My Daughter’s Westchester Wedding

My Daughter’s Westchester Wedding

 

 

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By Rosemary Black  Photography by Alex Z Photography

 

 

How one Westchester mom visited 20 reception sites, tried on 25 dresses, folded 200 programs, and cracked 50 eggs en route to her daughter’s wedding–and stayed amazingly calm the entire time. Oh, and guess what happened afterward?

 

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I tied the knot with a shoestring wedding. For the reception—in my parents’ backyard on a sweltering June afternoon—my mother baked a ham and asked all the ladies in her bridge club to make potato salad. I wore her long-sleeved satin-and-lace dress, and my college roommate snapped some pictures. We had no band, and my sisters (the bridesmaids) wore dresses made by my mother. The 60 guests had a great time sitting around talking. Weddings sure were simple back then.

My husband of 34 years and I knew very little about how nuptials are celebrated these days when our oldest daughter, Miranda, then 27, announced her engagement in March of 2006 to her longtime boyfriend, Todd Soffian. Our family of nine—Steve Lopez and I have seven children, from Miranda to our two-year-old—was thrilled with the news, and I was suddenly thrust into a brand-new role: mother of the bride. I was somewhat unsure of what this job entailed, but I soon found out when the planning began in earnest one month later.

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Decisions and Diplomacy

 

 

Above: Miranda surrounded by her four sisters—from left, maid of honor Molly and
bridesmaids Madeline, Kerrie, and Karla. The flowers, from House of Flowers in Mamaroneck, were a mix of white roses, sweet peas, hydrangeas, mini calla lilies, and lilacs.

 

My own wedding didn’t involve much planning: Steve and I told my parents we were getting married, and they were happy about it. My mom’s only request was that we wait until after her law school exams. Our wedding took place six weeks later.

I have no recollection of ever arguing with my mom about the details of my wedding (the few that there were), and I wanted Miranda to have the same stress-free experience. So early on, I decided that rather than try to run the show, I would let my daughter come to me when she wanted advice. The first decision turned out to be easy: Miranda and Todd lived on the West Coast, but with our family in Westchester and Todd’s in South Jersey, they wanted to get married on the East Coast. In April, Miranda flew to New York and the two of us visited 20 “venues” (a new word for me) in the span of two days, searching for the perfect place to accommodate our guest list of slightly under 200. (She had done her homework in advance, getting suggestions from friends and searching online to winnow the list before she flew east.) I loved touring ballrooms and especially enjoyed perusing menus (as a food editor and former restaurant critic, I’m endlessly interested in food). I was happy to be helping Miranda, but I was also looking to the future. After all, I have six daughters—that’s a lot of weddings to anticipate and pay for.

After our whirlwind tour of venues, Miranda chose the VIP Club in New Rochelle, a place we all loved for its elegant, understated charm. The date she and Todd were hoping for—March 24, 2007—was available, and we grabbed it. It’s less expensive to have a wedding in the winter months; the prices rise sharply in April. Miranda, Todd, Todd’s mom and stepfather (Eydie and Rick Mehr), Todd’s dad and stepmother (Warren and Beverly Soffian), and Steve and I were all contributing to the wedding, and the budget was fairly strict.

Next decision: the ceremony. Miranda and Todd decided to skip a rabbi (he’s Jewish) and a priest (we’re Catholic) and go nonsectarian. Both families were fine with this. They asked a cousin of Todd’s who is a judge to marry them.

Next up: the bridesmaids! I knew it wasn’t my place to give advice, but I so hoped Miranda would ask her next-in-age sister, Molly, who is 21 months younger, to be maid of honor. I was thrilled when she told me that’s what she decided. In addition to Molly as maid of honor, Karla, 23, Kerrie, 17, and Madeline, 13, would be bridesmaids, along with two of Miranda’s Pleasantville High School friends, Caroline Nonna and Denise Gordon.

 

All in the Details

 

 

 Above: The reception’s cocktail hour featured an Asian station with plenty of sushi.

 

Since Miranda is TRULY a master OF organization, she and Todd quickly found the band (Big City Swing, from the New York City Swing Company), florist (House of Flowers in Mamaroneck), photographer (Alex Ze’evi-Christian of Alex Z Photography in Manhattan), and videographer (Joseph Malfia of Wedding Cinema in Freehold, New Jersey). When choosing her dress, Miranda fell in love with the first one she tried on: a classic beauty—strapless, pure white, with a tightly fitting waist and skirt that had lots of romantic little tucks and gathers in it. Savvy Miranda went online, found a great price for the Marisa-designed gown, and ordered it from Le Bella Couture Atelier in Dobbs Ferry.

