Planning your special day

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First Posted: 3/25/2013

Four words in the form of a question can change everything: Will you marry me?

It’s exhilarating, a moment charged by love and happiness that lingers on and on as the news is spread to family and friends. “I’m going to spend the rest of my life with this person,” you say, and it’s thrilling – until the second it starts to wear off and reality hits.

Now we have to plan this thing.

It’s no secret that putting a wedding together can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be according to Rebecca Barry of Harding, who runs Rebecca Barry Events. Barry doesn’t only know the feeling from a professional standpoint but a personal one, as she got married this past October.

“There’s a lot to do, of course, but it’s just a matter of taking it one step at a time,” Barry said. “And I won’t lie, it’s not going to be easy. Something will go wrong; it always does. But what you need to concentrate on is the fact that you’re marrying your best friend, the love of your life, and what happens in between is just going to happen, but the end result is what matters.”

Barry can’t put a finger on one particular facet that’s constantly overlooked, though she will say that it’s most often the small things. Hitches to keep in mind include transportation (“I’ve talked to so many limo places that have couples coming in a week before the wedding to book a ride.”), asking the right questions (“Couples need to write down everything they need to know about something from a vendor to avoid overlooking hidden fees.”), and even bridal accessories (“When I got married, I had my dress, shoes, and jewelry and was so excited, until my mom was like ‘Hey, what about a veil?’”).

Below is a checklist of some things that are oft forgot, yet necessary to pull off the day of your dreams. Though it’s not complete, it’s certainly a good starting point.

  • Pick a date.
  • Select your reception and ceremony venues. (Make sure to reserve rooms at a nearby hotel for any out-of-towners.)
  • Select an officiant.
  • Make a guest list.
  • Send out save the dates.
  • Pick out a proper invitation.
  • Sign up for a registry.
  • Shop for a gown, as well as accessories to go along with.
  • Seek out a stylist to do your hair and makeup, as well as the wedding party’s, if you wish.
  • Figure out bridesmaid and groomsmen attire.
  • Book your honeymoon. (Don’t forget the passports and paperwork if you’re going somewhere out of the country.)
  • Purchase wedding rings.
  • Decide upon wedding favors.
  • Plan the bridal shower.
  • Plan bachelor and bachelorette parties.
  • Book a place for the rehearsal dinner.
  • Give gifts to the wedding party or anyone else you see fit that’s involved in the wedding.
  • Get your marriage license.
  • Hit up vendors for your following needs: photographer/videographer, flowers, décor, food, entertainment, and transportation.

-Sara Pokorny, Weekender Staff Writer

Your wedding stories

We asked you, our readers, for your funny or interesting engagement and wedding stories online last week, so here are some of our favorites.

Lights out

Scranton resident Rob Lettieri has plenty of stories as a wedding photographer, but one of his funniest was when a thunderstorm hit the wedding area and the power went out while the band, featuring local jazz/blues musicians Marko Marcinko and Clarence Spady, was trying to play. As candles were lit under their tent for light, someone produced a generator, but it ran out of gasoline, leaving only the drums for music. Marcinko kept the beat while Spady would run for gas, filling the generator periodically.

“They had to position it far away from the tent with a long extension cord because of the noise competing with the music. It was hysterical,” Lettieri recalled.

“Everyone had a blast, and they didn’t let the power outage ruin anything at all!”

What’s broken is fixed

Danielle McCullough, a former Scranton resident, and her husband, Patrick, of Philadelphia set their wedding date for Sept. 18, 2010, shortly after their engagement Feb. 4, 2009. By the end of January 2010, they had arranged the church and venue, picked the best man and maid of honor, and Danielle had her dress. Everything seemed set until one night in February. The couple met some friends at a bar where a man tried to steal one of their friend’s purses, but Danielle was quicker and snatched the bag back. After an argument, the attempted thief was kicked out.

The group stepped out of the bar for a smoke when the man returned to quarrel with the bouncer again, attacking Patrick and dislocating his shoulder. Weeks later, his job was downsized, making it difficult to pay for medical bills and physical therapy on one income while trying to plan a wedding.

