I love it when a bride emails a submission with so much detail, it’s always such a joy to read. Today I have the wedding of Cherise and Michael at the Bel Air Bay Club in May last year. They had a multicultural Christian-Jewish wedding with Japanese and Serbian elements. I know, sounds epic right? Let’s dig in…
Michael was born and raised in Long Beach, CA where he never lived more than 5 minutes away from an In-N-Out burger! Cherise is originally from Los Angeles, CA, but moved to Shanghai, CH when she was 13 and then to Tokyo, JP when she was 17. She came back to Los Angeles for university and stayed for work. Coming from different faiths, Cherise is Christian and Michael is Jewish.
How they met
Cherise and Michael met at a Hollywood mixer for Asian Americans in entertainment. Funnily enough, they almost didn’t meet here—Michael noticed Cherise when she entered, but didn’t want to seem too forward, so he started talking to other people to look like he belonged before approaching her. However, he took a little too long, and Cherise was ready to leave the event before Michael even got to her! Thankfully for them, a mutual friend told Cherise, “Before you go, I want you to meet someone who I think you could learn a lot from in the industry.” Cherise shrugged and said, “Okay, fine.” Little did she know that this person would become her husband! The two hit it off right away, bonding over their mutual love for television and both having a Caucasian mother and Japanese father. They exchanged email addresses, and the rest is history.
Cherise knew that Michael was going to pop the question a month before he proposed, because he got so excited that he showed her the ring box at a dinner! He then proceeded to pocket the ring, saying he was waiting for a special occasion. So Cherise waited, but had an idea of when this would happen. She was taking Michael from Los Angeles to Shanghai with her for the Christmas holiday to see her home where her family lived, and they were also going to stop over in Japan for New Year.
Michael knew that Cherise had given up a job in Tokyo to stay with him in Los Angeles, and wanted to make sure the proposal showed Cherise how much he loved her and how well he knew her. He also wanted to ask for her father’s blessing in person as opposed to via email or over Skype—which meant not asking him until a mere week before the intended proposal! When Michael finally asked Cherise’s father, he responded, “I was wondering when you were finally going to ask.”
Knowing how important both her family and Japan were to Cherise, Michael planned a proposal in Tokyo with the help of her family. There were email chains with ideas flying around, and finally they decided to go with Michael’s original plan: proposing to Cherise on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight in front of the Tokyo Tower.
In fact, the hotel that Michael, Cherise and her family stayed at in Japan happened to be right in front of the Tokyo Tower. The group went to a jazz concert counting down to midnight, and at the stroke of New Year, Michael pulled Cherise to the side and got down on one knee. Through tears of joy, he told her that the reason he was proposing here was to ask in front of a landmark that would likely be there forever, to start the new year together and to promise her he’d take her back to Japan anytime.
Michael and Cherise got married at the beautiful Bel Air Bay Club, which Michael suggested because he had been to a wedding there that he loved.
“It was his first idea right off the bat,” Cherise said. “I insisted we look at so many other destinations just in case, but he was right. The very first one he thought of was the perfect one!”
The Bel Air Bay Club provided a beautiful view, a delicious menu from their own chef and a perfect atmosphere for the Japanese-Jewish boy and the Christian-Japanese-Serbian-Southern girl to get married.
“It was very important to us that our wedding reflect our diverse backgrounds and traditions,” Cherise said. “And we agreed that we wanted to get married outdoors overlooking the ocean, because we wanted to provide a unifying setting for our diverse families.”
Cherise wore a stunning Stella York off-the-shoulder dress with a long train and a mesh illusion back.
The groom’s outfit
Michael sported a James Bond-inspired white tuxedo jacket with a bow tie and classic back suit pants.
Groomsmen & bridesmaids outfit and accessory details
The groomsmen classed it up in simple black tuxedos and bow ties. The bridesmaids shone in cerulean blue floor-length dresses to match the theme of the ocean.
The garter that Cherise wore was an elegant blue lace that was handmade by her younger sister. Her earrings and hairpin were all a sparkling rose gold like her wedding ring, and her veil was floor-length and beaded.
The bride bought each bridesmaid a jeweled blue or pink bracelet from her hometown of Shanghai, and placed those (along with candies, photos and a handwritten card) into her “will you be my bridesmaid” boxes. The bridesmaids wore these bracelets and also each purchased a pair of coral shoes.
Wedding theme or colours if any
Cerulean Blue and Coral were the wedding colors, inspired by the ocean.
Food and catering
Cherise and Michael selected a menu from the venue, which included:
Hors D’oeuvres: Duck Quesadillas, Truffle Fries, Ahi Tuni Crisps, Beef Tartare
Drinks: An bar of wine and beer along with two specialty personalized cocktails:
Kentucky Belle (bourbon, peach schnapps, aperol, sweet tea)
Mr. Mojito (rum, blueberries, mint, sugar, lime, prosecco)
Mains: Gluten-Free Hawaiian Onaga, Beef Short Ribs, Vegetarian Ravioli
Dessert: A tiered gluten-free wedding cake of Triple Berry and Fleur de Sel (chocolate caramel), both barely naked and decorated with flowers and macarons that the bride’s 15-year-old sister baked herself.
