We are thrilled to have Rachel Aschenbrand-Robinson here today sharing her wedding story with us. Rachel is a fashion editor at People StyleWatch with over ten years working in the fashion industry. When she’s not spending time with her husband Barry and their dog, you can find Rachel advocating for animals and volunteering with Mr. Bones and Co., an animal welfare organization based in New York City. Today, Rachel shares with Wedding Paper Divas the story of how she and Barry met, the romantic proposal and all of the special details of their wedding.
- How did the two of you meet? Might sound a little boring, but our first real date was on New Year’s Eve (2010) at Tavern on the Green in New York City. It was supposedly the last night they were going to be open and neither of us had ever been there before. My parents also got married there, so it was extra special for me. I’ll never forget at midnight they played “Empire State of Mind” (it had just come out at the time) and everyone was on the dance floor belting the lyrics; it was such an amazing New York moment.
- How did Barry propose? With a LOT of planning that I had almost no idea about. Barry had actually planned for it to happen before Thanksgiving 2012, but then Hurricane Sandy happened and my parents’ house got flooded so they moved into our apartment for two weeks. Once I was finally off of work in December (until the New Year) he told me we were taking a special trip to Newport, RI (one of our favorite places) to relax. Barry is actually super romantic so I really didn’t think much of it until, I heard him behind closed doors mentioning “December 17th” on the phone to someone.
- What was the planning process like? Did you have a wedding planner or any help with the process? I think it’s clear from that proposal story that Barry is a planner; the man is ORGANIZED. We didn’t need a planner, we had the super groom! We were engaged for a year and a half, which helped because it gave us a lot of time to explore different venues and options. We read a ton of online reviews about every vendor we looked into and Barry did a lot of research regarding budgets and costs. When we finally decided on Castle Hill, they eventually assigned us an in-house planner who made sure that everything run smooth and was meticulous regarding every detail.
- Were you heavily involved, Barry, or did you let Rachel take the reins? Barry likes to say “it was 50/50, except for the bridal shower and the dress.” I think we each came to the table with our own strengths. Barry is super organized, he’s great with numbers and he is a really good negotiator. He was great with all of the logistics. I tended to get more involved in the creative aspects: color schemes, flowers, etc. That is not to say Barry didn’t have opinions too. We made every final decision together and did a lot of compromising so we were both happy.
- Rachel, I heard you had some surprises for Barry on the day of the wedding. What were they and was it hard to keep them a secret? Barry, what was your reaction to the surprises? Rachel: Our wedding song was originally going to be “All of Me,” by John Legend, but I actually ended up walking down the aisle to it instead. I wanted something Barry would see as he walked down the aisle with his parents, so one of the designers at Wedding Paper Divas worked with me to create a canvas that said “All of me loves all of you” in a beautiful brushstroke-type font and set it against a soft striped background that matched our wedding invitations. I had it set on a standing easel just at the foot of the aisle where the guest seating began and Barry would be sure not to miss it. Since we had to drop off all wedding décor at our venue the day before (not to mention, drive it all up to Rhode Island in our car!), it was kind of tricky to keep it a secret! Barry only saw a big box that he knew needed to be dropped off at Castle Hill and that he was, under no circumstances, allowed to peek into! I think he was surprised! Barry: I was totally blown away.
- What touches did you use throughout your wedding to illustrate and share your unique love story with your guests? I think it started with our invitations. When we were customizing them with the design team at Wedding Paper Divas, we were looking for something special to put on the back of the invite, rather than leave it a solid blank space. Our designer actually suggested a quote and we both immediately thought of our favorite poem by EE Cummings, “I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart).” I think that totally set the tone. We also had stamps made with a photo of our dog from our engagement shoot. Since including him in the ceremony wasn’t logistically possible, it was our way of making him a part of the wedding He also made an appearance on the plate we ate our wedding cake on, which I painted it at my bridal shower – an afternoon of pottery painting. I also painted blue and white stripes to match our invitations.
- Did you intentionally break any traditions or etiquette rules in meaningful ways? Tell us about it. We actually got married by a very close friend of ours who got ordained online. Barry and I come from different religious backgrounds and felt it would be more personal rather than hiring clergymen who didn’t know us before the wedding. Jodi is a high school English teacher: well-read, well-spoken and knows us both extremely well (Jodi and I met at the age of two). We went over the details with her of what we wanted in the ceremony, which traditions to include(like breaking the glass), which readings we wanted (my brother read “If I Should Fall Behind” by Bruce Springsteen and Barry’s daughter read “I Carry Your Heart” by EE Cummings), then the rest was up to her to surprise us. She hit it out of the park, including personal stories and details about both of us and quoting New England poets. It was perfect. We also did a first look before the ceremony, which we highly recommend. We had a special moment, just the two of us, in a private garden on the grounds of Castle Hill, while our photographer and videographer captured it all on film. Not only was it a way to get photos done ahead of time but it was a relief to each of us to connect before “the big moment.”