On March 11, Danielle randomly woke her fiancé and said, “Let’s get married.” While shocked, he happily agreed that they would marry just days later on St. Patrick’s Day, going to the courthouse to get the license that day. They called a friend to perform the ceremony on the steps of Patrick’s childhood home in the City of Brotherly Love, saying their written vows in front of close family, but in true Scranton fashion, the McCulloughs celebrated the holiday afterward and have every year since.

Wedding crashers

The guests at the Aug. 19, 2012 wedding of Brian and Lisa Avrich of Dunmore couldn’t wait for the party to begin, pre-gaming prior to the ceremony and accidentally tipping a beer bottle that noisily rolled around as the couple exchanged their vows. They had such a fun service and reception at the Inne of the Abingtons, giving out red chocolate Rocky Horror Picture Show lips to guests and banning all synchronized dance music (with the exception of “The Time Warp,” of course) from the festivities, that some attendees of another wedding at the Inne decided to sneak in.

They were easily caught, however.

“It really isn’t a good idea to go up to the groom while waiting for a beer and ask him where the bride and groom are so you can congratulate them,” Brian said.

Everything worked out fine, however, and the party continued into the evening at a surprise post-reception private gathering at The Keys in Scranton, the couple’s favorite bar, and the man and woman who caught the garter and bouquet actually ended up being the next to be married.

-Rich Howells, Weekender Editor

Making it your own

Never mind the teeming rain.

On the day before she exchanged vows with Rick Park under her favorite willow tree at Lake Louise in July, the former Morgan Carey ventured out into a storm with 10 people, including her 93-year-old grandmother, to pick Queen Anne’s lace for the homemade bridal centerpieces.

Her cousin and her sister helped the bride dig moss out of the lake to add to the decor, someone found a nice round rock to serve as the ring-bearer’s cushion, and the festivities included a bonfire.

Is it any surprise that under her formal white gown, the bride wore a bright blue pair of Converse sneakers?

Actually, the bride admits, that was in keeping with a tradition – of her own making.

“For my confirmation, I wore sneakers. For high school graduation, I wore sneakers. For First Holy Communion, I wore sneakers,” she said. “So it seemed fitting.”

In a way, that sentence sums up the perfect wedding. However a bride and groom decide to celebrate, it should feel right to them. It should “fit.”

Perhaps they want to share with their guests the DJ music they’ve enjoyed at several of their friends’ weddings; perhaps they prefer to opt for fiddles, banjos, and a square dance.

A couple might write their own vows, or they might be more than happy to recite the age-old “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer” pledge their parents and grandparents promised before them.

A bride might join a long line of women who carried the same family Bible; a groom might be the most recent of many generations to get married under the family chuppah, or canopy. Or a couple might decide to be the first in their families to have a camouflage-themed wedding, perhaps in honor of their enthusiasm for the outdoors.

For Rachel Rosenbaum and Joshua Stewart of Bloomsburg, an out-of-the-ordinary addition to their wedding resulted in a special keepsake.

They ordered a guestbook signature tree the groom spotted on and set out several ink pads in shades of green and yellow. Each guest was invited to dip his or her thumb into the ink and “add a leaf” to the tree that way.

“We were afraid if we did the (conventional) guest book, it would be closed and put away,” the bride said. “But this is framed and put on the wall. You can see it and reminisce about who came.”

In case anyone is worrying about stains, the couple arranged for some pre-moistened towels to be conveniently placed for guests to wash the ink off their thumbs.

As Lois Kammerer of Hanover Township plans her March wedding to David Brace of Luzerne, she’s already given the guests a noteworthy keepsake – an invitation decorated with a black-and-white image of Elizabeth Taylor and Conrad “Nicky” Hilton on their wedding day in 1950.

The wedding will have a flavor of “Old Hollywood,” said Kammerer, who has been told many times that she resembles the famous actress and calls her “my idol.”

Even a salon worker noticed when she was waxing the bride-to-be’s eyebrows.

“Did anyone ever tell you that you look Liz Taylor?” Kammerer remembered the young woman exclaiming. “You are identical to her. I even forgot that she was dead.”

