Fabulous wedding locations and venues!

I have been very fortunate in the last few years to marry couples in wonderful venues! What a delight it is to experience the wedding venues people choose, the imagination that goes into some of their selections, and the fun that we all have!

Since your wedding day is a day you will remember for the rest of your life, choosing a place that is near and dear to your heart is vitally important. Whether it be a church, a synagogue, a garden, the beach, or a mountain top, it should reflect your personalities, your comfort level, and your dreams!

Here are just a few of the spots I have officiated or co-officiated recent weddings:

lond island jan 2014

The North Shore of Long Island.

I recently co-officiated a lovely interfaith wedding, with a minister, at a beautiful golf club, The Creek in Locust Valley on the North Shore of Long Island. Check out this hundred year old venue; it is not only gorgeous, it is very well run. We had an incredible day and the couple were thrilled!

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plaza hotel

 What can say? It is The Plaza Hotel in New York City! I co-officiated an incredible wedding last year at this wondrous hotel – a true landmark in New York City. I was unprepared for just how intimidating the Plaza Hotel ballroom can be. A product of the early 1900s, it boasts soaring ceilings, beautiful woodwork, detailing and amazing balconies. The decorations for the wedding were incredible: candles everywhere, flowers overflowing and lights illuminating the gold fixtures. The chupah was located on the stage, and we rehearsed as if it were a Broadway production. Lights, audio, video. And with 275 people in attendance, I truly felt like I was beginning my theatrical career.

But I concentrated on the spiritual service at hand and felt gratitude that I had been selected to lead this service in such a historic, elegant and magnificent setting.

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Rooftop of the Brooklyn Sheraton, New York City

 After proposing during the 6th inning of a Yankee game, a couple I recently married chose the roof of the Brooklyn Sheraton for their big event. What fun! Although the day was overcast, by evening when the ceremony took place the sun shone and we were treated to a phenomenal sunset.

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Image result for pinterest images new york botanical garden

October in one of the most beautiful and famous gardens in the northeast… Yes, you can get married there! This past fall I had the pleasure of marrying a wonderful young couple, amidst the gorgeous setting of the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. The colors were at peak in the area and the couple was lucky that they missed the beginning of Hurricane Sandy by one day. They had lovely weather with temperatures in the 60′s for their early evening ceremony.

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Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island

 Beautiful Block Island.jpgBlock Island is a charmer off the coast of Rhode Island. Last summer I co-officiated a wedding ceremony for a lovely couple from Manhattan who loved the island and felt it was the only place on earth they wanted to get married. The island is family-friendly, and small enough to be negotiated with moped or bicycle. Ferries are the only means of transportation there which discourages people from bringing cars.

The old Victorian Bed and Breakfasts and grand hotels dot the bluffs and town streets and the Spring House Hotel, where we were, was wonderful. The beaches are pristine and beautiful and the weather hot and perfect for swimming.

How lucky I was to have been to officiate in paradise and meet some wonderful new friends . After the service one man came up to me and the minister with whom I was co-officiating and said “you should be on television, the two of you together are magical.” How much better could the praise be?

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FountainBleu Inn

 

The wedding was on the grass overlooking a lake at the FountainBleu Inn, in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. It is a lovingly restored, 1815 country inn with authentic antiques and beautiful grounds.

The FountainBleu Inn really is a wonderful venue, with a Tudor banquet room which seats up to 150 guests and opens on to a spacious stone patio overlooking the lake.  It was a wonderful late spring day, and joy was in the air!

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Theatrical Synagogue Wedding in New York


 Angel Orensanz is an 1850′s German synagogue on the Lower East Side of NYC, where many celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker have held their weddings.

I recently officiated a dramatic and gorgeous wedding there. This soaring space had room for three balconies and a capacity of 800 people. When the lighting was on it transported those there into another realm.

Check out my blog for all the details of this incredible day.

A Hip Brooklyn Baby Naming

June  25 blog + gallery
A couple called me to officiate the baby naming of their daughter who was celebrating her first birthday as well.  They lived in Brooklyn and selected a Russian bar named Karloff in Cobble Hill for an afternoon ceremony.   I met with them at their apartment and stayed to see them feed Eve, the baby.   She was an adorable little girl who loved the healthy vegetable puree her mother had prepared.

