Rebecca Alter and David Levenson’s wedding last spring featured many of the traditions of a typical Jewish wedding.
It was officiated by a rabbi, and the couple exchanged vows under a chuppah, with the canopy’s poles held up by attendees; family Bibles; the groom’s Kiddush cup from his bar mitzvah; and Levenson smashing a glass with his shoe.
But, in the time of COVID-19, the couple had to adjust because of restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus. That meant they could not hold their May 24 wedding at a synagogue with a big reception in a hotel ballroom.
Instead, the couple had only eight guests in person in a casual outdoor ceremony in the backyard of David’s family’s home in Virginia, while another 150 people participated remotely on Zoom. They had a “wonderful dinner,” Rebecca said, flowers from a local florist, and a small wedding cake. Also – in a surprise – the newlyweds were greeted with a social distancing car parade after the wedding, including one car that had a giant inflatable champagne bottle strapped on top.
They were inside David’s family’s home after the wedding when they heard commotion and ran outside to see well-wishers driving by with signs and balloons. People they had not seen in person in weeks were yelling “Mazel tov!”
“It just made everything super special and exciting because that would have never happened if things were normal,” said Rebecca, 28, a native of Framingham who moved to the Washington, D.C., area 4½ years ago for her work in the hospitality industry. Her husband, David, 30, grew up outside Philadelphia, works as a policy analyst for the Department of Homeland Security, and is a Virginia National Guardsman. The couple has settled in Alexandria, Virginia, and recently adopted a rescue dog named Charlie.
They met on the popular online Jewish dating app, JSwipe. They chatted for few weeks and then went on their first date in Washington.
“Our connections were that we both grew up similarly [in Jewish households] and we enjoyed doing the same type of activities,” said Rebecca.
The couple was engaged in 2018, but waited for the wedding because David was deployed. Then, when the pandemic hit in March with their May wedding date fast approaching, they had to decide whether or not to postpone. But the date had special meaning to them because it was about when they had their first date four years earlier.
“We had two years to plan the wedding, and when COVID hit it was just really stressful because we had to make the decision pretty quickly when it started getting really bad what we’re going to do,” Rebecca said. Luckily, the vendors were accommodating, and they decided that after such a long engagement, what was the point of waiting?
“So that’s why we decided to get married then and use a small, in-person wedding and have it on Zoom as well for all our friends and family,” Rebecca said.
Recently retired Rabbi Emeritus Bruce Aft of Congregation Adat Reyim in Springfield, Virginia – David’s childhood synagogue – officiated.
One of those watching online was bridesmaid Allison Levine, daughter of Todd Levine of Levine’s Meats & Deli in Peabody. She was Rebecca’s freshman year roommate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“It was good,” Allison Levine said of the virtual wedding. “I’m glad really they were able to [get married].”
Hopeful restrictions will be lifted by then, Rebecca and David have scheduled their big wedding celebration for October 2021.
“Because it’s really important to us to celebrate in person with our friends and family,” Rebecca said. “We’re really both family-oriented and have a lot of close friends that we want to celebrate with, and it’s just really important to have that big celebration with all of them and do more of the Jewish tradition.”
They also held off signing the ketubah – the wedding contract – because they plan to have another ceremony at the October wedding. They are planning on a Hawaii honeymoon at the beginning of November.