Reflections From A Bride

I’m married!!!

Wife. Husband. Marriage. After two months, these words still feel so foreign to me. Like, when did I become an adult capable of making these big life decisions?!?!

Luckily, my husband (!!) is my best friend. I know couples say that all the time (and I know everyone smiles and nods and tries not to roll their eyes), but it’s true for us. We met in college back in Fall 2014, developed a purely platonic friendship for over a year, and then took the plunge into dating our senior year of college.

Both of us had never dated anyone before. We were two goobers with no idea what a romantic relationship even entailed. But! We were also two very independent people who enjoyed our own company. We had both built lives that we were proud of: friends that we adored, hobbies that kept us grounded, interests that made our eyes light up. I spent 21 years making my life something I loved, so when I invited him in as my partner, it didn’t feel intimidating. It was the opposite. I was excited to welcome him into my space, to show the life I had created, and he was excited to do the same.

And now we get to officially combine those lives & start building together!

Bri Santoro Photography
Bri Santoro Photography

My mom was telling me she’d love to read a reflection of my wedding day, based on the little moments I remember. She said she wished she had done the same for her own. And that’s when I said, “Mom, you’re the only one who’d read it, and only because I’m your daughter.” And maybe that’s true. But maybe it’s also true that 20, 30, 40 years from now I will really enjoy reading a recap of my wedding, written from my newlywed self.

So here I am.

(Side note: I’ve realized that asking people who have been married a long time “what do you specifically remember from your own point of view on your wedding day?” is a GREAT question.)

Buckle up, buttercup. This post has already gone on long enough and IT’S ABOUT TO GET SO MUCH LONGER! Let me break it up with a picture of our bridal party, full of the cutest cuties I ever did see. Look at them!!!!


The Morning

I distinctly remember waking up before anyone else, my body buzzing. My alarm wasn’t supposed to go off for another hour, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep. The house was silent, and my anxiety took over.

In the early morning haze, I had convinced myself that no one was going to show up. Like, I 100% believed this. I frantically emailed all the vendors the addresses again (lol). The hair & makeup team was set to start at 8am, and I just knew everyone was going to be a no-show… You know, despite the fact my fiancé’s family had already driven in from Philly the day before, one of my bridesmaids flew across the country and was 20 minutes away in a hotel, & three of my bridesmaids were literally sleeping in my parents’ house with me.

I paced the quiet house… back and forth, back and forth… before forcing myself to go out on the porch. The day was clear. Stunning. I stared at the calm lake and desperately tried to be present. I knew this was the only quiet time I would have the entire day, but my mind was loud. It actually felt better once the hair and makeup team poured in and my bridesmaids did show up, their voices filling the space. I could allow myself to get swept up in the whirlwind of it all.

We ran behind schedule, and seeing as I was last on that schedule, I definitely felt the stress. Have you ever had two people curling your hair at one time??? On the outside I was trying to appear cool and calm, go-with-the-flow. On the inside it looked much different.

Hair & Makeup: Lakyn James Studio. Made us look like movie stars!

The thing is, when my sister created the day-of schedule, she had built in a lot of slack. Things always run long, of course they do. I wish I didn’t let the morning stress take over me, and instead I could have relaxed and enjoyed having so many wonderful people in one spot.

Still, I felt glam to the max when they were done, & managed to do a first look with my Dad just before we hopped on the shuttle! Cue my *first* cry of the day.

The Ceremony

Venue: Red Fox Winery & Lounge

Immediately, I felt calmer once we arrived to the venue. We are here, this is actually happening. We pulled up in the shuttle and I remember one of my bridesmaids saying, “look at the arch!” I went to the window and my jaw dropped at the gorgeous view in front of me. Vibrant colors everywhere you looked: clear blue skies, towering green trees, stark white chairs, and bright yellow sunflowers all over the arch.

The two hours before the ceremony were, dare I say, fun. The photographer immediately took control, finding a spot of shade and taking pictures of me and all my closest friends. When we got word that the men were en route, we were stowed away in a super cute room in the back of the venue, normally reserved for private parties. My husband and I wrote letters to each other to read before the ceremony, and in the craziness of the morning I didn’t have my opportunity. Fortunately, my sister saw how bummed I was about this and grabbed it as we left our parents’ house. I was able to read it at the venue, a half hour before the ceremony. After I finished and rejoined my bridesmaids, his sister jokingly asked, “So, you still going to marry him?” I smiled and said, “Our letters said a lot of the same things.”