I learned some of the people for whom she was named were great grandmothers who had suffered many hardships and for whom family closeness was paramount.  One was the family matriarch who worked in a sweatshop on the Lower east side and was a player in the Yiddish theater.   They chose the name Eve for its simplicity and power.  The first woman on the earth and the one who gives life to all.  Her middle name was chosen in honor of her grandfather Howard who was a man with a ready smile and sense of adventure.  They already see evidence of these traits in Eve.

It was a warm and loving ceremony with all family members participating.  Rob, the father of the baby, used the tallit from his bar mitzvah.  A kiddish cup was used from a family wedding as well.  And they used an old Hasidic tradition at the end of the ceremony.  Family and friends were supposed to shower the child with candy and other sweets to symbolize their wishes that both the child and parents have a sweet life.   So, all who attended received a little bag of candy to take home.

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The Brooklyn bar setting at Karloff’s was intimate and contemporary at the same time.  The bar was beautiful and the waiters and waitresses accommodating.  Lunch was served with drinks, of course, and everyone was so relaxed and welcoming.  This may be setting a great trend as Brooklyn is now doing in food and community.

 

Thanks to Michelle Murray, photograher.  

 

 

 

 

 

A Salsa/Jewish Interfaith wedding in New York

 

gloria march 5 2014 ninth

A good friend of mine, Harvey Averne, enjoyed a wonderful career as a multi-talented vibraphonist, band leader, producer and record label owner.  His best friend was Larry Harlow, who is a renowned salsa-music performing composer and producer. His mother was an opera singer and father a band leader at the Latin Quarter nightclub in NYC. Falling in love with the Spanish sound, Larry left to attend school in Cuba. He went on to produce over 260 albums for Fania Records.
latin grammy

Among his contributions to music was his insistence on creation of a Latin Grammy award.  In 2008 he was presented with a Latin Grammy Lifetime Award.

gloria march 5 fourth

Larry planned to marry a lovely woman who had first started coming to his concerts in Cuba when she was just 15.  She had been a runner there and has a striking face and athletic dancer’s body.  I was delighted to officiate the interfaith wedding for them.

We held the wedding ceremony in his apartment in New York City with a few close friends. I lent them my husband’s tallit to use as the chuppah. The bride was not Jewish (as Larry is) but wanted a Jewish wedding ceremony. They did the circling to all of us singing a Yiddish wedding song, recited the Kiddish Prayer and Shehechyanu and I did the benediction at the end. It was a very emotional experience for the people present; tears of happiness streamed down the couple and friends’ cheeks. We broke out a bottle of champagne and toasted l’chaim.

The moral of the story: It is never too late to find love in your older years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Most Heartfelt Interfaith Wedding Ceremony

hosp weddg prayer shwal blessingA couple phoned me two weeks before Christmas this year who were friends of a couple I married three years ago in Cooperstown, NY.  The bride and groom were living in LA presently but had grown up on the East Coast. 

Their interfaith wedding ceremony was scheduled for June 2014 but the bride’s father, who had been living with Parkinson’s for five years, took a turn for the worst and had been hospitalized most of the last five months.   The bride wanted to move up the ceremony to the end of December to make sure he was well enough to participate.

hosp weddg glor offic paper chuppah
I worked with them remotely by phone and email for the next two weeks.  We scripted an interfaith wedding service, but I left much to do pending seeing them in Boston, where the girl’s family lived and the father was hospitalized.  I went to the hospital that Saturday morning and met with the bride, groom , mother and sister first.  They filled me in about his illness, his past as a celebrated psychologist, and their lives together.  I had already learned much about the bride and groom on our lengthy telephone calls. 

The bride’s sister, a doctor specializing in infectious diseases, had flown in from Africa to witness this ceremony and she added a great deal, as well. 

Then on to meet the father in the conference room of his hospital floor.  He was present with us and I explained who I was and a little about the service.  I went back to my hotel after the time with them and the service flowed out.

