Real Weddings: Keri & Nick

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Shelter Island, New York
Mali B Sweets
Philippe Cheng Photography

Nick and Keri met the summer going into college... she was 17 and he was 18. They life guarded together at a local pool, and while at the time they were just friends, they really had a great bond. Nick and Keri both went off to college and lost touch until the summer after their Sophomore year. Nick stopped by Keri's house randomly and they have been together ever since!

The couple was 19 years old when they started dating and continued to date long distance - South Bend, Indiana to Ithaca, NY for the rest of their college years. They would meet "halfway" for the weekends in Cleveland, Ohio or Erie, Pennsylvania, but always made sure to see each other at least every other weekend.

After college Nick went to Medical school in Syracuse, New York and Keri moved to NYC and continued their long distance relationship for 4 more years - going back and forth every other weekend. Although admittedly Nick did many more trips to NYC than Keri did to Syracuse.

By the time Nick moved to NYC the couple had spent 6 of the 7 years together long distance. Having Nick match his residency in NYC was one of the most exciting days of Keri's life! It meant that the last 7 years were worth the effort and they were finally going to be together. Keri was so happy and proud of Nick and excited for them on that day!

Nick and Keri spent the next 3 years just enjoying being in the same city! When they got married they had already been together for 10 years - really through thick and thin. Nick and Keri really grew up together - although many people grow apart when they start dating at such an early age, the couple seemed to mold both of their lives into one, and took the journey one year at a time together. Now their marriage is grounded in a strong friendship and deep love and respect for one another.

The Proposal:

It was a Wednesday afternoon in June, 2 days after the couple's "9 year anniversary" and just a few days before Nick entered his most difficult year in his residency. Nick and Keri had been spending their summers together with friends in West Hampton beach since graduating from college - one of the places that they were the most happy and content and where their greatest memories were made. So Nick surprised Keri with a picnic on the beach near the house that they were renting. The attacking piping plovers were no deterrent for Nick... neither was the fact that they hit traffic on the way out and by the time they got to the beach it was almost dark! As the sun was setting (actually it was pretty dark already) Nick got down on one knee in the sand and proposed. " I wish I could say I remember every detail... but I don't. I was too caught up in the moment and too overwhelmed to actually remember the little details," Keri recalls, "but I do remember that I said yes, and how happy we both were! Our families were starting to wonder if this day would ever come... and being able to surprise them with the news was so amazing!"

Traditions Incorporated Into The Day:

*"I really wanted the music for our wedding to be something special..." says Keri, "I was so bored with the "Canon In D" and just couldn't bring myself to walk down the aisle to something expected. So I enlisted an amazing musician- John Ragusa to help me incorporate the songs that really moved us into something we could use for the ceremony..."

Instead the couple translated the following songs into instrumental versions:

The groom and groomsmen walked down to - "Vanilla Sky" by Paul McCartney
The bridesmaids - "Fields of Gold" by Sting
The Bride - "Downeastern Alexa" by Billy Joel
The Recessional - "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel

*"The food was VERY important to us... I was SO tired of the "chicken or fish" at the every wedding. I wanted the food to be something memorable - a real "experience" - of course with out breaking the bank."

Keri hired Acquolina Caterers - "I believe they are based here and in Milan - one of the owners, Yolanda, is from Italy and they do many high profile Italian clients. The food is simply fantastic!"

For the first course the couple offered a classic Italian antipasti (which was also a cost cutting move - serving as table decor as well!) The second course was a salad with shrimp and the main course was a trio of pasta.

"Just the opposite of "chicken or fish"... I was probably the first bride to sit down and eat at her own wedding!!! I wasn't going to risk not having the wonderful food that we had provided to our guests!"

The Ceremony:

"We had poems written by my husband's grandmother who had recently passed away read during our ceremony... it was something that meant a lot to my husband and his family."

Color & Decor:

"I wanted to spice up the table decor - do something a bit more unexpected - so I bought yards and yards of this gorgeous fabric that I was coveting and made table runners for the tables. Then I collected antique oil lamps from every town my husband I visited for the 12 months of our engagement and used them as the table decor and filled them with different varieties of ferns. We were in this gorgeous setting on the water - a ball of flowers just didn't seem to fit - I tried to "work with our environment."

"I then cleaned the table runners and covered my dining room chairs with the fabric! I am now reminded of our special day every time I walk into my apartment!"

Experience With Wedding Professionals:

"Since I am a wedding planner by trade, I was able to choose the "best of the best". I was very fortunate to work with some of the most talented people in the industry. It was absolutely perfect and not perfect because it was "my" day, but perfect because of the talent and creativity that all of the vendors brought to the table. I have also developed close friendships with many of the people that we worked with - so it was extra special to have them there with us as we celebrated. I am so thankful to every single on of them - they gave me the wedding of my dreams."

Keri's Favorite Moment:

"My favorite moment of the wedding was our first dance. My husband and I have been dating since we were 19... got married when he was 30 and I was 29... so we chose "you're still the one" by Orleans. It's a bit faced paced, but it really set the mood for the rest of the wedding - the dinner and the speeches were over and it was time to have fun! We wanted to get the party started and we really did with our unexpected and energetic entrance!"

Unexpected Event:

"Nothing was unexpected... I am a wedding planner... EVERYTHING is planned!" ,Keri recalls laughing, "Just kidding - one thing did happen, the house that I rented to get ready in - the water broke that morning - they were able fix it so the water was well water, but it smelled like sulfur! So my father had to go to the store and buy gallons of water to rinse the sulfur smell off!!! What's so unbelievable is that I was so happy when I woke up that morning that it didn't even faze me!"

Keri and Nick's Wedding Day Advice:

*Enjoy the day - take it all in - its what everyone "says" to do... but you really have to just stop and enjoy yourselves. If you let go and have fun, then your guests will feel more relaxed and the whole wedding will be much more enjoyable for EVERYONE. A happy bride/groom = great, fun and memorable wedding.

*You set the stage for the wedding, if you are having a great time, so will your guests!

*Do what feels right to you... parents have SO many opinions - not that you shouldn't take those into account, but you really need to do what makes you happy. Remember your parents got married 30 years ago - things have changed! Traditions are good, but its okay to shake things up a bit!