It used to be that weddings were all about tradition. For the most part, marrying couples followed an undeviating script that started with a white-gowned bride walking down the church aisle on the arm of her beaming father and ended with the happy pair leaving the reception in a hail of rice, trailing tin cans in their car’s wake.
That was then; this is now. Today, the trend is away from one-size-fits-all nuptials and toward weddings that express a couple’s quirks, preferences and passions. As Angela Thompson, who teaches a course in the sociology of weddings at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, recently told Bride’s magazine, “Today’s wedding is as much about individualism as it is about tradition.”
Take, for instance, the local bride and groom who invented a new twist on an old ritual: Instead of cutting the cake, they broke the cookie.
The couple had their baker create an oversized chocolate chip cookie (their favorite dessert), which they broke into pieces and fed to each other. They passed out smaller cookies to their guests.
This couple isn’t alone in their desire to create new wedding traditions. Here, we look at four Sacramento couples whose weddings expressed their unique personalities.
Their Big Fat Italian Wedding
When Kris Caputo and Josh Hurley tied the knot last summer, they wanted to pay homage to the East Coast traditions of Kris’ large, close-knit Italian-American family.
“We didn’t want it to be like every other California wedding,” says Kris, a public relations executive.
Drawing on Kris’ memories of family weddings she attended as a child, the couple planned a rollicking event that combined elements of formality and fun.
The ceremony was a traditional Catholic Mass at Sacred Heart Church in East Sacramento, followed by a reception at The Sacramento Grand Ballroom, an ornate, turn-of-the-century bank building in downtown Sacramento now used for weddings and banquets. “We wanted something elegant but not stuffy,” says Kris, who wore a big-skirted off-white gown with an embroidered train and a wide gold sash that tied loosely in the back. “A party that would never end,” adds Josh, a firefighter.
To signal that this was to be a “dancing wedding,” the couple arrived at the reception and immediately launched into their first dance to the Barry White classic, “My First, My Last, My Everything.” “Everybody was dancing right from the beginning,” says Kris. “It was a party atmosphere.”
Because of the importance of food at traditional Italian weddings, the pair wanted only the best. So they hired The Kitchen to cater the meal, with hors d’oeuvres during cocktails and a lavish buffet dinner, featuring beef tenderloin and chicken stuffed with fontina and sage. The meal was followed by a four-tier buttermilk and lemon cake from Freeport Bakery, decorated with rows of fresh roses and the bridal couple’s monogram.
At around 10 p.m., after hours of dancing, they surprised their guests with a second serving of food: 30 pizzas delivered by Woodstock’s Pizza, a favorite from their college days at Chico State. As the reception came to a close, the couple grabbed a box of pizza and left to spend their first night of wedded bliss at their Sacramento home, where friends had scattered rose petals on the floor from the front door to the bedroom. “Eating pizza at home was one of my favorite moments of that day,” remembers Kris.
Special touch: Instead of signing a guest book, guests wrote their wishes for the bridal couple on a keepsake oval pasta platter.
Kari Ferrante and Bill McCloskey both come from sports-loving families. So when the two got married in May 2001, they decided a little athletic activity was in order.
“We wanted to make it an all-day celebration and were looking for things our guests could do,” Bill recalls. “Then we got an idea: Let’s play basketball.”
Luckily, their wedding was held at Memorial Auditorium, the 78-year-old downtown facility that regularly plays host to CSUS basketball games. (The couple actually got married in the auditorium’s Jean Runyon Little Theater, with the reception following the ceremony in Memorial Hall.) So it wasn’t much of a stretch to set up a couple of basketball nets on the regulation hardwood floor and invite friends and family to shoot hoops after dinner. (They instructed guests to bring sneakers and a change of clothes.)
Basketball wasn’t the only unique aspect of this wedding. Months before the event, Bill, a graphic designer, and Kari, an environmental scientist, took a large photo of Memorial Auditorium, cut it into 24 squares, and asked friends and family members to re-create the squares, using paints and paper. Then they assembled the squares into a mosaic portrait of the historic building and used the art on the cover of their invitation. (They also reproduced the image on a poster that they gave as favors to their guests.)
To acknowledge Bill’s Celtic roots, a bagpiper piped their guests in as they arrived. After the ceremony, Bill changed into a kilt, Kari added a matching tartan sash to her wedding dress, and they danced with their Scottish dancing troupe. Later, the group performed a Highlands dance created especially for the occasion to the song “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
In lieu of a traditional wedding cake, the couple opted for 35 smaller cakes, which they used instead of floral centerpieces to decorate the tables; in a sweet gesture, they invited the longest-married couple at each table to cut the cakes. Bill and Kari’s own cake was a crazy, colorful affair, its three tiers covered in orange, blue and pink fondant icing and decorated with fondant stripes and polka dots. And rather than the classic bride-and-groom cake topper, they used Pee-wee Herman Bobbleheads, one dressed in drag as a bride in a white dress that Kari herself sewed. (Their affection for Pee-wee Herman comes from the fact that Bill designed the movie poster for Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. He also designed the labels for the two beers—Sacramento Brewing Company’s Red Horse Ale and Indian Pale Ale—served at the reception.)
