When Daniel Rickman (aka Dan) and Alex Hamilton began to organise their wedding, they did not expect to be derailed by one of the biggest days in the Jewish calendar. But the date they had selected was Mitzvah Day — and a week after booking the caterer, venue and band, Dan got the job as Mitzvah Day’s executive director. Fortunately they were able to bring their own big day forward. There was no need to introduce the in-laws — by chance, their parents had lived next door to each other in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, more than 30 years before and had remained good friends. Dan’s family had moved to Manchester before Alex was born, so it was not until 2014 that they encountered each other on a Jewish Learning Exchange trip to Barcelona. Dan was a leader on the trip, while Alex had come along with her sister Charlotte, who already knew Dan.
After the JLE trip, Alex and Dan became closer. “I forced him out on Valentine’s Day,” says Alex, “as I felt no single person could stay home alone on that day and the end result was our first kiss and us booking our first date for four days after.”
Dan was planning to attend yeshivah in Israel and Alex was set to travel for 18 months but even from separate countries, they continued dating over facetime and whatsapp, with the occasional visit. Six months after their first date, Dan was already sure he had found The One.
“The proposal was messy to say the least,” says Alex. Dan had prided himself on constructing “big extravagant dates”. When Alex visited him in Israel in August (the fourth month into his trip), she had just had her birthday, so he took her to Jaffa’s Blackout restaurant, which simulates blindness through pitch-dark dining. The darkness, combined with a nice glass of wine, left Alex feeling sleepy but Dan suggested finding a bar and a long walk to Tel Aviv ensued. The route was distinctly lacking in bars.
“Eventually we came across a grotty bench and sat down,” says Alex. “Daniel was still quiet. After some nudging he eventually started to speak. We had discussed the possibility of getting married before but both decided now was not the right time (or so I thought). He asked me again why we couldn’t get married now and I listed the reasons: I’m too young, we haven’t been together long enough, I want to travel the world (which was already booked), there’s no way I want to be proposed to on a grotty bench in Jaffa, I want fireworks and mountains in Australia… and besides, you don’t have ring. He said: ‘I do have a ring’. I couldn’t believe it! It was a small solitaire fake diamond. I was mesmerised — it was the ring I had always wanted. I love circles because they are eternal and wanted an engagement ring to depict this. Daniel continued to babble in the background and eventually I told him he could ask me and, under a full moon with his big brown eyes looking into mine, I said yes.”
They set about organising the wedding, despite living in separate countries.
“The music and chupah were the two most important elements for me,” says Dan. “I love a dance and a party and fortunately I have been friends with Dan Rosen of the Function Band since we were teenagers, so it was a natural choice to book him to sing at our wedding straight away.”
“I am close with a number of rabbis and in fact had three different rabbis taking the marriage service, led by Rabbi Josh Steele, who was also one of my best men. It was absolutely beautiful and very emotional; never have I been aware of the rabbis getting as emotional as the bride, groom and family — but that was the beauty of being so close with the rabbis.”
Alex had her dream chupah: “It was a simple white one, on a stage with up lighting at every pillar, with beautiful flower arrangements flowing down the pillars. “After the ceremony was finished, all of our family jumped on to the chupah and were so excited for us and it was such a loving moment. We all jumped and danced and celebrated together. I just loved it. “
The venue was Sopwell House, in the Hertfordshire countryside. Caterer Philip Small provided duck salad to start, steak and fat chips and an assortment of desserts (crumble, chocolate pot, Eton mess and sticky toffee pudding). There was no theme but it was “very fairy tale and sparkly”.
“Family, friends and a big party!” in Dan’s words were the order of the day. “As cheesy as it sounds, it was all perfect.”
Dan describes his fashion taste as “quite eccentric”, and adds: “I love shopping and fashion and my appearance is very important to me. However at my wedding I wanted to try and keep it classic. I went for a very smart dark navy tux but, to mix it up a little bit, I had a dark navy velvet waistcoat with a paisley pattern, accompanied with bright blue Captain America socks.”
Alex’s dress had a sweetheart neckline, with a structured dropped-waist top, beading and lace embroidery. The skirt was layered tulle, with a long train, buttons down the back and a silver belt. A jacket was made to match the embroidery, for the chupah.
The bridesmaids wore bright royal blue dresses with sequinned bodices and Alex’s mother, Jill, wore a fitted navy dress with a corset and a train.
The bride and groom had surprises for each other.
“Alex loves hearing me sing… other than my Mum and Grandma she is probably the only one,” says Dan. “But I knew Alex’s day wouldn’t be complete without me singing something at the wedding. I arranged with the band that just after the first dance, I would disappear and change into the same outfits they were wearing and then appeared on a podium at the side of the room and sang mine and Alex’s song, All My Loving by the Beatles; fortunately I had the backing of the band and just about made it through the song with credibility intact, until the very last note, which I totally bombed — I don’t think Alex minded though.”
The wedding cake, ordered by Alex, was double-sided. The front was traditional, in silver and white but the back was Game of Thrones-inspired, as the couple are fans of the fantasy series. “There were four layers,” says Alex, “each one representing a different aspect of Game of Thrones.”
“The planning of the wedding is very much dominated by the bride and her family, often I just felt like a passenger and honestly wasn’t really too sure what to expect on the day — however, it was the most magical day of my life, it was incredible to be surrounded by all our closest friends and family, there was just a special energy in the room and of course Alex looked amazing,” says Dan.
“Alex and I consider ourselves proudly confused Jews; we lead a fairly secular life but Torah study is very important to both of us. Having been involved with organisations such as JLE and Aish for a number of years, we wanted to use our wedding to showcase how a modern couple can bring to together the spiritual and the secular. For example, we had a mechitzah for the first part of our dancing so we could dance with our religious friends but then the mechitzah came down so we could continue to party with the rest of our friends.”
Dan felt unable to choose between his many close friends, so he had 11 groomsmen, each with specific responsibilities.
“It felt so special that we had so many spiritual people who are so close to us and able to provide Daniel and me with so much guidance and support and they were all able to be such a big part of our day,” says Alex. “We even had enough rabbis for every one of the sheva brachot at the chupah; I never thought the most common profession at my wedding would be rabbis.”