Throwback: Three Generations of Weddings

lisa berkowitz
Lisa Berkowitz at her wedding | Photos by Selah Maya Zighelboim

While her mother and daughter shared stories in her well-lit kitchen, Lisa Berkowitz, 60, came to the kitchen table with two photo albums stacked on top of each other.

She rifled through the pages of the smaller album. There’s the photo of her family from just two years ago, with her daughter Emily Fridberg, 33, in a wedding dress. There’s the photo of Fridberg surrounded by her bridesmaids. Fridberg’s dress was “funky,” with a comfortable fit and a top with a snakeskin-like pattern, while her bridesmaids wore green dresses of different shades, lengths and styles.

Top: Emily Fridberg. Bottom from left: Barbara Boroff and Lisa Berkowitz

That’s something all three women had in common. They didn’t make their bridesmaids wear identical gowns.

“We think a little bit out of the box,” said Berkowitz’s mother, Barbara Boroff, 83.

Boroff got married when she was 21 years old in 1955, the same year that Rosa Parks was arrested, Lady and the Tramp premiered and the first McDonald’s opened. Twenty-eight years later, her daughter Berkowitz got married at 25 years old in a large synagogue affair. Then, 33 years after that, her granddaughter Fridberg married at 31 years old at a Chester County venue.

Berkowitz opened the second album, the one from her own wedding 35 years ago. They did a photo shoot in her parents’ bedroom, with their green floral wallpaper behind them. She wore a white dress with a lace top and simple bottom.

When it comes to the dress Boroff wore at her wedding 63 years ago, it’s something she could see on a bride today: A lace dress with little sleeves.

“[My wedding] was much less sophisticated in the planning [than my daughter’s and granddaughter’s],” Boroff said. “Nobody even had planners.”

One difference between the weddings of different generations is the price tag. Putting a wedding together has become more expensive and, Boroff noted, more complicated. She doesn’t remember the cost of her own, but Berkowitz’s wedding cost about $35,000, or close to $90,000 in today’s dollars. Fridberg’s wedding, meanwhile, cost $100,000 and had about 100 fewer guests.

Boroff met her husband Alan, who died two years ago, when she was a senior in high school and he was a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. She met him through one of his fraternity brothers, whom she also dated.

“In those days, high school girls … dated the college boys,” Berkowitz said, “or so she tells us.”

They dated for several years.

Then, at Alan Boroff’s graduation, his father handed him his draft letter.

At the time, the Korean War was coming to an end, so Alan Boroff spent the next two years away, first at various military bases, then in Japan. The two wrote each other every day. Boroff kept every letter, she said, and after he died two years ago, she read them all again.

“One of the special comments was, ‘I love you very much, but I’m leaving a page blank so I can just think about you,’” Boroff said.

When he returned, the two got married at Temple Sinai.

They moved to Cambridge, Mass., after getting married, so Alan Boroff could attend Harvard Law School. Then they moved back to the Philadelphia area, where they settled down and grew their family. They were married for more than 60 years.

“We really did a lot of growing up together,” Boroff said.

Years later, Boroff played matchmaker for her own daughter, Berkowitz. During Rosh Hashanah one year, Berkowitz’s future mother-in-law asked Boroff is she could set Berkowitz up with one of her three sons.

They ended up setting her up with her son, Arthur.

“In those days, we all did a lot of blind dating,” Berkowitz said. “He didn’t call for six months, and we went on our first date in January.”

The two grew up in the Har Zion Temple community, though they didn’t know each other. The whole synagogue knew about their relationship while they were dating and, when Boroff and Berkowitz’s mother-in-law passed each other in the community, they would just shrug their shoulders. The two were dating, but there was no commitment.

After about two years, Berkowitz told Arthur that she didn’t want to just keep dating. She wanted to get married or break up. He told her he would make a decision in January, on the anniversary of when they first started going out.

The day of their anniversary, Berkowitz, who worked as a teacher, received a dozen red roses at school. The flowers came with a note that had a simple message: Lisa, yes, Arthur.

Later that day, he bought her a skirt, as she wanted to pick out her own ring.

They got married that October at Har Zion.

Their wedding was the largest of the three, with about 350 in attendance. The assemblage was so large they had to get creative with the bar, going with one that had a circular shape, so that a lot of people could get to it at one time. Rabbi Gerald I. Wolpe, Har Zion’s popular rabbi at the time, officiated.

“I do remember what this child of mine said after the wedding,” Boroff said. “She said, ‘It’s perfect. It’s exactly what I wanted.”’

“I wanted to get married,” Berkowitz added. “So I was just happy to have a party. I was just happy to be getting married.”

Emily Fridberg with her bridesmaids

In what might be a family tradition, Berkowitz also played a role in her daughter’s matchmaking as well, but with a 21st century twist. While Fridberg was a graduate student in St. Louis, Berkowitz encouraged her to try JDate.

That’s how Fridberg met her husband Jonathan. He was only the second person she met through the dating site. After graduation, the two moved to Chicago, then to the Philadelphia area a year ago.

Fridberg knew he was going to propose — they had gone ring shopping together — but she didn’t know when. After about two years of dating and during a weekend away together, he popped the question.

They were engaged for about a year and a half. Though they were living in Chicago then, they wanted to get married in Philadelphia, closer to where both of their families lived. Berkowitz ended up doing much of the planning with the help of a wedding planner. She hadn’t used a planner for her own wedding, but was glad to have the help for planning her daughter’s.

They chose the Phoenixville Foundry as their venue, and a Reconstructionist rabbi officiated.

“We knew we didn’t want to get married in a synagogue,” Fridberg said. “We wanted to get married in the place where the party would be kind of rustic-themed.”

Fridberg and her husband wanted the wedding to feel like it was just the two of them there. They also wanted the wedding to just be fun, with lots of dancing.

“A wedding is a happy occasion, a joyous occasion,” Fridberg said. “We don’t want to stress about little things.” ❤; 215-832-0729


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