VIRTUALLY Cozy

A MED STUDENT’S ONLINE MEETING WITH AN ATTORNEY RESULTS IN A MOVING VINEYARD WEDDING CEREMONY AMID A GATHERING OF THEIR CLOSEST TIES

from the winter 2006 issue of Los Angeles Weddings magazine
photography by Elizabeth Messina

Brooke Friedman and Sean Ponist’s match was made in virtual heaven. After the two L.A. natives (both were living the the Bay area at the time) found themselves single following long-term relationships, they met via JDate, an online Jewish singles community. “When I saw his profile,” says Brooke, “I thought, ‘There has to be a catch. This guy is too good to be true.'” She was a medical student at UCSF; Sean was an attorney practicing in the ‘burbs. “It’s hard to imagine how we ever would have met otherwise,’ Brooke says.

Both knew their relationship was different from the start. They talked about marriage on their fifth date and moved in together after just a month. On their one-year dating anniversary, Brooke received a professionally engraved dinner invitation and several dozen long-stemmed roses at the clinic where she was seeing patients. As she suspected, Sean popped the question that night after dinner on a stroll through Golden Gate Park, the scene of their first kiss (he’d flown to L.A. beforehand to ask for her father’s blessing).

After a fruitless search for a private site in which to have the wedding, Brooke’s mom suggested she contact family friend Karen Rosenthal for ideas. “We weren’t expecting her to open her home to us,” says Brooke. But the owner/resident of the Malibu Estate and Vineyard generously offered, and the couple graciously accepted.

Brooke chose and elegant, strapless Kirstie Kelly gown and had the designer add hand-appliquéd French lace and bits of lace borrowed from her mother’s wedding gown.

The couple was married under a huppah (canopy) made with their grandfathers’ prayer shawls. Brooke describes the traditional Jewish ceremony, which was officiated by the rabbi who’d performed her naming ceremony when she was a week old, as “very mushy and romantic,” and admits it was a struggle to make it through the vows they’d written without crying. For parents and grandparents, the couple had handkerchiefs embroidered with personal inscriptions: “To dry your tears as you have always dried mine” read Brooke’s mom’s; “For being the first man I ever loved” went to her dad.

For the festivities, the vineyard grounds were transformed into a Moroccan plaza, decked with cozy couches and ornate linens. The newlyweds dazzled the group with their newfound dance moves (they’d taken lessons on the sly) to Etta James’ “At Last.” “We did some spins and dips, and everyone was cheering,” recalls Brooke. Then, the Durell Coleman Band kept the crowd on their toes with hours of soul music. “If there was a roof, they’d have blown it off,” Brooke insists. Between tunes, guests sampled sweets in the dessert pavilion, where boxes labeled “sweet dreams” were on hand to fill and take home, along with a bottle of Rosenthal chardonnay.

Before leaving for their honeymoon in Greece, the couple spent the night at the vineyard. “My mom snuck in and covered the place with rose petals and candles,” says Brooke. It was magical.

The Details
Venue: Rosenthal the Malibu Estate (not available to the public for events)
Wedding Gown: Kirstie Kelly
Coordinator: Lisa Gorjestani
Photography: Elizabeth Messina
Videography: Bliss Video
Flowers: Bryan Wark Designs
Catering: The Kitchen for Exploring Food
Cake: Fantasy Frostings
Invitations: Dauphine Press
Music: West Coast Music/Durell Coleman Band
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