Gila & Ari | Northern Valley Affairs | Closter, NJ

Gila and Ari's Wedding at Northern Valley Affairs NJ

The Wedding of ...
Gila Wilensky & Rabbi Ari Isenberg

Their Vendors
Ceremony & Reception: Northern Valley Affairs at Temple Emanu-El
Gown: Allison Webb, at Wedding Atelier, NYC 
Tux: Label
Photographer: Anthony Vazquez Photography
Makeup & Hair: The Bridal Artistry Co.
Florist: Crest Florist
Band: Frank Simmons Band, Hank Lane Productions
Event Planner: Vision Event Co.

"The Best of All Worlds"

Ari and I saw each other on a dating app. We met the next day at a wine bar on the Upper West Side. It was while sipping our first glass of wine that Ari mentioned he was a rabbi living in the suburbs. I was surprised, caught off guard even; but, as conversation flowed, we discovered many things in common. When we parted ways, I chalked it up to a funny online story, but Ari was persistent in setting up date number two.

After dating for 10 months, on the way to what I thought was a quiet dinner, Ari proposed. The Uber driver was in on it and handed us a bottle of champagne, ready for toasting! He dropped us off at the very wine bar where we had our first date. We walked to the cocktail bar upstairs at the 2nd Ave Deli, where we went for one of our most formative dates. We love chopped liver and corned beef, so this was a natural choice. As we entered, Ari surprised me with our friends and family, an open bar, and an array of classic NYC deli dishes.

We envisioned getting married in a synagogue andTemple Emanu-El offers the best of all worlds. It has a beautiful sanctuary and a premier wedding venue with amazing in-house catering. The location of the venue was perfect, situated equidistant between where we live and our New Jersey and Manhattan guests. Les Friedman, the owner, and Marty Maged, the general manager, are the quintessential dynamic duo. They are legends. From early stages of inquiry through the event itself, they were attentive, helpful, flexible, and really cared about us and our families. Les and Marty pride themselves in coming through for their couples and handling the many requests that come their way. 

Ari is a rabbi, so we did a deep-dive into the meaning and symbolism of the ceremony’s many rituals. Being a rabbi also means having rabbi friends, so we had five rabbis participate in the wedding ceremony and pre-ceremony. Our goal was to ensure that each ritual held meaning for us, reflected our egalitarian values, and allowed for family participation. Dear friends, colleagues, and teachers officiated, including Rabbi David Fainsilber, Rabbi Jason Gitlin, Rabbi Samuel Klibanoff, Rabbi Danny Nevins, and Rabbi Gordon Tucker.

Gila and Ari's Wedding at Northern Valley Affairs NJ

Gila and Ari's Wedding at Northern Valley Affairs NJ

We held cocktail hour before the ceremony so guests would be satiated and not too stuffed when entering the reception. I love Asian cuisine, so we had an amazing sushi and poke station and Korean BBQ. Les and Marty thought up a fun addition to our carving station: “Wilensky Specials,” a famous sandwich from Montreal where Ari grew up. They were excited by the idea and it was one of the highlights of our cocktail hour. Warm, sunny weather allowed us to utilize the beautiful patio area and we extended the cocktail hour outside. Our out-of-town guests from cold Canada appreciated the sunshine. We greeted people during cocktail hour with two Jewish wedding rituals, the Tisch and Kabbalat Panim. This was a great way to interact with guests prior to the ceremony.

We were thrilled to use seasonal, local flowers. We had alternating round and rectangular tables, matched with two floral centerpiece designs. For the rectangular tables, low white boxes of tulips and thick white candles were front and center. For the round tables, we had tall modern vases of white cherry blossoms and low vases of hydrangeas and candles. Our florist did a fantastic job realizing our vision and ensuring everything was clean and modern. We entered the ballroom and segued into an epic 40-minute hora! The band kept the energy high all night. Ari made arrangements with them in advance to perform a surprise song for me. He sang Neil Diamond’s, “You Got To Me.” The band enjoyed the cameo appearance enough that they invited Ari up for an encore, selecting, “Mustang Sally,” and Ari’s father and brother sang back-up vocals. The band had fun featuring our family, even joining in on the dancing at one point!

For dinner, our guests chose between branzino, Mandarin duck, and chateaubriand. Ari and I were lucky enough to take bites of all three! We had passed desserts served on the dance floor to keep everyone out of their seats. Molten lava cakes, beignets, and sorbet were some of our favorites. As guests were leaving, we offered hot chocolate chip cookies and water bottles to go.

Our generous and loving parents partnered with us in making our wedding day deeply meaningful, aesthetically beautiful, and enjoyable for all our guests. Our event planner and her team ensured that every detail was accounted for and kept any minor blips from becoming larger hiccups. Les, Marty, Angela Albertus, the bridal attendant, and the entire Northern Valley team at Temple Emanu-El executed flawlessly.

Northern Valley Affairs at Temple Emanu-ElCloster, NJ