A Neutral, Organic Autumn Wedding in the Hudson Valley

This couple planned their modern Jewish celebration intentionally, so that it was a direct reflection of who they are—as individuals and as a couple.

bride and groom posing in front of fall foliage

Photo by Samm Blake

More than a decade after meeting at their high school orientation in September 2009, Josh and Sarah were on vacation in Maine when he found an unexpected—and cozy—moment to pop the question. “We were just sitting on the couch in our pajamas, and he pulled out the ring we designed with my mom’s diamond and asked!” says Sarah.

They began looking for a venue in upstate New York that could accommodate their 130 guests for a ceremony and reception on October 10, 2021. “Since Josh and I first started dating, we have gone upstate to celebrate anniversaries and birthdays,” says Sarah. “The Hudson Valley holds a special place for me as my grandfather once lived upstate and my family and I would visit Woodstock in the summer. We feel calm and connected upstate, and so there was no question that we wanted to have our wedding there.”

With event planning help from Gatherist, Sarah and Josh worked to create an elegant, homey, and intimate affair that would allow their friends and family to actively participate in their ceremony. “We didn’t want our guests to feel that they were merely observing our marriage, but contributing to it,” says the couple. “We wanted everyone to feel at ease, warmed by the traditions, and filled with happiness from the dancing.”

Their modern orthodox ceremony included a personalized covenant instead of a standard ketubah, pamphlets that explained each ceremony tradition, and references to the “transformative justice and activism” that are key to the bride’s and groom’s careers. Instead of having separate bridal parties, the couple asked their shared friends and family to participate in different parts of the wedding. They also centered their ceremony around the venue’s sweeping river views. “It was important to us that everything was outdoors, because the beauty of the Hudson Valley is truly the best backdrop for a wedding,” says Sarah.

Photographer Samm Blake captured “every wave of emotion throughout the day,” says Sarah. “I look back at the photographs and I feel like I relive my wedding in a new way every time. Contagious smiles, slipped in laughs, sweat-soaked button downs, hand squeezes, and watery eyes—she got it all. I am ugly-crying in a solid 25 percent of the photographs, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way.”

minimalist wedding invitation

Photo by Samm Blake

A polished, minimalist invitation on a square white card introduced the graphic design and text style the couple chose for their wedding day papers from The Letterist.

classic white wedding venue house

Photo by Samm Blake

To create a cozy, familial atmosphere, Sarah and Josh booked the Ankony Carriage House for their ceremony and reception. “Ankony Carriage House was the perfect location since it is not primarily a wedding venue but a family-owned estate,” says Sarah. “This made the wedding feel intimate, as if we were having it in a family backyard—but with the most stunning views of the Hudson.”

bride in off-the-shoulder wedding dress and veil

Photo by Samm Blake

Sarah asked different family members and friends to join her for each bridal boutique visit. “There were maybe five trips in total before I found the one,” she says. “It was really nice because I got to share the experience with so many people I love.”

When Sarah did find “the one”—a fitted, a crepe-and-organza gown with long, hand-painted, silk sleeves from The Law—it fulfilled a childhood vision. “I loved the neckline, and I honestly just felt that I looked like the bride I had imagined I would be as a kid,” she says. Sarah’s mother lent her a pair of diamond earrings, and artists from Bad Bride’s Club helped her create a natural hair and makeup look. 

“I didn’t want anything too bold or different from my normal makeup routine—though I don’t usually wear makeup,” says Sarah. “I wanted my lip color to be the most striking, and even that was subtle!” She requested an updo that would highlight the neckline on her gown without looking fussy or tight. “I didn’t want a bun that was too clean and ‘done,’ so I worked with my hair stylist during my trials to make the look more effortless, with small strands of hair falling from my face and tucked behind my ear,” she says.

groom in maroon suit

Photo by Samm Blake

Josh donned a custom maroon suit with a mandarin collar—and no tie, for a more relaxed look—that complemented the autumn hues in the surrounding landscape and floral arrangements.

bride and groom share first look on deck

Photo by Samm Blake

bride and groom walking on empty road

Photo by Samm Blake

The home’s waterfront views were a breathtaking backdrop for the couple’s first look. “I wanted a moment for us to look at each other after spending the morning apart getting ready, just to soak each other in privately before all the crowds came,” says Sarah. “We were just bubbling with excitement and nerves and so it was nice to squeeze each other for a moment and share our butterflies together.”

bride holding yellow bouquet with yellow ribbon

Photo by Samm Blake

Studio Mondine pulled together a sunny arrangement of both fresh and dried yellow blooms for the bride to carry. “Yellow is my favorite color,” Sarah says. “I wanted tiny yellow flowers like the buttercups my mom grew up with in Ireland.” 

wedding chuppah with organic flowers

Photo by Samm Blake

wedding chuppah detail shot with flowers

Photo by Samm Blake

clear umbrellas in wicker baskets

Photo by Samm Blake

Sarah and Josh exchanged vows under a chuppah framed by four local trees, one placed at each post. “Arrangements of flowers and grasses of all varying textures and heights were placed at the foot of each post, so that the chuppah felt like it organically emerged,” says Sarah. “Studio Mondine was inspired by the painter Cy Twombly and the Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf. The color palette consisted of sage, mauve, warm gray, rust, and golden yellow, and we had tiny pops here and there of light purple, light pink, and bright yellow which worked really gorgeously with the more neutral palette. The color palette was really balanced—it wasn’t all warm tones, but lots of cool shades, too, which created harmony.”

