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|KCMag.com: LOVE STORY|
STORY BY Natalie McAllister
Once upon a time, bride and groom followed the traditions of those who were married before them. They picked music from a set of traditional songs, married in formal religious buildings, and the brides wore long, white dresses. Guests might say if you had been to one wedding, you had been to them all.
Flash forward to today, where wedding plans flourish with personal touches. From incorporations of cultural ceremonies to quirky twists on familiar traditions and dining options selected from the couple’s favorite foods, weddings these days are taking a stand against bland.
STEVE AND JENNIFER MEYERS
“I wish on everything,” Jennifer says. “So at 11:11, of course I make a wish. But once we chose that date, we started seeing it everywhere. Steve, a pilot, even saw it on his airplane dashboard.”
Jennifer created a blog, called “Planner Getting Married,” so that her bridal clients could come along on her journey. “It was a really cool platform to show them how to make your wedding personal and unique,” Jennifer says.
Advocates of a small, intimate wedding experience, Jennifer and Steve kicked off the weekend with a slew of activities for their 50 or so guests. The couple chartered a 40-person limo bus to ferry their guests around the metro for several days before the actual wedding, and guests were treated to everything from a wine tasting extravaganza at three local wineries to a home blessing complete with Champagne toast and a rehearsal dinner loaded with a gathering of Kansas City’s finest barbecue samplings at Mr. and Mrs.
Personal touches carried over to the ceremony, too. As a tribute to her dad, Jennifer pre-recorded a message to him for the DJ to play as they walked down the aisle. And rather than having the standard lighting of candles or mixing of sand unity ceremony, Jennifer and Steve opted for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich followed by a sip of milk. Even the bridesmaids’ dresses had a touch of the couple’s personality—the polka-dotted Anthropologie dresses were anything but traditional. “Bridesmaid dresses are a reflection of your personal style reflected in your girls,” Jennifer says.
As for the dress, Jennifer’s Jim Hjelm from the Gown Gallery received a little personal attention from Altar Bridal to make it long for the ceremony and short and comfortable for the reception. “Altar Bridal made it what it was,” Jennifer says.
After the ceremony, Steve and Jennifer kept guests entertained throughout the evening with activities and tastings stationed around the grounds. Custom signs guided guests to cigar roller Corey Frisbee or wine tasting bars on barrels rolled over from Cooper’s Oak Winery. For dining options, Steve and Jennifer fed guests cake drops from their custom Slice cake, four styles of popcorn (including guest-favorite flavor dill pickle) and snickerdoodle cookies in honor of Steve’s late mother. At the end of the evening, guests gathered around the couple to send them off with a lantern lighting ceremony.
“It’s like I tell my brides,” Jennifer says. “Be true to who you are, and plan a wedding based on the two of you.”
JENNIFER AND STEVE’S WEDDING
Two college degrees and two years of long-distance love later, Jason and Lindsey found themselves back in Kansas City and ready to settle down. Lindsey admits the distance between them while she was in graduate school in Chicago and Jason worked in Boston was challenging, but she sees the separation as a blessing in disguise.
“It was difficult, but we made it work,” Lindsey says. “We felt it important to grow both independently and as a couple. And instead of growing apart, this distance actually strengthened our relationship.”
Shortly after, the couple bought their first house, in Prairie Village. Then in August of 2010, while on vacation in Cape Cod, Jason surprised Lindsey (a New Jersey native) with the East Coast proposal she had hoped for—one with friends and family nearby to help them celebrate.
“I was hoping that it would be the ‘engagement trip,’” Lindsey remembers. “But Jason has a pretty good poker face.”
Seven years after Lindsey and Jason met on stage, they began planning for their dream wedding. Because they would be paying for the wedding themselves, Lindsey knew they would have to work on a budget. But after years of learning how to balance the challenges of long distances, deaths in the family, home ownership and finances, the couple felt confident that they could pull off a stellar event. “Our wedding was definitely on a budget, so I did everything myself and with the help of friends and family,” Lindsey recalls. “It was a labor of love. It was everything I wanted it to be, but it was a lot of work.”
For months leading up to Jason and Lindsey’s October 2011 wedding, Lindsey enlisted her family and friends to help her pull together creative details. Based on her wish for a rustic wedding with woodsy, pretty details, Lindsey’s team began combing the city for blue and green glass bottles for the centerpieces.
