A Canadian Wedding at an Art Gallery
For Molly Teitelbaum, who grew up in Ottawa, the National Gallery of Canada was the place where her appetite for art was first whet. And when it came time for the visual artist and filmmaker to marry her sweetheart Michael Harris, a pediatrician, there was no other place to consider. The natural light of the space struck Michael, who noted that the sunset views through the large glass windows would be a treat for guests. Plus, the architect of the building is Israeli, which felt significant given that the bride and groom met on a beach in Tel Aviv.
A year and half after crossing paths on Israel's sandy beaches, Molly and Michael were both living in New York City. They met up for coffee and spent a year studying together and talking about their respective love lives. Finally, Michael invited Molly over to his apartment for dinner. (It was the first and only meal he's ever cooked for her.) He went in for a kiss, and the rest is history.
On September 16, 2017, after being together for four years, they headed north to Canada to make things official. Wanting to showcase what the country has to offer, there was plenty of maple syrup, plus a nod to the current prime minister and his wife in the welcome bags. The mood of the space was verdant and rustic, the ceremony was traditionally Jewish, and the dancing… well, it got sweaty, thanks to an hour-long hora.
And both the bride and groom have the same favorite part of it all—being overcome with the feeling of gratitude they had as they looked out into a sea of 110 familiar faces of loved ones congregated to watch them marry their best friend. It may sound cheesy, but they truly feel that there's something deeply meaningful about making a promise of love to your partner in front of everyone in the world that matters to you. And in this instance, it was both meaningful and a work of art.
The Stationery Suite
Molly has been making hand-painted cards for as long as she can remember—long before she ever considered a career in art. She always knew her invites would be handmade. She painted each one, along with the welcome notes and seating cards, on watercolor paper using watercolors and acrylic paints. The bride's former college roomie, who is a graphic designer, helped create the cards, which were printed on translucent paper.
Welcome to Canada
"We wanted our welcome bags to be almost too Canadian," Molly says. Most of their friends came from New York and it was the first time most traveled to Ottawa. "It felt appropriate that we use a photo from the Trudeau's Vogue shoot on our welcome bags," says the bride. Inside each was a hand-painted card with a hand-written note, fresh local apples in burlap bags, maple lip balm, maple-flavored mints, beeswax candles made by the bride's best friend, and some maple syrup, of course.
Michael wore a custom Zegna suit and shirt and a J.Crew tie for the "cocktail chic" wedding. Molly repurposed her mother's wedding dress by having her tailor add mesh at the front and adding a deep V in the back. "I like that my mom and I were both drawn to cream-colored lace, though decades apart," she says. She sported nude Schutz sandals with the high-low dress, noting that her feet miraculously didn't hurt at the end of the festivities.
There was no official bridal party, but Molly's sister (to her left) and her creative partner and close friend (to her right) helped her out on the big day, even holding the chuppah during the ceremony. Her best friend since kindergarten signed the ketubah as a witness to the marriage. The ladies were given petite bouquets of locally-grown dahlias, olive branch, and begonias leaves
Molly initially opted out of having a bouquet, but her florist, Katrin Kosk of Blumenstudio, convinced her to carry one. "I'm so happy I did," Molly says of changing her mind. "Holding a gorgeous spray of flowers actually makes you feel like a bride. Plus, my mom kept it, so it's beautiful even in its dried state. I can't imagine my photos without it." Her wild bouquet incorporated chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, eucalyptus, amaranthus, gomphrena, and copper grass. The components in her clutch were carried through to the rest of the day's décor.
Welcome to the Wedding
Guests entered the space on a walkway dressed up with grasses, chrysanthemums, cotton, hydrangeas, amaranthus, and dahlias by blumenstudio. Wait staff was on hand with sparkling lemonade and infused water.
The bride and groom liked the idea of walking each other down the aisle. So, arm-in-arm, they entered to Musetta's Waltz, played performed friend and world-class concert pianist Silvie Cheng. The song has been Molly's favorite ever since she watched Cher in Moonstruck as a kid. Michael's mother is Italian, so it also felt fitting that it was a Puccini song.
