Tony is a martial arts instructor in Princeton and I was training within the same organization. I was going to be transferring to his martial arts school and friends of ours wanted to make a point that we meet beforehand, because they believed we would hit it off. I was not looking for any sort of relationship at the time, but agreed to a group meeting at a local bar in Cherry Hill, NJ. Nerves got the best of me and I avoided Tony the entire night. It wasn’t until about 40 minutes before we were going to relocate to a friends house that we actually made eye contact. Knowing I was going to become his student, I figured I would break the ice. I approached him and said, “so, I needed to talk to you anyway…..” and that forever stuck in our lives as the worst, yet most successful, pick-up line out there.
We went to a local winery, Working Dog, with some friends and our dogs on a cool and gloomy June afternoon. I had been expecting that an engagement was coming, as we had discussed rings and my birthday was coming up the following week. I was completely surprised by his proposal in the middle of the vineyard, and our photographer documenting it all. He did not disappoint but starting his question with, “So, I needed to talk to you anyway…..”
We are huge movie goers, lovers of warriors, and fans of Wonder Woman and Superman. We wanted to make a day that was extremely unique to us and the life that we’ve build together thus far. We made our center pieces out of old film reels and cases, and silk flowers for ease. We also had light-up marquee numbers on each table, to denote where everyone would be sitting. The bridesmaids wore Navy blue chiffon dresses, which they all got to choose their own dress. The groomsmen wore light grey tuxedos with a navy vest and tie, and brown cognac shoes. Family is everything to us, so we wanted to incorporate that idea as much as possible through our weekend. We found special ways to pay an ode to those who are no longer with us, which was especially hard for me as I lost my father in 2014. We had a candy station as wedding favors for my late grandfather, a signature drink for my dad “the Kevin-wallbanger”, and special photo booth props for my late grandmother. We also had homemade jarred peaches made by my cousin’s Philadelphia company (Coddiwomple Canning Co.) for Tony’s late great grandmother, as this was a treat she often made for him. Our cake toppers were simple Wonder Woman and Superman PoP! figures. We had some custom signs made by a friend, which we decorated to look like movie marquee signs. Each were headed to fit the movie idea and effectively communicate what it was. Outside, we had blankets with a sign that said, “don’t turn blue while we say I do”. We also used a movie banner as our guest book labeled “opening credits”. I sort of deemed myself the #hashtagqueen in the New Jersey Bride Facebook group, so we utilized our own hashtag in punny ways. Our hashtag was #BillingsBash, and we made signs for each table to let people know what it was and how to use it. We also headed our bathroom baskets as #BillingsBashket, followed by some witty explanations on use what you want, just don’t steal it before it’s over. We got ready at the hotel we were staying at, and the boys went to the venue a little before the girls so we could do a first look before the ceremony and get as many photos done before. A big deal to me, was being able to walk down the aisle alone, to show how strong I’ve become since losing my dad. I had my mom meet me half way, so she could give me away at the alter. We had a simple outdoor ceremony, which the sun came out just in time for. We also had a popcorn maker as our card box.
We only visited two venues, and the Estate at Farrington Lake was the second. It is certainly a hidden gem tucked away on some beautiful wooded roads. We found it online and were drawn to it by the photos. The hall is very modern, and basically a blank canvas for your special day. There are LCD TVs through out the hall available for use, and up-lighting installed to set the mood for your evening! Everything is clean, and just really sharp looking. Walking around the grounds really stole our hearts. The serenity of the lake and trees really felt like a place we wanted to commit to the rest of our lives to each other. The real sell for us was the staff. We are two people who work with people for a living, and connections mean everything to us. Syed and his time immediately made us feel welcomed and gave us confidence that our day will be what we want it to be. We had some ideas that we weren’t sure would work without adding on extra expenses, but Syed assured us that if we wanted it, he’d make it work. Even having buffalo wings available at an formal event. I can’t speak enough about his teams attention to detail with all the supplies we brought to decorate, and assurance and organization of everything. They made this so easy.