So, yes. 🙂

Bri Santoro Photography
Bri Santoro Photography

As the clock ticked down, the nerves I had in the early morning returned. I remember someone saying “the shuttle from the hotel arrived!” and it was surreal to envision 160 family and friends just outside this building I was hiding in. People from California, Indiana, Virginia, Colorado, Georgia… All there, together. Waiting for me?!

At the rehearsal the day before, my Dad & I talked to each other the whole walk down the aisle. “Are we walking too fast? Not fast enough? Where do I look? Wait, wait, slow down!” I realized at the end I hadn’t even looked at my fiancé. Face, meet palm.

As we lined up for the real deal, and I started to see the bridesmaids disappear one by one into the sunshine, my Dad turned to me. “Remember to look at him.” So that’s what I did. (My Dad was always good with those one line words of wisdom when you need them most.)

Reader, he cried. :’)

Honestly, the whole ceremony was a blur. I remember getting to the front of the aisle – also crying – and reaching out so we could hold hands (we didn’t do this during the rehearsal). I remember noticing the wiring from the mic the videographer gave him poking out from his jacket, my Aunt Marci mouthing “where do I stand?!” when she went to do her reading (lol!), and seeing all his groomsmen’s faces lined perfectly behind him. I could look at him and see his 8 friends at the same time. The visual was striking. All these people standing behind him, both physically and metaphorically, supporting the two of us.

I loved our vows. We didn’t write them ourselves, but in a way we kind of did? Our wonderful officiant, a Pastor whom I’ve known since I was 16, gave us a booklet of vows and complete creative freedom, meaning we mashed about 3 different ones together.

I will try to make the life we have together
As beautiful, as sweet and rare

As the love I feel for you today.
I have come into your life
To share this with you
As long as we both shall live.

My favorite part of the ceremony was when our officiant asked us to look out in the crowd, at all those who came to support us, and said: “A rope with three chords cannot be broken. But what about a rope with hundreds of chords, woven together, protecting this union?”

Okay wait. That’s my second favorite part. My ACTUAL favorite was when the musician’s speaker accidentally went off in the middle of a prayer and a Verizon ad blasted. Sorry folks, this wedding was not sponsored by Verizon.

Bri Santoro Photography
Flowers by Malone Flower Shop, bouquets by MerciGarden on Etsy

The Reception

When the ceremony was over, it was like I could release a breath I had been holding for hours. We were married! Husband and wife, we did it! From here on out, all we had to do was focus on having an amazing time with our family and friends. Easy peasy. (EZPZ.)

After the ceremony came pictures. The family and bridal party shots were easy, as the photographer led the way. At one point the bridal party left to hide from the sun while we got all the family shots in front of the arch. When the photographer called them back, they returned each with a wine slushy in their hand. The party had officially started!

I loved, loved, loved our couple shots. The photographer gave us a lot of silly prompts to loosen us up and get natural smiles. At one point, she gave us a few minutes just to ourselves, to take in the fact that we were finally married. What a gift.

A big bonus to having our ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception all in one location was we could listen to the sound of friends’ laughter & the acoustic guitar wherever we went on the grounds. I must’ve turned to my husband 3 or 4 times to say, “Doesn’t it sound like everyone is having so much fun?”

Once again, flashes of details: arriving at cocktail hour once the pictures were done and everyone cheering. Various people coming up to say hi, you both look beautiful, wow look at that dress, can you believe the weather, can I get a picture?

We only got to enjoy cocktail hour for about 5 minutes (better than nothing!) before being whisked away into that back room again as everyone was shuffled into the reception area. I loved this! Just our bridal party there, everyone riding a high from the afternoon breeze and booze. My husband and I practiced our first dance on the small stage in the corner. We chatted with the groomsmen about their pocket squares and they showed me how they each did a different fold style (very impressive). My bridesmaids tried to fix the makeup I had cried away (much appreciated, but a lost cause).

And then it was time to go. “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” started playing and our parents and bridal party were soon gone, disappearing into the deafening crowd. Just the two of us, for a minute. When it was our turn to be introduced, I didn’t even see a break in the people to get to the front of the room! Somehow we made it to the dance floor, and did our first dance to Louis Armstrong’s La Vie En Rose.

Then came the long awaited speeches. My oh my. What a highlight. I cry at the speeches at every wedding, so I knew I’d be a mess at my own. I was leaking tears literally nonstop. Goodbye makeup! It was nice knowing you!!!!

My older sister Kate, our best friend Matt, and my Dad did such an amazing job. It is so special to know that our videographer captured the full speeches on tape and we can watch them whenever we want. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

After the speeches came the Father-Daughter and Mother-Son dances.

My Dad and I danced to Gracie Girl by Ben Folds, which my Dad selected himself.
Life flies by in seconds. You’re not a baby, Gracie, you’re my friend.”