The salon worker was so amazed, Kammerer said, “she inadvertently waxed the same spots twice, and I was a hurting puppy with scabs on my face for a week.”

-Mary Therese Biebel, Special to the Weekender

Fantastic flora

Talk to floral designer David Stout about what your bridesmaids will wear and he’ll suggest flowers that “pop.”

“I tell people, ‘Don’t get flowers that match the gowns. Get something that complements the gowns.’”

So if a dress is coral?

“Maybe a hot pink, yellow, or lavender,” advised Stout, who works at Mattern’s Florist in Kingston.

What if a gown is green?

“Oh, if it’s green, you can get really crazy and go into oranges and creams and off-tone greens.”

As for the bride, more often than not, she’ll carry something especially vivid that stands out against the white or cream of her dress.

“We do very few bridal bouquets that are actually solid white,” Stout said. “They’re more likely to be all yellow or all red – flowers that really pop.”

But, of course, there’s room for the traditional.

“My florist tried to get me to incorporate pink flowers or ribbons or any kind of color. He was extremely surprised that I decided to keep them colorless,” said Holly Sirkin, formerly of Kingston, who carried white calla lilies when she married Eric Danko in November in Washington, D.C.

“I felt that having colorful bouquets would take away from the dresses, and I wanted the flowers to be an accent, not a focal point,” she said. “When it came to planning the wedding, I wanted things to be warm and simple, yet elegant.”

Simple or complex, rustic or elegant, florists will tell you just about any flower is available any time of year nowadays, so the floral possibilities seem infinite.

Recognizing that, Alison Taroli decided that because each of her attendants was an individual, there was no reason for Lauren, Kristin, Julie, Maria, and Kylene all to carry the same kind of bouquet.

“Each of my bridesmaids had a different color,” said the Dallas native, who exchanged vows with Eric Gelsleichter in October. “One was yellow, one was a deep blue. There was deep red, and a pale green. It suited their personalities. My bouquet was a combination of all their flowers put together.”

“It’s really cool to do something like that,” Stout said, admitting he hasn’t seen that very often. What the designer has noticed is a trend to pay more attention to the groom’s boutonniere.

After decades of being content with a simple carnation, today’s groom might sport anything from a red orchid that matches the bridal bouquet to a mix of herbs and berries.

“We’ve done some that are very herbal, with rosemary and mint and things of that order,” Stout said. “We’ve used berries and branches – little twigs and stuff – or had a variation of different greens, like ferns and pine.”

For a very individual touch, summer bride Morgan Carey Park said her mother, Janet Carey, personally crafted a boutonniere for new son-in-law Rick Park using burlap and a fishing lure in honor of his enthusiasm for fishing.

Adding to the rustic feel at the Carey/Park nuptials, the bride said, “We used handmade farm tables, mismatched napkins and old bottles to decorate the tables. We made all our own centerpieces from hydrangeas and Queen Anne’s lace. The day before the wedding, my family and friends, about 10 people total including my grandma, got up at 6 a.m. to collect flowers from the side of the road and neighbors’ yards.

“It took us six hours in our garage to cut and make all the centerpieces.”

Everything was beautiful, the bride said, though “one of my bridesmaids got a giant blister on her finger.”

If you’re going to let a professional florist handle the flowers, Stout recommends setting up an appointment at least six months before the wedding.

“But we’ve done it with as little as a month’s notice,” he added.

“Ideally, as far as choosing flowers,” he continued, “I suggest the bride have her gown and at least know the color of her bridesmaids’ (dresses). That dictates style.”

If you’re planning a wedding for six months or so from today, that would be late summer or early fall.

“Gerbera daisies, roses, calla lilies, hydrangea, dahlias, and anything in the berry line” would be ideal for that time of year, Stout said.

“Try to be prepared,” he added. “Start looking at magazines early on. Tear out the pages or earmark them, and please bring them in. Then we’ll have something to start with.”

-Mary Therese Biebel, Special to the Weekender

Beautiful baubles

Ask a bride whether she’s wearing something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, and if she says yes, chances are at least one of those things is jewelry.

