Jewish Wedding at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

Jassi and Joseph

Photographed by: Imely PhotographyLocation: Sarasota, Florida, United States

As Jassi Lekach explains, her pairing with Joseph Antebi was unlikely: “I invited him and his brother to a friend’s party to introduce them to some nice girls.” But love works in strange ways, and it was not long before Jassi and Joey were discussing marriage. During a visit they took together to New York, Jassi thought it would be fun to make a stop in Orlando on their way home to Miami. Joey pounced on the opportunity. After spending the day at Disneyworld, he surprised Jassi by leading her to a waiting helicopter outfitted with red roses, champagne, and a sign that read “Will You Marry Me.” He proposed on bended knee, and after Jassi accepted, the two flew to Miami where 200 of their closest family members and friends were waiting to celebrate their engagement.

Four and a half months later, close to 500 guests gathered in nearby Sarasota, Florida, to spend the weekend commemorating the couple’s nuptials. From the elegant Friday evening Shabbat dinner to the extravagant Sunday wedding, guests were treated to a constant stream of events that were painstakingly designed by the bride, an event planner by trade. Together, she and Joey chose the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art as the venue for their ceremony and reception because of its breathtaking grounds and unbelievable view of the sunset. It embodied the Old World style Jassi felt would showcase the event’s décor – a rich mix of deep colors, gold trimmings, and baroque details.

Prior to the ceremony, Jassi participated in two Jewish traditions: the mikveh, meant to purify her soul, and the bedeken. During the bedeken, the bride spends private time with female family members and friends, bestowing special blessings on all. Jassi received an emotional blessing of her own from her father, who joined the group after witnessing Joey sign the marriage contract along with the male members of the wedding party. Everyone then joined the gathering outside, and as dusk turned to darkness, Jassi and Joey exchanged vows in a magical ceremony overlooking the bay. Jassi and her bridesmaids all wore custommade ensembles by Liancarlo, and after the ceremony, the bride replaced her vintage-inspired mantilla with a Christian Lacroix headpiece – the same style that was worn by Christina Aguilera on her wedding day.

The museum compound is composed of several locations – an art museum, the Ringlings’ private estate, and a separate building housing historical paraphernalia from The Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus. During the cocktail hour, guests were granted a private exploration of the art galleries, accompanied along the way by strolling violinists. Their tour ended under the meandering archways of the courtyard, where an incredibly long, single line of banquet tables was arranged for dinner. Six hundred feet of gold crushed velvet covered every surface, and floral centerpieces created a continuous runner along the length of the conjoined tables. Dark green moss, celosia, and burgundy calla lilies offset by waves of acrylic pieces, Swarovski crystals, and glowing candelabras comprised the arrangements. Each place setting featured gold-trimmed china and crystal and olive green silk napkins.

It was a scene fit for a royal feast, and the menu was every bit as grand: thousand spiced duck, Herbes de Provence-crusted tuna, and grilled chateaubriand. Dessert was presented in several forms, including a plated bittersweet chocolate cake, passed French pastries, and a wedding cake resembling intertwined rose petals trimmed in gold.

The after-dinner festivities were kicked off by a stirring rendition of U2’s “The Sweetest Thing” performed by a 40-member gospel choir as Jassi and Joey danced for the first time as husband and wife. While the adults continued to populate the dance floor, Jassi made sure the littlest guests were happily occupied. Using the venue’s theme as her inspiration, Jassi organized a children’s circus complete with clowns, jugglers, face painters, and kid-friendly food to entertain the youngsters throughout the evening.

But one of the most exciting moments of the wedding came just before the event began. To thank her mother for all of her tireless assistance with the wedding, Jassi commissioned a dream dress for her by Liancarlo (who also happens to be her mother’s favorite designer). Her mother had been planning to wear another dress that Jassi knew she did not love, so she was touched and shocked when her daughter gave her the one-of-a-kind creation. “She was glowing at the wedding in her beautiful dress,” recalls Jassi.

Deserving of her own reward for her weeks of thoughtful work, Jassi and Joey planned an elongated honeymoon. They enjoyed a luxurious month-long stay in Australia and New Zealand.

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