While Lauren Balkin and Daniel Cohen didn't have a vision for their nuptials initially, they were both certain of one thing: "We didn't want it to be a typical wedding," says the bride. Lauren loved the look of cherry blossoms and branches, and wasn't a huge fan of flowers, but wasn't sure what she wanted beyond that. "When I told my wedding planner Tina LaMorte what I liked, she came up with the theme 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.'" After falling in love with Tina's sketches for the unique decor design, the couple comfortably handed over the wedding-planning reigns. "I had total faith in her," Lauren asserts. "Tina visualized what I wanted, and I completely trusted her to make it work."
The couple and their planning team decided that the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts would be an ideal setting for the ceremony and celebration to follow. Inspired by the work of famed sculptor Angel Orensanz, the neo-gothic building fit perfectly with the wedding theme's need for grandeur and space; it also included incredible in-house lighting and breathtaking architecture. "No question about it, the most unique aspect of our wedding was the venue," says Dan. To accent the decor, the custom black-and-white design of vines, butterflies, and florals that the couple's stationer created for the invitations was incorporated into numerous details, including the aisle runner, menus, candles, table runners, and cake design.
The day of the wedding, Lauren's bridesmaids strolled toward the altar wearing the black gowns of their individual preference, and carrying bright nosegays of jewel-toned calla lilies and roses. Lauren held a larger version of the same florals, along with added sparkle -- a colorful Swarovski- crystal butterfly was affixed to her blooms and helped to highlight the bouquet's rich hues. As the bride awaited her turn down the aisle, she was eager to see the layout of the formerly bare space. "I really had no idea what the room was going to look like," she recalls. "Then the doors opened, and I couldn't believe what I saw ahead of me." As Lauren took her first steps into the space, she was delighted by the sight of dozens of vibrantly colored silk butterflies illuminated by votives on wrought-iron chandeliers. The altar was magnificently cast in blue lighting, and the chuppah was carefully swathed in gem-colored fabric, showcasing the multicolored butterflies of silk and feathers placed along the moss-wrapped poles of the arch. "I couldn't have dreamed of a more beautiful place to get married!" Lauren exclaims.
Although the couple opted for a Jewish ceremony that was largely traditional, there was one custom that they chose to modify. Rather than the bride circling the groom seven times to symbolize a woman entering the seven spheres of her new husband's life, the couple took turns circling each other three-and-one-half times to signify they are equals. "Our rabbi did a great job at giving us an education about the traditional Jewish wedding," says Lauren. "We picked what was pertinent to us."
After the ceremony, guests enjoyed hors d'oeuvres and cocktails on the building's second floor before returning to the lower level for the reception. The space had been completely reinvented while the guests mingled above, and the effect was astonishing. Brilliantly detailed rectangular tables were adorned with long graceful branches, spectacularly painted butterflies, and boldly colored blossoms. Gorgeous jewel-toned wildflowers and abundant greenery were set in brass vases to lend a romantic woodsy feel, while tablescapes of elaborate silk-spun butterflies and amber-colored branches were elevated on mossy platforms in lieu of traditional centerpieces. "It was like walking through the Garden of Eden," gushes Lauren. Dan was equally impressed: "The colors were magnificent and looked incredible with the massive cathedral ceilings."
Throughout their big day, Lauren and Dan made a concerted effort to stop and take in various moments -- a strategy we strongly recommend that other brides and grooms observe. "I remember pulling Dan aside and asking him to join me by the balcony," Lauren recalls, "and when we looked down, we saw all of our friends and family below us. I said to Dan, 'Inhale this moment... and know that everyone is here today to celebrate because we love each other and they all love us.'" Adds Dan: "The wedding exceeded my expectations and was a perfect night -- and that's coming from a perfectionist!" "Dan and I have this very romantic and idealistic view of life," Lauren affirms, "and I think our wedding design was exactly that. I wouldn't change a thing."