“During my bridal shower, my grandmother gave me a pearl bracelet with turquoise stones, so that covered old and blue,” said Kingston native Holly Sirkin, who got married in November. “I borrowed my aunt’s earrings.”

“I borrowed a diamond hairclip from my friend who wore it when she got married,” said autumn bride Lynda Ciaruffoli Lang, whose parents live in Shavertown.

“I had a lovebird pin from my grandma,” Morgan Carey Park of Lake Louise said, explaining how it was pinned to the bouquet her mother, Janet Carey, “the most creative person I know,” had fashioned from just-picked Queen Anne’s lace.

On their wedding day, Morgan’s husband, Rick Park, sported a matching lovebird on his tie.

Of course, heirlooms aren’t the only kind of wedding jewelry.

An engagement ring is often the “something new” a bride is wearing, and sometimes it’s even custom-designed for or by her.

“She sent me exactly what she wanted,” jewelry designer Marc Williams of MarcCo. Jewelers in Luzerne said, showing off an electronic image of an intricately carved engagement ring he made “just this past Christmas” to the specifications of a bride from Atlanta.

The center stone was a square, naturally yellow diamond appraised at $125,000 that the bride already owned. Williams’ craftsmanship, which included embellishing the band with several smaller diamonds in a floral pattern, added about $5,000 to the value.

“The structure of the ring just flowed together,” Williams said. “I wish I could do one of those every day.”

That said, Williams said he is happy to work with people who have much smaller jewelry budgets.

“Somebody could come in here and say, ‘Look I have $500 to spend,’ and I would work with him,” the designer noted.

The most frequently chosen stone for an engagement ring is a round diamond with a brilliant cut, said Williams’ father, Tom, who worked for Bartikowsky Jewelers in Wilkes-Barre for many years before its recent closing.

But there are other cuts to consider – among them marquise, pear-shaped, heart-shaped and princess – as well as different colors of stones.

“The presence of a certain gas when the diamond is formed can influence the color,” Tom Williams said. “Boron makes it blue.”

Stones also can be artificially tinted, and then they’re much less expensive.

Speaking of color, Marc Williams said one bride had an idea to add a small birthstone for herself and for her fiancé to either side of the diamond in her engagement ring. “I believe they were a sapphire and a garnet,” he said.

Less expensive jewelry can be an ideal gift for the bride to give her bridesmaids, Williams said, suggesting sterling silver beads that can be engraved with the date of the wedding, song lyrics, or something else that is meaningful to the bride.

He makes them in a size that would fit a necklace or bracelet the same way the popular Pandora charms do.

-Mary Therese Biebel, Special to the Weekender

Terrific tykes

When they were planning their September wedding at Frosty Valley Country Club in Danville, Rachel Rosenbaum and Joshua Stewart wondered whether to invite children as well as adults.

“We at first were torn about it,” Rachel said. “But in the end, we decided to invite them – and they were the life of the party. They were so much fun to dance with.”

In addition to several young children among the guests, the couple invited two nieces – 7-year-old Jocelyn and 4-year-old Madison – to be flower girls who would carry and scatter petals.

They did a good job – and provided some adorable photo opportunities.

As did little Fiona Rowe and RoweWeber, who served as “flower children” for their cousin, Morgan Carey, when she married Rick Park at Lake Louise in July. After the outdoor ceremony, the bride said she took off her veil. Guess who put it on?

“The little girl ended up putting on my veil. She wore it the whole time, and the little boy kept walking around asking her to marry him.”

An older nephew of the groom, 8-year-old Kevin Park served as ring bearer, Morgan said, and joked that he was the ring BEAR.

“I think he did growl when he was practicing,” the bride said, “but during the actual wedding, he took it very seriously.”

If you are planning to have children strew flowers, carry nosegays, or bear rings, it’s a good idea to prepare them in advance of the big event.

Future bride Marianne Wright of Swoyersville said she and her fiance will explain to his 3-year-old daughter, Myla, what she’ll do as flower girl during their June wedding.

“We’re taking her to church to show her where the aisle is and get her used to the idea that’s where she’ll walk,” Wright said.

