Bridal magazines and Web sites like TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com overflow with designer dresses, couture cakes, haute honeymoon destinations and dreamy reception ideas. But even the best-organized bride will tell you there is so much more to consider when planning a Jewish wedding — from picking the challah to contemplating a dip in the mikveh (ritual bath).
When Sara Schwimmer-Marcus, owner of online retailer PopJudaica (popjudaica.com), planned her own wedding in 2006, she found herself spending hours on Google, leaping from one site to another to track down creative ideas for chuppahs, venue information and details about Jewish traditions. There was no one-stop Web site that would allow her to shop, get ideas, track down vendors and network with other Jewish brides-to-be. Schwimmer-Marcus found there was still a void three years later, and this past April she launched JewishWeddingNetwork.com, with the tag line: “Take the ‘oy vey’ out of planning your big day.”
The Web site features a glossary of Jewish wedding traditions, a vendor directory (so far only four listed for all of California) and a special offers section with discounts on wedding products and services. But the centerpiece of the site is its social-networking component — the Jewish Brides Blog, where women can ask questions, share dress photos and exchange ideas, like vendors that worked (or didn’t), honeymoon plans or just the ups and downs of planning.
“Jewish brides coming from different observances, geographic locations and ages can share information as they go through the planning process — from rings and dresses to more serious matters like the mikveh, existing relationships with their families, finances and anything that comes up when planning a wedding,” Schwimmer-Marcus said.
Women provide support for one another — playfully kvetching, consoling and celebrating.
In a recent post, “Slowww Down,” Courtney S. ponders whether she’s rushing with the planning and missing important moments:
“Why am I in such a rush to have everything here, now, today? Yes, I’ve enjoyed every second of wedding planning — but have I given myself the chance to enjoy every second of our engagement? I hate that I am rushing through every step, every second, to get to the big day. I realize that I need to stop, take a look around and breathe it all in.”
The blog received a major boost in May when Schwimmer-Marcus scored her first celebrity post with “Blossom” actress Mayim Bialik, who discusses details of her Aug. 31, 2003, nuptials.
“Prior to the wedding, I had studied with an Orthodox kallah teacher to learn everything there was to know and decide later what I wanted to take on. Surprisingly, I got a lot out of it, and I ended up taking on pretty much all of the customs and traditions. During our engagement period, we were not touching at all (we had not been shomer negiah [observant of laws restricting physical contact] prior) and that was actually neat,” Bialik writes.
Bialik had contacted and became friends with Schwimmer-Marcus after a televised segment about PopJudaica appeared on The Jewish Channel.
“My mom and I [were interviewed about] Passover traditions,” Schwimmer-Marcus said. “My mother was showing off one of her table centerpiece designs telling the Passover story using Barbie dolls — dressing Ken as Moses, Barbie as Miriam and so forth. As my mom pointed out the individual dolls in the centerpiece, I pointed out one of the dolls used was actually a “Blossom” doll based on the character Mayim played back in the 1980s.”
Bialik’s post is the first of what is expected to become an ongoing series of featured wedding stories, including those of prominent Jews. One celebrity Schwimmer-Marcus is hoping to have guest blog in the near future is Ivanka Trump, who is converting to Judaism prior to her marriage to New York Observer owner Jared Kushner.
Schwimmer-Marcus herself blogs under the name of “The Mrs.,” writing about such topics as her personal mikveh experience, new takes on the classic “Hava Nagilah” and the chuppah.
As traffic at the site picks up, The Mrs. is noticing a trend she wasn’t expecting when she first launched two months ago — guys.
“While Jewish brides are starting to come to this site more regularly, I am also seeing input from grooms, as well as already married couples. This says a lot to me about how important a resource can be to a lot of people,” Schwimmer-Marcus said.