The luscious plum-colored tea-length gowns with spaghetti straps that we ordered from Fontana’s in Scarsdale for the bridesmaids were elegant but all needed alterations, which we had done at Mary & Patty in Hawthorne.

Finding my dress turned out to be trickier. Molly, Karla, and I visited every mall and bridal shop within a 50-mile radius, with them snapping photos of me in various gowns to email back to Miranda in Los Angeles. We collectively settled on a simple but beautiful gold gown with spaghetti straps from La Petite Boutique in Pleasantville.

 

 

Above: Fleetwood Pastry Shop of Mount Vernon created the four-tier vanilla cake with rasberry filling and chocolate frosting.

 

Now that the dress purchases were set, we began focusing on the showers for Miranda. One was given by Todd’s mother at a beautiful Italian restaurant in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and the other by the six bridesmaids at Caroline’s home. For that one, Caroline’s mother and I cooked, but the girls really took charge. For each guest, they made a CD that reflected Miranda’s life via  music and a goodie bag filled with—since it was close to Valentine’s Day—chocolate hearts and other candy. Steve’s job was applying heart stickers to each bag as it was completed.

Five of my seven sisters (the other two live in Maine) attended the sit-down luncheon for 24 guests, and each introduced herself before the meal by stating her name and saying, “I am Miranda’s favorite aunt.” The heart-shaped brownies and cupcakes at the luncheon were made by yours truly.

I felt honored to be invited to the dinner portion of the bachelorette party that night at the Soda Shop in Manhattan. Afterward, driving up the

Saw Mill Parkway

by myself at midnight, I wondered what it would be like to have a married daughter. Would we have to “share” holidays now? Would Miranda be unable to fit us into her schedule when we planned our family vacations? Would she move all her stuff out of her bedroom? I couldn’t help but think how quickly the years had gone by. Friends whose daughter had just gotten married told me they needed a couple of days off after the wedding to emotionally adjust to the fact that their family was now restructured and reordered. Would I need time to recover, I wondered?

 

Counting Down

 

 

Above: The entire wedding party poses on the patio outside the VIP Club in New Rochelle.

 

Three days before the big event, I picked up the bride and groom at Kennedy Airport. We spent that evening around our family’s dining-room table folding plum-colored programs and tying each with plum ribbon. Steve took it upon himself to turn each simply tied ribbon into a fancy bow. Miranda and Todd had brought hundreds of cookies made by a gourmet California bakery, and they wrapped these up in packages to leave in the rooms of guests staying at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel in White Plains.

Although Miranda had insisted that we didn’t have to buy them a gift, I wanted to get a little something. I’d been tempted to buy an Irish Belleek creamer and sugar bowl like the one I’d received as a wedding gift, but it dawned on me that this might seem dowdy and old-fashioned. In the end, I settled on a simple but elegant Orrefors creamer and sugar bowl. Miranda and Todd loved it, and we all sat up late that night eating carrot cake and relaxing. A delicious sense of anticipation ran through our house. We were all so excited; it was as if we were getting ready for Christmas times ten. I could barely sleep that night.

Around this time, we found out that the building that houses Le Loft Salon in Pleasantville, where Miranda and the wedding party were to get their hair done, had a partial collapse. The salon’s owner called to say they could style everyone’s hair at our house, but I worried that we wouldn’t have enough “juice” for multiple hair dryers to run simultaneously. Fortunately, the salon was able to reopen.

Onward to the rehearsal dinner, held at Casa Rina restaurant in Thornwood. My father and stepmother had just arrived from Florida and hadn’t seen our two-year-old daughter, Mia, whom we had adopted from China, in a few months, so there was much oohing and ahhing. We all enjoyed good food and wine, and the bridesmaids made speeches that were only partly obliterated by a boisterous Sweet 16 party in the adjacent room. Repeated pleas by Molly’s boyfriend, Erich Sekel, begging the revelers to turn down the volume fell on, well, deaf ears.

 

Here at Last

 

 

Above: Le Loft Salon in Pleasantville styled Miranda’s hair into a chignon held with crystal and pearl pins. She selected her veil, made of French netting, from Le Bella Couture in Dobbs Ferry. Her topaz drop earrings were a birthday gift from Todd.

