Moving Minimalist Wedding in Philadelphia

September 15, 2023

When you get married, it’s easy to get caught up in all the details you could include in your day. Some people are taking a more laid back approach. Gillian and Bradie had their minimalist wedding at the BOK Building in South Philly. They took the wedding traditions they love and left the rest. The result was a moving, high-energy celebration where connection took center stage.

A bride and groom sit in vintage auditorium chairs before their minimalist wedding at the BOK Building.

A Minimalist Wedding for Gillian and Bradie

I always ask my clients about their hopes and dreams for their wedding day. Here’s how Gillian and Bradie responded: “We want a non-wedding wedding. Major dinner party vibes – relaxed, fun, and warm. That full belly, tired smile, cup overflowing feeling. We are trying to do away with as many typical ‘wedding’ things as possible while still making things meaningful for us and our families.”

A groom sits in a suite in the BOK Building in Philadelphia.
A Philadelphia bride and groom walk into a hallway for their first look.
A Philadelphia bride puts a boutonnière on her fiance's wedding suit.
A bride crosses a Philadelphia street in a secondhand wedding dress.

This vision definitely came to life at Gillian and Bradie’s minimalist wedding. They made a great combination of choices about wedding details, their venue, and the rituals to incorporate into their day. It created a balance of “non-wedding wedding” and meaningful moments.

A bride and groom pose on the rooftop of the BOK Building with the Philadelphia skyline behind them.
A bride stands in front of a row of auditorium chairs in a Philadelphia wedding venue.
A groom poses at the front of an auditorium and smiles at a Philadelphia wedding photographer.
A bride and groom sit on the stage of an old auditorium with a blue curtain behind them.

As for wedding details, Gillian and Bradie kept it simple. Gillian found a colorful dress she loved second hand. They had very few flowers with the exception of boutonnieres and corsages for family and a few funky blooms on the cakes. At the reception, Irwin’s provided splashes of color with vibrant chairs and jewel-toned glassware. The minimalist wedding decor let the day’s emotions speak for themselves.

A bride and groom sit on a green couch holding hands in a minimalist wedding venue.
A bride and groom hold hands beside a window.
A bride and groom embrace in a stairwell in the BOK Building.
A couple poses with family members in a sunny room.

The BOK Building

The BOK Building was the perfect Philadelphia wedding venue for a minimalist wedding. It was originally built to be a vocational school in the 1930s. So many details from the school are still there, including the auditorium and basketball court. Bradie played a game with his friends before his first look with Gillian. 

A Philadelphia bride pins a boutonnière to her father's shirt.
A bride holds his mother's hand and looks at the corsage he gave her.
A Philadelphia bride and groom sit and read their ketubah while family members watch.
A groom laughs with his mother and aunt after a ketubah signing.

One of the great parts of the BOK Building is all the tall windows. The halls and classrooms let in a lot of natural light. You can even do portraits on the rooftop. There’s an amazing view of the Philadelphia skyline. Gillian and Bradie’s wedding day was so sunny and cloudless that you could see everything.

A groom holds a cocktail beside a table with minimalist wedding cakes.
A bride and groom stand in the doorway of Irwin's overlooking the rooftop wedding venue.
A bride and groom stand under a chuppah while guests watch their rooftop wedding ceremony.
A bride and groom hold hands under a chuppah at their minimalist wedding ceremony.

When a development firm bought the BOK Building in 2013, they embraced the spare look of the pre-existing interior. There are lots of interesting lines in the stairwells and auditoriums. Large blank walls leave breathing room for events like weddings to be as all-out or simple as they choose. It’s a surprisingly welcoming space and fit the atmosphere Gillian and Bradie wanted to create for their guests.

A bride and groom laugh at something their rabbi says.
A groom steps on a glass at the end of a Jewish wedding ceremony.
A Philadelphia bride and groom kiss under a chuppah.
A groom stands with his arm around a bride's waist during wedding cocktail hour.
Wedding guests laugh and drink wine inside Irwin's.

Would you like to learn more about having a wedding ceremony and reception at Irwin’s? Check out this blog post.

Servers walk between reception tables taking orders at a rooftop wedding at Irwin's.
Cooks dish up pasta for a wedding reception at Irwin's.
A plate of fish sits in the middle of a table with minimalist wedding decor.
A bride and groom eat dinner with guests at Irwin's rooftop.

A Blend of Modern and Traditional Approaches  

Bradie and Gillian have always been nontraditional in some ways. They did an elaborate mutual proposal. They designed their rings in advance then chose a thirty-day window during which they’d propose. Bradie booked a weekend trip to Annapolis and proposed during a very muddy run at the base of the Bay Bridge. Gillian had already planned a scavenger hunt. As soon as they got back from Annapolis, she sent Bradie around the house looking for clues.

A bride laughs while a groom gives a wedding speech.
Wedding guests sit at long reception tables and listen to a groom's speech at a rooftop wedding at the BOK Building.
A bride and groom laugh as guests raise them for the horah.
Guests raise a family member on a chair under strings of lights on Irwin's rooftop.

Knowing this about them, their desire for a “non-wedding wedding” made a lot of sense! Some of their families’ traditions were important to them, though. They included a ketubah signing before their public ceremony. During the ceremony, they stood under a chuppah. The simple white cloth draped across the frame fit perfectly into their minimalist wedding aesthetic too. 

A groom helps guest lift a family member for the horah.
A bride and groom dance in a blurry wedding photo.
Wedding guests dance at a rooftop wedding venue overlooking Philadelphia.
A bride and groom drink wine with friends at their BOK wedding reception.

The reception at Irwin’s was everything Gillian and Bradie wanted. The guests enjoyed an incredible dinner. As the sun sank lower, the drinks flowed and dancing started. Gillian and Bradie spent the evening laughing with friends and stealing away for quiet moments together. These photos really portray the lively, spontaneous energy that carried throughout the night.

A bride and groom dance together under strings of lights on the rooftop of the BOK Building.
A bride and groom lean on friends and sing along to a song.
A bride and groom kiss beneath a neon sign at a minimalist wedding venue in Philadelphia.
Wedding guests lift a bride and groom for the horah at a BOK wedding.

Are you interested in having me photograph your wedding? I’m a Philadelphia photographer who documents weddings on film and Super 8. Inquire with me here!

Thank you to the vendors who contributed to Gillian and Bradie’s minimalist wedding:
Photographer: Jason Moody Photography 
Planner: With Wisdom 
Venue: Irwin’s at the BOK Building
DJ:  The Other Wedding DJ
Cake: Second Daughter Baking Company
Makeup & Hair: Jessica Saint
Rings: Emily Chelsea Jewelry