Susan & Rob: An Ocean-side Soiree in Connecticut

by Allison Micarelli

It downpoured every day the week before Susan Sullivan and Rob Marelli planned to walk down the aisle. "I spent the entire week crying as I watched the Weather Channel," admits Susan. "But I wouldn't let even the threat of rain get me down that day." Knowing they had tented the well-kept lawn behind her parent's home for dinner and dancing, Susan was assured all her family and friends would enjoy the summery food, drinks, and tunes she and Rob would provide and that the only thing that would be a disappointment would be not taking outdoor pictures against the backdrop of Long Island Sound. But when the sun appeared right as the couple was leaving the church at the conclusion to their ceremony, it made their summer soiree that much more glorious.

THE BRIDE Susan Sullivan, 31, Internet manager at a car dealership
THE GROOM Rob Marelli, Jr., 34, general manager and partner of a metal fabrication company
THE DATE July 29, 2000
THE SCENE The 3:00 p.m. ceremony took place at St. Joseph Church in New London; the 4:30 p.m. reception took place at the bride's parent's home, outside, overlooking the ocean in Waterford

HOW THEY MET A few years ago, Susan was anxious to move from New York City to Boston, so she packed her bags and moved into her parents' Connecticut home for a few months while she planned for a new life in the New England city. That's when she reunited with Rob, a friend of her oldest brother's whom she hadn't seen since their high school days. "Two weeks before I headed to Boston, we went on our first date," says Susan. "I still moved to Boston, but we managed to see each other on the weekends."

THE PROPOSAL One June weekend, Susan and Rob were hurrying across town, through the Boston Public Gardens, to see an outdoor concert at City Hall. "On the walk, we stopped to relax on a bench," remembers Susan. "I'm not sure if it was part of his plan -- I think his nerves got the best of him and he couldn't wait any longer -- but he asked me to marry him while we were sitting there in the park. When I said 'yes,' he pulled out a ring that he had designed and custom-made for me," she continues. "We never made it to the concert."

THE CEREMONY A church organ announced the start of the traditional Roman Catholic ceremony, officiated by Susan's longtime parish priest Father Castaldi. "We had the most beautiful music," says Susan who spent months contemplating the selections. "I worked very closely with the church organist as well as a trumpet player, a violinist, a flutist, a timpani player, and a soprano soloist -- and it all came together perfectly."

THE BRIDE WORE Susan chose a Reem Acra ivory strapless silk satin gown with a drop waist, embroidered and beaded bodice, and sweep train. "No fads or trends for me," she says. "I wanted my look to be timeless." She decided on a simple but elegant pearl and rhinestone tiara and ivory cathedral-length veil, Stuart Weitzman ivory shoes, and diamond teardrop earrings.

THE BRIDESMAIDS WORE Susan decided on Jim Hjelm candlelight strapless satin dresses with a chiffon overlay and matching chiffon scarves for her bridesmaids. "The color was great because I am not one for a lot of contrast, but I also didn't want the girls in ivory like myself," explains Susan. "I like things monochromatic and not too overdone." The junior bridesmaid, Susan's niece, wore a dress similar to the adults, but one that had a sleeveless bateau neck. Her flower girl, also her niece, wore an ivory dress with a satin bodice and skirt with crinoline overlay.

THE GROOM & GROOMSMEN WORE All the men wore Christian Dior tuxedos. Rob wore a single-breasted ivory tuxedo jacket with black pants, bow tie, and cummerbund. The groomsmen wore single-breasted black jackets with black pants, bow tie, and cummerbunds. The ring bearer, Susan's nephew, wore an ivory jacket and black pants, like Rob.

MENU HIGHLIGHTS For the cocktail hour, guests enjoyed passed hors d'oeuvres, a raw bar with shrimp, clams and oysters, and an assortment of cheeses and fresh fruit. For dinner, there was a buffet of beef tenderloin with au jus and horseradish sauces, and grilled lobster tail with drawn butter, wild rice pilaf, and sauteed summer squash. An assortment of Italian cookies and a five-tiered wedding cake garnished with fresh roses topped off a deliciously light summer menu.