Sunday morning was the wedding, in a beautiful wood paneled conference room at the hospital which had a lovely view.  The father was wheeled into the room in a wheelchair with a sign on the back of it  “Father of the Bride.”  The aides on the floor had made it for him.   The Christian mother of the groom constructed her first chupah and did an amazing job.  

The sister of the bride had a two-and-a-half year old son who was the ring bearer, dressed in an adorable suit.  Immediate family were present, including the groom’s brother, who had just come from his own hospital bed with an emergency appendectomy. 

The father was able to walk his daughter down the aisle and the service began.  I described what love and warmth I felt and how lucky he was to have such a wonderful family behind him.  When we said the Sheckyanu prayer of thanksgiving we had to give out tissues for all.  The bride and groom wrote little speeches about each other, and when reading them, they teared up.  When I did the benediction blessing I wrapped a tallit or prayer shawl around bride, groom and father and offered a blessing of health for him.

Following the service the father gave a beautiful toast to the couple and the hospital nurses remarked how much he had improved in the last few days.  His doctor came to offer congratulations.

For me, as an independent Rabbi in New York City, after several years of officiating interfaith weddings, it was among the most meaningful and satisfying ceremony I have ever performed. 

      ~     ~     ~

And many thanks to Sarah and Owen for their lovely note to me which I received when they returned from their honeymoon:

“Owen and I are so glad that you were able to marry us.   We feel so fortunate to have been introduced to you and to have had the chance to work with you.  Under difficult circumstances it was so nice to have you jump in and put everyone at ease.  I especially liked how you got to bless Owen, my father and I, all wrapped in his tallit.  What a special day.”    ~ Sarah and Owen

 

 

 

An Intimate and Spectacular NYC Wedding Ceremony

dec 9 2014  FIVE

I recently had the good fortune to officiate an intimate, but spectacular interfaith wedding ceremony at one of the premier event spaces in New York City: Gotham at Broadway and 36th st.  It was, in its former life, Greenwich Savings Bank, built in 1922. It occupies an entire city block, boasting a spectacular domed stain glass window and dozens of Star of Davids on the ceiling, added by the Jewish builder.  It is the kind of place you see in the movies; set up with flowers, candles and decorated tables, it looked amazing.

The couple getting married came from different worlds.  The bride was a Jewish NYC woman brought up by sophisticated parents. She attended private school and grew up in an urban lifestyle.  The groom, on the other hand, hailed from a small town of 15,000 people, in Northern England,  where sheep were as common as the pigeons are in NYC.  They met in the airport on the way to an event in Cabo, in Mexico.  Working in Public Relations, she was covering the event for a magazine, and he was playing in a rock band at the same venue.  Their friendship began and seven years later they decided to make it official.

dec 9 2014I enjoyed getting to know them.  They invited me to their apartment and we had an easy time over wine and cheese as I got to know their cat.  Then, we went on to my apartment for more drinks and cheese, and wrote the service. The bride’s parents happened to live a few blocks from my apartment and invited me to dinner with them.  We fell into conversation as though we had known each other many years.  His parents came to NY a few days prior to the wedding and I met with them as well.  His stepfather was a Vicar in England and they had asked him to read from Corinthians during the service.  He had never met a woman rabbi just as I had never met a vicar.  All these meetings brought a personal feeling and intimacy to the service,  even though it was a large space with 250 people attending.

dec 9 2014  TWO

 The capper was a Yiddish wedding song, “Tumbalalaika,” which the groom’s best friend (a  band member)  sang while they circled each other during the service.  I worked with his friend who was singing with the string trio.  Even though he was an accomplished singer, he welcomed my input. The result was moving and beautiful.

They invited me to stay for the star-studded reception and while I danced the night away, I thought how lucky I was to have such a personal glimpse into their lives and to welcome them into my life as well.

 

dec 9 2014  THREE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Country Club Co-Officiation; a Warm and Loving Interfaith Wedding!

     I was asked almost a year ago to co-officiate and interfaith wedding with a minister on the North Shore of Long Island.  A beautiful golf club, The Creek in Locust Valley, was the venue which had been founded over a hundred years ago.   The bride’s parents and grandparents were members and it was a place that had many wonderful memories for the family.  The minister was a family friend of the bride’s parents and was most anxious to work with me to create a loving seamless service.

