Ileen & Avshalom: A Fabulous Fall Affair in The Berkshires

by Allison Micarelli

Ileen was 13 years old when she went to Israel to attend her first wedding -- the marriage of a friend of the family to Avshalom's older brother. At her young age, she wasn't thinking about much except for starting high school that fall and the fun stories she would tell her friends about her summer vacation. She certainly wasn't thinking much about guys!

THE BRIDE Ileen Gitelson, 24, support consultant for a financial information company
THE GROOM Avshalom Pinhasi, 31, electrical engineer
THE DATE October 21
THE SCENE The Williamsville Inn, West Stockbridge

The next time they saw each other was seven years later; she was in college in Pennsylvania and Avshalom, who lived in Israel, was traveling to the U.S. to visit his brother. A short visit with Ileen's family initiated subtle interactions between the two. A few months later, Ileen headed abroad to study in Barcelona for the semester, so on his way back to Israel, Avshalom stopped over in Spain to visit Ileen. And away from the pressure of family and friends, a romance began.

"We stayed in touch through the rest of my college career," says Ileen. "And three days after graduation, I was off to see Avshalom and tour Israel for the summer. I ended up staying a year!"

The following year, they were married at a historic inn in a rural mountain setting. Natural-looking invitations featuring a green leaf motif set the scene for a fall themed event, which was not hard to create in October in the Berkshires!

On the day of the ceremony, the fall foliage was at its peak. A huppah, topped by a prayer shawl given to the groom from his parents in honor of the wedding, was set up on the grounds of the inn; a short distance away, a large round table boasted a display of seasonal fruits, berries, and imported cheeses and crackers. Guests were served wine and champagne as they mingled on the grounds and awaited the start to the ceremony.

The procession began with the four "huppah holders" (the couple's brothers plus the groom's best friend), followed by the three bridesmaids, then Avshalom who walked through the rows of eager friends and family on the arms of both his parents. Then came the bride -- dressed in a white Galina gown, white ballet slippers, and a long veil -- who approached the huppah alongside her mother.

The ceremony was officiated by Rabbi David Small, whom the bride has known since she was in the eighth grade when he became the rabbi at her childhood synagogue. It was a traditional Jewish ceremony that included the signing of the ketubah, the traditional blessings over wine, the seven blessings directed toward the bride and groom, and, of course, the breaking of the glass by the groom which encouraged all the guests to cheer in unison, Mazel Tov!

"The ceremony was followed immediately by dancing, and hugs and good wishes from our guests," says Ileen. "We didn't even have a chance to have a recessional!" From a tent just a short distance away from their ceremony site, a disc jockey started ringing in the celebration with traditional Jewish dance music. Ileen and Avshalom didn't miss a beat as they danced their first dance as husband and wife to their favorite Israeli love song.

The dinner took place in the cozy dining rooms of the inn, decorated in a fall theme with jewel-colored roses (rich shades of red, orange, and gold to match the bouquets) floating in water and small pewter-colored boxed chocolates resting at each place setting. Warm foods such as Thai marinated chicken with pineapple and peanut sauces, seared Chilean sea bass with a lemon herb white wine sauce, Moroccan spiced chicken served with couscous pilaf, and spinach ravioli with a wild mushroom filling was served.

Among the dinner highlights were exceptional speeches by family members and the closest of friends welcoming Ileen into Avshalom's life and he into hers, and a super-sweet cake -- three tiers of chocolate topped with fresh raspberries and served with a drizzle of rich raspberry sauce.

Afterward, guests retreated to the candlelit tent for dancing that lasted well into the night. One by one, all of their guests wished the bride and groom well, and they said their goodbyes. "The dancing was definitely the most fun part of the evening," says Ileen. "We were the very last ones to leave."

-- Allison Micarelli
photography © Ilana Ben Harav Photography

For the ingredients that make up this wedding, see right-hand column of this page.

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