Our Last Vlog and Wedding Day Recap

Please note: I’ve posted this for Yolanda, who wrote the following post.

Hey there IFF,

So here we are, two months past our actual wedding date and we’re both enjoying the married life. Before we head off into wedded bliss, Arel and I are leaving you with a farewell video and some extra goodies to take a look at. We never talked about our actual wedding day so this is the video that finally covers how our day went and Arel included some pics for you guys to see how our wedding progressed that day.

We loved vlogging for InterfaithFamily.com and hoped that you enjoyed viewing our journey as much as we enjoyed documenting it for you guys. We wish you all a blessed life and for those of you getting married, good luck and enjoy the process. We welcome the next wedding bloggers, Jess and Erik, and wish them an awesome wedding and life thereafter.

Enjoy our last videos. We have video recapping our actual wedding, the video below that is a glimpse of the ceremony, and the third video showcases our unusual wedding dance. Let us know what you think.

Until we meet again,
Yolanda and Arel

Blog Post #2: Taking Notes at Other Weddings…..


Last weekend, Erik and I celebrated the wedding of our friends Raul and Sarah, another interfaith couple (Raul is a Salvadorian Buddhist friend of Erik, who grew up in Northern Virginia; Sarah is Christian, from Birmingham, Alabama).  As we enjoyed their special day, we took notes for ours.

Raul and Sarah held their wedding in a small church/community center in southwest Virginia, with about 35 of their closest friends and family—much different than the 200+ person wedding that we’re planning. The food was served buffet-style, and made by the bride’s cousin. Sarah, the bride, made all the decorations herself, and had friends help her set up the room. Although I know (or hope!) that our wedding will be lovely, there’s something to be said about the intimacy of a smaller, family-style engagement with the people you care about most in life.

One of our favorite take-aways, besides the fact that they wrote their own vows: Sarah’s grandmother, the associate pastor of the church, officiated. She told a story about how, growing up, Sarah used to play dress up with her cousin and ask: “Grandma, will you help marry me at my wedding when I grow up?” And, for 20+ years, her grandmother answered, “Yes, honey. I will be there when you get married, and I will marry you myself.”

It was such a special moment, that it underscored for us the importance of our choice to have family and a close friend officiate our wedding too.  We’ve decided to have my cousin, Wendy, an Orthodox Jew, and Erik’s college philosophy professor, Ken, who introduced Erik to Buddhism, preside over our wedding.  We’re thrilled about it. The next step: figuring out the vows and the ceremony.

We would welcome your suggestions and ideas as we move into the ceremony planning stage….

Thanks for reading, and Happy St. Patty’s Day to any fellow Irish-Jewish folks out there!


Blog Post #1 – Introducing Jess & Erik


Hello IFF Community!

Check out me (Erik) and my fiancee Jess as we introduce ourselves via our first Hitch posting.  We are super excited to be a part of the IFF community, to share our story and get your thoughts and opinions as we prepare for our interfaith (Buddhist/Jewish) wedding in November. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to watch and we look forward to your comments and thoughts as we begin our journey with IFF. 

Take care,

Video 13: meet our bridal party aka our siblings


Hi there IFF!

Last week, we hit you with a pretty heavy topic as Arel and I took some time to figure out what marriage is really about and why and if we should head down that road. As you’re aware, we did take the plunge and documented the process so stay tuned for more posts.

The week prior to our wedding, the day of, and day after was crazy and filled with never ending tasks. Thank goodness our family and friends showed up a few days early to help us out. Remember, how Arel and I commented in an earlier post that we weren’t too sure what the point of a bridal party was? Well, our lovely bridesmaids and groomsmen sure did come through and our wedding could not have been pulled off without all of their hard work. We were so grateful for their presence and dedication.

In this video, we introduce you to two of the hardworking bridal party members, the best man and one of the bridesmaids. See if you can figure out who’s related to who…

See ya next week!

Oh the joys of wedding dress shopping for a Conservative Jew


Dear IFF,

I know I’ve been ranting and whining about wedding invitations but now that they are over and done with, I wanted to take you back a few months to where I talked about the wedding dress.

There’s so much that goes into the dress. I mean this is ‘the’ dress that so many girls dream about, envisioning their day dressed in a to die for gown. To be honest, I never really thought about what dress I would wear, but when the day came to actually start thinking about it, I couldn’t believe how many options there were and how most of them did nothing for me. As  much as I love sparkly things in everyday life (love glitter), I for some reason found it to be ghastly on a wedding gown. Who knew? I also found it disturbing the lack of options for a Conservative bride. And don’t even get me started on the ‘modest’ dresses that are out there. Seriously, it’s as if ‘modest’ is equated with lack of fashion sense and taste because dresses made for Conservative Jewish girls like me are just plain ugly. Blech. All I wanted was a beautiful dress that was simple and covered the arms. I want to be modest for the ceremony which means covering myself. I know many liberal Jews do not share the same opinion, but I’m naturally conservative and do not like showing my arms. It seems so risque but for this post you’ll see I’m wearing all strapless gowns because that’s what’s out there.