     We met at the club, the groom’s parents apartment in the city and again the night before the wedding .   We were determined that all present (many of whom had never been to a Jewish service) would feel comfortable.  The minister suggested  reading from the Book of Ruth which had as its theme loyalty and inclusivity between Jewish and non-Jewish people.

     When it came time for the Hebrew Kiddish prayer over wine the minister handed the couple the wine goblet, read the English prayer and I did the Hebrew.  We complete the service with a benediction called Aaron’s Prayer- our hands were over the bride and groom crisscrossed so that we were a tight group.  It was truly inspiring.

     As I took the arm of the officiant for the recessional I felt the commonality of religions and people.  We truly had worked hard to make the service warm and respectful to both faiths.  The response from both Jewish and Christian people afterwards confirmed my feelings.  Nothing but smiling faces and loving wishes.

My Most Famous Pet Friendly Wedding

dog wedding
A couple who had been living together for 12 years decided to get married on 11/11/11. The groom hailed from Dominican Republic and was a tall, good looking, sweet man who loved animals and was working at a Pet Spa. His wife-to-be organized a non-profit shelter for dogs and was passionate about adoption of these animals. Between the couple and the bride’s parents they owned 7 dogs.

 

Pet Friendly Wedding

I arrived at a lovely penthouse apartment on the west side of New York City the day of the marriage to find all the dogs in attendance. They were properly dressed in pearls and bow ties and ready for the wedding to begin.

A few friends were in attendance but for the most part it was family. I used my husband’s tallit that he brought from Israel as the Chuppah and both sets of parents and some dogs were under it. The bride used a simple gold band that her father gave her mother 40 years before that he bought for $15 as they had no money at that time.

The largely Jewish service included blessings from the parents and barks from the dogs. At the end the groom broke the glass and we all had some snacks (not doggy ones) on a beautifully set table.

An Interfaith Wedding in the Hamptons

  I was contacted by a distraught bride almost a year ago.  She is Jewish and her husband-to-be (at the time) is Christian.  She wanted a rabbi and minister to officiate and all the officiants in the synagogues of the area turned her down because she would not commit to raising her children Jewish.  She said to me later, “I’m 41 and don’t know if I will have children but I didn’t feel I had to commit to that to get married.”

      They set up a date to meet me in East Hampton and insisted on taking me out to eat in a local restaurant.  That was a first in a couple’s generosity for me.  The groom is a personal chef and the owner of Michael’s Restaurant where everyone knew him well.  We got royal treatment, even a very special bottle of wine.  I sat for a few hours with them and felt a warmth and camaraderie.  We just clicked and that made preparing the service effortless. What helped as well is that the bride is a librarian in the local school system and did her homework.  She searched the net and bookstores for information on interfaith weddings and taught me a thing or two.

      They were having a good friend of the groom’s co-officiate- a lovely Hispanic man.  We all sat together one spring day on the couple’s deck with her parents in attendance.  We ate the chef’s chocolate chip cookies and planned the service together. 

      The venue was Gurney’s Inn in Montauk one of the most beautiful waterfront sites on the east end.  They did a barefoot beachfront wedding.  The weather was amazing-late afternoon with sun not too hot and a delightful breeze.  They did their procession to “Somewhere Beyond the Sea.”   We even did a sand ceremony with the two mothers bringing sand from their respective homes pouring two vessels into one.  The symbolism is two cultures and religions into one.

     Their incredible band made dancing a total joy- I was called the “Bopping Rabbi.” 

     I wish them much sun and joy for the future in their lives.

 

~      ~      ~

 

http://www.gurneysinn.com/

Down on the Farm with an Interfaith Wedding

 Feb 11 2015 blog 3

A Boston-based couple called me to officiate their interfaith wedding. They decided to take over a ten-acre farm and hold the ceremony and reception in a restored barn. The cottages on the acres had been remodeled and were exquisite as was the main farm house. The barn was huge and beautifully beamed.

