Jstyle Weddings spotlight | Rachel Schuster & Anthony Southavilay

Suzuran Photography

How did you meet?

We have an inside joke that we met while in college because a friend asked us where we met and if we went to the same college. We both went to the same college, but at different times – I (Rachel) attended University of Central Florida for undergrad and Anthony for grad school. Really, we met on a dating app. Anthony has the habit of making pun jokes. The initial message Anthony sent to me was “Since we are a match, does that mean that we are an inter-Rachel couple?” I thought this was pretty forward, also creative and thoughtful, and thought to myself, “I have to meet this guy.”

Do you have any interesting stories to share about getting to know one another?

In the first couple years of dating, we went on a hiking trip to Zion National Park. At the beginning of the Angel’s Landing hike, we went off the main trail and found a log to sit on near the river while we ate a snack. Before we knew it, there was a large mule deer that came from the tall brush, and walked within 10 feet from us. We stared at the deer and the deer stared at us. We were not sure what was going to happen and it was quite scary at the moment. Luckily, the deer was not interested in us and then walked across the river. Four years later, we went back to Zion National Park as it had become one of our favorite places. We went to find the same spot where we encountered the deer and that was where Anthony proposed.

How long did you know each other before you got married?

We knew each other for six years before getting married.

When did you know you wanted to marry your partner?

Rachel: Anthony and I went on a two-and-half month trip to Central/Eastern Europe. During that trip, we made an effort to travel to different cities/countries that have significance in the Jewish culture. Some of the sites we visited were Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest, Hungary and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Visiting these sites created a lot of good conversations between Anthony and me. This was the first time I was really open about my Jewish culture and saw how accepting and interested Anthony was. This, along with becoming closer by being together 24/7 through travel, made me realize I wanted Anthony to be my forever travel buddy.

Anthony: I knew that I wanted to marry Rachel when she supported me through a career change into technology. I left a good position working in finance and I was nervous about the transition. I attended an intensive software development program and there had been a great deal of late night studying and questioning of my abilities. Rachel’s encouragement and knowing that we were going through this together allowed me to excel in the program and land a rewarding career as a software developer. Going through the program with Rachel’s assistance reinforced to me that we work well as a team and that she is always there to help achieve my goals.

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What was the best part of wedding planning?

The best parts of wedding planning were working together on a big project and getting to know the Cleveland area better. We grew a lot as a couple with our communication skills and learned more about one another’s needs/wants. I am from the Cleveland area and had lived out of state for over a decade. Anthony is from the Minneapolis area. Through researching various vendors, restaurants and visiting potential wedding venues, we learned more about the Cleveland area. The wedding planning was a good opportunity for us to discover Cleveland and to find unique restaurants and fun things to do.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your wedding plan and wedding day?

We started wedding planning in early 2021. At the time, many places were still closed/under restrictions. We were unsure if the places we were looking at would still in fact be open or what kind of restrictions would be imposed.

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Was there any spot-on advice you received prior to the big day, either in terms of the wedding or lasting relationship?

Some spot-on advice we received was to pick the most important aspects to us and design our wedding around those. No matter how much you prepare, the day won’t go 100% as planned and things will always happen to make the day go awry. The most important part of the wedding is having those important to you there to celebrate. Make sure to take continuous moments to be present, look around and soak it in. For us, we actually did soak it in as it rained on our wedding day and my dress got wet during pictures.

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?

Even before the pandemic, we had talked about wanting to have a smaller and more intimate wedding. An intimate wedding was the most comfortable for us. When we announced our engagement to our friends and families and told them that we were planning to have an intimate wedding, there was some disappointment from them. They were hoping that we would have a larger/more traditional wedding. Luckily, they were understanding and supported how we wanted to have our wedding. 

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What was the most fun or interesting Jewish aspect of your wedding/partnership?

It was important for us to put thought into our wedding ceremony and incorporate both of our traditions. Since we come from different cultures, it was essential to make our wedding our own with traditions that were meaningful to us. I was able to integrate different Jewish traditions and people from my Jewish upbringing. We took a “Planning your Jew-ish wedding” class with Rabbi Chase Foster from jHUB. Chase is my camp friend from Goldman Union Camp Institute. This class helped us to figure out how we wanted the overall feeling of our ceremony to be and what parts of the Jewish culture and Anthony’s Lao culture that we could integrate. We had Renee Blau from Temple Am Shalom as our officiant. Renee was a big part of my Jewish education growing up and knows my family well.

“The best part of our wedding was integrating both of our cultural traditions and involving our intimate guest list in the traditions. Performing the Baci ceremony underneath the chuppah held by our siblings was special. The Baci ceremony is a Laotian tradition of tying strings around one’s wrists to commemorate happy occasions. The Baci strings were made by Anthony’s mother and the portable chuppah was made by my mother.”


Rachel Schuster & Anthony Southavilay

Wedding Day

Oct. 3, 2021

Thyme Table | Bay Village


Ages: 36 & 37

Hometown: Mentor

Synagogues:  Temple Am Shalom and jHUB Cleveland


Engagement: Nov. 11, 2020

Officiant: Renee Blau of Temple Am Shalom 

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Dress: Lulus

Wedding Rings: Etsy and family heirlooms

Jewelry/Shoes: Amazon

Hair: Tracy Otero – Cleveland Glam Squad

Makeup: Ariana Reynolds – Cleveland Glam Squad

Groom’s Formalwear: Maestro Tailor

Bouquet/Flowers/Ketubah: Etsy

Chuppah: Handmade by Rachel’s mother, Elinor Schuster. The poles were made with driftwood from Lake Erie.

Photographer: Suzuran Photography

Videographer: Swept Away Videos

Planner/Consultant: Rachel and Anthony did the planning together. “Planning your Jew-ish Wedding” classes were taken with Rabbi Chase Foster at jHUB. Both families also helped on the day of the wedding with set-up and tear-down.

Reception/Catering: Thyme Table

Cake/Sweets: Rachel’s mother, Elinor Schuster

Rehearsal Dinner: Pho and traditional Lao food at the home of Anthony’s parents, Sou and Kaybee Southavilay

Invitations/Stationery: FedEx

Music/Entertainment: Anna Hoopes Violin

Accommodations: Anthony and Rachel’s parents’ homes

Registry: Amazon

Honeymoon: Hocking Hills, Ohio. Planning to go to Israel with Honeymoon Israel.

Extras: Baci ceremony strings made by Anthony’s mother, Sou Southavilay. The rugs underneath the chuppah were from Rachel’s grandparents’ house.

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