Russian Jewish Wedding
The Russian Jewish wedding is a unique type of wedding day. I am fortunate to be a San Francisco wedding photographer, so I get to capture weddings of all different cultures and faiths. However, there’s a unique, iconic style to a Russian Jewish wedding.
“Opulence – I has it.”
There was an indelible DirectTV commercial about 10 years ago, starring a sort of Russian oligarch with a tiny giraffe. Any Russian worth their salt knows this ad. We love it because it truly captures the Russian cultural affinity for elaborate banquets, masculine men, beautiful women, and general enjoyment of life. Russian lore is rooted in the fantastic, gilded world of the Tsars and court nobility. Russian life was always hard. And so people played hard as well. So, the Russian wedding is founded on these principles: Dress to impress. Don’t skimp on decor. Eat and drink and dance to excess. Celebrate everything. Igor and Greta’s wedding was beautifully decorated and coordinated by Supinere Floral Couture. Miracle Chuppahs provided the elegant wedding canopy.
Soviet Jews immigrated to the United States in two big recent waves: one in the late 1970’s, and another in the late 80’s and early 90’s. To avoid persecution and discrimination, many had repressed or hidden their Jewish identities back in the USSR. Upon immigrating to the US, many parents stressed the importance of a Jewish education and upbringing for their first- and second-generation children. So the Russian Jewish wedding (along with the Bar and Bat Mitzvah before it) takes on an important cultural significance: a way to reinforce Jewish traditions for the Russian American Jewish community. Greta and Igor celebrated their wedding in San Francisco’s iconic Temple Emanu-el synagogue.
One of the hallmarks of the Russian Jewish wedding is the way food is presented and served to the guests. They arrive at the reception to find an abundance of cold appetizers already laid out on the tables: smoked fish, salads, pickled vegetables, and of course – caviar (traditionally served with crepes and sour cream). Alcohol is also readily available at each table. Usually Russians opt for bottles of vodka and cognac. The night will include many rounds of toasting by family and friends, so bottles are replenished often. After the cold appetizers, guests will heat up the dance floor. When they return after the first dance set, the tables have been furnished with hot appetizers. Then, more toasting, and more dancing. Then the entrée. By this time at many a Russian Jewish wedding, it can be past 11PM.
The “Tamada” – (Master of Ceremonies)
Another recognizable aspect of a Russian Jewish wedding is the tamada, or MC. This person controls the mic, often sings and tells jokes, and generally keeps the evening flowing. Since Greta’s family originally settled in Chicago, they brought over the inimitable Marat Sidelsky of Marat World Entertainment. His incredible voice brought people to tears during the ceremony, and kept the dance floor filled all night long. Moreover, Marat’s electric personality and sense of humor gave the guests (and in this case, the groom and best man) quite an experience.
Igor and Greta make a beautiful couple, and they got to soak up the admiration of their guests all night long. The Russian Jewish wedding is a marathon. One of the biggest challenges for a young married couple at a Russian Jewish wedding is to stay sober long enough to enjoy the full event. After about a dozen rounds of toasts, as well as shots at the sweetheart table with friends, the couple has to take care to get plenty of food and stay hydrated. Comfortable shoes are a must. I was super impressed with Greta and Igor’s energy. Even though we started the day early with a long pre-wedding photoshoot at the new Salesforce Park, they were out on the dance floor every time the music played. Mazel Tov to this beautiful pair. Oh yeah, and VIDEO coming soon!