Getting married in a Bedford kitchen
Photographs by Levi Stolove
It takes a strong bride-to-be to resist the pull of the marriage industrial complex, a $55-billion market that both feeds upon and fuels the princess-for-a-day fantasies of many a young woman. My niece, Alena Benowich, a 29-year-old Manhattan lawyer who grew up in Westchester, took a decidedly anti-Bridezilla stance when she and her fiancé, Garrett Markley of Los Angeles, decided to take the plunge.
Starting with their engagement party, Alena took a bridal path less traveled, gathering a group of best friends for casual Sunday-afternoon drinks at Houston Hall, a massive indoor beer garden in Greenwich Village. They both wore flannel shirts and jeans.
Alena and Garrett chose the homey and elegant Inn at Pound Ridge for a Sunday reception in early April. Their window at the Inn was 11:30 to 3:30—too tight for ceremony and party. That was fine for Alena, who, happy to keep the ceremony intimate, asked if we could host it at our nearby Bedford house. “I do!” I blurted before she could even finish asking. Twenty-seven years ago, I had asked my aunt and uncle that very question; there was a pleasing continuity to do the same for my niece and her fiancé.
Their biggest and most important decision had already been made: to marry one another. Everything else was frosting on the proverbial cake. Neither my sister, Ruth, nor my niece offered any opinions or requests; they’d attended to myriad details on their end already, and trusted my husband, Bill, with his long history of interiors photography, and me, a location scout and former contributing editor at Martha Stewart Living, to put our combined years of editorial know-how to work.
We would set a pretty stage and let the players be the stars.
There’s nothing like an impending event to get your house in order. We cleaned up the winter-ravaged yard. Planted flowers in pots on the porch. Cleared the kitchen, entry hall, living room, and den of clutter—a purge perfectly timed for the Chowder and Marching Club’s Dump Days. Inspired by my aunt, who had done this for Bill and me, I ordered monogrammed hand towels with the wedding date.
I had a white platter made, imprinted with the couple’s monogram and “Est’d. 2016.” The biggest quest was sourcing 25 sets of mismatched antique porcelain tea cups and saucers. (Thank you, thrift stores; thank you, eBay.) We made a romantic banner festooned with cherry blossoms to welcome guests.
Bedford Gourmet provided the light fare for the 9:30 am gathering: tea and coffee, smoked salmon, and arugula mini-baguettes, tiny fruit skewers, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and festive little bottles of a non-alcoholic white-tea cocktail called Tost. I used champagne glasses Ruth had had printed for the bridal shower and rehearsal dinner with a cartoonized logo of Alena and Garrett drawn by our son Simon, a graphic designer.
The bride and groom, radiant under a chuppah (the Jewish marriage canopy) of white satin bedecked with cherry blossoms, read aloud letters the rabbi had asked them to write to each other, neither aware they’d be reading them to family and friends. The parents beamed. The rabbi, young and funny and well-versed in liturgy and literature, gave modern nuance to the ancient rituals.
The day before, Bill had laid out a springy path of moss leading to our front steps, dotted with pots of yellow and purple pansies. We didn’t expect to wake up on April 3 to an inch of snow. It was overcast and cold, very cold, and windy, very windy. We lit a fire.
By the time the guests arrived, the sun had broken through in full force, and only a few patches of wintry white remained on the mossy path. The sunlight bounced off the snow outside our kitchen, filling the house with a luminescent glow. It reflected beautifully in the faces of the bride and groom and their very happy wedding party. It was on to the Inn at Pound Ridge to join up with the rest of the guests. And to dance.