Kennedy Wheeler knew more about weddings than most brides. As the daughter of Marc and Colleen Wheeler, she grew up calling the Gassaway Mansion home, an event space and museum known for hosting extravagant weddings. Add in that three decades ago her parents began Wedding Festivals, a statewide wedding trade show, and the expectations for their only child’s special day seemed mighty high.
Kennedy met Michael Kapanzhi as a teenager at church and Michael says he knew from the start that they were meant to be together. For the proposal he enlisted the help of Kennedy’s parents to plan the perfect surprise: he would propose on top of Rockefeller Center and family and friends would be waiting to congratulate them, but when he pointed to something off in the distance to distract her, Kennedy caught the reflection of everyone with cameras poised and knew something was up. She turned around, still thrilled by the special moment, and said, “Yes.”
Before leaving New York, Kennedy and Colleen shopped for fabric in the Garment District to create a custom wedding gown; finding a rose-gold lace led them to celebrity designer Diana Mahrach. Kennedy would return in the coming months to finalize her dress and its ideal fit. Kennedy had modeled dozens of wedding dresses over the years but knew immediately after stepping into Diana’s shop that forgoing white and embracing a non-traditional look would be exactly what she had envisioned for her wedding day. To complete the bespoken look, the designer gifted her a ten-foot silk tulle veil in a perfectly matched blush.
Preparations for the wedding began immediately. The ceremony and reception would be held at the family property and new wedding venue, Edinburgh West. The property and castle-like home had been owned in the past by Kennedy’s grandparents but just before the sale had been finalized, the structure burned in a tragic fire. The Wheelers created a new vision for an English conservatory in its place for Kennedy and Michael’s wedding reception. Nearly all of the project was completed in time with the help of lots of wedding industry friends and a clear-topped tent from Professional Party Rentals was erected over the still open conservatory to provide overhead shelter in case of inclement weather.
The wedding was designed around abundant blooms in a full spectrum of pastel hues with an emphasis on Kennedy’s selections of steel blue, lavender and blush. To fulfill this vision, the arrangements were created by the in-house team at the Gassaway Mansion and included more than 2,000 cherry blossom stems. Oversized bouquets and floral crowns completed the look for Kennedy’s bridesmaids and flower girls.
The floral motif continued with the attire of the groom and his attendants. After finding a dinner jacket from ASOS that matched the printed neckties, Michael’s bridegroom suiting was complete. Colleen returned to designer Diana Mahrach for her own custom rose print dress in a signature shade of yellow and detailed invitations, hand illustrated by Davey Morgan, included a request for wedding guests to don shades of pastel as well.
On the day of the wedding, it did rain and then rained some more. The ceremony location was tucked in the woods down a fairytale-inspired path overflowing with flowers, welcoming 350 guests. As the ceremony neared, musicians had to unplug as the ground began to flood around their equipment. Erica Berg performed a cappella throughout the processional and as Marc escorted his daughter down the aisle, she could hear the guests joining in to sing “Great Are You Lord”. Hearing both the guests singing and the rain on the tent “was such a surreal moment, it was a moment that you had to be there to experience,” Kennedy says.
During the ceremony the garland carried by the flower girl was draped over the shoulders of the bride and groom by their parents, as a symbolic passing of the mantel. Colleen explains that “the garland was designed with more greenery than the other pieces in the wedding so that it would stand out among all of the floral.”
Before being introduced into the reception, Kennedy removed the ballgown overlay from her dress revealing an underlying formfitting design. The couple and their guests feasted on
an international-inspired menu, a nod to both the European-styled location and Michael’s Russian family roots. For dessert, an eleven-tier wedding cake from Holly’s Cakes included the bride’s all time favorite sample from the many Wedding Festivals shows she participated in: white cake with raspberry layers. Tiers were adorned with the identical lace pattern from the bride’s dress and a playful groom’s cake included a Michael-inspired raccoon figure replete with glasses and bagels, a reference to his parent’s family business.
A wedding parade was held after dinner, before fireworks that wrapped up the evening’s festivities. The garland of greenery from the ceremony was incorporated into the parade and it now hangs in the couple’s home as a symbol of their wedding day.
When asked what advice they would give others when planning for their perfect day, Marc says: “hire professionals who know what they are doing.” He really believes this decision,
above all else, allowed his wife Colleen (who always directs the weddings they are involved in) to be present and enjoy the day as much as Kennedy and Michael.