Real Wedding: Debra and James

  • Debra and James  - Real Weddings Long Island, NY

From the beginning, DH and I wanted a small wedding with fewer than 100 guests. We didn’t want anyone to have to feel as though they were sitting in the back of the room or that we couldn’t see them from where we were. Because of that, we kept the guest list as small as possible, which helped to keep our day intimate.

Ironically, our vision fit in perfectly with how people see and perceive me…so it was “simply” perfect. You see, when people meet me, they often tell me that they thought I was from the South before finding out I am a New Yorker. I like nice things, but they are usually simple. I don’t like large, elaborate productions. We also wanted to stay within a certain budget, so we needed to pick and choose what we felt was most important to us. Finding a way to plan a wedding with this in mind was sometimes challenging. First we found a place we loved. Chateau la Mer was elegant and we loved the feel of the outdoor area. It looked even more beautiful at night than in the daytime. For our centerpieces, I wanted a very small, simple arrangement. Jenn from Verbena totally got my vision and made the tables glow. Our centerpieces were a dozen yellow roses in a round vase with floating rose heads on either side. Jenn put candles and scattered rose petals along the table with ladybugs peeking out from under the petals. The centerpieces were simple and underdone. We also used the same flourish on everything. Our invitations, menus, place cards, and table names all matched. Even my attire for the day followed that same simplistic theme. I didn’t want beading on my dress and I wanted my hair to look similar to how I wore it every day. I did my own make-up because I wanted it to look as natural as possible. I wanted to look timeless.

Still, even, this, “the happiest day of my life” had its challenges. Planning my wedding without my mom was hard. She had been my best friend for my entire life; not having any brothers or sisters made it even harder when she passed away. I didn’t want to have just one table with a picture of her or a candle in her honor. Personally, I think these can look like morbid, empty gestures. I wanted her love celebrated in every facet of the day: the invitations, the flowers, the guests, and the favors. Mom and I loved butterflies and ladybugs, but I felt that I had seen butterfly themes quite often when it came to weddings so we went with ladybugs instead. I have always felt that since my mom died, she brings me luck when I need it the most.

Ladybugs were scattered on the tables amidst yellow rose petals, mixed into my bouquet, on all stationary, seating cards and menus. The m&m’s we gave out as favors were red and black and I had a special precious moments doll dressed in a ladybug outfit sitting on the seating card table with a poem explaining why they were a part of our wedding.

Also, I had always wanted to dance with my mom on my wedding day, and since she wasn’t there physically I knew I wanted to do a dance for her. I was adamant that I didn’t want this day to be celebrated in sadness. She would not have wanted that. I didn’t want a photo-montage, or an empty seat next to my dad. So instead we danced to Janet Jackson’s song “Together Again.” Here are some of the words:
I dream about us Together Again,
I know we’ll be Together Again ‘cause
Everywhere I go,
Every smile I see,
I know you are there,
Smiling back at me.
Dancing in moonlight
I know you are free
‘Cause I can see your star shining down on me.

All of my family came out on to the dance floor, clapped and sang along with me. They circled around me and hugged me while we all smiled, laughed and cried. It was, by far, one of my favorite moments of the wedding

My favorite color in the world is chocolate brown; it has been since growing up with my mom, and watching her wear her 70’s inspired earth tones. DH wanted a fall wedding, but because I am a teacher it just didn’t make sense. We decided to try to bring some aspects of fall into our wedding as best we could. Choosing colors was one of the most trying decisions for me. I must have changed my mind at least four times. While I was always “wowed” by girls who did deep, dark, dramatic colors, it just didn’t feel like me. After I had decided on the yellow, I realized that there was no chocolate brown anywhere and I knew that I needed to fix that, so I added chocolate brown sashes to the girls’ dresses. It changed a very simple dress into something fabulous.

After seeing the flourish found for our invites, I used that to create the bridesmaid bouquets. I didn’t want a million different types of flowers, just roses. Jenn from Verbena was absolutely amazing. One of the things I remember most about our day is the bouquets of flowers. My jaw hit the floor when they were delivered. They were more beautiful than my wildest dreams. They exceeded my expectations and I could not have asked for more all while staying within our small budget.

DH does not love to dance the way I do. He didn’t want the day to go by without feeling like we enjoyed our wedding together. When we heard about having ballroom dancers come to our reception, DH was all for it! He was so excited to be able to dance at his wedding and because of that, I knew it was something we had to do.

The instructors taught our guests the Fox Trot and the Merengue. It was so much fun to watch our friends and relatives out of their elements trying something new. DH and I had been practicing a bit before the wedding and we were able to show off some of our moves too!

DH and I (despite the above dance display) really don’t like being the center of attention. We don’t love having our pictures taken either. It was because of this that we knew we needed someone very special as our photographer. Dan Wagner was the man for the job. When we met, he was very laid back, never tried to sell anything to us and let his work speak for itself. He has the same dorky sense of humor as us, and that made all the difference. What I remember most about our day was laughing from the time it started until the end. We all felt like one big happy family; Dan had us, and the wedding party laughing and having a great time. Despite the pouring rain, we wound up with amazing pictures. People are still raving about how he was everywhere that day, he didn’t miss a thing and we adore our pictures. He found a way to capture through pictures exactly how DH and I feel about each other.

The most memorable part of our day was when the lights went out in our hotel room the morning of the wedding. After sleeping in, DH drove home in the rain to shower, and I got ready in my father’s nearby suite. We knew then that we could handle anything. Disaster had struck, but it was going to be a perfect day: we were going to be together in the end.

My advice to other couples is to do things exactly as you want to do them. Don’t be pressured by other people to make your day something that doesn’t truly feel like you. You have to LOVE your vendors. Find people you could see yourselves being friends with…. and hire them. They will be a big part of your memories from this magical time in your lives. Once the day comes, embrace it. The only one that can ruin your day is you. There will always be things that go wrong throughout the process. Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain; and sometimes, rain can be the background for some really great wedding pictures.


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