We chose a cocktail reception, because the idea of being strapped down to a plated dinner was not us. We had our typical cocktail hour which had some passed goodies, like Buffalo chicken empanadas, meatballs, and French toast shooters (to die for!). We were taking photos during this time so we didn’t get to try everything they passed around, but Syed made sure to stock our sweetheart table with some goodies that we missed. As for the reception, we had five stations available for our guests. There was a Latin station that had chicken and beef fajitas, an Asian station that had fried dumplings and lo mien, a carving station which had a tender flank steak and pork, a pasta station with the best penne vodka I’ve ever had, and lastly our custom wing bar; which had garlic parmesan wings, hot wings and fries. Everything was delicious, and yes I made a point to sit down and eat all of it! We had our own server at our sweetheart table so he was sure to keep our plates and glasses full all night, it was wonderful! There was also a whole wall of salads, sushi, meat and cheese displays, and other goodies that I honestly forgot all about and didn’t make it to. It was incredible how much variety there was, there was something for everyone. Our cake was included in our package and it came from Palermo’s bakery. We chose a vanilla cake with raspberry filling and a chocolate hazelnut flavor which was out of this world. Cake was also served with a cannoli from the Estate, which was also delicious. We are one of the last people in our group of family and friends to get married, so all of our guests have been to many weddings. I can’t even begin to count how many compliments and comments we’ve gotten on how delicious everything was and how much there was available to them.
My dress was by Essense of Australia, and was something I came across by mistake. A year before we got engaged, I had gone with family to try on some dresses for fun. My mom lives in California and doesn’t make it back to New Jersey that much so it seemed like a good idea to find some styles, as we always knew our goal was to get married one day. There was a dress that I found, and loved, but didn’t purchase as we weren’t actually set to get married yet. Fast forward a year, when it’s time to actually find a dress. I go back to the same salon, try on the same dress and actually hated it. I don’t recall who actually pick the dress I purchased out, but when it was on I knew. My husband and I are very athletic, and my strong build is something he admires most. This dress showcased my back and curves very delicately, and when it was on I knew I wanted to marry him in that dress. It had a rhinestone detail across the back, and a plunge in front dressed up in mesh and lace. The lace train was gorgeous. Everything about this dress was made for me. Not too glam, not too simple, just the right amount of everything.
How do you pick?! Of course the answer is promising to spend the rest of my life loving my best friend, however I think that his surprise to me on our wedding day is the best thing ever. When I was about four or five years old, all I wanted for once Christmas was a green tractor. I got my wish one year and got a little toy tractor with a trailer. So, my husband, being the super thoughtful guy who always wants to surprise me and make me smile, wanted to make sure I got a new tractor. In the middle of the night, he disappeared for a bit and I didn’t realize. I hear the DJ announce that he has a surprise for me, and I look around frantically wondering where the heck my new husband is. The song “Big Green Tractor” by Jason Aldean began playing and I had to chuckle. The photo of me as a child on my tractor was displayed on the big screen and I was already hysterically laughing. Then the song switched to “She Thinks My Tractors Sexy” “by Kenny Chesney, and my husband comes rolling out of the back of the venue riding a little motorized John Deere green tractor, wearing a cowboy hat, cut off sleeves and riding boots. The photos say it all. Hilarious, touching, and just forever a memorable part of our big day.
I think the only thing I didn’t want to have missing from the day was the presence of my dad, even though he was no longer with us. My bouquet was wrapped in his tie and a photo. We had his photo displayed through the night, and at the ceremony. We even had a small video play before cake as an “in memoriam” which I had some voicemails from him played. I walked down the aisle to the song he wanted to dance with me to, “My Little Girl” by Tim McGraw. I didn’t want too much because it was a very happy occasion, but I didn’t want him missing completely. I feel that everything was perfect, and all got to remember and honor him with smiles and good memories.
I can’t say that anything went wrong. Earlier that week I learned that the complimentary shuttle with the hotel wasn’t going to accommodate us the way I thought it would, so we did have to hire a limo company last minute which I wasn’t expecting. However, First Class Limo was amazing in getting us what we needed only five days before our wedding!
“Beautiful Crazy” by Luke Combs. The words describe me as a person so well and even though I might be a little out of the ordinary, Tony loves every bit about me. Our crazy is what makes us unique in the world, so might as well embrace each other’s nuances.
I think the thing I see the most is everyone going for the same exact theme, same exact venue, same exact officiant, and my advice is to not be cookie cutter. Sure there are many brides out there, many top rated vendors and venues- some things will be similar. However, don’t plan your wedding base on what looks good in the magazine. Sit together and figure out what you love together, and make your day around that. What was most important to us is that our wedding day was a reflection of our love and others would get to see and share with us. Many of the compliments I got were about how personal every detail was, and that it made someone feel close to that detail, even if they were out of the loop. This is your wedding day, not everyone else’s. Make choices that make you happy, not that looks good to your guests.
We will be heading to Florence and Rome, Italy over Christmas! We can’t wait.