Molly found the ketubah by Nehama Samson, and was instantly drawn to the earthy tones and floral imagery.
The early evening ceremony took place in front of a bay of windows overlooking the iconic parliament buildings, which allowed for dramatic views of sunset. Molly and Michael stood under a chuppah made from foraged branches and Irish linen passed down by the bride's maternal grandmother. Michael's two brothers held it up along with Molly's sister and best friend. During the Jewish service, the pair exchanged vows they'd written themselves. Molly cried uncontrollably through hers but thankfully had waterproof makeup on. Michael's were equally heartfelt but infused with humor, too. The couple was happy they opted to pen their own exchange, noting that it helped personalize the wedding both for them and for their guests.
When it came time to recess up the aisle as husband and wife, Michael originally wanted a piano rendition of "Despacito," which he maintains is one of the best songs of the last 100 years. But their pianist advised them against that and they collectively decided to walk to the theme song from La La Land instead, which they play in their apartment almost as much as the initial pick.
The couple's new dog, Penny, ventured all the way to Canada for the celebration.
Guests moved to another part of the Great Hall for cocktail hour, where they enjoyed Canadian canapés like Salsify purée with dandelion oil, and elk sliders; and stopped by the grazing station chock-full of Quebec cheeses and Ottawa breads, presented by Tulips and Maple. Silvie Cheng played classical music by Michael's favorite composers (including Chopin) on the piano, filling the space with a beautiful ambiance.
Michael's one non-negotiable for the wedding was having an hour-long hora. Though there were naysayers, his contention is that the hora always ends prematurely.
As cocktail hour drew to a close, the hora band kicked in and kicked off sixty minutes of the traditional Jewish dancing. Michael's medical school friends (who feel equally passionate about the hora) surprised the groom with Hora Boyz t-shirts, which is what they have aptly named themselves after singlehandedly making many weddings all the more memorable due to their tenacity on the dance floor. Many guests thought they were hired dancers to hype up the crowd, but alas, they were just your average gastroenterologists who know how to keep the party going. Almost every attendee said it was his or her favorite part of the celebration.
Please Be Seated
Molly created the seating chart, which was displayed on a paint-splattered easel. "We spent a long time trying out every seating configuration imaginable, but in the end, you just have to trust that you love all these people, so they're bound to get along when sitting next to each other," Molly says of the seating assignments. The bride's friend suggested doing harvest tables and the couple was happy they did, noting that it created lots of conversations.
The Reception's Flowers
"Our florist Kat is a true artist," says the bride. "She had a vision that was better than I could have imagined. She was also really inspired by the gallery itself and went above and beyond in terms of making the flowers complement the room, and the room in turn complemented the flowers."
The first plan for the centerpieces was simple runners of olive branches for a more rustic approach. But the design evolved from there, adding in other Italian greens, and taller components like grasses found in nearby swamps, to help fill the vertical space of the room.
A salad of compressed watermelon and feta, as well as Arcadian field greens with dried apricots, goat cheese, and a maple balsamic vinaigrette, kicked off the meal. Flank steak, maple-candied hot smoked salmon, Ontario sweet pea and ricotta agnolotti, farro and wild long grain rice, puffed bannock, and roasted heirloom beets were served for the second course. And finally, for dessert, everyone enjoyed local mixed berries and cake made by a family friend that was covered with freshly-grated coconut and infused with vodka and pineapple chunks.
Man-made olive trees framed the reception area, making it all the more special.
The Place Settings
The couple has Michael's brother Josh to thank for the charming blue napkins that graced each plate. After not being able to find a linen napkin they liked locally, Josh helped them get these pale blue numbers from their favorite hotel in London. Place cards made by the bride and a compact red dahlia dressed up each setting.
The menus were designed by a dear friend and printed on watercolor paper so that Molly could paint each one.
An Enjoyable Evening
All in, the evening was the perfect confluence of tradition with the things the couple loves. "Literally everyone who was there seemed so happy to be in attendance," notes Molly. And when the couple sums it all up, the end result was "flower-filled, maple-syrup infused, sweaty from dancing, and surprisingly stress-free."