THE FLOWERS & DECOR "The day was all about class and elegance," says Susan, reflecting on her choice of colors and blooms. "I tried to keep my color scheme very monochromatic, in shades of whites and ivory, pale pinks, and peaches." The bride's bouquet consisted of shades of ivory, white, pink, and peach roses wrapped in ivory satin. The bridesmaids carried bunches of roses mixed with pink hydrangea wrapped in pink satin. From the halo of pink hydrangea and spray roses placed on the flower girl's head to the pink hydrangea set in the center of each cocktail table, the display of simple elegance was obvious. Guests dined at dinner tables dressed with centerpieces of Maike and Oceana roses, pink hydrangeas, peach and pale pink stock, cream lisianthus, and assorted greens, all arranged in clear glass fish bowls. They danced under a 1,000-square-foot white tent with a white pleated liner and poles covered in white chiffon, with a patio (and two bars) on one side and the Long Island Sound on the other. Globe chandeliers hung from the ceiling; tiny white twinkle lights on fiscus trees and gold chivari chairs added extra sparkle. To add to the romantic ambience, Susan opted for floating candles in glass cylinders to be placed all around the property and inside the tent.

THE CELEBRATION While Susan and Rob posed for some formal portraits in the back of her parent's house by the flower garden overlooking the ocean, guests mingled on the lawn, close by the couple, sipping cocktails. "I wanted to stay close to the reception so that my wedding party could enjoy the cocktail hour and so that we could mingle with guests before dinner. I didn't want to waste a moment," says Susan. "Some guests watched us being photographed and took pictures of their own, while others just enjoyed the food, the bar, the music, and the beautiful surroundings." Later in the evening, a 10-piece band with horn section started with Motown hits, including Marvin Gaye's "Your Precious Love" for the couple's first dance, and moved onto all-classic crowd pleasers. "My band totally brought down the house," says Susan, who, having seen the company perform at both her brothers' weddings, in 1989 and 1994, chose Ken James Productions. "The dance floor was packed the entire night." Due to the surprisingly good weather, when every guest was exhausted and ready to call it a night, the couple was offered one final surprise that brought the raucous mood back to a romantic one. "At the end of the evening, my father surprised Rob and me with a fireworks display that lit up the night sky over the ocean," remembers Susan. Many guests rushed back to their place settings under the white tent to grab their own sets of sparklers, given to them as favors, and participated in gilding the summer night sky.

-- Allison Micarelli
Photographs © Tanya Tribble

CEREMONY SITE St. Joseph Church (860) 443-5393, New London
RECEPTION SITE Home of the bride's parents, Waterford
PHOTOGRAPHY Tanya Tribble Studio,, NYC
VIDEOGRAPHY MYS-TV Studio (860) 437-8650, New London
OFFICIANT Father Joseph Castaldi
RENTAL COMPANY Connecticut Rental Center (800) 323-9225, Middletown BRIDE'S GOWN & HEADPIECE Kleinfeld (718) 765-8500, Brooklyn, NY
BRIDESMAID DRESSES Mariella Creations (860) 529-8558, Rocky Hill
FLOWER GIRL DRESS The Blue Horse Children's Shop (860) 536-4895, Mystic
FORMALWEAR Claudio's (860) 848-3885, Uncasville
INVITATIONS Everything But The Stamp (860) 536-4482, Mystic
FLOWERS LeFrancois (860) 887-4695, Norwich
CATERING The Groton Inn & Suites (860) 445-9784, Groton; Torinese Italian Pastry (860) 886-4795, Norwich
MUSIC Ken James Productions (800) 564-0372, Great Neck, NY
WEDDING CAKE Creative Cakes By Donna (860) 345-8847, Haddam

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