 

After a surprisingly restful night’s sleep (I think I was too exhausted to worry), the wedding day began, for me, by cracking 50 eggs and beating them with two gallons of milk, then pouring this over 10 cups of cheese and five torn-up loaves of bread. At 6 am, I was making five giant pans of strata for the brunch to be held at Caroline’s home the following day. Miranda had asked me to take charge of this. Besides my strata, I planned to pick up six dozen bagels, five pounds of scallion cream cheese, and 10 pounds of whitefish salad from the Thornwood Bagel Bakery the next morning.

Once my stratas were safely wrapped and refrigerated, it was on to the hairdresser, then back home again. Kerrie’s friend arrived to babysit for Mia, who’d be staying home. With all the girls dressed and Kevin and Steve looking elegant in their tuxes, we left for the VIP Club in two cars.

  I’m sure I’m not the only mother of the bride who recalls the fairy-tale evening in small vignettes, poignant snapshots in my mind: the beaming smile on Miranda’s face that never dimmed through the night; the way she and Todd held hands; how handsome my 82-year-old father looked as he led the procession down the aisle with Kevin; how angelic Kerrie looked and how beautiful she sounded when she sang “Calico Skies,” a Paul McCartney song, during the ceremony; Steve’s touching speech at the reception, in which he reminisced about Miranda’s childhood and talked about what it felt like to have been displaced as the “main man” in Miranda’s life; how much fun we all had dancing the Hora.

It was over as soon as it started, with guests joining in to sing “American Pie” as the clock ticked toward 1 am. We didn’t get home until 2, and I was up at 5 to get my stratas in the oven and organize a meal that was attended by more than 100 out-of-town guests. Back at our house, assorted cousins and in-laws were rehashing the weekend’s events over strong coffee and rewarmed hors d’oeuvres from the reception, Afterward, Molly and I drove the newlyweds to the airport, where they left for a two-week
honeymoon to Hawaii. 

As it turned out, I didn’t need any time to recover emotionally. Miranda’s wedding had been so perfect that I was basking in the glow for days afterward. A few people asked whether I felt any letdown. I didn’t. I was just so relieved and glad that everything had gone smoothly, that the weather had cooperated, that no one tripped and fell, that no one got into an argument, and that I didn’t spill anything on my dress. I was tired, though, and I guess distracted, too, so that when Molly and Erich told us we were invited to his parents’ home in Maplewood, New Jersey, for dinner in a few weeks, it didn’t seem out of the ordinary. We’d invited them to Miranda’s wedding. They invited my father and stepmother, too.

On April 21, we headed down the Garden State Parkway when my cellphone rang. It was Molly. “Where are you?” she asked. “Erich just proposed!” She sounded ecstatic. “And the ring is beautiful,” she added.

And so, 24 days after one daughter’s wedding, we spent the evening celebrating another’s engagement with a multigenerational dinner, and I smiled in anticipation of the year ahead. Of the many roles I’ve had since becoming a mother, one of my most enjoyable is the one I’m currently playing and will no doubt assume again in the future: wedding planner.

 

 

Above: The happy couple and their guests let loose to the sounds of Big City Swing. Earlier in the evening, Miranda and Todd danced their first dance as husband and wife to “Fields of Gold” by Sting.

 

Mom Wisdom

 

Other Westchester mothers of the bride weigh in with their wedding-planning tips:

 

“Make folders of everything. I had an accordion file with
separate sections for bridesmaids’ dresses, cocktail hour,
decorations, flowers, and so forth. Everything was organized, and I could always put my hands on whatever was needed.”

–Rosemary Schmelkin, Rye Brook

 

 “Rehearsal dinners can often turn into mini-weddings,
especially if you have a lot of out-of-town guests. For my oldest daughter’s wedding we had a separate barbecue, where the out-of-town guests who were not involved with the wedding got to meet each other in an informal, relaxed way.
Then we had the rehearsal dinner for just the wedding party.”

–Carol Roye, Pleasantville

 

“Consider having live plants at the reception instead of flowers. It costs less, and guests can take them home.”

–Jean Nonna, Pleasantville

 

“If you’re giving a speech, bring an extra copy and give it to someone in case you lose yours. You would not believe how easy it is to misplace your speech or spill something on it.”

–Rosemary Schmelkin

 

 “Encourage the couple to add personal touches to make the wedding ‘theirs.’ My daughter is very family-oriented, so we looked through our family’s photographs to find all kinds of wedding pictures, had them framed together, and placed them in the living room lobby of the reception area. They were a big hit, and we have so many great memories of the unhurried time we had together as we looked for them!” –Barbara Laufer, Rye Brook

 

 

Pleasantville resident Rosemary Black is the food editor at the New York Daily News.

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