The big day had arrived! I slept about 10 hours in the past two days and I woke up with knots in my stomach. Not to be graphic, but the idea of getting married literally scared the shit out of me! I rushed into the shower moments before Andrea the makeup artist arrived and got a reassuring text from my hair girl, Rachel. I hoped that Ashlea Wessel, my photographer, would arrive safely over the border. The morning was a flurry of activity as Chris, Jillian, Alyssa, Vicki, Alia and I got ready.
"I need a bobby pin!"
"Where are the scissors?"
"Has anyone seen my purse?"
"Can you grab my makeup bag upstairs for me?"
"I can't find my hair clip!"
"Help, I need some tape!"
“Does anyone have red lipstick?”
"When's the limo getting here?"
"Who has the flowers?"
Chaos was an understatement.
I was feeling pretty calm and catered to. It was nice to have professionals on hand to get my hair and makeup covered. This week had been a real nightmare. As of Tuesday, I had no idea who was going to do our hair since the stylist I booked six months ago had been blowing off all my calls, texts and emails for ten days. (What kind of person does that anyway??) At the last second, my future-sister-in-law Jillian pulled through for me and summoned a makeup artist and a hair stylist. I was really appreciative that Andrea was willing to come in before work and get me together. Rachel had really been a God-send as well. She devoted one night, one afternoon and one morning to my cause with a perfectionist's eye and a dedication to customer satisfaction. I would highly recommend these two to anyone! When Ashlea arrived with her camera, I was happy to see that she fit right in with the group and chatted with us effortlessly. This boisterous mood made things go smoother and took my mind off the nervousness I couldn't avoid. I'm not sure if it was the idea of being the center of attention, that "forever-ness" feeling, the fear that I wouldn't be ready in time, or the stubborn passing of "childhood" that caused the butterflies.
I started to really feel the pinch when the limo driver showed up a half hour early. He said no rush, but I still wasn't even in my gown yet! And furthermore, my half-ass-packed luggage was still in my trunk! All the essentials were not in my purse! My makeup was still lying all over the table! My hair clip and curls were not yet finalized! "Just breathe, breathe, breathe, be calm," I reminded myself. Delegating tasks made things easier. I was really glad I spent so much time planning the details out in advance because whatever people asked me was promptly answered in autopilot with a "Yeah, sure, do whatever."
I was filled with mania and curiosity when we hopped into the limo. I felt better knowing Chris, my maid of honor, was by my side and wouldn't let me come undone. My thigh-highs, however, were being a pain and loved to come unclipped... I couldn't wait to ditch them! Looking out the window, I was pleased to see blue skies, flowers blooming and warm 65-degree sunshine. I stared at the skyway and the cityscape as if it were foreign and I were viewing life with fresh eyes. I dismissed all the last-minute jitters and thought, “If not married to Eric, where would I be?” I couldn’t imagine my life without him as a prominent figurehead. I couldn’t fathom having no one to eat dinners with, being left without his infinite wisdom, wondering if I would ever find someone to love me, missing out on all his smiles and corny jokes, or resorting to scouring bars for non-psychotic gentlemen who were worth more than the shoes they put themselves in. Why does marriage have to be so daunting? After three years, what has really changed? He’s always been the wonderful, intriguing, handsome, stable and fun man I first met. Since our engagement, he’s only gotten sweeter. Indeed I was a lucky girl, I thought. Then I began to wonder, “Why me? Why am I so blessed? What makes me so special that I’m awarded this blissful fate?” The answer never came, but I thanked God, smiled and took a deep breath. Here we go!
Pulling up to the church, I couldn’t believe the masses of people hoarded outside down the sidewalk! Aren’t these people supposed to be sequestered away inside, awaiting my arrival, not outside clamoring like paparazzi? I was nervous… very, very nervous. All eyes were focused on the limo. Even though I knew no one could see me, I was still feeling all pissypants. There was no way I was trying to hit the bathroom before the ceremony, so I hoped the bladder would settle down once I got out and hopped around a little bit. I know it’s tradition that the bride is supposed to hide in the limo until everyone is inside and her moment has arrived, but I was overflowing with anxious energy and I just had to get up and fly from one flower to the next. “Hello!” “How do you do?” “Nice to see you!” “Thank-you!” “Welcome!” “It’s the big day!” Trite autopilot phrases came out of my mouth as my eyes quickly darted to all the familiar faces – an Aunt Sylvia here, a Dan Lobalsamo there, a Steve Schenkel with a video camera.
