Life & Culture

How to have a smashing simcha

Karen Cinnamon knows everything there is to know about planning the perfect wedding. So we asked her about hers....


Planning a wedding isnt easy. And planning a Jewish wedding has its own specific difficulties and stumbling blocks. So where can you turn for inspiration to help you create a unique yet traditional wedding; respectful of customs but reflecting your personalities?

This was the question that Karen Cinnamon asked herself three years ago when planning her wedding. There were plenty of wedding blogs, full of quirky, DIY, romantic, expensive or budget-friendly weddings (delete as appropriate) but nothing that incorporated all these things and a kosher caterer. So she set up Jewish wedding blog Smashing the Glass.

When I was planning my wedding, at around the same time as Cinnamon, I was obsessed with wedding blogs. I spent hours poring over table decorations, dresses, even groomsmen’s socks, in order to identify what I did and didn’t want at my simcha. I would have loved to read a blog about a wedding where they used books to build the chuppah (something Cinnamon features on STG) or see examples from a photographer used to Jewish wedding customs, but not one that all my friends had used. It would have saved me a lot of time, both trawling the web and trying to explain to my terrified videographers exactly how energetic the hora could be.

“I loved [wedding blog] Rock My Wedding and looked forward to reading it every day, but there was no resource for cool, creative, Jewish weddings,” says Cinnamon, who says that she didn’t buy any bridal magazines because they didn’t offer her what she was looking for.

Cinnamon, who lives in Kentish Town with her husband Jeremy and two daughters, aged one and two, says that she “wanted the heart and soul of the blog to be real weddings,” admitting that there’s a bit of a voyeur in all of us. And the 43,000 visits STG gets every month is testimony to the fact that other people’s weddings are big business.

When she set the blog up, however, Cinnamon wasn’t thinking in terms of followers or adverts. She was on maternity leave and memories of her frustrations when planning her wedding were fresh in her mind (“I got married late [at 37] so we did everything 1-2-3”). Running a freelance design business which specialised in rebranding, Cinnamon had experience of web design so, “it was easy for me to start it” and, with no start-up costs, she didn’t have much to lose. Her plan was to build up an audience over her year off. “I had no interest in monetising it but it gathered momentum.”

Her first post featured her brother’s wedding and she sourced other content by contacting photographers who covered Jewish weddings, but Cinnamon got her first unsolicited submission only three months in. This came from a bride in New York, something which makes Cinnamon particularly proud. “It’s very important to me that Smashing is a global brand.”

One of the special things about STG is the focus on what Cinnamon calls “Jew-ish” weddings, celebrating couples who want to embrace their religious background and traditions, but have married “out” for whatever reason. Some of Cinnamon’s favourite Jew-ish weddings include an Indian-Jewish lesbian couple (more of which below) and a wedding officiated by a rabbi inside a church. Cinnamon says that this one was particularly special because “the couple pulled off an incredibly stylish, warm affair and, by mixing, melding, and downright embracing their cultures (Jewish, Scottish, Catholic) somehow managed to achieve that very rare quality of pleasing everybody.”

The “ish” aspect of the blog is important to Cinnamon —so much so that she’s redesigning the site to dedicate a whole section to these weddings. “A lot of my friends chose to marry out and there was no blueprint; they had to dream up their own ideas. I felt there needed to be a real forum for these kinds of couples.” And now there is, with STG being nominated for “Best Multi-faith Wedding Blog’ in Wedding Magazine’s 2016 wedding blog awards.

The feedback from mixed-religion couples has been positive; “they say it’s the only thing out there for them,” says Cinnamon. One truly uplifting story is that of one reader who got in touch after seeing the lesbian “Hinjew” wedding featured on the blog.

“This is probably a pretty unorthodox request,” the reader emailed Cinnamon. “I am an Indian girl who recently came out to my parents as gay and they are having a lot of trouble dealing with it. I was hoping that if they could see, or speak to, happily married Indian lesbians, they might believe that happiness is possible even for me. I was wondering if you could forward this email to Archita and ask her if she would be willing to speak with me?”

Cinnamon says that this was one of the high points of the blog for her and she hopes that STG will show people that “you can fall in love with whoever you want and have the wedding you want.”

And now she has started offering consultations to brides- and grooms-to-be “in response to the reader enquiries I was getting.

“A lot of couples come to me overwhelmed,” she admits.

Over the course of a two-hour session, Cinnamon discusses options with the couple, curates a Pinterest board for them and matches them with suppliers. Being able to pinpoint suppliers is another aspect of the blog that’s important to Cinnamon. With so many out there — and so many possibilities for your wedding photographer, caterer, florist — how do you know which one will deliver the service you’re looking for?

Well, if you’ve seen their work on a blog then you know you’re headed in the right direction.

“I don’t feature every wedding that’s submitted,” she says. “I’m trying to show people how to do weddings their way, to bring out their personality. The best part is hearing from couples saying I helped them to have the wedding they wanted.”

So after three years surrounded by Jewish and Jew-ish weddings what has Cinnamon learnt — and would she do her wedding again if she could? First things first. She says no, she wouldn’t change anything about the wedding she had — at the historic London town-house gallery, The Wallace Collection — “exactly what we wanted” but if she had her time again, she might choose a slightly more exotic location.

“We got married in London so my husband’s 97-year-old grandma could be there but if that wasn’t the case then I would have chosen Israel. An outdoor ceremony is so special.

“I always loved Jewish weddings but never really knew why.

“I’ve learnt that Jewish weddings are special because they’re all about family and joy and love.

“Non-Jewish weddings focus on the party but we value that connection that happens at weddings,” she says, talking about the traditions that make their way into every Jewish — and many Jew-ish — weddings, from the chuppah, to the hora, and of course, smashing the glass.

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