I did eventually find my dress love, the beautiful ‘Addie’ by Monique Lhullier. It really was pure love at first sight. It’s modern, simple, no bling, sequins, or sparkles and it has 3/4 sleeves, sheer beautiful sleeves. This dress is conservative and stylish. But as I mentioned before, it’s also $6000. Ahh.. This was one of those moments where I actually thought life isn’t fair for the budget conscious bride, but I reluctantly got over it, and started the search for ‘the’ dress that looked like my dear ‘Addie’. I started my search at Alfred Angelo, followed by David’s Bridal, and then NY Bride. For all you brides out there, please do not wait to buy your dress. I waited until 4 months before the wedding date which left me very little time to find a dress in time. I felt sort of pressured to make a decision quickly and although I did find my dress, and I love it, it’s not my first love, the Addie, and to be honest, I don’t love it as much as the Addie. It’s true. I still look at pictures of my dear dress but like a long lost love that didn’t work out, I try to focus on what I do have now, my actual dress. I’m happy with it and I bought a sheer tulle bolero with a train to give it a conservative twist because of course it’s strapless. I’m not going to show you what I chose until the actual wedding, but I’ll show you a few of the dresses that didn’t make the cut. Notice my facial expressions in some of the pics…clearly, I wasn’t so thrilled. However, wedding dress shopping is fun and I felt like a princess. I wish there were more occasions to wear such gorgeous dresses than just one day.

So let’s start with my dream dress, the Addie.

And now let’s move onto the ‘real’ dresses

Dress 1 from Alfred Angelo. Pretty but it didn’t catch my eye.

Dress 2 from Alfred Angelo. Simple and modern. I liked it but it didn’t have enough ‘oomph’.

Dress 3 from Alfred Angelo. I just thought this looked weird on me.

Dress 4 from Alfred Angelo. I like the simplicity of this one with the crystal band but it’s hard to tell how it would really look. All the samples were way too big so everything had to be clipped back.

Dress 5 from Alfred Angelo. I like the idea of this dress but it was just too big to really tell what it would look like. It’s very romantic and lace-y. I think if it fit, I would have liked this one more.

Dress 6 from David’s Bridal. I adored this dress from David’s Bridal but once I tried it on, it didn’t look right on me. This is from Vera Wang’s new White line. All the dresses are gorgeous. I tried quite a few on but it didn’t seem to work for me. You’ll also notice my Blue Steel face. I was trying to be Vera Wang-ish and no one was there to take a pic for me. Yes, I went wedding dress shopping alone (initially). I wanted to see how I felt about it without the influence of other’s opinions.

Dress 7 from NY Bride. I really enjoyed this dress but it was too thin for a winter wedding. It didn’t have as much heavy material like the other dresses. It was effortless to move in which is a big plus but I wanted more material.

Dress 8 from NY Bride. I just had to try on a big poofy dress. Fun, but hard to move in, and it swallowed my short body.

Dress 9 from NY Bride. This dress was so pretty and flowy but I found another dress I liked more, so this one could have been the one.

I think I tried on about 20 dresses total. For those ladies who are already married or are getting married, how many dresses did you try before you found the one?

Who are we? Arel and Yolanda introduce themselves


Hi everyone!

Check out me (Yolanda) and my fiance Arel as we introduce ourselves via our first vlog (video blog) and hear a little bit about your story and upcoming wedding plans. We’re very excited about this journey and look forward to learning more about Judaism as we figure out how to have a Jewish wedding with a mostly interfaith guest list.

We would love to hear from all of you out there. Please comment and show us some love or give your opinion. This wedding is a work in progress and we are eager to hear from y’all.


How does one spell “Jewish Wedding Canopy”?


The people Ethan would playfully refer to as “punks” would say “J-E-W-I-S-H…” but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

One thing we noticed while on our whirlwind trip through Phoenix last week, talking to florists, planners, event location managers, caterers, and other sundry people involved in The Wedding Day, was that we just couldn’t come to agreement on how to spell Huppah.  There are just so many choices, Chuppah, Hupah, Huppah, Huppa, Chuppa….  Though some would probably argue that there is only one right way to do it, they better not be using the Roman alphabet.  Because there just isn’t standardization in transliteration.  Oh sure, some people have tried, and large groups of Jews choose to use one standard or another, but there just isn’t a universal.

This can cause a bit of a problem when dealing with people not familiar with all the variance.  If you use a spelling they’re not used to, then they might not understand what you’re talking about.  Certainly this problem is more prevalent in the modern age when so much is done via email and the internet, but trying to make arrangements from 2000 miles away doesn’t help either.

Fortunately we haven’t run into any major snafus because of the joys of transliteration, but there has been occasional minor confusion.

All that being said, we’re happy to report success in making major progress from our trip, and invitations are going out tomorrow.

