A delicate color takes center stage—and provides a loving tribute at the wedding of Kate Thomas and Gerard Duffy Jr.
When your best friend is an events coordinator and your family owns a pair of successful restaurants, you might logically assume that two of your wedding’s most paralyzing decisions are already resolved.
But for Kate Thomas, it wasn’t that simple.
Her best friend, Alison Wenstrup of Aviva Events, was also one of her dual maids of honor. How could Wenstrup choreograph both the wedding and reception, and also walk down the aisle wearing a floor-length gown?
The bride’s parents, Richard and Charla Thomas (along with older brothers Hunter and Court), had opened 20 Brix in 2007 and Padrino in 2009 in the city of Milford. How could they serve their daughter’s reception dinner when neither place was big enough to host 180 invited guests?
Both solutions, it turned out, required only a tiny bit of tweaking. Wenstrup agreed to oversee Kate’s vendor selections, as any attentive maid-of-honor—and wedding planner—would, but handed the event’s other logistics to two of her assistants. Richard and Charla were delighted to provide the food, but it was served at a more spacious location, the grand Peterloon Estate in Montgomery.
Like so many brides, Kate originally believed she didn’t need any help planning the wedding. It wasn’t long before she came to rely on Wenstrup’s input, networking, knowledge base and refined taste. “I’d ask for recommendations for this or that, and she’d offer a great list of sources every time,” Kate recalls.
Complicating the process further was that Kate and her groom, Gerard Duffy Jr., had already moved from Ohio to New York, where Kate is an administrator with Christie’s, and where Gerard is a financial advisor for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Long-distance calls and e-mails to Cincinnati-area vendors ensued.
So did a couple of surprising perks. Kate discovered her dream dress by Pronovias at the designer’s Manhattan salon. She knew she wanted something formfitting, yet romantic and feminine—not an easy find in these days of sleek simplicity. So when she spotted a style called Rebecca, with a strapless bodice and a ruffles-and-lace tiered skirt, she was jubilant. Then, during one of many weekend trips back home, Kate visited Bridal and Formal in Reading, learned that they stocked the very same line, and that she could order her beloved dress at a reduced price.
It was also at Bridal and Formal that she found her attendants’ dresses by Melissa Sweet, but in a discontinued color, a whispery pink called blush. The company was willing to make an exception, however, for her special orders, and hers alone. That’s when Kate decided to allow each of her four bridesmaids and two maids-of-honor to wear the same color and fabric, but to select their own styles, ranging from cocktail-length to V-neck to empire-waist. “I wanted to make sure everyone was happy and comfortable,” she explains, “and not tugging at their dresses!”
A paper trousseau of invitations, programs and escort cards with a swirl design reminiscent of Kate’s dress evolved with help from Kristen Folzenlogen at Poême in Hyde Park. Katie Elfers of Inspired Floral Design in Covington created the beautiful pink-and-white bouquets.
The wedding ceremony took place on June 5, 2010, at the majestic St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, arguably one of the most dramatic settings in the region. The reception was held at the equally stunning Peterloon Estate, the elegant Georgian home of John J. Emery, who designed Carew Tower.
Between the wedding and reception, guests were shuttled to the reception site to enjoy an elegant piano concert. Meanwhile, the bridal party adjourned to another amazing space, a sprawling property belonging to friends of Kate’s parents, John and Helene Bentley. The backyard’s ivy-covered stone greenhouse was the ideal setting for photographer Steph Carson to take formal bride-and-groom portraits, which look very Miss Havisham, but with a much happier ending.
At the reception, several unique touches left guests enchanted. Kate and Gerard had ordered a small, tiered wedding cake from Patricia’s Weddings that was topped with a pink peony, and white-frosted red velvet cupcakes for each guest. It took a while, though, for the couple to find some visually appealing mini bride-and-groom toppers for the cupcakes. When they finally did—gasp! The brides were all brunettes. A simple yet time-consuming solution surfaced: Kate’s mom Charla lovingly repainted nearly 200 tiny girls’ heads from dark brown to honey blonde.
Because the couple had taken a mixology class together in New York, they decided to feature their own signature drink, the French 75, which contains equal parts gin, simple syrup and lime juice topped with champagne. To continue her pink theme, Kate decided the drinks should be tinted. She experimented first with pomegranate juice and then light liqueurs, all of which either turned out too bright, too dark, or else eclipsed the crisp, summery taste. Finally her dad, the consummate restaurateur, suggested droplets of food coloring. Problem solved.
The couple’s first dance together was also creative. Everyone expected to see something soft and slow. What no one realized was that Kate and Gerard had taken lessons at New York’s Fred Astaire Dance Studio. They executed a series of expert spins, swirls and dips, and then concluded, as guests screamed with delight and waved their hands in time to the music, with Gerard leaning Kate backward and planting a passionate kiss.
At departure time, friends and family gathered for a sparkler sendoff, all lit and swaying in an arched formation as Kate and Gerard scurried underneath toward their waiting town car and a two-week honeymoon in the Greek Isles and Istanbul. Anyone who studied the casual snapshots later couldn’t help laughing when one unexpected celebrity guest—Britney Spears, or a cardboard cutout of the pop star—was spotted in the crowd. Kate unashamedly admits she’s an adoring fan.
The real guest of honor that day was someone who was only there in spirit. Gerard’s mom, Donna Grace Duffy, had died of breast cancer while he was still attending Ohio Wesleyan University. Because he and Kate met during a sophomore ceramics class project, Kate and Donna never connected, but it was essential for the couple to honor her memory at both the ceremony and the reception.
“I really wanted her to be a part of it,” Kate says. “From the family stories I’ve heard, it sounds like Gerard is so much like her.”
Donna’s name was highlighted in the program, and pink bracelets (for breast cancer awareness) served as napkin rings at dinner. Both Kate and Gerard wanted the wedding favors to honor Donna as well. Cards attached to the napkin rings indicated that in lieu of favors, donations had been made to support breast cancer research. On each card was a photo of a teenaged Gerard standing next to his mom.
In one of life’s intriguing little coincidences, pink had always been Kate’s favorite color. Having it figure so prominently at the wedding, in everything from the flowers to the signature drink, and then with Donna’s memorial at the reception, it felt more than slightly meant-to-be.
When Kate and Gerard danced together, and Kate’s dress twirled, guests caught a glimpse of something whimsical, Kate’s pink satin pumps. Donna, she says, likely would have loved them.
Now calling New York City their permanent home, Gerard and Kate find married life settling into normalcy. Their wedding album sits prominently within reach on a nearby shelf. Friends who page through can’t help noting that the couple somehow managed to endure an outdoor reception during the worst summer heat wave ever recorded, and they still look sublimely happy. Kate laughs. “We were having so much fun that we hardly noticed the humidity,” she insists. “I keep looking at these pictures, thinking it all went by too fast. I’d almost like to go back and live it again.”
Photograph by Steph Carson
Wedding Planner: Aviva Events
Ceremony: St. Mary’s Cathedral Basillica of the Assumption, Covington
Reception: Peterloon Estate, Montgomery
Photographer: Steph Carson
Videographer: Studio Z Films
Wedding Gown: Pronovias, Bridal and Formal
Flowers: Katie Elfers, Inspired Floral Design
Cake/Cupcakes: Patricia’s Weddings & Custom Cakes Unlimited