- How did you incorporate the wedding stationery (or the design elements/theme of your stationery) into your wedding? See above— With our cake plate, nautical details throughout, “All of me” printed canvas, and of course our stationery set the soft, romantic, nautical tones. I loved that our invitations were chic and tasteful but a little bit non-traditional. I am obsessed with stripes and I loved the idea of incorporating them on our invitation. It felt just the right amount of personal but still subtle.
- What advice do you have for couples to help them make their wedding their way? Think about the best weddings you’ve been to and what made them stand out in your mind. Then think about what you want people to remember about yours. Never be afraid to ask for what you want, it’s ok to negotiate with vendors and be specific with your vision. It’s your day, you’re investing a lot in it and it should be exactly what you want it to be. Many times vendors just haven’t done things before simply because no one has asked. Always ask. Also, bring visuals wherever possible to show vendors exactly what you want. If a vendor can show you an example or a test run, that’s even better. Also think outside of the wedding realm for inspiration. Go to fashion, architecture, art, party, home decor magazines, blogs, Pinterest, etc. Start first with what colors, themes, etc. speak to you and go from there. And work with Wedding Paper Divas!
Of course I immediately told my best friend about it—who already knew what was planned—and she played completely dumb. I decided not to get too excited in case nothing happened and convinced myself it wouldn’t. When we got to Newport, Barry told me, “We can’t check into our hotel until later, so let’s stop by Castle Hill and have a drink – we’ve never been!” We sat at the bar and Barry was being a bit antsy saying how he wanted to check out their beach cottages and he wondered if they would let him see the inside of one. Barry’s very curious and kind of bold, so I wasn’t that surprised when he came back to the table and said the concierge had given him the key to one of the cottages. We just had to return the key afterwards. “They have my credit card at the bar,” he told me. Ah yes, that made sense to me. Plus, it was December 16th, so I didn’t suspect anything was going to happen. At least not for another 24 hours!
We drove over to the cottages after we finished our drinks. I remember saying to Barry when we walked out of the Inn, “You can tell this is a classy place, the staff is SO nice here.” When we walked up to the door of the cottage I remember seeing a flicker of light in the window and thinking that housekeeping must have left the lights on in the room. But when we walked in, there were candles and rose petals all over the room. Barry walked me into the center, right in front of the fireplace and got down on one knee. It was so personal, romantic, beautiful and completely unexpected because it was the 16th (which was pure luck on Barry’s part that he pushed it all up by a day)! The staff at the Inn had coordinated everything with Barry. A staff member had even gone into the trunk of Barry’s car while we were having drinks to get two personalized champagne glasses he’d had made with our names and the date on them.
We did a sailboat ride the day before the wedding with all of our out-of-town guests and close family. We asked the captain if he could take a route that would pass by Castle Hill so our guests could get a sneak peek of the venue. So many of our loved ones had never been to Newport or at least had not seen it through our eyes, so it was truly wonderful to share the experience with them. We had thank you notes made up and folded into the napkin of each guest’s place setting. We loved the idea that guests were immediately welcomed to the reception with words of gratitude. Our favors also illustrated our nautical romance theme. We had Newport Sweet Shoppe create cookies in the shapes of lighthouses and anchors with small handwritten tags attached that had each guest’s names along with their seating assignments. We ordered nautical themed pillows on Etsy (two plain striped, one that said “est. 6.8.14″ and another one with hearts and an anchor that simply said “ahoy”) to adorn the Adirondack chairs around the fire pit. We wanted details that felt personal and fun without being too kitschy.
Another creative element was a white wooden lobster trap that we used as our gift card box. We actually ran all over Newport and finally found two stuffed lobster toys to put inside, perfectly positioned to be holding claws! I made a little framed sign that said “Cards” with an arrow. People thought it was hilarious. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, so it felt right! We ordered a digital file on Etsy that said “Oh Snap! Please help us capture our special day and take pictures throughout the night! Tag your pics #coocoocachoo14″(a Simon and Garfunkel reference, I’m Mrs. Robinson now after all). I printed them out and put them in frames scattered throughout the reception.
Our cake (also from Newport Sweet Shoppe) was modeled after something we saw on Pinterest, the perfect nautical romance cake! It was simple with a clean anchor and some pink and orange hearts (with a coordinating cupcake tower). Barry didn’t want the wedding to be too over the top girly (it is his day too so mixing shades of blue with pops of warm colors was the perfect compromise for us. And there were lawn games: croquet, bocce ball and a Yankees vs. Red Sox version of bean bag/corn hole- Barry bought the Yankee and Red Sox decals online and we put them on.