My dad ushered the equally nervous bridesmaids and myself into the church corridor. We practiced lining up, adjusting our dresses and hanging onto our bouquets like grim death. The last thing we needed was a flower dropping and subsequent bouquet stomping. Naturally, my father whispered something along the lines of, “You look beautiful, sweetie” and “Today is your big day” that made me a little misty-eyed. I had told myself copiously the day before, “I cannot be a big crybaby at the wedding! I simply can’t!” It’s not the fear of vulnerability or sentimentality that drove my deep-seated desire to remain dry-eyed, but rather a more practical concern. If I cried, then my eyes would be red, my nose would be running, my throat would be mucussy, my face would be salty, my makeup would be smudged. I would look like a royal wreck! Is that how I want to be remembered? Goodness no! I ran through my inner monologue: “I am proud. I am blessed. I am supposed to exude beauty, poise, elegance and bliss. This is the best day of my life. Just have to make it through this ceremony and it will be all downhill from there. My sweet Eric is up there waiting for me and he wants to see me happy. I will not cry. I will not sob. I will not tear. I am a graceful, happy, proud bride. This is my day. Don’t mess this up. Breathe.” The monologue worked wonderfully! I came back to it during several moments of the mass – notably during songs like Ave Maria and when I caught my mom’s teary eye in the pew.
The one time I felt unable to hold it together was standing with Dadman and Eric at the altar. Eric’s eyes watered and his expression when he saw me almost made me cry. Dad told Eric, “This is my Princess, my first-born daughter, my #1. Now you have to be the knight in her day, her protector, her rock. Love her with all your heart, protect her and cherish her. You have my blessing and I’m proud to welcome you as a son.” Dad’s sentimentality always has a way of crumpling me like a paper bag! I took deep breaths, looked away for a moment and shook away the tears that threatened to roll. Moments don’t really get more touching than this, I thought.
The mass was wonderful. I’ve never enjoyed church so much. I loved hearing Jillian, my dad, Nate and Father Ed run through the readings we’d selected. The responsorial song was particularly inspiring as Emese sang, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad” in an upbeat manner with an almost medieval Celtic tune playing in the background. I heard people singing along, which was nice. During a few quiet moments, Eric leaned over and said, “You look beautiful… your hair is perfect… your makeup is pretty… I love your dress… I really like this veil… good choice… you’re amazing.” I looked over at him and saw the tears and thought, “Goodness, and I was worried that I would lose it! He’s so sweet! Well, he deserves to be a mush-mellow today. I’ve been crying about this wedding for nine months straight!” I held his hand as much as possible and smiled warmly. This was a wonderful day indeed. “I Do” was the easy part. Just surviving the tumultuous anxiety to get there was the hard part!
Suffice to say, the mass couldn’t be all serious. Chris and Steve were misinformed about where to find the gifts to bring up, so they took a senseless stroll halfway down the aisle, looked around, and were called back to the front of the altar where the gifts had been moved. The nervous laughter was our catharsis. Then we had to light the unity candle and bring a flower to Mary for her blessing. I successfully managed to kick my dress about and avoid a tumble down the stairs, but we weren’t exactly sure where this Mary statue was… and I was pretty sure we gave the flower to Joseph by accident!
After the ceremony, we lined up and said hello and goodbye to everyone. There were a lot of familiar faces and a few new ones too. My face began hurting from smiling so much. The compliments flowed like honey: “You look absolutely stunning!” “Love the hair!” “Your dress is gorgeous!” “I see your vision and it was brilliantly executed!” “Love the vintage theme!” “Wild color!” “Nice shoes!” “The girls’ dresses look great!” “Wonderful ceremony!” And, of course, there were many “Congratulations” to go around too. By the time we escaped the line and snapped a few family photos outside, I was amazed to see it was already 3:15. We just barely had enough time to get to The Buffalo Club, so our “punk rock” shots at Founding Fathers were out of the question.
