloped number specifically for this day.
Jannah and Nim had generously shuttled our sleep-deprived, hungover booties to Kalia Beach, at the northern side of the Dead Sea. I’ve learned that you can have several different Dead Sea experiences depending on which part you head to — for the crazy salt formations, you have to go south — but I love this beach for the sought-after mud, the ease and fun of grabbing a drink from the “lowest bar on earth,” and the amenities like lockers and a big bathroom to rinse off before heading home in.
The only way the day could have gotten better was had I been able to snag a slot at the obscenely overpriced massage tent onsite — they were booked solid, to my heartbreak. But we sure had a good time making up for it.
Once the last granules of salt and mud were rinsed from our bodies and hair, we made our way back to Tel Aviv. The shuttle dropped us at Old Man and The Sea, an Arabic institution in Jaffa, the charming port where Nim and Jannah live.
This place is famous for the eighteen different kinds of salads and dips that are slammed down on the table with flair upon your arrival, and an atmosphere so magical I immediately added it to the itinerary for both my retreats.
We left, full and happy, and walked along the waterfront to admire the sparkling city skyline in the distance.
It had been a wedding to remember, just one chapter in what I know is a long, fabulous friendship with a couple that makes magic happen! Jannah and Nim, the stars aligned when the universe put you two in each other’s path — and I feel lucky to be in your orbit.
I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Stay tuned for my next post from my final few days around Tel Aviv, my home away from home in the Middle East!