Special touches: In addition to the poster, they gave away two party favors: a small plastic basketball and a homemade CD featuring contemporary love songs and snippets from TV shows and movies, including “The Simpsons,” “Friends,” It’s a Wonderful Life and Annie Hall. The fun-loving couple, who got engaged at Disneyland, gave Mickey Mouse ears to the members of their wedding party.
Some Enchanted Evening
In July 2002, while on vacation in Venice, Italy, Dominic Radman asked girlfriend Shawna Awalt to marry him as they floated down a canal in a gondola. Later that night, they were serenaded by street musicians at a café near the Rialto, then danced in the rain in St. Mark’s Square. When planning their wedding, the couple wanted to revisit that romantic evening with a Venetian-themed event.
“We were going to get married in Italy,” says Shawna, “but we got sentimental and realized we wanted all our friends and family to be with us.”
So the pair decided to bring Venice to Sacramento. First, a generous friend offered them the use of her Venetian-style home in Los Lagos. They got married late one afternoon last fall in the back yard by the pool.
Working with Wesley Green of Twiggs Floral Design Gallery, they created an Italian wonderland, with floating candles in the pool, twinkling luminaries in the trees, and ribbons and crystals hanging from the branches. The floral arrangements included edible spiral topiaries of grapes and Asian pears and a massive candelabra dripping with crystals.
After the ceremony, the groomsmen passed out red roses to the female guests and spoke flirtatiously to them in Italian. During dinner, two mandolin players serenaded the guests with Italian songs.
Dominic, a chef, initially wanted to do the catering himself but eventually decided that would be “insane” and hired Ettore’s to provide the food. Shawna, a college student, had seen a magazine photo of a traditional French wedding cake known as a croquembouche—a towering pyramid of tiny cream puffs wreathed in golden spun sugar—but at the time no Sacramento baker was willing to tackle the elaborate confection.
Eventually, she found a San Francisco pastry shop, La Nouvelle Patisserie, that was up to the task. “It was a highlight of the wedding,” she says. “It was so different from the typical wedding cake—just gorgeous.”
The couple were pleased with the results. “We wanted it to be a romantic night for everyone there,” explains Shawna. “It was our way of sharing how we feel.”
Special touch: During the reception, the couple projected video and digital photos from the ceremony onto a huge outdoor screen.
I Do, They Said
Elizabeth Clinton Wisnia loves retro ’40s fashions, while Chris Wisnia has a passion for film noir (dark, pessimistic films of the post-war era, dealing with society’s urban ills). So when the pair decided to get married in 2001, they had a ready-made theme for their wedding: a film-noir costume wedding.
Their first task was to line up the Crest Theatre in downtown Sacramento. With its gold-leaf art deco interior, the theater—built in 1946—was the perfect backdrop for their event.
The invitation—which Chris, an artist, designed to look like a film-noir movie poster—instructed guests to come in vintage film-noir costume. (The invitation helpfully included an explanation of film noir, a list of books and Internet sites with more information about the genre, and costume suggestions.)
“At first,” says Elizabeth, a state worker, “people were resistant to the costume idea, but they got into it.” Guests came as cigarette girls and hard-boiled private dicks, gangsters and molls, drunken gumshoes and glamour girls, USO sweethearts and escaped convicts.
The groom wore a vintage tux from Cheap Thrills, a vintage clothing and costume shop in Sacramento’s midtown, while the bride hired a seamstress to copy the sexy white gown worn by Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential and had her long blond hair styled à la Veronica Lake.
As guests arrived, they had their mug shots and fingerprints taken, then received bags of popcorn. The ceremony was heavy on theatrics: The groom and his groomsmen came out on stage to the throbbing “Peter Gunn” theme, while the bridesmaids walked on to the theme from “Perry Mason.” Then the lights dimmed, a spotlight shone on center stage, and Elizabeth burst through the curtains.
After the ceremony, guests ate finger food and danced to ’40s swing and big-band music as film-noir classics were projected on a screen. “People who were around in the 1940s were amazed,” says Elizabeth. “They said it was like being back in the ’40s again.”
Special touches: The theater marquee read “Chris and Elizabeth Tie the Knot/A Film Noir Extravaganza.” A friend made the four-tiered white cake and decorated it with black fondant in the shapes of smoking guns, martini glasses, dice and a shadowy city skyline. For party favors, the couple gave away a homemade dictionary of film-noir slang.