Lindsey collected burlap to accent the bride and groom chairs and decorated wine glasses with chalkboard paint and cursive names as place settings for guests. Lindsey had a graphic-artist friend design her invitations, and her friends helped her back them with blue paper tied with twine before mailing. Never one to miss an opportunity to win big on the details, Lindsey even had Jason make their wooden cake stands for the dessert bar from a tree that fell in their yard one night.
“We wanted to break the rules,” Lindsey says. “We didn’t want to have a cookie cutter wedding.”
In keeping with the couple’s theme of rustic elegance, Lindsey says they knew they had found the perfect location the moment they walked into the River Market Event Place on Second and Walnut. “They have a giant tree they use as a chandelier, so it couldn’t have been more perfect for what we were going for,” Lindsey says. “Plus, they have an indoor/outdoor space with big, open windows.”
The open windows proved ideal for Lindsey and Jason’s wedding day, which was warm for October. Guests were greeted at the door with another creative touch: Instead of a traditional guest book, guests dabbed their fingers in colorful ink and “signed” in on a thumbprint tree courtesy of Lindsey’s aunt, who is an artist. Also greeting guests at the door was one of the couple’s favorite creative touches—a big sign encouraging guests to “Eat, Drink and Be Murray.” The play on the couple’s last name even appeared on custom cocktail napkins.
Creative touches transitioned into the ceremony, too. Rather than carrying a bouquet of shaped flowers, Lindsey opted for a “fresh-picked” look of wildflowers, including blooms like white larkspur, myrtle and sage. As for the floral arrangements decorating the collected blue and green glasses, Lindsey filled them with decorative twigs and various heights of wildflowers.
For the music, Lindsey and Jason went local and hired Nick Nave of Red Guitar, a Kansas City-based acoustic rock band, to sing during the ceremony and DJ the reception. For the duration of the night, guests perused an open buffet of comfort foods that included an elaborate mashed potato station where mashed potatoes were scooped into martini glasses and topped with an array of delicious additions.
The couple balked at the idea of having a traditional cake. Instead, a dessert bar—staged on Jason’s wooden cake stands—filled with whoopee pies, chocolate pretzels, s’mores and other delicacies tempted guests’ taste buds. “Jason and I rarely have cake at weddings, so we did something different,” says Lindsey.
Although the handcrafted details were a lot of work, Lindsey and Jason have learned that challenges are nothing more than opportunities to strengthen their bond.
“Just knowing that this is the person who will be by my side to deal with whatever else life has to throw our way, I think that is what marriage is about,” Lindsey says. “I’m just so happy that it’s Jason.”
LINDSEY AND JASON’S WEDDING
There was never any doubt where Rebecca wanted to be married. Rebecca, who is the daughter of Bo Ling’s owners Theresa and Richard Ng, fell in love with other weddings and receptions held at Bo Ling’s Country Club Plaza location. When James popped the question, planning the ceremony and reception for their wedding at her favorite branch of her family’s restaurant felt right. With the help of her mom and Bo Ling’s experienced event staff, Rebecca says the wedding seemed to fall into place. Her only regret about holding the wedding just six weeks after James proposed is that her family in Hong Kong wouldn’t be able to come.
With Bo Ling’s on the Plaza booked for their wedding and catering on site, Rebecca and James just had to worry about the details. Rather than sending out paper invitations on such short notice, James and Rebecca built an online wedding website that included information about their service, music, registry and invitations.
For the musical selections, James enlisted the help of friends to make a playlist for the ceremony and reception that would echo the couple’s mutual feelings. Since James and Rebecca met in a nightclub, James wanted to recall their first memories together with a few dance songs. Those dance songs and others handpicked by James were piped in through the Plaza store’s sound system.
Many of the wedding’s traditions and final touches reflected Rebecca’s Asian heritage. Rebecca admits that at first, planning the traditions into their ceremony was a little overwhelming for her and James. But ultimately, Rebecca believes the ceremonies made the event special for the couple.
On the day of the wedding, Rebecca treated her family to a traditional tea ceremony. Wearing a red dress custom-ordered by her mother before her own wedding in China, Rebecca served tea to her relatives to show them gratitude for raising her to that point in her life. In exchange, her relatives gave her and James red envelopes with cash inside.
“The ceremony shows respect to your family, and they give you their blessing by drinking the tea and then giving the red envelope to give us good wishes,” Rebecca says.
The couple also played a traditional Asian door game in which James had to bribe Rebecca’s friends and relatives to let him into the bridal suite. James arrived bearing gifts and more red envelopes for the girls, and after much good-natured teasing, they let James in. “It’s kind of nerve-wracking for him,” Rebecca says, “but it’s a lot of fun.”
