When Gregory Kraut proposed to Haley Jordon in January 2006, he drew on the couple’s history, taking her back to New York City’s Restaurant Nobu, where they’d had their first date. When they chose the sites for their wedding ceremony and reception, history played an important part too.
Haley, 26, grew up in Scarsdale, where her parents still live. Greg, 31, is from New Jersey. The couple now lives in Manhattan but knew they wanted their wedding to take place outside the city. They loved the idea of a destination wedding but didn’t want to force guests to commit the time and expense of traveling to a tropical island. Haley’s mother, Madelyn Jordan, suggested Newport, Rhode Island, telling her daughter many Westchester couples were getting married there. Haley had never been there, but a weekend visit with Greg convinced them both that this was the location for them.
“We looked at four or five different venues, but as soon as we walked into the Rosecliff Mansion, we knew,” she says of the 1902 architectural masterpiece overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the heart of Newport’s historical Ochre Point neighborhood. They felt the same about Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in America. Considered the finest work of 18th-century architect Peter Harrison, the building was dedicated in 1763. “It was gorgeous, and Rabbi Eskowitz was the most wonderful man,” Haley says. “We knew immediately that we wanted to be married there.” The date of Sunday, July 1, 2007, was available for both locations, and they took it.
And so the planning began for their wedding for 180 guests. Although the event didn’t take place in Westchester, when possible the couple hired Westchester professionals to help bring it together, from photographer Todd Shapera of Pleasantville to Setsuko, a hairdresser and makeup artist for Jean Claude Salon in Scarsdale. “It gave me a sense of comfort having vendors from the area where I grew up,” Haley says.
All the details were coordinated by Joanne Sabato and Claudia Sidman of Joi Us Events in Mount Kisco, who report that although destination weddings can be tricky to pull off, this one wasn’t. Newport is only a three-hour drive from Westchester, so Haley, Greg, and Haley’s parents made three weekend trips, packing Saturday and Sunday with vendor meetings. Sabato and Sidman made additional visits.
Good communication—and a clear vision—also helped. “From the very beginning, Haley made it clear to us that she and Greg both had traditional values,” Sidman says. Yet it was obvious that Haley also has a very modern sensibility: She works in fashion, as a buyer for Lucie Jordon Buying Office in Manhattan. “So we did the planning in a way that honored tradition while also giving a modern, fresh edge to everything,” Sidman says.
In selecting a color scheme to pull the wedding together, Haley wanted to take full advantage of the Rosecliff’s beauty. She focused on the ballroom’s breathtaking ceiling, hand-painted in light blue with white clouds to resemble the sky. In very short order, Haley knew the maids of honor and bridesmaids would wear navy gowns (with navy handkerchiefs in the jacket pockets of the men’s tuxes), the flowers would be blue hydrangeas, white roses, and white peonies, and the table linens would be light blue dupioni silk. The fact that blue ties in with Newport’s nautical character made the choice even more appropriate.
“Nautical” soon became a major motif. At the time they selected July 1 as their date, Haley and Greg had no idea that Newport would play host to the Tall Ships celebration that weekend. Twenty participating ships sailed into and docked in the city’s harbor, the only gathering for the ships in New England during the summer of 2007. While the ships had the potential to throw a wrench into their weekend—thousands of visitors were expected, with major traffic jams feared—the couple looked at it as an opportunity to capitalize on a terrific coincidence. They chartered two schooners for Saturday afternoon to take their guests on a sail around Newport.
“The weather was amazing,” Haley says. “We couldn’t have had a better afternoon.” The rehearsal dinner took place that evening at the Chanler at Cliff Walk, a historic hotel near the Rosecliff. “We went with the theme of Newport,” Haley says, serving the 40 guests a clambake, complete with chowder, steamers, and lobster.
During the planning, Haley felt the pull of tradition in her desire to have an elegant rehearsal dinner, but she also considered offering guests the casual feel of a clambake. Once the sailboat trip was planned, the problem was solved: “The boat trip was very casual, with snacks and drinks on board,” Sabato says. “And the rehearsal dinner became a very elegant, seated affair.” After dinner, the rest of their guests were invited to join them for cocktails and dessert at the Chanler.
The wedding ceremony began the next evening at 5 pm. The choice of Touro Synagogue was meaningful to both families, particularly Haley’s mother. Her father had been the president of his temple, and seeing her daughter marry in a Jewish ceremony in such a historic synagogue was important to her. Haley’s grandfather was in attendance, in fact, and gave a blessing at the reception.
The ballroom sparkled as the 180 guests arrived at the Rosecliff. On top of the linens on half of the tables, Sabato and Sidman had placed round mirrors and a mix of votive candles at varying heights. “The candlelight reflected in the mirrors and the windows and everywhere,” Sabato says. “The room just glowed.”
During the cocktail hour, guests enjoyed a raw bar featuring oysters, littleneck clams, and shrimp. The dinner menu included striped bass and shrimp and scallop brochettes (and filet mignon for non seafood lovers). Guests danced to Night Shift, a “phenomenal” band from Boston, according to Sidman; a DJ arrived later “to play the techno songs Greg really likes,” says Haley.
A highlight of the night was Greg’s speech, in which he toasted his new wife and mentioned his father, who died last year. “Greg didn’t have anything written beforehand, but it was the most amazing, heartfelt speech,” Haley recalls. He also dipped her successfully during their first dance, to “This Year’s Love” by David Gray.
The wedding ended that night, but the nautical theme continued when the bride and groom left for their two-week honeymoon on the Tahitian islands of Bora Bora, Moorea, and Le Tahaa, where they savored memories of the night when their families and friends came together to celebrate with them in Newport. “You have to think about your guests, and ours had the most wonderful time,” Haley says. What about the bride? “That’s easy,” she says. “It was the most special day of my life.”
Haley and Greg’s Wedding Sources:
Location: Rosecliff Mansion, Newport, RI, (401) 847-1000, newportmansions.com. Caterer: Blackstone, Newport, (401) 848-2030, blackstonecaterers.com. Wedding Planner: Joanne Sabato and Claudia Sidman, Joi Us Events, Mount Kisco, (914) 403-8470, joiusevents.com. Florist: Stoneblossom, East Greenwich, RI, (401) 884-3220, stoneblossom.com. Haley’s Dress: Vera Wang, New York City, (212) 628-3400, verawang.com. Hair and Makeup: Setsuko for Jean Claude Salon, Scarsdale. Music: Night Shift, Boston, MA, (800) 465-1917, nighshiftent.com, and Ormonde Productions, Barrington, RI (401) 435-6200, ormondeproductions.com. Cake: Cappuccino’s, Newport (401) 846-7145. Photography: Todd Shapera of Todd Shapera Photography, Pleasantville, (914) 631-8353, toddshapera.com. Wedding jewelry: Jessica Namdar for Simmons Jewelry Co., (917) 339-2800.