For their Palace at Somerset Park wedding, Abby and Russ leaned into a Christmas-theme and added personal touches like a treasure chest-shaped card box and wooden turtle cutouts as the guest book.
By Jacqueline Larcara
Bowling brought together Abigail Reyes, 42, of Paterson, and Russell Yap, 45, of Hoboken. As teenagers, they met at the Junior Bowlers Tour. Then, while both attending Saint Peter’s College (now University) in Jersey City, Russ began to hang out with Abby’s twin brother, Francis. The couple made their relationship official in 2009 and they now live in Fords and bowl together every week.
Russ proposed to Abby in Hawaii in 2021. “It was May 17—an extension of Tax Day, that’s how I remember,” says Abby, who is the staff accountant for New Jersey Monthly, New Jersey Bride and Design NJ magazines. Russ’ inspiration for the beach proposal? The 2004 flick 50 First Dates.
On January 7, 2023, they tied the knot. Their 136 guests traveled from as far as the Philippines and, of course, there were many bowling friends in attendance. It was important to Abby to honor her father, who passed away 11 years ago. On her bouquet, she included a brooch with a photo of her dad. Abby and her father loved Christmas. Luckily, both the church, St. John Vianney Roman Catholic Church, and the venue, the Palace at Somerset Park, still had holiday decorations on display. Abby and Russ wanted a traditional ceremony, so “we didn’t see each other until I was walking down the aisle with my brother,” says Abby. “I was thinking, I can’t wait to get to him.”
They had a treasure chest-shaped card box and wooden turtle cutouts as the guest book. For wedding gifts, Abby gave Russ a humidor and cigars with their last name on them. Russ gave Abby a Tiffany & Co. necklace. “I told him I would have been happy with a Happy Meal, and he was like, ‘no, this is our wedding day,’” says Abby.
At cocktail hour, stations featured various cuisines, including hibachi stir-fry, pasta, seafood and a suckling pig. The couple chose a Shih Tzu theme for their signature cocktails—an old-fashioned named for their pup Tuukka and a Malibu bay breeze named for their pooch Molly. Palermo’s Bakery made the four-tier cake with lemon, chocolate pudding and cannoli fillings. The couple also opted for a Viennese display with mini pastries, crème brûlée and Belgian waffles with bananas Foster.
Abby bought the first gown she tried on. “I felt like a princess and my best friend started to cry,” she says. Once the stylist added the sleeves, Abby was over the moon. “I usually dress more sporty. I wanted to be girly and I couldn’t stop smiling and spinning with my dress.” Abby plans to wear her gown again on their first anniversary. “I just want that one more moment of bridal bliss,” she says.
The country music-loving couple danced to “Me and You” by Kenny Chesney. Russ and his mother danced to “Mom” by Garth Brooks. “His mom is in a wheelchair, but she wanted to dance with him. Everybody was crying. It was really nice watching them,” says the bride, who also danced with Kenneth, a longtime friend who ran the bowling tournament where Abby and Russ first met.
“Enjoy the planning process and don’t stress because the day of the wedding will go fast,” says Abby.
The couple returned to their engagement spot in Hawaii. Russ wants to continue to travel to places like the Maldives, Bora Bora and Samoa. Abby tells Russ, “You want to go? Cool, I’m here for the ride.”