AUGUST 2, 2018 – During their three-year courtship, Marblehead’s Jeffrey David Kessel and Pennsylvania-born Brooke Meredith Kessel were fortunate enough to taste many delicious dishes and are now enjoying the sweetness of married life.
“Our first date was at Temazcal in the Seaport in Boston,” Brooke recalled, noting that, when they met in May of 2015, “We quickly learned that we share a love of exploring new restaurants and playing tourists in our own city.”
During that first summer, the dining daters spent a great deal of time near or in Boston Harbor.
“We visited nearly every restaurant in Fort Point, spent time at the Boston Harbor Islands, and watched movies outdoors at The Lawn on D,” said Jeff.
In an effort to bring his b’shert closer to his hometown, the Bentley-educated CPA and assistant controller at TA Realty in Boston invited his then-significant other (who serves as the Social Studies curriculum coordinator for Grades 6-8 in the Needham Public Schools) for mini-golf on the North Shore. When it came time to take in the sun, the couple split time between Castle Island and Marblehead’s Devereux Beach.
“Through these adventures,” Brooke observed, “we forged a strong connection and friendship.”
That bond was strengthened by their common sense of family and faith.
“We both grew up in strong Jewish households that prioritized family, faith, and community,” Jeff said. “We realized we had similar upbringings and common Jewish values instilled by our parents.”
Brooke agreed. “We knew that we wanted relationships like the ones our parents modeled for us, filled with love, laughter, communication, and respect, and enriched by Jewish traditions and community.”
Though Jeff’s family is mostly local, Brooke has to reach a bit farther to keep tabs on her clan in Pennsylvania, New York, and Washington, D.C. She soon came to enjoy joining Jeff on his family visits, which often involved shopping in downtown Marblehead or meeting for dinner along Route 1. Jeff, in turn, happily braved the six-hour drive to Allentown to visit Brooke’s family.
“Regardless of the distance,” she said, “we prioritize spending time with our families.”
In fact, Jeff noted, one of his most memorable experiences with his wife was celebrating the bris of her nephew in Washington last November.
The families soon began to come together more and more.
“As our relationship progressed,” Jeff recalled, “our parents began to spend time together.”
With their mothers bonding over a shared love of reading (Jeff’s mother Joan is a librarian at Abbot Public Library in Marblehead and Brooke’s mother Lynn is an attorney in Allentown) and wedding planning shows on television, and their fathers enjoying Jewish deli, the parental relationship quickly grew.
“The only dispute between the Feldman and Kessel fathers has been over which brand of hot dogs is best,” Jeff laughed, explaining that Brooke’s father, Samuel Feldman (an attorney who shares a private practice with his wife), loves Hebrew National, while Jeff’s father, Richard Kessel (sales associate at Jackson Lumber Co. in Woburn) is a lifelong Pearl fan.
“We love that our parents have developed a close friendship,” Brooke said, “and our siblings have become close friends as well.”
When the time came for the proposal, however, Jeff felt that there was no place like Boston.
“We love to spend our summers at the beach,” he said, “and Castle Island is a close-to-home favorite of ours.”
The proposal came Aug. 3, 2017. “He told me that we were going for a sunset walk before dinner reservations at the Beehive in Boston’s South End,” said Brooke. “While on the walk along the water’s edge, he popped the question and I enthusiastically shouted ‘yes!’”
Though wedding planning can be hectic, both Brooke and Jeff have happy memories.
“Jeff’s favorite part of the wedding planning was the food tasting at the University of Massachusetts Club and the cake tasting at Konditor Meister bakery,” Brooke said. “He loved sampling the different delicious items at the venue.”
“The cake tasting was made even more special because one of Brooke’s former students was the consultant at the bakery who helped us design our cake,” Jeff added. “Brooke’s mom traveled to Boston multiple times throughout the year to work on all aspects of the wedding, like picking the perfect bridal gown at Ceremony in Beacon Hill and designing beautiful floral arrangements from Jeri Solomon Floral Design.”
Brooke noted that for many of these trips, she and her mother were joined by Jeff’s mother, his grandmother Myrna Sparks, Brooke’s cousin and maid of honor Jennifer Kaplan, and her aunt Jane Kaplan.
“The experience was special to me because we got to spend so much time together collaborating, designing, and laughing,” Brooke said. “They are incredible women, and I am appreciative of their love and support.”
On the big day June 30, the couple prepared at the Kimpton Nine Zero Hotel on Tremont Street.
“I was joined by my mother, cousin and maid of honor Jennifer Kaplan, sister-in-law and bridesmaid Deena Feldman, and aunt Jane Kaplan for a day of pampering,” Brooke recalled. “We worked with makeup artist Stacey Frasca and hair stylist Michelle DeCosta.”
Meanwhile, “I got ready with my brother and best man Bradley Kessel, and Brooke’s brothers and groomsmen Peter Feldman and Brett Feldman,” Jeff said.
After everyone was pressed and dressed, the couple joined photographer Dan Aguirre on Beacon Hill.
“We wanted outdoor photographs to supplement the photos from our venue, the University of Massachusetts Club, which is on the 32nd floor of One Beacon Street,” Brooke said. “We knew Beacon Hill would provide a romantic and iconic backdrop for our downtown Boston wedding and the University of Massachusetts Club would provide panoramic city views. We love Boston and were happy to have the city serve as the beautiful backdrop for our dream wedding.”
After Rabbi David Meyer of Temple Emanu-El led a Havdalah service, the couple signed their ketubah with witnesses Liz Brenner, who met Brooke on a USY on Wheels tour in 2001, and Robert Yomtov, who attended Hebrew school with Jeff at Temple Emanu-El and traveled to Israel with him on a Birthright trip.
“It was important to us to have lifelong friends that have shaped our Jewish identities play such an important role in our wedding,” said Brooke, who studied in Tel Aviv while an undergraduate at Boston University. “Having their signatures on our ketubah is a signal of the close friendships we share, and our hope to celebrate many simchas together in the future.”
Accompanied by Beatles classics, the pair came down the aisle with their parents and met Rabbi Meyer under the chuppah.
“We worked with Rabbi Meyer to craft a wedding ceremony that balanced tradition and modernity, as well as many personal family connections,” Brooke said.
Among the personal touches were Jeff’s use of a kippah that had belonged to Brooke’s maternal grandfather, Lothar Fuerth, and the couple being wrapped in a tallis belonging to Jeff’s maternal grandfather, Albert Sparks (who lives at Grosvenor Park in Swampscott). Brooke’s wedding ring was first used by her great-grandparents, Siegfried and Caroline Fuerth, in the early 1900s in Germany and then by her grandparents, Sally and Lothar Fuerth, in 1946. The kiddush cups had come from the couple’s bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies.
“These objects signaled our commitment to our faith and were an important way to honor our family that could not be with us on our special day,” Jeff said, noting that having Rabbi Meyer officiate was special because of the strong bond he has forged with the Kessel family and with Jeff, for whom he also performed a baby naming, bar mitzvah, and confirmation.
After the ceremony, the 140 guests enjoyed a live jazz trio as hors d’oeuvres and “signature” drinks made their way around the room.
As both partners were working at the time, the honeymoon was delayed until July, when they went on a trip to Croatia that had been planned by Brooke’s friend Marisa Costa of Amiko Travel.
“We look forward to celebrating many more simchas with our family and friends,” Brooke said. “We plan to continue living in the Greater Boston area and we hope to eventually start a family of our own.”