It’s true, as Andy joked– it’s equally inconvenient for everyone. Even from the nearest airport we drove past several vineyards, the occasional corn field, and plenty of woods– until we reached the giant lake and the little town. Chautauqua.
It may be far, but it is truly a sanctuary, with its tightly clustered houses referencing a wide array of historical periods. The roads are more like paths, built for walking and biking, not driving. Chautauqua was specifically created as a place for education and enrichment– and still to this day, it’s home to an annual classical music festival, which Raquel’s parents (both musicians) have attended for 40 years. Every summer growing up, Raquel and her family would make the nine hour journey from New York City to this completely different version of New York. So when Raquel was getting married, she knew this would be the place.
We were easily seduced into this slower pace of life for the weekend. It was a beautiful wedding filled to the brim with Jewish traditions, and all around there was a sense of being anchored in something bigger, something special.
Speaking of something special, look at Raquel’s amazing engagement ring with diamonds and sapphire. And all laid on a bed of very delicious local grapes.
Chautauqua’s architecture is so very eclectic. Buildings must have sprung up sporadically over the course of decades and centuries, taking on whatever style was appropriate at the time.
Three beautiful women! Raquel, her sister Talya, and her mother.
We found this amazing Chautauqua lamp featuring the Athenaeum Hotel… and the Athenaeum itself.
I am in love with all of the florals from this wedding. They were all local wildflowers arranged by a family friend, and they look amazing. On the right, Talya warms up her voice with pianist Gayle in preparation for the ceremony– captured by my assistant Yifan.
Meanwhile, Andy gets ready in the Athenaeum Hotel.
Andy with his adorable nephew.
The day started with two separate pre-ceremonies for the bride and the groom called Kabbalat Panim and Tisch. The parallel parties were held in adjacent rooms, but the Raquel and Andy weren’t allowed to see each other yet…
…Until Andy’s friends and family escorted him to Raquel’s part of the room to see her for the first time– he had to dance over there!
The reunion continued with the signing of the ketubah, which was so beautiful with its watercolor painting. And I simply loved it paired against the wildflower bouquet.
I don’t know how Talya managed to not make herself cry singing Schumann’s Widmung as Raquel walked down the aisle.
Mazal tov! The breaking of the glass, captured by Yifan.
All of the centerpieces were bowls of fruit from a local fruit stand. The guests were welcomed to eat the centerpieces, and they were even provided bags to take the extras home.
This was the most intense dancing I’ve ever seen, not just because of the awesome Jewish circle dancing, but also because it went on for at least 30 minutes, full speed!
The middle of the dance set consisted of Raquel & Andy sitting down in the middle of the circle and having their guests do a variety of hilarious things to entertain them– like having this baby dragon run around!
An adorable Lieberman moment.
Finally, a little moment on the back porch of the Athenaeum.
Thank you Raquel & Andy for bringing me out to Chautauqua to be a part of your amazing wedding weekend. Since I know you like superlatives: yes, this was the most Jewish wedding I’ve ever seen– I loved all of the traditions! Chautauqua is quite possibly the most unique location I’ve been to for a wedding, and yes, you are the best at following directions. Mazal tov! Much love to you both!
Ceremony Venue: Hall of Philosophy, Chautauqua, NY
Reception Venue & Catering: Athenaeum Hotel, Chautauqua, NY
Hair & Makeup: Iris Conradi, Natural Look Salon & Spa, Cary, NC
Florals: DIY, Nina Klein, family friend
Wedding Dress: Casablanca
Cake: Brick Village Gourmet
Officiant: Rabbi Ari Lucas