As for the final touches, Bo Ling’s culinary crew laid out a mouth-watering traditional Chinese banquet that included roast pig, abalone, live lobster, sea cucumbers, red snapper and more. Bo Ling’s has recently forayed into baking, and the couple’s cake was an in-house, five-layer and four-flavor delicacy. Guests were even treated to traditional Chinese “marry-your-daughter cakes,” little sweets with a red bean taste that are standard on a daughter’s wedding day.
“In the beginning, I was a little resistant to the ceremonies and complicated traditions,” says Rebecca. “But in the end, it was meaningful to have the special traditions, and I think it was good for bringing my husband in and feeling welcomed into the family.”
REBECCA AND JAMES’ WEDDING
“Not to sound cliché, but it truly was love at first sight for the both of us,” Taylor remembers of the first time he met Megan. “The rest is history.”
The couple has been together since meeting at Megan’s high school graduation party more than nine years ago, and although they didn’t know it that summer day in Paris, their life together was about to take an unexpected twist. Megan had been experiencing severe pressure headaches and chronic fatigue, but she was focused on finishing her degree at UMKC, where she planned to graduate Summa Cum Laude with department honors in psychology and go on to medical school. By early 2009, Megan’s symptoms were worsening. She says countless doctors admitted that she was exhibiting neurological “red flag” symptoms, but none of them could tell what was happening to her.
Finally, Megan met a specialist in the autonomic nervous system and its spectrum of disorders at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. On April 1, 2009, Megan received her long-awaited diagnosis: Arnold-Chiari Malformation, a rare and incurable brain disease that often mimics Multiple Sclerosis in its repertoire of symptoms.
Megan describes the disease as “just sort of a fluke thing that happened to me.” Her brain and spinal cord had not formed properly in utero, and although she had lived a normal life until that point, she learned that the disease was indeed congenital and not necessarily hereditary.
“Chiari can have up to and more than 100 symptoms,” Megan explains. “Like snowflakes, each one of us experiences different symptoms at different times, and they can come and go, and others just always stay.”
Despite the probability of brain surgeries and countless treatments that lie ahead for Megan, Taylor’s support never wavered. The couple moved forward with their wedding plans as best as they could, selecting November 11, 2011, as their lucky date. Taylor explains that they began to see 11 everywhere, and their research into the “prompts” suggested the number as like little messages from the couple’s guardian angels.
In search of a venue, Megan and Taylor toured Loose Mansion, where they met owner Barbara Saathoff. “[Megan] came in struggling with a walker, but she practically emanated joy about finding Loose Mansion, as it was exactly what she was hoping to find for a wedding venue,” Saathoff remembers. “As we walked through the space, Megan shared with me her story, and I felt that we just had to figure out a way to make Loose Mansion work for her needs and ensure that this deserving couple has an amazing wedding.”
Megan’s treatments and surgeries had seriously strained the couple’s wedding budget. Thanks to Saathoff and Angela Smith of “Kansas City Perfect Wedding Guide,” almost all of the vendors for the beautiful vintage-themed wedding donated their services. Together, Saathoff and Smith planned behind the scenes while Megan and Taylor battled her disease. Megan admits that she and Taylor didn’t really know what to expect on the day of their wedding.
Shortly before the big day, Megan got another surprise: KC Smile gifted her with a new set of veneers. Megan’s medical treatments had wreaked havoc on her smile, and the new set of teeth seemed destined to coincide with the preciousness of the day. And the surprises didn’t end there. As the couple arrived at Loose Mansion, they were surprised with a custom gobo lighting fixture, installed by Innovative Lighting. Guests were greeted with a donation from KC Photobooth (after the wedding, Megan and Taylor received a book of all of their guests’ photos, each inscribed with a personal message). And after the ceremony, Megan received a vintage-style beaded headband from Tallulah Opal to wear during the reception.
“No matter what the future holds, you will always have each other to lean on during the hard times,” Megan says. “And to live, laugh and love the rest of the time.”
MEGAN AND TAYLOR’S WEDDING
Purple and glimmer certainly commanded the attention of the couple’s 400-plus guests, but as the saying goes, the best things come in small packages. For Ashley, one such package was wearing her grandmother’s wedding band as a token of affection during the ceremony. “My grandma lives in Florida and she couldn’t make the trip,” Ashley says. “So I wore her wedding band on my finger.”