Ashlea had gotten a bit turned around on her way to The Buffalo Club, but she pulled up shortly and we began getting our photo shoot in order. She was inspired by her surroundings and had a bunch of ideas for us. Lori at The Buffalo Club was awesome! She snuck us a complimentary couples shot before the bar opened and let us crawl all over the Members-Only space before anyone had a chance to kick us out. We sprawled across the bar top, pulled ties, held up our glasses and got a bunch of fun shots. She got boys-only and girls-only photos down the hallway and snapped a few shots in front of the big buffalo head fireplace. Eric and I posed outside by the gate for our newlywed photos. The venue was simply stunning and perfectly what I had envisioned for my Roaring Twenties theme. Once all the guests started arriving and the place started filling up, I couldn’t believe this grand cocktail party was ours! How did we even plan such a momentous occasion? I had been dreaming this up for nine months, but the whole concept seemed foreign to me. The piano player, the cozy lighting, the plush leather couches, the multi-million dollar artwork, the butler-passed hors d’oeuvres -- the whole extravaganza was overwhelming. The receiving line concept went to hell and I was silently relieved because I wasn’t in the mood to stand in one place and issue out brief hellos for the whole hour. I managed to nibble a few Bruschetta as they passed by and Eric fed me a few cheese. I couldn’t wait to hop out of these thigh-highs and shoes the first chance I got! The cake was a mind-boggling work of Art Deco with its black and silver geometric shapes that looked more like an architectural masterpiece than anything you could possibly eat!
Moments before the cake cutting, I quickly swapped shoes and got rid of the blasted tights that had been digging into my flesh. Lori and Eric peeked in to make sure I was composed. I laughed when Eric cut the tiniest sliver of cake for us to eat… and no, we did not smash it in each other’s faces. I dribbled champagne onto my bosom, predictably, hoping no one else had caught a glimpse of my early evening mishap. Thank God I chose white wine and even lighter champagne! At the top of the stairs, Steve gave his touching toast. He talked about the first time he heard me tell Eric I loved him. Eric had used a word like “pontificate” and I looked over, smiled and said, “And that is why I love that man!” Steve said that’s when he knew I was the one for Eric. He talked about the genuine quality of our love and brought a little tear to my eye. It was thrilling to look out into the sea of faces that were all eager to hear the story of our love.
There was a little ambiguity over who would do the blessing since none of the priests made it to the ceremony. I had originally mentioned to Nate I might need his help, but he appeared surprised. “I don’t know what to say! I never said a blessing in my life!” he said. “But Nate – you’re Catholic!” I said. I looked to Dadman. This was right up his alley – if he wouldn’t mind. He gave a touching blessing that brought another tear to my eye. The piano man was a nice touch. He played a lot of familiar tunes like “My Favorite Things” and songs that Jillian thought “sounded like Christmas.” I wasn’t shy about digging into my rolls, Caesar salad and ravioli. I also managed to procure a hunk of Eric’s steak and one from Cherie. Lori snuck us refills on our drinks, even though the bar was technically closed. Nate said Lori spilled half his beer on her pants in the process, but that made it all the more awesome. The food was impeccable, which was further confirmed when I waltzed around the room and peeked at everyone’s empty plates.
I was disappointed to see my mother’s table got shifted down and around the corner, which was not at all where I expected it to be. I felt sad and wished I could quickly rearrange everyone so she would be situated within eyesight. I made sure I went over and said hello to her table and apologized for this mishap. Matlach’s name was somehow misspelled on his place-card and he didn’t like being in the corner, but everything can’t be perfect. All in all, I think we did a good job with the seating. A table of mostly Canadians was one of my best ideas yet. It turns out everyone became great friends and hung out all night. I was happy to see other former strangers getting along and stepping outside their comfort zones. Family members were mingling and meeting our friends too. Guests later said they loved how friendly everyone was and there were no drunken scenes or fights. Success! Mingling after dinner was a good opportunity to say hi to all my friends and make the rounds. Before I knew it, the time for our big dance had arrived. People had already been dancing by this point, but ah well – to hell with tradition. It’s hard to resist a 17-piece swing band after all!
I was nerve-wracked and terrified I’d forget the progressions, even though we had practiced this basic swing routine for ten weeks. Yet, when I saw Eric standing there alone on the dance floor, I focused on him and felt more at ease. In the background, I could sort of see people’s smiles, hear their “ohs” and sense their clapping, but it felt like a movie. We nailed the thrilling drop with precision and remembered most everything. The over-the-head-arm-change was sloppy, as usual, but we are our own toughest critics I’m certain. We also flubbed our ill-timed switch to the Charleston, yet we pulled it together by our grand finale, which was better than expected. All in all, I had a wonderful time in the spotlight dancing to Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies.” Berlin wrote the song after the birth of his first daughter and meant it to embody the joy of being happily married, in love and blissful. This song was also special to me because the lyrics reminded me of the time period after Eric proposed to me – when I first heard this track:
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see
Singing a song
Nothing but bluebirds
All day long
Never saw the sun shining so bright
Never saw things going so right
Noticing the days hurrying by
When you're in love, my how they fly
All of them gone
Nothing but blue skies
From now on.
