While some men may have cold feet about tying the proverbial knot, Shane Neman knew he wanted to marry Diane Bernstein sooner rather than later. While the bride originally wanted to marry the summer following their engagement, the groom didn't see the point in waiting. "I really pushed for a winter wedding," notes Shane, and a winter wedding it was.
A landmark Beaux-Arts building in downtown Manhattan was selected for the couple’s venue, and a winter-wonderland theme developed. "I knew I wanted an all-white wedding," says Diane.
With venue and theme locked down, the biggest challenge became mixing the cultures of the bride and groom. "I'm from a Russian immigrant family," reveals the bride, "and Shane is from an Iranian immigrant family. Also, we're each the first generation of our families to be born in America, so we had to be extra sensitive to the customs of both cultures." However, the couple agreed that their foremost responsibility was to include the traditions of their shared Jewish faith.
Following a pre-ceremony Champagne reception, the evening nuptials began. A white aisle runner lined with flowering branches and flickering candles housed in hurricane vases led the way to an extraordinary chandelier chuppah. The breathtaking structure was completely embedded in white flowers, with rows of gleaming crystal beads falling to compose the requisite four pillars of the chuppah.
The veiled bride glided down the aisle to "Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof. She wore a strapless winter-white gown fit for a modern-day princess, replete with frothy feathered skirt and elegant black sash. Glittering silver platform pumps guided her to her groom, who was attired in a classic black tux and matching bow tie.
A cocktail hour followed the nuptials, and was split between two floors. The main floor housed the majority of food stations as well as a violinist, attracting a more mature crowd. Upstairs, the bride and groom's friends and younger guests enjoyed a hip, lounge-like vibe. Hors d'oeuvres were passed butler-style, and food stands included nearly every culinary treat imaginable: a Peking duck station, a meat-carving station, a sushi and sashimi station, a Persian food station, and a fish-carving station. The wedding was catered kosher to accommodate applicable guests.
A towering arrangement of snowy blossoms, birch tree branches, and dangling crystals topped a white-cloaked table that held escort cards. Once guided to their seats, attendees were in awe of the marvelous wintry forest into which the original space had been transformed for the reception.
The chandelier that formed the chuppah for the ceremony had been raised high overhead, where it loomed above the center of the dance floor. Surrounding the dance space were tables that featured one of three different centerpieces. Long rectangular tables were festooned with reflective mirrored tops, moody candelabras, and low floral arrangements of white hydrangeas, roses, and tulips. Round tables featured taller centerpieces starring white orchids, while lower candelabras twinkled alongside. Additional circular tables were aglow with snowflake-laden birch trees dripping with crystals and tealight candles. Clusters of snowy roses and tulips surrounded the base. As a nod to the bride's heritage, bottles of Stolichnaya vodka were placed on each table. The newly married couple sat merrily at a curved white banquette. Cobalt lighting contributed to the wonderland vibe.
While the dancing was one of the couple's favorite aspects of the night, each notes that the incredibly personal speeches were an unforgettable highlight, some comical, some emotional. "Shane’s father passed away when he was 13," shares Diane, "so his speech was a letter addressed to his dad." The discourse delivered by the bride’s sister also included a song dedicated to the groom, in which the band played a hilarious and personal 15-second tune that had everyone in stitches. "If there is one thing people to this day cannot stop talking about, it's the speeches," laughs the couple.
In the end, the groom got much more than the winter wedding date for which he pressed. "I just wanted everyone to be happy, for both cultures to be represented, for all to have a good time, and for Diane and me to get married," says Shane. Missions accomplished.