On a related note, when we drafted our invitations we had included the Hebrew date, and had spelled out the English year “Two thousand and eleven,” as is often traditional in formal invitations.  We had kept the Hebrew date as a numeral and got a near universal reaction from people who reviewed it that that looked weird.  In the end we chose uniformity in numerals because spelling out “Fifty seven and seventy one” in addition to the above just took up way too much space.  So be on the lookout and keep it in mind for your big day.  It’s a minor detail, but one worth looking good.

I Have Warm Feet


I can’t believe that I am sitting here writing my last blog post before the big day.  We’ve hit the final countdown and I’m reminded of it as the weather forecast moves from the 10 day into the 5 day.  5 days until the wedding!

I’m set to leave on my big Mikvah trip in a few hours.  Well.  Ok.  Bachelor party.  I’ve just decided to see my upcoming three day adventure as a way to cleanse myself of any feelings of anxiety or stress.  I am going to use my time-with-the-boys to ground myself and walk down the isle with a clean mind and spirit.  I don’t think that I can think of anything more comforting than spending time with people whom I would trust with anything.  They have always been there for me, since we were kids, and will continue to be there for me no matter what happens.  They are the people that I am most comfortable around and I’m happy to have them put me in the mind frame to push me out of this liminal space and into married life

We have so much going on that my whole body is spinning (not just my head anymore!) Although the plans are shaping up, I can’t forget that there is always going to be more to do.

The benefit to being us is that we don’t stress too easily.  This is one of those times where we both understand that if it gets done, great.  If not, we will still have the best day ever.

I will be totally ready.

I’m excited to start this adventure, and honored to be a part of Lula’s life.  I’m just so glad that it’s her.

Let’s just say, I have warm feet.


Making the Grade



So we got our marriage license today.  May 7th.  Exactly one month from the wedding.

How nutty is that?

One month.

Our list keeps getting smaller but for some reason it feel like it never ends.  When I worked in the bookstore it felt like no matter how often I alphabetized the stacks or cleaned up the kids section, it would never be done.  The next day I would have to start all over again.  You know.  Like homework.  Well.  That’s kind of what it’s like planning for a wedding.  You turn a corner and boom.  Double boom.  Two more corners to turn.


I hated homework.  In high school it was a chore.  In college it was busy work.  Now.  Homework separates us from our wedding day.

We meet again with Rabbi Berman in a few days and I haven’t even looked at the list of things that we are supposed to have prepared. (She’s reading this now and thinking about how interesting our conversation will be when I tell her that we did it all last minute—Hi Rabbi Berman.)

And we’re talking important stuff here.

Since Lu and I just outright refuse to take things at face value it means that we will be crafting our own 7 blessings.  We will be writing the Kettubah.  We will be tweaking the language and we will be happy with it.  But, man.  There’s a lot to do!

So as I sit here knowing full well that the next month is going to be a rough ride I can’t help but think that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The other night Lu and I talked about how it would be if I were marrying a Jew.  Well.  I probably would just take it all at face value.  Jew to Jew means that you can kind of roll with the punches and take the easy route.  I could take what was handed to me and just let it be the Jewish wedding that has happened for centuries.  The fact that we are trying so hard to make sure that there is meaning in it for both of us makes it that much more awesome.  I’m proud of what we are doing.  We are taking a Jewish ceremony and making it have meaning for me, Jewishly and non Jewishly, and crafting the ceremony that Lu has always wanted.

Granted, we could never do this without the wonderful guidance of our Rabbi and community.

It’s a wonderful ride and I have every expectation that we will get an A+.


All the parts



Eight weeks left until the big day and I feel like we have barely gotten started on what needs to be done.  Life just flies by so fast now that I know June will be here before we know it.  Between the invitations that haven’t gone out and the Ketubah that is yet to be made, I feel like we have more on our plate now than when we started.  How did that happen?

Decisions.  Decisions.

Lu and I have taken every step to internalize each piece of tradition and make it our own.  It is a big task to be able to separate ritual from tradition and I often feel that life would be easier were we to take things at face value.  But hey.  What’s the fun in that?

Tradition ends where the new age begins.  Right?

I mean.  There comes a point where a chuppah is just a chuppah and a ketubah is just a ketubah.  But why not make these things ourselves?  Why not create them so that they don’t create us.  I feel like we spend a lot of time internalizing and a lot of time in conversation about these traditions.  We make each piece a challenge.  And the truth is: I love it.

It makes me feel closer to Judaism.

We have spent the better part of a year planning this thing and the more that we have to learn, the more I feel connected.  The more that we have to figure out together, the more I feel connected.  The more we meet with Rabbi Berman, the more I feel connected.  The more I write this blog, the more I feel connected.  It’s like I’m creating a new relationship with an old friend.  My Judaism is fresh.  It makes me feel good.

I know that we have much learning to do.  And just like when our son, Raiden was born, I know that we will never be ready.

The best that we can do is to do our best.  We will begin our life together knowing that we didn’t just take what was prescribed and that we are in every capacity to carve out our own path.

Life is such a wonderful journey.