Ricki Steiner and David Granovitz had already planned to scale back what she called a typical Modern Orthodox wedding to a family-only backyard barbecue at a relative’s house in Highland Park, N.J.
Then, they realized they would not be able to hold the wedding on the scheduled date, March 22, because of the lockdown ordered in the state of New Jersey.
While Granovitz’s immediate family arrived from Los Angeles on March 19 to take part, Steiner asked her father, Joey Steiner, not to travel from Cleveland in order to protect his health.
That meant none of her immediate family would be there. She has a brother in Israel, Jonny Steiner, who has a daughter, Reut. Her mother, Lynda Steiner, died two years ago.
On March 20, the two turned off their cellphones in observance of Shabbat.
“We went into it nervous, not really knowing what was going on,” said the bride, who is 28. “We decided to spend a lot of it together. On Saturday afternoon, I got a crazy migraine. I just knew something in the world was up.”
They closed their Shabbat observance with Havdalah with his family at an Airbnb in Teaneck, N.J., and then turned on their cell phones at 7:55 p.m. March 21.
It was then they learned New Jersey was going into lockdown at 9 that night.
“I’m still not exactly sure how it’s different than the quarantine we’ve been under, but it became very clear this held much heavier legal grounding and that having the wedding today, on Sunday, would be risky,” she said, adding she told her groom, “We have to leave now and figure this out.”
Granovitz, 30, told his family to get dressed, and the couple went to their new apartment and started texting friends and family to pull together an instant wedding ceremony.
“My aunt and uncle who live in the area, they contacted a rabbi,” she said. “He said he would do it.”
They also texted neighbors in their Teaneck apartment complex, which is home to about 50 young Orthodox Jewish couples.
“We basically texted the group and said we’re having a wedding here as soon as possible and we need … 10 men to help us, and that’s it,” she said. “And we were just expecting those 10 men to come out and that would be it.”
Things came together at lightning speed, 10 men in the apartment complex agreed to be witnesses through a group chat and Granovitz’s family dressed and came over.
Women at the complex pulled out the stops as well, contributing a headpiece for the bride, a bouquet and flowers to line an impromptu aisle formed from tablecloths. People had brought out a table as well to hold the wedding kiddush cup – along with wine.
“The rabbi rushed over and we were handling all the different key pieces that you have to handle, (like) my aunt running over with my wedding dress,” the bride said. “I threw it on. I didn’t even have a brush to brush my hair. I had no makeup on.”
The groom put on his suit and a kittel.
“By the time I walked out, there was a little crowd,” the groom said. “People were ready for the wedding.”
Granovitz chose a black and white striped tallit as a chuppah, and four neighbors held up the corners.
People played the two Eitan Katz songs the bride and groom had chosen: “L’maancha” and “Ki Karov,” prior to the ceremony.
“We were married under a tallit and four men holding (it),” the bride said. “I think the whole ceremony from start to finish was like 12 minutes,”
People sang “Im Eshkachech Yerushaliyim” at the end.
“I could tell there was so much raw emotion,” the bride said. “It was so powerful.”
Granovitz, a native of Los Angeles, celebrated his bar mitzvah at Chabad of the Beach Cities in Redondo Beach, Calif. He graduated from Shalhevet High School in Los Angeles and served in the infantry of the Israel Defense Forces after high school. He subsequently studied business and information technology at California State University in Northridge and later studied for six months at Shor Yoshuv Yeshiva in Far Rockaway, N.J., prior to landing a job as an application developer at a New Jersey hospital system.
Steiner, who celebrated her bat mitzvah at Young Israel of Greater Cleveland in Beachwood, is a graduate of Cleveland State University and works in the marketing department of Leading Hotels of the World.
She moved to New York City after graduating and met Granovitz on the website SawYouAtSinai, a Jewish dating and matchmaking site, although she knew his younger brother and one of her friends knew him.
Their first date was at a cocktail bar, which she found a strange choice, because Granovitz was driving and didn’t drink.
“I said to myself, ‘OK I know he’s a good guy.’”
She called that first date a bit awkward.
“I think he texted me two days later and I was like shocked,” she recalled.
Their second date was skating at Rockefeller Center.
It was after their fourth date that they began to feel truly comfortable.
After their wedding ceremony, they celebrated.
“We did – just me and David – held hands and danced as everyone else sang around us,” the bride said. “And then pretty quickly I was like, ‘OK everybody needs to go home now. Thank you so much.’”
She said the wedding was exactly as it was supposed to be.
“It was incredible,” she said. “It was extremely spiritual and special and … nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced before.”
It felt right, she added.
“I kept feeling like when we were planning the whole time ... this just isn’t my wedding. And then we were planning this backyard barbecue, and I felt like, this is so great, but something still feels wrong,” she said “And then I walked outside last night, and I went oh my G-d, this is my wedding.”