June 4, 2015
By Janelle Griffith
Rebecca Cohen and Raphael Kasen were married on May 2 at Mc Loone’s in Long Branch. (Photo Credit: Allie Skylar Photography)
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Neither Rebecca Cohen nor Raphael Kasen was looking for love when they met three years ago.
Cohen was coming out of a serious relationship.
Kasen was in graduate school and expected to move to California after graduation.
Although they were both on JDate.com, an online dating service aimed at Jewish singles, neither was actively seeking a mate.
“I think we were both just looking for someone to spend time with,” Cohen said. “Neither one of us wanted the negotiations and commitment that a relationship brings.”
They tried every excuse not to see each other, despite their compatibility.
“My favorite excuse was that I said I wouldn’t date anyone who wasn’t working full time,” Cohen said. “He was in graduate school full time and working part time. I tried to convince myself that graduate school was not a full-time job and that he wasn’t motivated.”
Despite their denial, the pair had made an impression on each other from the start.
“I don’t know why, but something told me, ‘Hey, you could build a life with this person,’ ” Kasen said. “I had dated on and off in graduate school, but had never really ‘clicked’ ideologically with anyone.”
On their first date, Kasen invited Cohen to a Pennsylvania Renaissance fair.
“I was apprehensive,” Cohen said, “but we had a few mutual friends who confirmed that he was just really excited to spend time with me.”
The couple were together for 16 hours at the fair and discovered that their attempts to avoid each other had been a waste of time.
In October 2012, Cohen was convinced she’d found her future husband when Kasen helped her during Hurricane Sandy.
“My parents didn’t have a generator and we had to manually empty the sump pump. It was a complicated system, as we were using plastic containers to empty the water into a larger container and run that across the basement and empty it into the sink,” Cohen said. “If it wasn’t for Raphie, the basement would have flooded.”
Their wedding date
Kasen and Cohen’s willingness to help others — by nature and by trade — is what sparked their mutual attraction.
Cohen is an advocate at Disability Rights New Jersey and Kasen is a housing advocate for the Housing and Community Development Network.
The pair said while they can drive each other crazy, their passion to make the world a better place is what they love most about each other.
“I have to second my wife in that one of the things I love most about her is her compassion,” Kasen said. “She really does care about people and that’s refreshing in a world where self-interest is usually hailed as human beings’ highest calling.”
Kasen also loves his wife’s pragmatism.
“She always approaches problems from a ‘how do we solve this’ point of view,” he said.
Cohen is pursuing her master’s degree in social work, which largely influenced the couple’s decision to marry in May. The only available date at their desired venue that corresponded with her school schedule was May 2.
Kasen said his love of the Shore and the outdoors — also a passion shared by his wife — is what led to their wedding being held at McLoone’s Pier House in Long Branch.
“We wanted to incorporate nature into our ceremony,” Kasen, 36, said. “We looked at wineries and farms, but few were able to work with our budget and had indoor space.”
The couple was sold by the sand at McLoone’s, specifically, the opportunity to marry on the beach.
The decision to wed at McLoone’s was not an easy one though. It took some serious negotiations — not with venue staff, but with their families.
“One of the hardest parts of the wedding is having five or six or more opinions on everything,” Cohen, 30, said. “The parents on both sides, Raphael and I. We all had different opinions on what the wedding should look like.”
In the end however, McLoone’s felt right for everybody, the Scotch Plains couple said.
“It had all of the aspects that were important to each of us,” Cohen said.
What they splurged on
Kasen and Cohen said that while it felt as if they were extravagant about everything for their wedding, what they really spent extra on was a raw bar at their reception and a custom chuppah made of birchwood. The chuppah had Kasen’s father’s talis on it to honor his memory.
Because the couple loves wineries and wanted their guests to “take the wedding” with them, each guest went home with a .375 ml bottle of wine from Four Sisters Winery.
The extravagance didn’t end there.
“I know it may sound silly, but our cake topper was also a bit of a splurge,” Cohen said. She ordered it on Etsy.com.
“It has Raphie and I in our wedding outfits,” she said. “It also has our two cats and a barrel of wine.”
Where they saved
Cohen said the areas in which she saved might have been some of the best parts of the wedding. She and Kasen could not find a New Jersey-based photographer in their budget.
“I couldn’t justify spending $5K plus for a photographer, but I wasn’t willing to compromise and have less than amazing photos,” Cohen said.
She hired Allie Skyler, who is based out of Philadelphia. Skyler and a second photographer traveled to the wedding as part of their fee.
Even with the second shooter, Cohen said she spent less than $5,000.
“After tax, travel, hotel room and so on, we spent about $3,200.”
The newlyweds also saved on entertainment. They hired a band, Hometown Sweethearts, at a rate that was “very reasonable,” Cohen said.
Cohen and Kasen did not want to add the extra expense of bridesmaids for their loved ones, so they had an intimate bridal party. Cohen’s bridesmaids — her two sisters and cousin — picked their own dresses. Kasen had one of his oldest friends, Michael, serve as best man.
How they made their wedding special
From the engraving of their rings to their “Jersey-centric” sign-in book, Cohen said she and her groom made sure that their wedding truly represented their personalities and tastes.
Most memorable moments
Although the temperature was a bit colder than they’d anticipated, the couple said that “nearly freezing” on the beach during their ceremony is a memory that will stay with them a lifetime.
However, nothing could outdo Kasen’s surprise performance of Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right,” which he dedicated to his bride at their reception.