My husband and his mother danced to What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, which is her favorite song.
I hear babies crying, I watch them grow. They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

After this, it was time to EAT! Before my wedding, over and over, I heard people say: “Make sure you eat!

Reader, I did not make sure I ate.

We got Pittsburgh Barbecue Company to cater the wedding (they were amazing throughout the entire process), which was great because who wouldn’t love BBQ at a wedding?! We got our plates first. I tried a sampling of everything, decided that it was all delicious, and then hopped up to start saying my hellos and thank yous. In my twisted mind, I had tried everything, so that means I ate. Right??? (This would later catch up to me at the end of the night when the adrenalin wore off.)

I think at this point, I had been so consumed with the ceremony, pictures, speeches, first dances, etc. that I felt I hadn’t had a chance to properly say hello to anyone yet. The fact that most of our guests had traveled out of town was starting to make me anxious – would I have enough time to thank them for coming?

I know it is becoming more socially acceptable for the couple to not worry about going around to the guests’ tables during dinner, but see… I genuinely love my family and friends. I wanted to say hi to everyone! I look back on this and while I wish I had more to eat, I don’t regret taking the time to thank people for coming to our wedding. (We also did thrifted mugs as our favors – one of my favorite details – and many people had picked their mug by dinner time. It was fun to see what everyone was picking, and what their mug said about them!)

Unconventional Cake Cutting

Cake: Prantl’s Bakery

When I’m a guest at weddings, I normally don’t pay much attention to the cake cutting. I always felt it was more of a special moment for the couple. In fact, because of the Pittsburgh Cookie Table tradition, I debated if we even really needed a cake.

However, my grandparents were celebrating their 63rd anniversary the very next day. We wanted to do something special to honor that, and when I remembered they eloped and never had a wedding or cake of their own… well, there it was!

We surprised them with their own cake. After my husband and I did our cake cutting & fed each other a piece, my grandparents did too! When the DJ made the announcement and I went over to help them to the front of the room, my grandma said, “Oh, you’re going to make me cry!” Oh no, if you start crying, I’m going to start crying!!!

My grandparents (on both sides) took such active roles in my life. I have been so fortunate to have had their love and support all these years, and I’m glad I could honor them on my wedding day in this way.

Once again, the videographer caught the entire cake cutting on camera, and I know I’m going to cherish this footage for years and years to come.

The Party!

Now that all the festivities were out of the way, it was time for DANCING! My husband was really looking forward to this part, as we love to dance at others’ weddings and we couldn’t wait to get all our friends on the dance floor!

For the very first song, the dance floor was pretty empty save for my writer friends who were ready to party from the get-go (THANK YOU), and I definitely had a moment of panic. All these people here and no one dancing?! But by the second song, everyone had finished their meals, gotten another round of drinks, and were ready for a long night on the dance floor.

This was an effortless way to spend time with so many people, hopping from group to group, dancing the night away.

A big bonus was our venue had an outside patio area where our cocktail hour was, so those who aren’t big on dancing or wanted to talk without screaming over the music could spend their night out there with some bonfires & s’mores.

Memories from this part of the night:

  • My Grandma loves line dancing, so we got her out there doing the Wobble 🙂
  • Uptown Funk (my “study abroad song”) playing and my study abroad friends appearing out of thin air around me like some Party Power Rangers
  • Everyone was requesting songs, so we had a very eclectic music playlist (like my friend Bethany requesting Stanky Leg JUST for my husband and when he came into the room from outside and everyone cheered)
  • Tequila shots got involved. Who doesn’t love taking shots side by side with your new sister-in-law, study abroad friends, and high school friends all in one group?! Cheers!
  • My friend is a balloon artist, and when he offered to bring his balloons… ummm, YES!!!!!

My husband and I snuck off for sunset pictures & because the party was in full force, no one noticed. We were able to have some moments of quiet, just the two of us… and the photographer. (And my sister snapping pictures BEHIND the photographer, lol!)

The party didn’t stop at 10pm. Since most of the guests were out of town, we all got shuttled over to the hotel, where we enjoyed pizza and good conversation ’til late in the night (…early in the morning?)

All in all, I could never have asked for a better wedding if I tried. My mother & sister helped with so much of the planning, the vendors were top notch and ensured a smooth day, the weather was beautiful, the booze was flowing, and love was felt everywhere.

9/18/21. The best day. ❤

6 thoughts on “Reflections From A Bride

  1. Paige,
    What a great synopsis of your wedding. It will be nice to look back on this years from now.
    May you have many many years together because it truly sounds like the two of you belong together. 💜🫂

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

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