Jstyle Weddings Spotlight | Alana Bandos & Aharon Gallardo

Jodi Hutton Photography

How did you meet?
We matched on SawYouAtSinai, a Jewish dating website for Orthodox and traditional couples. Our matchmaker was Susie Fishbein, famed cookbook author of the “Kosher by Design” series. I (Alana) flew out to meet (Aharon) in-person in Los Angeles in January 2020, and he planned the best first date weekend which got derailed slightly because I broke my knee about two weeks before the trip. He pushed me around in a wheelchair all weekend at an aquarium and a beach resort.

Do you have any interesting stories to share about getting to know one another?
I somehow ended up finding a Green Bay Packers fan (I’m from Wisconsin) all the way in California, and one of our first dates was a virtual watch party of a playoff game. During the game, Aharon completely forgot he was on a virtual date and started screaming at the players from behind his laptop. He was mortified until I told him my entire family screams at the Packers too, and that my dad has season tickets to Lambeau (Field). I think that sealed the deal for him!
Also, we both lived in Israel at the same time, had mutual friends, lived only a 10-minute walk away from each other, and actually were at the same bar on the same night, but had never met or heard of each other until we matched online years later when I was living in Cleveland and he moved back to California.

How long did you know each other before you got married?
About two and a half years.

When did you know you wanted to marry your partner?
I fell in love with him on a beach weekend getaway when he told me he wanted to name our future children Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (There’s some debate about whether or not this will actually happen.) The same day, I watched him take care of his dog after a scary encounter and I knew then that I wanted to marry someone who was as compassionate as he was funny.
Aharon: When we drove across the country to Cleveland with my dog to move in together. We drove through every type of weather and stayed in hotels in the middle of nowhere, and I knew then we could get through anything, especially after my dog got sick and Alana handled it so well throughout the entire drive.

What was the best part of wedding planning?
Doing everything as a couple; we were full partners in the wedding planning process and were in sync about every decision. We wanted the same thing; we both even found the venue separately on individual visits to the zoo and simultaneously said (without planning to) “the zoo” when we first got engaged and were asked if we had any dream venues in mind.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your wedding plan and wedding day?
About 100 guests were not comfortable traveling for our wedding and I can’t say I blame them. We ended up getting COVID the day after our wedding and spent our first week of marriage taking care of each other and falling asleep while watching Disney movies on the couch. We rescheduled our honeymoon because of COVID.

Was there any spot-on advice you received prior to the big day, either in terms of the wedding or lasting relationship? For wedding planning, that something will go wrong on your special day; accept that now, before the wedding, and enjoy the day anyway. For marriage, we did marriage counseling with our rabbi and found it really helpful. We still reference the lessons a year later.

Jodi Hutton Photography

Were there any conflicts between the two of you or your families in the planning process? Did either of you have to make any sacrifices?
Our families both live out of state, so it was hard for them to fully engage in the wedding planning process as much as we or they would have liked. Additionally, although we do not identify as Orthodox, we wanted to accommodate Orthodox friends and family and planned much of our wedding weekend around their needs to be as inclusive as possible, which at times was challenging.

What was the most fun or interesting Jewish aspect of your wedding/partnership?
We wanted our wedding to reflect traditional customs, but with a modern, egalitarian twist. We had a kabbalat panim prior to the chuppah where Aharon greeted his guests and I greeted mine (co-ed for both). At the conclusion of the kabbalat panim, he was escorted to me, accompanied by friends and family singing a joyful wedding song, all the while walking backwards. When the singing stopped and he finally turned to face me, we both cried. It was an intense emotional moment equally full of both passion and joy.

During the ceremony under a pavilion with a background reminiscent of a jungle, a lightning storm was brewing, causing the lions and elephants at the zoo to start roaring. The rabbi had to pause speaking because the animals were so loud, and he beautifully worked in the animals roaring as a Jewish concept/text relating to all the animals of Earth giving their approval of a happy marriage. It was definitely a unique wedding ceremony that neither us nor any of our 150 guests had ever experienced. Guests still bring up the lions chiming in during the ceremony as something they never expected to hear in Ohio and the most memorable wedding ceremony they had ever attended.

-Alana and Aharon
Jodi Hutton Photography

Alana Bandos  & Aharon Gallardo                                                             

Wedding Day
Aug. 21, 2022
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Ages: 33 & 31
Hometown: South Euclid
Synagogue: Congregation Shaarey Tikvah

Jodi Hutton Photography


Engagement: Oct. 3, 2021

Officiant: Rabbi Scott Roland, Congregation Shaarey Tikvah

Wedding Colors: Ocean themed – oasis/aqua blue, charcoal gray and coral. The reception was decorated and lit to look like an ocean floor, and our wedding cake was decorated to match ocean waves.

Dress/Veil: Allure Bridal from Brides by Young in Schaumburg, Ill.

Wedding Rings: Michael Hayes was our jewelry designer and some of the diamonds on our rings, including the main diamond on my engagement ring, were heirloom stones from Aharon’s great-grandmother’s ring.

Jewelry: Some of the jewelry was purchased from Kay Jewelers. My (Alana’s) necklace was fashioned from my mother’s engagement ring diamond. My mom also gifted Aharon with a gold chai that was casted to match my late grandfather’s.

Shoes: Touch of Nina

Hair: Shannon Hammond

Makeup: REFeyeANCE Makeup, Lauren Czukal

Bridesmaids Dresses: David’s Bridal

Groom’s/Groomsmens Formalwear: Men’s Wearhouse

Bouquet/Flowers/Chuppah/Wedding Coordinator: Brenda Kucinski, Socially Artistic Events

Jodi Hutton Photography

Ketubah: Jerise, purchased custom-made from Etsy

Photographer: Jodi Hutton Photography

Reception: Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Stillwater Place

Catering/Cake/Sweets: Preferred Kosher Catering

Rehearsal Dinner: Jewish Family Experience in University Heights

Music/Entertainment: Follow the Sun, live wedding band for reception. City Six Strings, ceremony and cocktail hour music.

Accommodations: Home2 Suites by Hilton Beachwood; Hotel Indigo Beachwood; Hyatt Place Lyndhurst

Registries: Zola, Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon and Judaica stores

Honeymoon: Hawaii

Extras: Mitchell’s Ice Cream catered an ice cream bar for our morning-after brunch; Mr. Formal Transportation provided shuttle buses to and from hotels/venue; Northwest Limousines was the limo service for bridal party.

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