For their Sunday evening wedding on the broad lawn at Ray’s on The River, Joe Alterman and Stephanie Friedman didn’t stray far from some of the most important places that have been a part of their relationship.
The restaurant and special events facility, which backs up to an expansive view of the Chattahoochee River, is just across from their home. It’s also just a few hundred yards from where they had their first date, at the National Park Service trail off I-285 and very near the exact spot where Joe proposed last August.
The chuppah for the ceremony was draped with two tallit that belonged to their grandfathers, and the floral structure was created by Stephanie’s sister-in-law, Yona Benstock Friedman, who is an event designer.
Performing the wedding ceremony was another family member, Marc Gary, who is a former vice chancellor and chief executive officer of the Jewish Theological Seminary. The bride remembers his role in the wedding as something that added so much to the ceremony.
“We lucked into Marc when we chose him to perform the ceremony. He really understood how to make the ceremony so special and how to make us feel really present in that moment. It made such a difference to be able look out and to be able see all of our family and friends there, watching us do this important thing.”
Having such a meaningful ceremony in such a natural setting was exactly how both said they had envisioned their wedding. It all unfolded easily according to Friedman without any of the stress that sometimes accompanies preparations for the big day.
“It was just perfect. Like, everything really came together. We had both of our families present and I was really relaxed. It was easy. It was an easy day.”
Alterman is both a nationally known professional jazz pianist and the executive director of Neranenah, the Atlanta Jewish music festival. Friedman is an actress who performs as part of Humorology Atlanta, which entertains in area hospitals. She is also director of theater education and the summer drama camp of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta.
Their marriage cemented a creative partnership that first began in August 2020 in the midst of the pandemic. Their individual careers had been interrupted by the cancellation of most public performances.
Because it was difficult to meet in person they spent hours on their cell phones, getting to know one another during lengthy conversations. It would be nearly a year before their relationship became really serious, but all that talking created a bond that Alterman feels brought them closer together.
“We just have a similar sense of humor, and we love a soft shoe kind of music. But none of that common stuff would mean anything if we hadn’t created that sense of caring that we developed each day. We’re just lucky that we have so much in common to go along with that.”
Although Alterman has spent so much of his life devoted to music, Friedman also grew up in a family where music was an important part of everyday life. In addition to her skills on stage, she plays the banjo and ukelele. Her parents, Ross and Teresa Friedman, have performed together since they first met in the mid-1970s. Their Bitsyland Band is a familiar sight at community events in Sandy Springs and around the metropolitan Atlanta area. Teresa Friedman was Joe’s fourth grade teacher at The Epstein School, which Stephanie Friedman also attended.
Last year, Joe and Stephanie traveled together to several cities in Poland and to Auschwitz. The trip was part of a documentary about education and the Holocaust that was created by the well known pianist and stage performer, Hershey Felder, who appeared at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center earlier this year.
Afterward, they spent a week with Felder at his home in Italy and participated in a concert at the Zeffirelli Foundation Museum in Florence.
With all that experience, both as individual performers and together, it was only natural that music was an important part of the wedding celebration. Not only did they have the traditional first dance together, but they performed the first song as well.
It was a lighthearted carefree tune they composed, called “The Slipper Song,” that likens their cozy relationship to the bedroom slippers that they both have happily made a part of their life together. The melody is subtitled, “My Slippers Are Always On When I’m With You.” They recorded it for Spotify and it’s also available on YouTube along with a picture of them in their pajamas.
It’s a song that Friedman feels says so much about her hopes for their future life.
“It’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to making a creative home together, not just a physical home, but one where we can be a creative couple, with our slippers, together.”
Joe Alterman and Stephanie Friedman’s “The Slipper Song” is on YouTube, www.youtu.be/jH9aAf_N79k.
- Bob Bahr
- Ray's on the River
- Joe Alterman
- Stephanie Friedman
- Chattahoochee River
- Yona Benstock Friedman
- Marc Gary
- Jewish Theological Seminary
- Humorology Atlanta
- Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta
- Ross and Teresa Friedman
- Bitsyland Band
- The Epstein School
- Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center
- Hershey Felder
- Zeffirelli Foundation Museum
- The Slipper Song
- My Slippers Are Always On When I’m With You