Carly Schmand and Daniel Litwok

Rockville couple kept Jewish tradition in ballroom wedding

Photos by Steve Canning Photography

The couple: Carly Schmand, 27, grew up in Bethesda, where she graduated from Walt Whitman High School. She is the assistant executive director of Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac. Daniel Litwok, 28, grew up in Marlboro, New Jersey, and works as a senior analyst at the global research firm Abt Associates in Bethesda. They live in Rockville.

How they met: Carly was looking for a place to live during her junior year at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, and the group house Danny lived in needed one more roommate. Though they had been introduced, Carly and Danny didn’t know each other well. “I ended up living with him and four other guys,” Carly says.

The first date: “He was never on my radar. He’d been dating a different girl for his first three years of school,” Carly says. Daniel and his girlfriend broke up in the fall of 2009, and a few months later Carly and Daniel got to talking one night while their housemates were out. For their first date, Daniel borrowed a friend’s car and they went out for Chinese food. “We had a lot in common—what our interests were, where we were religiously. We are both huge sports fans and love to play sports,” she says.

The proposal: More than 20 of their family members came to celebrate Daniel and Carly finishing graduate school in Michigan in May 2015. The couple had decided that they would give a speech at dinner thanking each of the people there. “We both agreed that we weren’t going to talk about each other,” Carly says. “At the end he goes, ‘There’s one more person that I want to thank—Carly.’ And my first thought was, why is he doing this to me? I now have to think off the cuff to come up with something to say. Then I kind of zoned back in, because I didn’t really listen to a lot of what he was saying.” Daniel was down on one knee, proposing.

The wedding: Feb. 28, 2016, at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center

Number of guests: 215

The pre-ceremony customs: Carly says one of the biggest differences between an Orthodox Jewish wedding and a non-Jewish wedding is what happens before the ceremony. Danny, his groomsmen and several guests were in one room, where they drank, sang and danced. “It’s a way to bring him joy on the wedding day and also make signing the documentation a little more exciting,” Carly says. She was sitting on an elevated platform in a space outside the hotel ballroom with her mom, bridesmaids and others. Guests greeted her, and some asked for prayers. “In Judaism it’s believed that brides have the ability to give people good prayers—that’s our very lucky day,” she says. Then, Danny was danced over to Carly. In a custom that references the biblical story of Jacob being tricked into marrying a heavily veiled bride he didn’t intend to marry, Danny saw Carly and then placed her veil over her face. Drinks, hors d’oeuvres, music, singing and dancing were all part of the pre-ceremony cocktail hour.

Clarifying the customs: Since about half of their guests were not Jewish, Danny and Carly created a ceremony program that explained the meaning behind the Jewish customs they incorporated. During the ceremony the rabbis also described what was happening.

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