Next I had a nice dance with Dad to the Benny Goodman song “Memories of You.” They didn’t sing the lyrics, which are actually very sad. (Especially the line “Oh how I wish I could forget those happy yesteryears / That have left a rosary of tears.”) The music was elegant and perfect for the foxtrot. The melody would be stuck in my head for days. I was proud to dance with such a great man. My dad beamed with pride and it’s the sort of look every daughter who loves her father wishes to see. Honestly, I get a little teary just thinking about it now.
Ambassadors Big Band was phenomenal! There were so many of them, professionally dressed in tuxedos and dimly lit with their brass and woodwinds – the sight was just breathtaking. They played a lot of Sinatra-esque tunes for the older folks. I distinctly remember hearing “Sing, Sing, Sing,” a polka, “Caravan,” “New York New York” and “Fly Me Off To The Moon.” Honestly, a lot of the songs were lost on me. Once the dancing began, time seemed to fly so quickly, as though I were dreaming. Uncle Ernie, who had surprised me with a last-minute visit from California, tried to teach me the complexities of “just dancing to the rhythm,” but I had a hard time breaking from my disciplined regimen. It was fun though! “If there was just one word to sum up this wedding,” Uncle Ernie said, “It would be GRAND! This wedding is grand! You have set the bar for all weddings!” I’m sure Uncle Ernie’s been to a lot of weddings, so that meant a lot to me. Later, I danced with Al, who was a professional at stepping on my toes, and I danced with Nate, who was a natural fox-trotter once he got going. Even Alia and I had a wild girls swing dance as I tried to teach her some basic moves. I had wished some more fast songs were played, especially toward the end of the night, but it seemed that the dance floor never diminished, so I think they chose a favorable set-list! I can’t wait to watch Steve’s video and re-live all that I missed.
When people say that time escapes you at your wedding, they’re not kidding! Eric says he really savored every moment of the night and he doesn’t feel it flew by too fast. That was true of the early night, but as the wine was flowing and my attention was split so many different ways, I wished I could have held onto the night for just one more hour. To say I had the time of my life is an understatement. I never felt so alive as I did tonight, surrounded by the warm company of family and friends, basking in the aura of the swanky, historic Buffalo Club, and exhilarated by renewed love. It was a graceful rebirth into adulthood as I realized I had achieved something rare and great.
We didn't want the typical school portrait / glamour shot cheese that so many wedding photos become. I wanted something more editorial, edgy and magazine style. My friend referred me to Ashlea Wessel, a magazine photographer from Toronto, Canada. Admittedly, I was a little nervous hiring someone from Canada, but she was dynamite! She arrived early in the morning to take prep photos and stayed with us until about 10 pm. I couldn't believe how ambitious she was! She literally got photos of everyone who attended. She had brilliant insight into which angles and settings would make the funnest photos. Ashlea's prices were amazingly affordable, even when you count her travel. I couldn't have made a better choice.
My wedding was definitely the best day of my life, but the next 7 came pretty close! We took a Princess Cruise to the Caribbean Islands -- San Juan, Dominica, Grenada, St Thomas, Aruba and Bonaire. It was totally stress-free. The food was incredible and I liked that we could just walk into a dining room at any time and get a private table for 2. We didn't really see any kids on the cruise either, which was ideal for honeymooners. They had plenty of shows, a huge movie screen over the pool and a dance club. The suite's balcony was a chill place to grab a glass of champagne. We booked several shore excursions as soon as we got on the boat, including horseback riding, snorkeling and bus tours. Every detail about our honeymoon was enjoyable. We're already dreaming of our next Princess cruise.
Hoyler Jewelry Shop in the Ellicott Square Building is one of those places that spreads like wildfire by word-of-mouth. My engagement ring was put together by Mr. Hoyler, who did a superb job and recommended the exotic black diamonds, rather than any of the other black stones out there. He knows me all too well -- I break everything! I was a little disappointed in the selection of ring settings for my actual wedding ring. He has a very broad selection of contemporary and modern ring styles. However, I was looking for something vintage, which I had to order online. He did take some of the tiny white diamonds out and give us a great deal on exchanging them for black diamonds so both my rings matched. Mr. Hoyler is very professional and accommodating.
