Photos: Katie Musser Photography /

There’s a common saying in Jewish circles: “רק בישראל” – which means “Only in Israel.” It reflects one of the many unique traits of Israel: that welcome, often-surprising, occurrences happen there. They might seem random, but of course, it’s part of the magic of the Holy Land. That brings us to Rachel Winestone and Noam Liss who recently celebrated their gorgeous wedding in Memphis, Tennessee. “We met in 2015,” explained Rachel, “during our gap year between high school and college, abroad in Israel through mutual friends.” Only in Israel, indeed.

The happy couple had input for their special day, of course, including with the theme and color scheme, venue and more, and Rachel’s mom, Amy Winestone, helped out a lot as well. “Luckily, we trusted my mom’s taste for the micro details!” said Rachel. Together, they put on a stunning simcha on October 14, 2021, at Memphis Botanic Garden.

“The most special part of our wedding was taking our wedding photos just the two of us,” said the newlyweds. “We chose not to have communication or see each other a couple of days before the wedding to make seeing each other on our wedding day more special. It was so nice to step away from the craziness of planning and getting ready to be alone and tour the grounds of the Botanic Gardens, take a breath, and enjoy the calm before all of the guests arrived.”

The signing of the ketubah was witnessed by two special guests, Rabbi Mendel Havlin of Chabad of Panama City Beach and Rabbi Shaya Tenenboim of Chabad Emerald Coast-Destin.

The bedeken, when the groom places the veil over the bride’s face before the ceremony, the cocktail and appetizer hour by a lovely fountain, and the ceremony near the “Great Tree” all took place outdoors. Baron Hirsch’s Ricky Kampf served as the cantor, and violinist Diane Cohen and pianist Claire Julian played during the ceremony, which was officiated by Chabad’s Rabbi Levi Klein, under the chuppah with delicate sheer white fabric draping down with soft flowers.

“The decor was elegant, soft blush and white flowers,” said Amy. “The ceremony was perfect with white padded chairs and an aisle that was made by the Garden’s landscaper. The weather was delightful with the sun setting at the closing.”

Michael Francis from Heart & Soul catered the delicious event – guests dined inside Hardin Hall under a painted cloud ceiling that’s decorated with whimsical bistro lighting. L & Jay Productions floral studio provided all the flowers, including the sophisticated blush and white roses that filled the tables. Ricki’s Cookie Corner & Bakery made the four-tier wedding cake. Making sure it all went smoothly was wedding planner Nancy Joffre, who coordinated the day-of arrangements. Photographer Katie Musser captured the stunning event, while Perfection DJs livened up the reception for some rousing dancing, which included a “celebrity” appearance.

“We had a special guest perform at the reception: Elvis!” boasted David Winestone, the bride’s dad. “Rachel’s uncle Lee Baum dressed up in a white sequined jumpsuit, sunglasses, and wig and sang “Rachel’s Way,” his version of “My Way.”

“The one thing I really wanted for Rachel’s wedding was to have a fun wedding with all their friends and lots of dancing,” said Amy. “Their friends did not disappoint! At the start of the wedding, they began festive Jewish dancing around the couple, including acrobatic moves and costumes! The night continued with a crowd on the dance floor. The evening ended with sparklers as Rachel and Noam departed in a limo to the Peabody Hotel.”

Though the guest list was limited to 150 attendees due to COVID, that didn’t put a damper on the wonderful day, which included many unique touches and moments throughout the festivities.

Rachel’s grandmother, Hermine Salky, added hand-painted designs on the invitations, and Amy handmade the table numbers, place cards and wedding sign. Rachel’s beautiful dress was from Maggie Louise, the bridesmaids wore blush gowns, and Rachel’s sister, Brooke, held the special role of maid of honor. And thankfully, it did not rain on their simcha “parade.”

“We absolutely loved the Botanic Gardens,” said Noam, son of Mindy and Marty Liss from Massachusetts. “It was a picturesque location and felt so unique compared to weddings that we attend in New York. It was still a ‘COVID wedding’ in the sense that we limited our guest list, and we knew that not everyone would be able to attend due to traveling during a pandemic, but the size of the wedding felt perfect. We had our close friends and family and that was more than enough!”
Both graduates of Yeshiva University in New York City, the couple now lives on the Upper East Side. Rachel is a paralegal at Erwin and Marcus, and Noam is a sales manager with Carleton Energy Consulting. As another Jewish saying goes – wishing the couple a happy and healthy life together “til 120!” as they embark on their wonderful journey.