From the time she is old enough to fashion a veil out of tissue paper and walk down a pretend aisle, a girl has big dreams about her wedding day. As an adult, those dreams don’t change, regardless of whether she is 20 or 50 — they just may take on a different form. But whether the event is in a church in front of hundreds of people or an intimate gathering in a restaurant courtyard, one thing remains the same — it is still the stuff dreams are made of.

A Family Affair

Michelle Gaffney – Age 21

Planning a wedding is hard. Planning a wedding long-distance is even harder. Fortunately for bride-to-be Michelle Gaffney, the task is made easier by the hands-on approach taken by her parents. “My mom is doing so much work, but my dad is doing just as much,” says Gaffney with gratitude. “I really couldn’t do this without them.” The entire Gaffney family has been included in the process from the moment of engagement, when the TCU senior’s fiancé came in to ask her father for her hand in marriage. The night he proposed, the Gaffney family drove to Fort Worth to celebrate and have dinner with the excited young couple. “The first thing we did was to find out what things were most important to all of us,” says mom Nancy Gaffney. “For Michelle it was capturing the event with photography; for Mike and me it was that she get married in San Antonio in the church she grew up in.” Once those objectives were clear, the family booked the Alamo Heights Presbyterian Church and hired Simon Hodgson (Photography by Simon) for his candid style.

“Michelle wants contemporary, spontaneous photos rather than canned shots,” explains Nancy. “The memories of the event are more important to her than making it an over-the-top event.” But those two decisions were just the tip of the iceberg without the help of a wedding planner. There were so many more issues to be addressed, and with the bride-to-be living and going to school in Fort Worth, it fell to the elder Gaffneys to take the reins. They turned to Caryn Hasslocher of Fresh Horizons Catering for her expertise and help. “As the mother of the bride, I was completely overwhelmed,” laughs Nancy. “We have two kids in college, we own a business, the economy is in decline, and now we are planning a wedding. Caryn, as both a friend and event caterer, was a fabulous, calming, organizing influence.”
Hasslocher was equally impressed with the unique approach the Gaffney family took to the wedding. “Mike and Nancy are the information gatherers, and they take it back to Michelle. Then they have family discussions about the decisions, and everyone’s ideas are heard and considered,” she says.

“Michelle is planning, and we are assisting,” points out Nancy. “We have presented her with options, and she has made great choices within those options. We have decided to enlist the help of a wedding coordinator to make sure that all of our planning falls into place. That assistance a few weeks before and the day of the wedding will ensure that Michelle and I enjoy this experience.” That is not to say that the bride-elect doesn’t have her own ideas. She absolutely does not want roses but has chosen white orchids. “My mom thinks I’m crazy,” she laughs. And she found her dress at Julian Gold. “Barbie Roberts and Laura Starnes were wonderful at creating an incredible bridal gown experience. I tried on over 20 gowns, but the gown I chose was the second one I tried on,” she says with enthusiasm. The college senior’s fall break was spent looking at reception venues before finally settling on the elegant McNay Art Museum. With everything falling into place so easily, Gaffney says she knows her marriage is meant to be. And as far as any concerns about her young age, Gaffney and her family shrug them off. “My mom and dad got married really young, and they have been married over 25 years,” she says, “and my grandparents, over 50 years.” Family support and love have been invaluable in this whole process. “We have no reservations about their ages,” adds Nancy. “We are so proud of them and the decisions they are making in planning their future.”  

A Cultural experience

April Muñoz – Age 28

“This will be us in a year.”

Those were the words uttered to beautiful blonde April Muñoz by her future husband, Robert, as she took her place in his sister’s wedding party. “I’ll hold you to that,” she replied to the handsome Hispanic man she barely knew. In fact, the only thing Muñoz did know was that from the day she enrolled at the University of the Incarnate Word, she was determined to get married in the campus church. Nearly four years later, that is exactly what she and Robert did. “We dated for two and a half years before he proposed, and then we had to wait another year for an available date at the church,” she says. For Muñoz, that gave her, her grandmother and her wedding planner, Betty Parrish, plenty of time to orchestrate the elaborate Catholic Mass and learn all of the Hispanic traditions that would be incorporated into the ceremony. While many brides might balk at the prospect of incorporating anything from the groom during her big day, Muñoz embraced the idea, even suggesting the inclusion of some of the customs herself. “I’m not one of those brides who are all about me,” she says with a roll of her eyes. “The 12-member mariachi band at the reception was even my idea.”

The couple worked together to plan every aspect of the celebration, including who would give the readings and who would present the couple with “the gifts.” As Muñoz explains, in the Hispanic culture, the couple selects sponsors, or padrinos, who act as mentors to the couple throughout the engagement and marriage. They are usually people who have played an important role in the lives of the bride and groom, and they are the ones responsible for the gifts. Some of the women in her husband’s large family planned a girls’ trip to Laredo in order to purchase some of the traditional gifts, including the “lasso” which is use to “bind” the bride and groom together after they kneel for the wedding prayer. “It looks like a rosary, but it is connected,” explains Muñoz. “Mine was a beautiful Austrian crystal.”
Other traditional gifts include the unity candle, kneeling pillows, the Libro y Rosario (small Bible and Rosary) and the Arras, 13 coins representing Jesus and the 13 apostles. “I think the Hispanic traditions are so beautiful,” Muñoz says with a smile. In addition to all of the customs from the Hispanic culture, Muñoz incorporated a few items that were important to her family — namely the presence of a Methodist minister to offer a prayer both during the ceremony and before the seated dinner at the reception. “The minister was a friend of my grandfather,” explains Muñoz, who was raised by her grandparents. “It was important to him that some of my religion be incorporated.” Muñoz also wore family heirloom jewelry, including her grandmother’s pearl bracelet and the diamond earrings given to her by her grandparents at the time of her adoption.

