June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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How Yakira Bella Events Made Three Off-the-Charts Weddings in Two Months

Can you imagine making three spectacular weddings, with over 1,000 guests at each one, in two months? Neither can I. But that’s what Emily Gerszberg and her company, Yakira Bella Events, did last summer. With three children getting married, one right after the other, there was no question that Gerszberg would be the one to design, plan and produce the events, and make them unique for the personality and tastes of each couple.

She is the woman behind fashion brand Yakira Bella, the clothing line she founded in 2019, along with stores in Teaneck and Cedarhurst. Taking her love of design in new directions, she made a family wedding at her home in 2020, and from there began a new venture, Yakira Bella Events. She also began an interior design specialty. Both capabilities are now under one umbrella, Yakira Bella Design. The company just opened a creative project studio in Bogota, New Jersey to produce large-scale events such as weddings, boutique hotel openings and interior design projects.

When Gerszberg takes on an event, the real down payment is the client’s trust. She has one initial meeting with the client and then she takes care of everything. “For some it would be unnerving, but most clients come back saying that it was a huge relief,” she said.

The three weddings she made last summer had very different styles. The first took place at a golf course, the second on a friend’s farm, and the third in a Brooklyn industrial warehouse. To say that the spaces were transformed is an understatement. For Gerszberg’s distinct vision, they were either remodeled or built from the ground up, with unanticipated challenges that she and her team overcame. It’s not a spoiler to say each wedding was perfectly executed; any drama was over by the time the first guest arrived.

The wedding on May 1 took place at a classically beautiful golf course setting that Gerszberg elevated with décor and foliage. The event planner thought her biggest problem would be parking and transportation for hundreds of staff and guests to the ceremony and reception. She solved that problem by retaining an RV for the wedding party and golf carts for the guests. What she didn’t anticipate was a frost two nights before the wedding that put four truckloads of tropical trees in danger. To keep the trees alive, half the heated tent setup for the reception was moved to cover the trees.

Gerszberg’s next wedding was May 29. She wanted a tranquil rural setting. She found it on the beautiful rolling hills of a friend’s farm—with nothing there but the lush meadows. She had to build the structures she needed, and bring in tents for the ceremony and guests. The weather was not cooperative. The team was building a bridge to the chuppah area when a mudslide made the ground sink in. There was a storm on the Friday before the wedding that left the floor of the tent and the tables covered in water. Any staff working there the next day grabbed a squeegee broom to get the water out of the tent. But on the day of the wedding, the bridge carried all the guests to the chuppah and into the pristine tent. No one knew about the soggy mess the day before.

For the June 19 wedding, Gerszberg looked for an urban, high-energy venue. She didn’t see anything she liked that could hold 1,000 guests. And then she saw Industry City in Brooklyn. To the unimaginative eye, the empty warehouse was abandoned and gloomy. But the designer saw it as the perfect location, able to hold dinner and dancing, with the chuppah outside on the closed-off street, and views of the ocean in the background.

The Freilach band played at the country club wedding, and had to respond to some last-minute changes in the venue. But when Avrumi Shreiber, owner and manager of the band, first saw the space at Industry City, he thought he was being asked to do the impossible. “It was like being in an ocean without a boat,” he said. “You couldn’t even hear your own voice.” He thought about how he could change the acoustics with panels, drapes and carpet, but Gerszberg was adamant that she wanted to keep the venue in its original form, with the raw space. “I thought, ‘OK, here we go, we love a challenge. We’re going to make it work.’[My husband] Seth had a huge hand in the layout of the room. And we had a great team including the band leader and sound engineers.”

But they faced another problem on the day of the wedding. Although they had done a walk-through a few days in advance, the conditions on June 19 were different; there was “an insane amount of wind” at the outdoor chuppah. Once again, Gerszberg and her husband devised a solution, by using plexiglass and moving trees to block the wind from the band. And then everything was ready for a magnificent event.

Mordechai Shapiro sang at all three Gerzberg weddings. “Each one was beautiful and unique in its own way,” he said. “The wedding on the farm was breathtaking. The way they custom-designed a chuppah in the middle of a forest in just a few weeks was truly incredible. It was really magical.” But the wedding at Industry City holds a special place in his heart. “The design and décor were like nothing I’ve even seen before.” Shapiro said the chuppah’s location, placed between two buildings with the wind out of control led to a lot of complications. “But we had the best sound engineers in the business making sure it was going to sound as beautiful as can be. It was a masterful execution of hard work, love and passion for what we all do.” The chatan was a good friend, and they created several songs for the wedding together. “This chuppah had unique energy for me personally. The groom asked if we could compose new material and we spent hours sitting by the piano and working on the music. It was meaningful for him to write music for his new bride and for me to be part of their wedding.”

You can’t pull off such complicated productions without a team behind you. Gerszberg calls Erica Camarillo, a veteran events manager with a background in the hotel industry, her right hand. She first met Camarillo through a contact at Industry City, and they have worked together since. “Emily had a vision for each wedding,” Camarillo said. “Emily gets inspiration from her travels, or a restaurant she has been to, or a designer she loves—and I pull together the elements to put in that vision. We had so much fun, late nights and early mornings, going to design centers, looking for wallpaper, pulling samples and keeping mood boards. So many times, she would go in one direction, then fall in love with something and we would shift things to find different elements that matched. And once it came together, it was amazing.”

After the aesthetics of the space, and music to keep guests entertained and dancing, food is a key component of a successful wedding. Jacob Ottensoser and his company Esprit Events catered the first Yakira Bella Events wedding in 2020 and the Gerszbergs asked him to do all three weddings last summer. Esprit Events catered the first two weddings but had a conflict with the date for the third and had to decline.

The wedding on the farm presented innumerable challenges. How do you cook with no infrastructure? How do you serve? And how do you present a “farm-to-table” theme? The answer was to create the infrastructure Esprit needed by building large tents for cooking onsite and to bring in all the necessary equipment.

The food was served buffet style—but not the usual “time to get on line” format. Not with 1,000 people. Esprit set up many food stations with servers on the perimeter of the tent, and began with a “slow open” for guests while the dancing was still going on. “It felt very much like you were eating in the middle of the farm, with food picked from and cooked on the farm,” Ottensoser said. “The flow worked really nicely.”

After three massive weddings in a row, Emily Gerszberg and Yakira Bella Events are ready to produce unique, unforgettable events of any size, under any conditions. And bring that sense of awe and happiness that she experienced to others.

“One of the most validating things for me was having a moment to stand back at each event and absorb the whole environment completely,” said the multitalented planner. “Each wedding started out as a pie-in-the-sky concept. To see the guests really enjoying the experience with such excitement and enthusiasm is something that I will never forget.”

By Bracha Schwartz

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