Tucson Couple Heeds Grammy’s Sage Advice

Wedding photos courtesy of Pure in Art Photography, www.pureinart.com

Eliana (Ellie) Boling and Daniel (Danny) Anderson became engaged in November 2019, and like many other engaged young couples, were excitedly planning their wedding for more than 200 guests when COVID-19 hit.

The couple was trying to navigate how to plan a large wedding during a pandemic when their world turned upside down. Ellie’s beloved “Grammy,” Marcia Light, the family’s matriarch, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at the end of April 2020.

Ellie and Danny were ready to postpone their wedding until 2022. They were high school sweethearts and had been together since Ellie was 15 and Danny was 16, so they figured pushing the date up a year was not a big deal. But Marcia wouldn’t hear of it.

“The one thing Grammy would always say is, ‘You don’t push off a simcha, you never know what’s going to happen. You still need your beautiful dream wedding,’” shares Ellie. “So we kept the date. Planning a wedding, not only through a pandemic but then also losing her was emotional and difficult.”

Marcia died on June 13, 2020. From her diagnosis until her death was exactly six weeks. She was 71.

They decided in the fall of 2020 that there was no way by their wedding date of May 23, 2021, they would feel comfortable hosting a large wedding. “So we downsized to 35 people, which still sounds pretty big to some people, but when you come from a big Jewish family, 35 is tiny,” says Ellie.

Not only do the two come from large Jewish families, but their ties to Tucson run deep.

Ellie is a native Tucsonan and her grandfather Ken Light retired in 2013 after serving as CEO of the Tucson JCC for 27 years. Ellie has many fond memories of spending time at The J’s summer camp. Marcia also worked in the Jewish community at Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging as the executive assistant to the CEO. She retired from Handmaker in 2013 after 26 years. Ellie’s mom, Kim Boling, is the principal at Manzanita Elementary School in Tucson. Ellie will follow in her mother’s footsteps in education as she begins teaching first grade at Walter Douglas Elementary School in the fall.

Danny moved to Tucson with his mother after his parent’s divorce in time to start high school at Catalina Foothills High School. He graduated from the University of Arizona (same as Ellie, and both graduated just a week before their wedding!) with a degree in biology with a biomedical emphasis and is currently working at NSI Nursing Service, Inc. with his mother, Yasaleah Anderson, who is the president and owner. Danny is contemplating pursuing medical school or genetic counseling.

The Tucson Jewish community was also a big part of their wedding planning. Wylie Westerbeke, who owns Table Number One event planning company, was the wedding planner. Wylie is also the daughter of Jana and Frank Westerbeke, owners of Gadabout SalonSpa, which has been beautifying Tucsonans for more than four decades and did the hair and makeup for the wedding.

The wedding photographer was Tina Marie Kraemer with Pure in Art Photography in Tucson, and the videographer was Lance Rand with Image Perfect Memories.

With Wylie’s help, Ellie was able to incorporate some extra special touches on her special day. “The butterflies in the decor represent my Grammy.” Says Ellie. “The cuff links that Ken (Ellie’s grandfather) is wearing have Marcia’s photos on them. So when he walked me down the aisle, she could walk with us as well.”

The couple was married at the waterfall at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. They changed venues from the original location of Skyline Country Club when they no longer needed to host more than 200 people.

Ellie and Danny then had to decide who would be the rabbi to officiate the ceremony. Danny’s family does not consider themselves Orthodox, but his brother attended Tucson Hebrew Academy and the family became close with Rabbi Billy Lewkowicz. Ellie’s family are members of Congregation Chaverim, where Rabbi Stephanie Aaron has been the spiritual leader for more than 35 years.

“We couldn’t imagine our wedding without one or the other, but combining a Reform rabbi and an Orthodox rabbi made us a little nervous,” says Ellie. “We had many Zoom calls with the two of them, and they came together to make the most beautiful ceremony that was a mix between what she wanted to do, and what he wanted to do, and what we wanted to do. It was a beautiful blend of exactly what we wanted.”

Since most of the guests could not attend, the pair wanted to live stream the event, but the internet reception at the waterfall was limited. Ellie’s mom came up with the idea of  “A View After the I Do,” where the newlyweds could share the ceremony on Zoom.

Their videographer sent the raw ceremony footage over because he wasn’t able to get the full video edited within the two-week timeframe, and the couple hosted a Zoom get-together for more than 100 people.

“At first, I was a little hesitant thinking it’s not going to be the same, but the fact is the raw footage really made it feel like they were there and they were experiencing it. Everybody loved it,” says Ellie.

In the end, Ellie and Danny were so thankful that they listened to Grammy and didn’t put off their simcha. “It was absolutely beautiful and everything that we had hoped for,” says Ellie. “I would never have thought that a 35-person wedding would be as much fun as a 200-person wedding, but it was just magical and amazing.”

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