I happen to have a brother who lives near Boston so in visiting him I met with the couple twice in their loft apartment. Then they came down to New York to visit relatives, so we had opportunities to establish a good relationship. They were both tech managers: brilliant, hard working and on an intensive traveling schedule. They had been together for a number of years and their ease together was apparent. They were tremendous foodies as well and I loved hearing about their latest culinary adventures.

Feb 11 2015 blog 2The farm was close to Lenox Massachusetts, which is a beautiful village in the Berkshires. I came up the night before the ceremony and met both families at a local bar.  Everyone was so friendly and welcoming. We had written the service to include a reading by the bride’s aunt from Mark Twain on marriage. The groom’s uncle did a John Lennon reading of the song Love.

After the ceremony there was an 8-piece band rocking the night away. I danced and celebrated with them and the barn atmosphere made it feel “down home” and comfortable. They had it catered and of course, the Bar B Q, Mac and Cheese and salads were to die for. Their food expertise showed.

Feb 11 2015 blog 1It was one of the most warm and loving weddings. Walking the beautiful grounds, having the ceremony in a rustic elegant farm and eating and drinking first class made it all very special. The couple’s infectious warmth and friendship made it most memorable indeed.

 

 

Interfaith Officiants in New York Work Together to Fashion a Wonderful Wedding Ceremony

Co-officiating an interfaith wedding

In the last year or two it has become common for interfaith marriages to involve two officiants working together to create a wonderful wedding.  The bride and the groom each wants to feel that his or her religion is represented and respected.

 I have worked with a number of priests over the last few years and always can call on one of them if the couple needs a Christian clergyman.  I make a point if getting to know them as people so our relationship is open and easy.

I usually take responsibility for organizing meetings with the couple and the officiant using my Manhattan apartment as a meeting place. When co-officiating an interfaith wedding, these meetings are key.  We discuss elements of each religion’s service and script the wedding ceremony.  We try and find commonality between the religions and make sure every concern is met.

As a rabbi, co-officiating with a priest is a magical experience.  During the marriage ceremony we support one another and even do the pronouncement and benediction together.

One example this team spirit is an upcoming wedding I will co-officiate with a priest this fall at the New York Athletic Club. This is an amazing coming together of interfaith officiants in New York for a magical wedding.  The couple, groom Jewish and bride Catholic, contacted me with the Catholic officiant already in place.  He was the priest at the church in the town her parents live and she knew him from that connection.  He also was active in the New York City community training priests as he had been trained.  

I contacted him and we enjoyed a lively and helpful telephone conversation.  Then I suggested the couple spend time with him to work out the aspects of the Catholic service they wanted to include in our ceremony.

When the time came for the meeting of the four of us, I hosted in my Manhattan apartment.  The priest was due to arrive before the couple; it is important that the two officiants develop this chemistry and commonality of viewpoint before meeting with the couple. In walked a tall, dark and handsome man in his 40s with a twinkle in his eye, and the co-officiation of priest and rabbi had officially begun!  We spent some time discussing the aspects of the religious service we would be comfortable with.

The couple arrived about 40 minutes later and we proceeded to script the service. Since the bride is a practicing Catholic she had fairly definite ideas of what she wanted included. We had to work with the language a bit since “Let us Pray,” as an opening of the service, would be foreign to any Jewish person.  We also decided to eliminate breaking the glass at the closing, as that would so obviously be a Jewish custom. We chose readings that would bring the two religions together and decided the priest and I would bless the couple together at the end of the service.

After about an hour of discussion we all felt that a respectful service to both religions was achieved.  We will meet again closer to the wedding to finalize details. That amount of work and dedication is vital to produce a personal and dual interfaith service. But there is no easy way to achieve it, and I am grateful for the couple’s openness and the priest’s hard work with me.  

It is so rewarding and so thrilling to experience this respectful blending of faiths. I can’t wait for the wedding ceremony, and the moment I walk down the aisle arm and arm with the priest.

A loving and vibrant person, Rabbi Gloria creates positive energy for everyone she encounters. Whether creating Jewish or interfaith weddings, or conducting baby-naming ceremonies, she takes the extra time to consider the thoughts and dreams of the participants. Her clients feel she is part of their family! GloriaMilner@gmail.com