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Sweet Soul Mates

WEB EXCLUSIVE DECEMBER 2011

Brandon is from Downington, Pennsylvania. Tessa is from Fairmont. The couple met while attending Syracuse University—she was pursuing a degree in broadcast journalism, and he was there on a football scholarship. Tessa walked into Brandon's life her sophomore year when she moved into a new apartment and her mom noticed the "cute neighbor." Nothing happened until one night out when Tessa noticed this "really tall, muscular guy." She walked up to him—and about 10 of his equally large football teammates—and said, "Hi, I'm Tessa. I think you might be my neighbor." And so began their friendship. The couple bonded over rivalries—Tessa is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, Brandon roots for the Philadelphia Eagles—and remained friends until Brandon left for California after graduation. A documentary about Ben Roethlisberger inspired Brandon to call Tessa randomly one day. That call turned into a couple of calls a night, and when Brandon moved home and Tessa landed a job in Altoona, Pennsylvania, the couple decided to give their relationship a go.

A Family Affair

When Tessa and Brandon took their first vacation together to Ocean City, Maryland, Tessa should have known something was up when her parents, Brandon's parents, Tessa's grandparents, and Brandon's sister and husband all decided to join in the beach weekend. When the couple got to the beach condo—they were the first to arrive—Tessa headed to the balcony to see the view. When she turned to Brandon, he was on one knee with a ring and asked, "Will you marry me?" Tessa loves bold, classic jewelry. "My ring is everything I could ever want—a two-carat princess cut diamond set in a platinum and diamond pavé band." Her wedding band matches the band of her engagement ring.

All Dressed Up

Tessa's white, satin, one-shoulder Maggie Sottero gown with crystals, pearls, and beading had a fitted, bustled, A-line design. Her look was completed with a crystal flower hair clip, large crystal earrings, a crystal cuff, and shoes in one of her favorite colors, and a wedding color—purple. The bridesmaids wore chiffon, A-line Jim Hjelm gowns in dark purple and frosted violet. The junior bridesmaid wore a frost eggplant ball gown, and the flower girls wore white ball gowns. Tessa had jewelry made for all the girls—crystal and amethyst (the bride's birthstone) necklaces with matching earrings. She had small crystal earrings made for her junior bridesmaid and flower girls, along with bracelets with amethysts and their names engraved. Brandon wore a black pinstripe tuxedo with a silver vest and tie, while the groomsmen, ushers, ring bearers, and fathers wore eggplant ties and vests.

Midsummer Night's Dream

"I wanted our wedding to be romantic, classy, and fun, and I had this idea of it feeling like A Midsummer Night's Dream. I didn't want it to feel stuffy or too restricted, so I went with flowing materials, soft colors, and a little bit of ‘pop' in the details," Tessa says. She planned most of the wedding herself, for the more than 500 guests, with the help of her sisters, Brea and Jenna.

Tessa chose a palette of purples: eggplant, violet, and a touch of lavender accented with celery green. She chose purple and sand roses for the ceremony, accented with green baby roses, purple and green hydrangeas, and dark purple calla lilies. For the reception, tall arrangements featured purple and berry roses, purple and green hydrangeas, twigs, green baby roses, and dark purple calla lilies. The couple also had smaller round centerpieces made and added tons of candlelight for the reception. Tessa's bouquet was made of all white roses and gardenias, a flower that had been used in her parents' wedding.

The ceremony space was draped in creams and beiges, chairs were covered in cream with eggplant sashes, and the altar featured purple and berry up-lighting. At the reception, walls were draped in creams and neutral colors with accents of celery green fabrics. Eggplant tablecloths were embellished with overlays of purple, green, and gold sequins and crystals, and chairs were covered in eggplant with celery green sashes. Instead of numbers, each table contained a piece of information about Tessa, Brandon or both of them, like "The Goonies," the first movie Brandon and Tessa watched together.

"I Do"

Right before the ceremony, Tessa was anxious. As she and her dad sat in a small room waiting, he could tell she was nervous, so he kept talking: "You know, this place is really nice." "Can you believe they just finished building this event center?" "Glad to see my money went to a beautiful cause." Right before father and daughter started down the aisle, Tessa's dad leaned over, kissed her cheek, and said "I love you." She says, "It's a moment I will remember for the rest of my life."

The ceremony was short but sweet—the couple exchanged vows and rings, lit a unity candle, and prayed for God to bless their marriage. During the candle ceremony, Tessa's high school friend, Brooks Parker, played piano and MaryJo Anna Grisso sang "The Prayer," one of Tessa's favorites. One of the bride's absolute favorite moments was exchanging vows. "It was a moment that felt like it was just me and Brandon making a promise to God. I was making a promise to my best friend, my soul mate, and the love of my life. There are rarely moments as pure as that."

As a violinist, cellist, and flutist played "Beautiful Day" and husband and wife turned to walk down the aisle, Tessa suddenly heard a "crash, bang, boom." The draping was collapsing. "I was mortified," she says. "I didn't even turn around. I looked at Brandon and said, ‘Please tell me the kids are OK.'" Luckily, no one was hurt, thanks to Brandon's former college football buddies in the wedding party who were able to catch the poles before they did much damage. Tessa remembers a friend saying, "Tessa, nothing is perfect. Nothing is meant to be perfect. And if that pole wouldn't have fallen, this wedding would have been the only thing to be absolutely perfect, and that would have thrown the Earth off its axis." Now, the couple looks back and says their marriage started off with a bang.

Eat, Drink, Be Married

One of Tessa's favorite memories from the reception is her sister's maid of honor speech. Tessa says, "Brea made people laugh, and she made people cry. Besides Brandon, she is my best friend. Her speech summed up the past 20 plus years of our life."

For dinner, guests enjoyed Caesar salad, and filet mignon and crab stuffed shrimp with asparagus and roasted potatoes or a tequila cream ravioli. Signature cocktails were "Otto's Orange Crush," inspired by the couple's English bulldog, Otto, who is named after Syracuse's mascot, Otto the Orange, and "Marry Me Mojito" designed after the raspberry mojitos Tessa and Brandon had to celebrate the night they were engaged. Guests received bottles of Pomegranate Zinfandel from a Syracuse vineyard or bottles of Jones Orange and Cream Soda.

For the cake, Tessa says, "I'm not just saying this because it was our wedding cake, but it was seriously the best cake I've ever eaten in my entire life!" The romantic five-tiered buttercream cake was red velvet and vanilla with raspberry filling adorned with sugar flowers that resembled the wedding flowers. Tessa also surprised Brandon with a groom's cake—a football sitting next to a can of Miller Lite with a bulldog, the number "84," his football number in college, and a banner that read, "You are my Sunshine," which is her nickname for Brandon. It was chocolate cake with cookies and cream butter cream (because Brandon loves Oreos).

VENDORS

BRIDE'S GOWN: Oliverio's Bridal Boutique, Clarksburg
FLOWERS: Blooms Florist, Bridgeport
CAKE: Vanilla Pastry Studio, Pittsburgh, PA
ENTERTAINMENT: Special Edition, Pittsburgh, PA
FAVORS: Pepperoni rolls, Country Club Bakery, Fairmont
LOCATION: The Waterfront Place Hotel, Morgantown

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