A Tale of Two Weddings - NYC

July 15, 2018

Part two of The Story of Us. Now that Herschel and I were officially engaged, we asked ourselves "Where and when are we going to get married?"

Italy was out obviously due to the deployment, and we already had an upcoming vacation planned to Paris in May, so I said "why don't we get married in Paris? It's my favorite place in the world!" But, after researching it further, it is virtually impossible to get married in France as a foreigner unless you live there or have relatives there.

Since our tickets to Paris were booked on the most awesome French boutique airline, but we still had to get to NYC to catch those flights, we decided to elope to NYC a couple of days before departing for Europe to get the "rubber stamp" out of the way before having our "romantic" wedding in Paris.

Again, fate had other plans. The moment our family and friends heard about our elopement to NYC and then to Paris, there was a resounding "we want to come to New York" from all of them. So we found ourselves planning a wedding for 16 people in Manhattan AND planning a wedding overseas in Paris for less than a week later. Why not? You mean I get to wear that amazing gown twice? YES, PLEASE!

The First Wedding - New York

Thursday, May 17. The weather forecast went from bad to awful with 100% chance of rain, which meant there was no way we were going to get married on the Bow Bridge in Central Park as originally planned. Instead we chose the alternate location of Grand Central Station for our Saturday afternoon wedding.

After acting as travel agent for 10 people for the previous weeks, we all boarded our direct flight to NYC on the morning of Friday, May 18.

The Bride & Groom
Herschel and me along with my mom and dad AKA Mama & Papa Thomas
Upon arriving at the airport, we had to leave the rest of our party in order to meet our wedding coordinator at City Hall in downtown Manhattan. Nothing could have possibly prepared us for the chaos that we were going to witness: hundreds of couples in varying forms of wedding attire, long lines, shouting security guards...it was definitely an assault to the senses. The "wedding business" was a well-oiled machine there, but we were so glad to have Goran with us as he helped us navigate getting our marriage license.  

We went from there to Grand Central Station to pick out a spot for our wedding ceremony to take place the following day. I'll give you some foreshadowing here...Herschel and I were both pleasantly surprised at how seemingly quiet and calm it was there given that it was rush hour on a Friday afternoon. I left extremely excited about the picturesque wedding we were going to have the following day.

Saturday, May 19, 2018. The REAL Royal Wedding. After hardly sleeping at all due to excitement and awe that, not only was I going to get married today to the most amazing gentleman I had ever met but my entire family and most of my closest friends were coming to celebrate with us, we ordered lots of coffee and some breakfast to watch the "other" royal wedding.

After I showered and packed my bags, my sister Erin arrived to go with me to the spa at The Plaza Hotel to get our hair and makeup done and where Herschel and I were staying that night to celebrate our wedding. We splurged to stay there and I am SO GLAD we did. It was the best hotel experience I've ever had. 

***Side note to all of you travelers out there: a friend of mine told me recently that the best way to score an upgrade for a hotel room is to write to them in advance of your visit if you plan to celebrate a special occasion while you are a guest there. I took her advice and wrote a handwritten letter to the hotel a couple of weeks before our wedding telling them about our story and asked if I could surprise my groom with an upgrade to a suite on our wedding night. And they HOOKED US UP!***

Herschel joined Erin and me at the spa and drank champagne with us as we got made up for the wedding. It was a fun and relaxing morning. Pretty soon, it was time for us to part ways and get dressed for the wedding. Since we were eloping and there were people in from various parts of the country visiting, we wanted to keep things simple so we opted to do "first look" pictures at the Plaza and then travel together with everyone in our group over to Grand Central Station. These photos are some of my favorites from our wedding day in New York.

After the fun of getting to see each other for the first time, we all piled into the limos and departed for Grand Central Station. Herschel's daughter, Brooke, snapped this really cute photo of us walking in.  #hashtagawesome

This is right before chaos ensued. As we walked into the picturesque terminal with the beautiful ceiling, clock, and iconic wall of windows, we heard hundreds of people chanting and yelling and then saw a line of NYPD police officers surrounding what we gathered was a heated protest.  Note: this was at 3:10 PM. Our wedding was to take place at 3:30 PM. 

Here is a photo that we now laugh about when we look at it - the look on my face when we saw what was happening:
Not a happy bride!
NYPD assured us that the permit for this protest ended at 3:30 PM and they would get them out of our way so we could get married. Our wedding planner and photographer took it in stride and used the extra time for photographs while my sister and Brooke went to Magnolia Bakery and got some banana pudding (which they shared with me and it was super yummy). 

Here is a photo we found later on social media as the protest goes on:
Our wedding photo on Twitter
After many extra photos, the protest finally ended and our "wedding party" walked over the location we had picked out for our wedding the day prior. The violinist began playing the selection of songs we chose when another large wrench was thrown into our plan: the manager on duty at Grand Central told us that no live music was allowed to be played on the premises. This was the first time I thought "I am not sure we are going to get married today after all." My mom came over and said "You guys have this awesome suite at the Plaza - why don't we just all go there and you can get married in your suite?" 

As I prepared to corral everyone together, our wedding coordinator said we could get married but we just wouldn't be able to have the violinist play during our ceremony. At that point, Herschel and I both said to each other "we don't care what else happens as long as we just get married today." That's the kind of attitude you need to have when you elope and there are so many moving parts and pieces. I am glad we had that mindset as we enjoyed each other and our family and friends throughout that day.

We exchanged wedding vows that we wrote to one another and after a lot of tears and laughs, we were pronounced man and wife. It wasn't until that point that I realized that hundreds of people were standing around on the ground floor, on the stairs and hanging over the balcony watching our wedding because they all erupted into cheers and whistles. It was incredibly romantic. 

But the romance level was about to get kicked into high gear. Herschel has the most amazing singing voice but, given that he is shy and reserved, I hadn't really ever heard him sing more than a couple of verses to a song while we were in the car or out and about somewhere. The next thing I knew, I heard the beginning notes of one of our favorite songs and Herschel - quiet Herschel - in front of hundreds of bystanders and all of our family and friends - sang to me. Again, more crying and more cheering all around us. It was a moment I will never forget as long as I live.

Once our wedding was over and all of the bystanders wished us a happy life together, we all got back into the limo for a trip to Brooklyn to get some awesome outdoor photos of the Brooklyn Bridge. Luckily it had stopped raining and a dense fog shrouded the tops of the NYC skyline, but it was beautiful nonetheless. 

The party could officially start now and we headed over to American Cut Steakhouse in Midtown where we had an amazing steak dinner with our closest friends and family. It could have been the champagne or the fact that I was just so happy, but Brooke snapped this photo at dinner and it speaks 1,000 words to me. Despite all of the surprises and having to roll with the punches, it was the most joyous perfect day.

Herschel, and my dear friends Zach & Liz
Karla Janning and her two daughters, Megan and Lauren (there in spirit was Andy Janning)
Once dinner was over, Herschel and I met Liz and Zach for champagne at The Champagne Bar at The Plaza (I mean...it was our moral imperative to do that since we were staying there!) and celebrated over more champagne and some macarons.  

Then it was finally time to go to our room at the Plaza where I said earlier we got hooked up with an upgrade to a beautiful suite!

And what did we see when we got to our room? MORE champagne was waiting on us and a sumptuous tray of desserts. 

At that point, one word came to mind: brunch. I was EXHAUSTED from this perfect day. We could have mimosas and dessert in the morning!

Bride down!

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