With rain in the forecast, the couple reset their ceremony at the last minute, moving it closer to the house to allow for extra shelter over the guests, and provided baskets of clear umbrellas.

guests walking and holding hands at jewish wedding

Photo by Samm Blake

bride sitting on couch surrounded by family

Photo by Samm Blake

bride's father kissing her on forehead

Photo by Samm Blake

Sarah and Josh included a Bedecken, a traditional Jewish ceremony where the groom places a veil over the bride’s face. “The Bedeken had me quite emotional,” says Sarah. “Having my father walk alongside Josh and my father-in-law, dancing with all our friends and family towards me, my mother, and mother-in-law was a memory I’ll never forget. There was not a dry eye in the house from the Bedecken to the end of the ceremony and I think that testifies to how vulnerable we were in making our wedding an unabashed reflection of who we are.” 

guests at wedding ceremony sitting on grass and porch

Photo by Samm Blake

bride and groom under the chuppah

Photo by Samm Blake

The couple’s best friend—who was also their officiant—helped Sarah and Josh design a ceremony that modernized elements of their shared modern orthodox religious background. “We decided on several important amendments to the traditional orthodox ceremony, including each of us circling one another to symbolize the home we are building and the walls between us we are taking down,” says Sarah. “Traditionally, only the bride circles the groom to infer the domestic space is hers to build.”

A tallis that had belonged to Josh’s grandfather formed the ceiling of the chuppah. “Josh’s zeidi was a Holocaust survivor, and his grandparents met at a displaced persons camp after the war,” says Sarah. “It was really special to have a physical reminder of their presence and blessings above us.”

bride and groom signing the ketubah

Photo by Samm Blake

bride and groom kiss under the chuppah

Photo by Samm Blake

Instead of a ketubah, the couple included a thoughtful, personalized Brit Ahuvim. “We wrote commitments to one another and accompanied each with quotes from thinkers, scholars, and artists that we love,” says Sarah. “Our commitments ranged from treating our family as a site of exploration and growth, to safeguarding each other’s vulnerability, to building a world together that reflects our shared values of selflessness, equity, and love.” 

Sarah and Josh had a joint bridal party—”Because we have basically grown up together, we have many of the same friends, so it just made sense,” she says—who played different roles throughout the ceremony. “We had friends and family come up to recite each of our commitments, which gave us an opportunity to make the service interactive and collaborative,” says Sarah. “We felt so humbled to have our family and friends take part in such a special step in the nearly-10-year journey we have taken together. There were individuals from all walks of our life, most of whom have played a big role in our growth from high school sweethearts to committed partners.”

wedding bar cocktail menu with modern typeface

Photo by Samm Blake

male wedding guests with two boys on their shoulders

Photo by Samm Blake

After the ceremony, guests mingled on the lawn while sipping the couple’s signature cocktails. “We created our own cocktails with our favorite flavors,” says Sarah. (Hers was an olive oil martini; his was an Oazacan old fashioned.)

wedding tents

Photo by Samm Blake

hanging escort display with modern typeface

Photo by Samm Blake

The outdoor reception took place under a tent, where bittersweet vines hung over the dance floor. Guests sat at long tables on black chairs that provided a cool contrast to the oatmeal-colored linens. The couple’s escort display—six geometric signs suspended from the outside of the tent, with seating assignments on one side and lyrics from "In a Sentimental Mood" by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane on the other—also served as a backdrop to the newlyweds during dinner.

wedding tabletops with moss and wildflowers

Photo by Samm Blake

wedding tabletop with moss and florals

Photo by Samm Blake

black plate with white napkin and wedding menu

Photo by Samm Blake

yellow, orange, and red rock and flower arrangement

Photo by Samm Blake

Matte black plates, black-trimmed napkins, and modern menus elevated the natural look inside the tent, while a long, wooden bar was accented with a sculptural floral arrangement. “The table design was the place to blend the natural, raw beauty of the florals with the sleek, modern design we were hoping to incorporate,” says the couple. “Instead of vases, we had patches of fresh Oregon moss placed onto the table with flower arrangements growing out of them. We also had foraged rock placed beside the florals and moss to bring in another element and texture to the table. We didn’t want it all to feel buttoned-up, so the moss and rock brought a little edginess and rawness to the mix.” 

bride and groom hugging

Photo by Samm Blake

A DJ from 74 Events provided the couple’s first dance song—"Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star—and kept the dance floor full. “Perhaps my favorite decision of the day was changing out of my stunning wedding dress into whatever clothes I had in my suitcase—which ended up being my favorite pair of jeans and good ole’ sneakers,” says Sarah. The relaxed, fun atmosphere was exactly what the couple had hoped for. “Don’t get too caught up in the details,” advises Sarah. “At the end of the day, the color of the napkins won’t dictate if you are going to have a fun wedding or a happy marriage.”

bride and groom being lifted up in chair at jewish wedding

Photo by Samm Blake

Wedding Team

Ceremony and Reception Venue Ankony Carriage House

Wedding Planner and Event Designer Gatherist

Bridal Gown Designer The Law 

Hair and Makeup Bad Bride’s Club

Floral Designer Studio Mondine

Paper Goods and Signage The Letterist  

Music New York Ceremony Music; 74 Events  

Catering Marcey Browstein Catering and Events

Rentals BBJ La Tavola; Borrowed Blu; Broadway Party Rentals; Greenwich Rentals (tents and equipment); Patina Rentals (specialty furniture)

Videographer Marc Manasse

Photographer Samm Blake

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