That’s a good idea, experts say.

Check out a website such as and you’ll find other suggestions for making things go smoothly for the youngest members of a wedding party. Among them:

  • Never underestimate the power of the buddy system. Having two flower children or pairing up ring bearer and flower girl so they can proceed together, side by side, can give the children added confidence.
  • To communicate the importance of her role, while minimizing the pressure, the bride should explain the flower girl’s duties to her well in advance. The parents should follow up with pep talks and rehearsals.
  • If possible, arrange to have the flower girl attend the shower and/or the bridesmaids’ lunch (if the bride is having one) to boost her comfort level around the other bridal attendants. Seeing friendly, familiar faces on the big day will help to ease any anxiety.
  • Seat the flower girl’s parents toward the front of the ceremony so she can focus on them and be encouraged by their smiles of reassurance. The very young flower girl should sit with her parents after she walks; poised little ladies may stand at the altar with the other bridal attendants.
  • Flower girls aren’t limited to wearing mini replicas of the bride’s dress. Tea-length white dresses with a bonnet or satin bow are standard and sweet, but there are many little girl looks from which to choose.

Etiquette consultant Jill Evans Kryston of Shavertown also offers these suggestions:

  • At home you can begin talking about what it means to be a flower girl, or ring bearer, and practice playing dress-up.
  • Stage a formal family dinner to pretend you are at the reception. Describe the order of events and the behavior you expect. For example: place the napkin on the lap; chew with the mouth closed; don’t talk with food in the mouth; no elbows on the table; the importance of staying seated; and the proper handling of utensils.
  • Review the use of please, thank you, and excuse me. Children age four and older should be taught to shake hands while making eye contact when being introduced to adults.
  • On the day of the wedding, be sure your child is well-rested but do not allow a nap just before the wedding if he or she tends to wake up grumpy.
  • Have a favorite stuffed animal on hand in case you have to coax a child down the aisle and some mess-free snacks on hand to keep him or her quiet during the ceremony. Reinforce positive behavior by planning a surprise reward at the end of the day; either a special toy or a favorite treat.
  • It is impossible to have complete control when children are present. Do not be embarrassed if something doesn’t go according to plan and she dumps all the petals in the aisle at once or he runs up the aisle.
  • Your daughter or son was asked to be part of the wedding party for their personality and preciousness. Whatever happens, it will become part of the day’s story; one that can be retold on their wedding day.

-Mary Therese Biebel, Special to the Weekender

Local love

It was a dark time for Matt Michaylo, who watched as Cassie Davies, the woman he loved, began to slip away due to a rare disease, but an unexpected twist brought plenty of light (literally) into the couple’s lives, culminating in an actual award-winning marriage proposal.

After nearly two years of the Lackawanna County couple being together, Davies fell ill this past October and was diagnosed with Acute Disseminated Encepholomyelitis, an ailment that left her comatose for three weeks, then struck unable to speak or move.

Despite grim predictions that put Davies on her death bed, the young woman began to slowly recover her speech and movement, and Michaylo spent every minute he could by her side, sleeping in her hospital room when allowed, hoping and praying for a full recovery while supporting her in every way he could.

Davies’ strength only grew and eventually, in December, she was discharged, a full 79 days after she had been admitted.

It was then that Michaylo knew what he had to do.

The night Davies came home, Michaylo, with the help of his father and the support of the couples’ families, had a lavish light display set up in Davies’ back yard – four huge wooden boards adorned with holly and gold ribbon that bore a question Michaylo doubted he would ever get the chance to ask: “Will you marry me?”

The couple is now engaged to be married in the fall of 2014, and their romantic tale won them the grand prize for Allure Bridal magazine’s proposal contest.

Though they are excited to open a new chapter of their life, they must also face constant daily struggles that concern Davies’ physical well-being as well as medical bills, therapy, and the loss of work. Thankfully, the grand prize from the contest will provide the couple with the wedding they’ve dreamed of, supplying a free wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, tuxedos, and a videographer for their special day.

-Sara Pokorny, Weekender Staff Writer