There was one tradition, however, that almost didn’t happen. “The church said we could have only five bridesmaids, five groomsmen, two ring bearers and two flower girls at the most, and they couldn’t be younger than the age of 5,” says Muñoz. “In Robby’s family the tradition is that if a grandchild is old enough, then he or she is in the wedding. Robby is the oldest of 15 grandchildren.” Somehow the couple got around the obstacle, and each boasted 11 attendants, including both a 3- and a 4-year-old. “Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted a big wedding,” says Muñoz. “But even if I didn’t, Robby’s family is so big I had no choice.”
Following the full Mass, the happy couple danced the night away at the Westin River Walk and even managed to make some money off the event through the traditional Dollar Dance. ”We made almost $900,” says an astonished Muñoz. “But what was really nice about it was that because everyone wants to dance with you, you have the opportunity to visit with the guests one-on-one and thank them for coming.” The pair and their guests dined at a sit-down feast and enjoyed a traditional wedding cake as well as Pan De Polvo, (Spanish cookies) before taking off to a romantic honeymoon in Hawaii.

For Muñoz, the whole thing was like a dream come true, and the newlyweds are blissfully happy.

“My grandfather once said that if he could’ve created someone for me, he couldn’t have created anyone better,” recalls Muñoz. And the two have managed to blend their cultures and backgrounds seamlessly. In fact, the only time they argue has nothing to do with the way they were raised.

“It’s over the thermostat,” she laughs.

Worth the wait

Yvette Allen – Age 36

When Yvette Allen, age 36, married 41-year-old Dr. Marque Allen, he told her right away that he was not going to wear a wedding ring. “He was afraid that he would lose it in surgery,” the spunky brunette explains. The couple reached a compromise with Dr. Allen purchasing an inexpensive James Avery band, but his bride had other ideas. The day before the wedding, she went to Wal-Mart and purchased the biggest, tackiest gold and diamond ring she could find and switched it with the band. When the time came to exchange rings, Dr. Allen received a big surprise.  ”I told him he wouldn’t have to worry about losing this one because it was so ugly no one would steal it,” she laughs. It is this zany sense of humor and determination to do things by their own rules that make the Allen marriage a match made in heaven. “My husband danced down the stairs during the ceremony,” laughs Allen. “We wanted the day to be fun and lighthearted.” Allen says that is one of the benefits of waiting until you are older to get married because, as she says, you are doing it more for yourselves than to please anyone else. “I think when you are younger, your parents tend to control the situation,” she muses. “We paid for it, so we were able to invite whom we wanted to invite and have everything the way we wanted it,” she continues. “Our main drive was that we would know every single person there — and we did!”

The couple, who had been together for four years prior to tying the knot, held both the wedding and the reception at the popular Sunset Station and included 175 of their closest friends. Rather than spend an exorbitant amount of money on a gown she would wear once, Allen purchased a less expensive gown, and the couple paid to fly in a family member that they both wanted in attendance. One thing Allen, a busy real estate agent, did spend money on was a wedding planner, and she says it was money well spent. She employed Elegant Events wedding planners, who successfully navigated a situation that had the potential to become a disaster. “Five days before the wedding, Sunset Station let go of the planner we had been working with,” says Allen. “Kathryn was so organized that it all worked out fine.

“But honestly,” she says with her same laissez-faire attitude, “the whole thing could have gone belly-up, and it wouldn’t have ruined our day.” With age comes wisdom, and Allen says that many of her friends aren’t married yet, choosing instead to focus on careers. And, she says, as you get older, you become pickier and you realize more of what’s at stake. “The bottom line is that a wedding is about you and your husband,” she says. “Granted, there is a party associated with it, but it really is all about spending the rest of your lives together.”  

Married…with children

Tanya Ray – Age 41

After spending more than two hours chatting with a handsome stranger she met on a Southwest Airlines flight, Tanya Ray was a little stunned when he left without asking for her phone number. A few days later, however, the gentleman sent her an e-mail, took her on a date, and for Tanya Ray and David Cocke, the rest is history. “He remembered where I worked and tracked me down that way,” recalls Ray. The two dated little more than a year before pledging their love on New Year’s Eve 2005 on the patio of La Fonda on Main before family, friends and Cocke’s three sons from his first marriage. Never married before, Ray not only found herself in the new role of wife, but in an even more unfamiliar role as stepmother. “I had some reservations at first, but it became clear he was the one,” says the 41-year-old librarian. “And at this age you rarely meet someone who has never been married before or doesn’t have children.”

Both the bride and groom wanted the ceremony to be low-key in order to make the children as comfortable as possible. To that end, they decided to exchange vows on New Year’s Eve, 2005, in front of 75 of their closest friends and family members in the intimate setting of the patio of La Fonda on Main.

“I never had big, grandiose plans for a wedding,” says Ray. “I knew I wanted a small, quaint atmosphere, where the setting was a major part of the décor.” The twinkling lights and holiday décor on display at La Fonda fit in perfectly with Ray’s plans, and she simply added candles, table arrangements and two large candelabra, which she set up under the patio’s large oak trees. “It was simple and beautiful,” she says.

The only glitch in the event was a sound system on the fritz and a fog that rolled in and prevented the guests from watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks display downtown from the roof of the St. Anthony Hotel. “If anything else went wrong, we didn’t notice,” Ray says happily. “I remember thinking it was all beautiful and perfect.” Now she is adjusting to her new life as wife and stepmother, and she says so far, so good. “We have a good situation,” she says. “Everyone is comfortable and respectful with one another.”