One of Cherise’s bridesmaids who works in the Audio/Visual entertainment field DJ’d the event and was the emcee. Cherise loves music and musicals, so the groomsmen and bridesmaids threw together a surprise toast that was a parody of the musical “Hamilton.” The bride’s three siblings (Groomsman, 24; Maid of Honor, 15; Flower Girl, 10) also put together a special musical performance where they sang a duet and changed the lyrics of a popular song to fit the couple specifically. Watch below!
The flowers were a beautiful variety of flowers that fit the couple. They had Japanese cherry blossoms at the entrance to the venue, rosemary on each plate as part of a Serbian wedding tradition, and vibrantly colorful bouquets of dahlias, peonies, roses, nigellas and poppies.
The ceremony and traditions
It was challenging to create a ceremony that integrated our Christian faith with Michael’s Jewish heritage and identity, but we felt our special day successfully captured our essence as a couple and provided a beautiful atmosphere of God’s love.
We found a wonderful rabbi who was willing to marry an interfaith couple, and flew out a pastor who was a family friend of Cherise’s from Shanghai. The two co-officiated a wonderful joint ceremony, complete with messages of love, seven blessings over wine, unity sand (instead of unity candles) and a sermon. We were wed under a chuppah that was beautifully decorated with flowers, did the Hora (Jewish chair dance) at our reception.
We also had a ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) signing ceremony for family and close friends to partake in before the actual wedding ceremony. We loved the intimacy of the ketubah signing ceremony, and we also picked out a ketubah that had specific meaning to our marriage and was printed on Japanese washi paper.
Favourite part of the day
Cherise: We chose to personalize our vows, and for me, that was the most special part of the day. Being up there with my husband, committing to him and sharing all these promises and expressing how blessed I felt that God gave me him—and saying all these words in front of all our loved ones who flew in from all over the world—that was the best part. I had to stop a couple times just to look out, breathe and take in the moment.”
Michael: I think seeing Cherise in her wedding dress during our first look was my favorite, because it was an intimate moment where just the two of us could soak in the incredible day to come.
Easiest part of wedding planning
“Michael was actually very involved in the planning, and we worked together on it, so it actually wasn’t very difficult in terms of décor and theme. We knew right away we wanted to get married by the beach, and Michael immediately chose blue as wedding color because early on in their relationship Cherise had mentioned that she thought blue signified pure love,” Cherise said.
Hardest part of wedding planning
“The most difficult part was definitely reconciling Christian faith with Jewish identity. We wanted a ceremony that was going to honor God and be true to the faith that was so important to Cherise, but also didn’t compromise Michael’s Jewish identity. We have such diverse family, and didn’t want to offend anybody or make anyone feel like their identity was getting passed over.
We initially thought we’d be married by a pastor and merely incorporate the Jewish elements, but realized we didn’t have to separate the two because we felt that Christianity and Judaism complemented each other and both spoke a message about God’s love. The challenge then was finding a rabbi and pastor who were okay to co-officiate, and we were so blessed that we found the people we did. The pastor did the ceremony sermon and vows, and the rabbi did the blessings over wine and wedding pronouncement.”
Is it harder to plan a wedding when the couples are from different faiths/culture etc
“Yes, it is definitely harder! Even when you are in agreement on things as a couple, there are so many other voices pulling in starkly opposite directions when you are multicultural. Nobody wants to feel that their culture is taking a backseat to someone else’s, so you stretch yourself thin trying to accommodate everyone else when all you want is for the wedding to symbolize your union as a couple and keep God at the center of it. We eventually found a balance and it helped us grow even stronger as a pair, but it was definitely a challenge!”
Advice to give to other multicultural couples
“Doing premarital counseling was the best thing we could have done prior to our wedding. We did it with both our rabbi in Los Angeles and our pastor in Shanghai (via WhatsApp), and we found this to be incredibly helpful. We were able to speak openly about our fears, concerns, differences of perspectives and cultures and our ability to work together as a team and stand as a grounded, united front. The pastor was able to provide insights into a Christian marriage and expectations I might have had that I didn’t think to articulate to Michael, and the rabbi explained to me Michael’s background and traditions in a way that Michael hadn’t thought to. Setting these early guidelines for how to handle conflict and how to reconcile both cultures is so important.”
Venue & Catering: Bel Air Bay Club
Photography: Marianne Wilson Photography
Flowers: City Flowers LA
Cake: Vanilla Bake Shop
Videography: One Story Wedding
Wedding Dress: Stella York via Pebbles Bridal
Wedding Shoes: Steve Madden
Wedding Jewellry: Amazon
Groom’s Tux + Groomsmen: Friar Tux