Under the Chuppah …

Samara & Johnny
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One night my sister came home from a party and said, “Samara, I’ve got a guy for you.”

Johnny had been living in Jackson for more than 10 years, working as a brewer at Snake River Brewing, when he met my sister. I had just arrived in town. A few weeks later, Johnny planned our first date—a hike up the Wildflower Trail at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. We agreed that he would bring the beer and I would bring the snacks.

We shared Johnny’s beer and my homemade soft pretzels at the top of the hike and talked for hours. After a sunset gondola ride down, our date ended with a first kiss in the dirt parking lot, where all great Jackson dates typically start and end. Since then, we’ve shared countless mountain bike rides, family weekends and holidays, road trips, cooking nights, new nieces and nephews, and dozens of cookies. 

Just over a year after our first date, in July of 2022, Johnny planned a camping weekend in the Gros Ventre. At golden hour, just before sunset, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. A million “yeses” later, we celebrated under the stars with a bottle of scotch and homemade cookies.

Next came the wedding planning.

Johnny and I wanted our wedding weekend to have a warm, fun, and elevated feel, complete with lots of personal details and opportunities to bring our families together. My family and I are Jewish, and we agreed from the get-go that we both wanted to have a Jewish wedding while still including both of our families.

We started the weekend with an intimate rehearsal dinner on Friday for just our family and the wedding party. Johnny’s mother created centerpieces using flowers from Canewater Farm in Victor, Idaho, and driftwood from the James River in Virginia, brought to Jackson by Johnny’s family. After speeches given by members of our family, we enjoyed a welcome party with all our guests at the Mangy Moose, complete with sloshies, toasts from our mothers, and an incredible classic rock set from local band Sister Karee and the Other Brothers. 

Johnny and I began our wedding day together in our happy place—on an early morning mountain bike ride, just the two of us. After getting ready with our wedding party and family, we had our first look by the creek in my parent’s backyard in Wilson (the wedding site) where Johnny was fishing Fall Creek and waiting to see me in my wedding dress.

The rosette floral lace of my dress inspired so many wedding details, including our invitations and decor. To go with my dress, I wore my late grandmother’s pearl earrings and the bracelet she wore to my parent’s wedding, making me feel like she was there with me that day. Our chuppah (a traditional Jewish wedding canopy) and Johnny’s boutonniere included fresh hops to represent Johnny’s craft of brewing, and we had kippot (or yamakas, a male head covering) adorned with embroidered rainbow trout for the groomsmen, as a nod to Johnny’s love of fishing.

Our ceremony was held by the pond outside my parent’s home, led by Josh Kleyman of the Jackson Hole Jewish Community, and featuring string versions of George Harrison and Grateful Dead songs. We included several Jewish traditions in our ceremony.

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First, we held a ketubah-signing ceremony with our family and wedding party surrounding us. The ketubah is a Jewish marriage contract often signed prior to the ceremony by the couple, a rabbi, and two witnesses.

Next, we circled each other seven times, as described in our ceremony program: 

Under the Chuppah, Samara will circle John three times, John will circle Samara three times, and we will complete one circle together. Our seven turns around each other parallel the seven days of creation and reflect the new world we will create together as wife and husband, equals in our partnership.

Then, Josh read aloud seven blessings. We adapted the literal translation of the seven blessings to a modern interpretation that felt relevant to us—blessing the wine we shared, our love, our life, nature, our ancestors, friendship, and the present moment. 

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Johnny brewed a special beer for our wedding, blending two of our favorite styles to make a summery hefeweizen-pale ale. The cans, complete with a custom floral label and Teton-inspired koozies, greeted our guests at cocktail hour. The names of our specialty cocktails, “The Wildflower” and “The Golden Hour,” were also inspired by our first date and engagement. There was also a soft pretzel and beer pairing station as an homage to our first date. 

We entered the reception to our first dance, with Johnny nailing an epic dip at the end! After a father-daughter, mother-son, and family dance with our siblings and cousins, the party got into full swing with a lively 200-person hora (a traditional Jewish wedding dance). We then sat down for toasts and a Mediterranean-inspired dinner of roasted chicken, figs and olives, falafel, saffron jeweled rice, and Vertical Harvest greens (from my place of work). We were blown away by memorable speeches from my father and our siblings, along with a celebration of my grandfather’s 88th birthday.

We spent the rest of the night on the dance floor and surrounding the cookie and dessert table, a nod to the cookie-table wedding tradition from Pittsburgh, where Johnny grew up. Then, Johnny and I wrapped up our celebration by dancing to “Rain King” by the Counting Crows and feeling all of the love, surrounded by our family and friends. 

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Make your wedding feel like you! It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in what you feel like you should do. We tried to give all our vendors a sense of who we are, what we really cared about, and how we wanted every aspect of the wedding to feel—warm, elevated, communal, and meaningful—both for us and for our guests. Then, we kept coming back to our priorities throughout the process, making the decisions easier. 


Wedding Date: September 2, 2023

Ceremony and Reception Location: Flug family home in Wilson, Wyoming Welcome Party Location: The Mangy Moose Officiant: Josh Kleyman (Jackson Hole Jewish Community) Photographer: Sarah Averill Hair & Makeup: Tanya Crocker Florist: Historia Florals Consultant: Elizabeth Kelleher, In Any Event Music: Sister Karee and the Other Brothers (welcome party), Richard Brown 4-Piece String Quartet (ceremony), Traffic Jamm by De Bois Entertainment (reception) Caterer and Desserts: Genevieve Catering Rental Service: Canvas Unlimited Transportation service: Valley Valet Stationary Design: Vibrant Events of Jackson Hole and Bespoke Branding Co. Other Specialty Vendors: Monique Lhuillier (dress), Moonstone Pictures (video), Vertical Harvest Farms (produce)Canewater Farm (flowers), and Snake River Brewing Co. (reception beer)

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