My wedding dress was even more beautiful in person that it looked online! The intricate bead work and soft satin was absolutely perfect for the occasion. The bridesmaid dresses ran a little big, so some people had to return them. Yet, the returns were a cinch and the service was super fast.
Imagine a 17-piece swing band decked out in tuxedos playing everything from Benny Goodman to Frank Sinatra for your wedding party! They were on-time, professional and all-around fantastic! Once the band started to play, I felt like the night just flew right by. Music was one of the most important things to me and Ambassadors Big Band didn't disappoint. I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a classy wedding.
Daniel at The Cheesecake Place really outdid himself! We were referred to The Cheesecake Place by a family member who had used them for a previous wedding. Still, to this day, people talk about how delicious their cake was! Not only did they bake up the most delicious chocolate cake I've ever had and shower us with samples of cakes and cheesecakes, but Daniel was so enthusiastic and creative about the design that we just HAD to go with them! Everything was perfect from the presentation to the flavor. He somehow made buttercream look like fondant and the whole presentation appeared like an Art Deco building rather than a cake. I couldn't have imagined it better.
I looked at three different places and found just what I needed at Woyshner's. Other places made me feel rushed, shot down my ideas, tried to tell me what I wanted and charged exorbitant amounts. David at Woyshner's was very creative. I thought I wanted some huge table decor with calla lilies and peacock feathers, but he came up with the idea to submerge a few purple calla lilies in water for a more elegant ambiance. He ran in the back room and whipped up a demonstration to show me what he meant and I knew he was the best choice. The flowers were delivered on-time, fresh, vibrant and well put together. To top it off, his prices were half that of a vendor downtown. I highly recommend this florist.
Perfect. The champagne was chilled, the party lights were on, the music was playing, and the driver arrived early whenever we needed him. What more could you ask for?
We had an excellent time learning to swing dance at Iacono Ballroom! We took 10 private lessons with Lihann to prepare us for our big dance, but they were also willing to put together group lessons for our wedding party. They have a lot of fun events throughout the month, including Friday dances with wine and cheese. Everyone is really nice and the instructors are very patient.
Niagara Landing offers affordable wine favors that come in bottles holding about 2 glasses of wine. We gave one to each couple. They engraved a customized graphic that we found online and made helpful recommendations as to which colors might look best. They also provide discounts for bulk offers. Their wines are generally sweet, compared to others, which makes Niagara Landing a suitable choice for favors going out to the masses. You can bet no bottle went to waste or was left behind! We were very satisfied with our experience.
We have never felt so welcome as we did at St. Casimir's. Father Gary was very accommodating and flexible. He gave us a helpful book to plan the ceremony and let us know all the steps we needed to take to be married in the church. The lighting, the music and the ambiance was just breathtaking! If you love that old world / Byzantine style, St. Casimir's on Cable Street is the best. Just be sure you plan in advance. You need to be a member of the church and attend weekly mass for 6 months before booking.
The new rooms at Embassy are a little pricier, but they're artistic and cozy, guests said.
A few of my friends stayed at the Adam's Mark. I left out-of-town gift baskets for them at the front desk, which they found waiting for them in their rooms. They said the staff was very friendly and the rooms were clean and affordable. I found the staff I spoke with about holding the rooms to be extremely pleasant.
Words can't even express how pleased I am with The Buffalo Club. Lori went over and beyond to make sure we had everything we needed throughout the wedding planning process and the big day itself. She was willing to work within our budget and help us plan a diverse dinner that included vegetarian dishes and duo plates. During the event, the staff always checked in with me at the right moments to be sure I had everything I needed -- whether it was wine, a cue to head to the dance floor, or a place to stash my purse. The guests raved about the food and the alcohol selection. Furthermore, they were impressed that the well-stocked appetizers just kept coming. This venue was unique in that there were separate areas for the cocktail hour, the dinner hour and the dancing, but guests were free to meander around to wherever they felt most comfortable. The club was perfect for my Roaring Twenties theme, as it is, in fact, a historic building from that time period. Walking around, you feel like you're in an elegant art museum. I couldn't have found a more perfect venue for my 200+ guests.
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