I had never planned to get married. I am a meticulous planner, to the core, but while my gal pals were dreaming up plans for their future weddings, I was listing my short term goals and career moves. My childhood was rich with opportunities and I gravitated to the areas of law and art, but fashion ultimately won me over. An eclectic elementary/high school education led me to earning a GED and early acceptance into the Fashion Design degree program at an art college in Philadelphia. Moving away from South Jersey, officially on my own, I soon discovered my love for the city and gourmet food and high fashion and live music.
Seventeen years old and a college freshman, I excitedly began a new chapter of life. At the same time, this guy I had "friend-zoned" years before waltzed right into my heart and it was the start of a very long dating relationship. He was my right hand man and we really made the most of our time living in Philly.
Ten years and two kids later, the M-word started coming up in conversation. We'd periodically joke about who would change their last name. He would tease me about how he was ring shopping. I would ask him what he was waiting for, with a careful blend of humor and impatience. Years of growing, changing and learning brought me to a place where I knew I'd say YES if he asked me.
This past December, I took our boys (ages 3 and 5, at the time) to watch Daddy play ice hockey at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. It was a big game, and we cheered so loudly that night when his team won. He helped me get the sleepy little boys back to my home and put them into bed. I still don't know what provoked him on that normal, casual evening. It was a snowy, tired, pajamas kind of night, but that's when he spontaneously decided to grab the ring from inside of his car and parade back into the house to propose.
I knew this was it. He gave me the warning. Excitement and anxiety stirred up and part of me wanted to hide while another part of me wanted to dance around the room. He asked, I said yes, and in the days following we decided to plan a July wedding and celebrate with our families and friends.
Because it was a busy time of year and I was buried with work to do on my baby apparel line, we shelved the wedding planning process and decided to tackle it in March. Weeks into our engagment, I read about a model call for a size 8 bridal gown feature. A local team at Macpherson Photography were coordinating a styled photo shoot and it instantly caught my attention for two reasons. One: I did some modeling in between kids, but I wasn't sure of my current dress size, and Two: bridal gowns are sized differently and I needed to have that info ASAP! I jumped at the opportunity to find out. We scheduled a fitting and I headed over to Wedding Belles Boutique to try on the dresses they wanted to feature.
It was love at first sight, fixed on a lacy, fit-and-flare gown by Justin Alexander. The direction the stylist was going was true to my own aesthetic: vintage, twenties, The Great Gatsby-themed decadence with all the pearls and crystals needed to perfectly complete the look. It turned out that I did fit the size 8 (snugly, which sparked a two-week clean eating and work out program!) but I needed an additional six inches of height to successfully model the dress. Off I went to find a pair of skyscraper heels.
The photo shoot was set for February 28th, and as the date neared, I contemplated how I could recreate this very look for my own wedding in the summer. Then- a lightbulb went off- and I contacted the photographers to see whether we could incorporate my idea into their vision. I called up my fiancé at work to reveal my grand idea. When I suggested we have a private ceremony AT THE PHOTO SHOOT, he was totally on board. Just days later, after only telling a few people, we were gathered in a beautifully decorated room, perfectly arranged with bridal furniture and vintage inspired paraphernalia by Savage Rentals. The sun gleamed through the windows that Saturday afternoon and created a warm glow on the rich mahogany floors. Pastor Jason, who graciously agreed to leading our last-minute ceremony, stood at the head of the room with my handsome, smiling groom. Our relatives stood in groups along both sides of the room. I had a gorgeous bouquet of white orchids in one hand, arranged by Petal + Paper, and my father's arm in the other as he walked me to the front of the room.
Did I mention, in spite of the gorgeous details and beautiful look I was displaying, it was really quite effortless on my part. Early that Saturday morning, Raquel from M.O.D. Makeup On Demand had come to my house to give me a flawless makeup application. From there, I drove to my friend Vanessa's house to have my hair styled into bouncy, blonde, retro curls. The last stop was the set, so the boys and I had taken the 40-minute drive to the location. Note: I had never seen the place, I had no idea what color the flowers were, only had an approximate idea of which guests were attending. Clearly, I DID NOT PLAN THIS WEDDING, but it was everything it should have been and the best part is that I had zero stress or anxiety about ANYTHING that day. (Well, that's not entirely true: Our hotel reservations were in the hands of Mr. Chaney and he was still wrapping up loose ends after the photo shoot. Pray for me.)
Pastor Jason said an opening prayer. We said our vows, exchanged rings, kissed, hugged, were introduced as Mr. and Mrs. and our families quickly hugged and congratulated us. Part two of our celebration will be our reception in July, which is still going to happen! We are looking forward to having a fun party, surrounded by most of the special people in our lives, including those who were at our private ceremony and those who were not.
Even the photo shoot itself was fantastic, and working with Andy and Connie couldn't have been more fun. They are very professional yet laid back in personality, so the process was natural as they coached me on how to pose, where to look, and they expertly adjusted the lighting and lenses accordingly. Long story short, I'd advise any bride-to-be to hire these two for a styled photo shoot. Oh, and the pictures? Speechless. They are absolutely beautiful and we will be proudly displaying them at our reception.
You can see more of them on the Macpherson Photography Blog.
Our story is non-traditional and we wrote some of our chapters out of order, but it's our honest, real life story. Some people criticized our choice to live together in college, and some people criticized our choice to live separately when we had kids. Not everyone understood why we dated for ten years before getting married and not everyone agreed with our quick engagement or surprise ceremony. In the end, the story is ours, and our family of four is happy and secure and looking forward to moving into a house of our own this year. We are blessed and we are loved. We've already weathered several storms, and we're prepared for what the future will bring. We are grateful for everyone who has been part of our story and are so thankful for those who made our special day so amazing and memorable. February 28th, 2015 was just like a dream.