This Bridgeport couple threw a practically magical, simply traditional wedding in Clarksburg.
Written by Mikenna Pierotti
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he first time Patrick Snell saw Keri Hays, he did his best to ignore her. The issue wasn’t the atmosphere. They met in 2010 at Keri’s shop. One of Bridgeport’s go-to wedding resources, House of Fashions, is warm and welcoming, and Keri and her mother work hard to make sure men like Patrick—grooms, groomsmen, and everything in between—are comfortable, even as they button themselves up, often reluctantly, in suits and tuxedos for all manner of formal occasions.
And it wasn’t Keri. In fact, Patrick, then working toward his doctorate in physical therapy at Wheeling Jesuit University, was smitten with her from the moment he first walked into her store looking for a tuxedo for his sister’s wedding. “She was really short. She couldn’t even reach high enough to measure my neck. And she was absolutely beautiful,” Patrick says. “But the first time I came in, I was actually in a relationship. I felt an immediate attraction but knew if I opened my mouth it could lead in a direction that would not be respectful to the individual I was with.”
Had Keri known as much she might not have been offended. “When Patrick didn’t talk to me I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? What is wrong with this guy? He is so rude.’ So I already had a preconceived notion.” She admits part of that notion may have also come from small town rivalry. Keri and Patrick’s respective high schools—Keri graduated from Grafton and Patrick’s alma mater was in Bridgeport—were traditional adversaries.
When Patrick saw Keri a second time, for a fitting in advance of his second sister’s wedding and again at a benefit 5K for Keri’s cousin who had passed away, he was single once more. And, “it was game on,” he says. Keri recalls a bit of whiplash. “He came up to me and started talking. I was like ‘OK maybe this guy really is nice.’ At that point I also noticed he was really cute.”
Not wanting to lose his window of opportunity, Patrick came up with a creative ploy to get her attention. “They have these little timing systems you have to put on your tennis shoe and I pretended to have no idea how to put that thing on,” he says without a hint of embarrassment. “So I got her to talk to me by convincing her to put it on my shoe.”
Keri and Patrick erupt into laughter whenever they tell the three-part story of their meeting. “It’s amazing it worked out when you think about it,” Keri says. “This all happened over a period of nearly two years. A lot of people have this fairy tale thing where they meet and fall in love. That’s not how ours was at all. Ours was more real life.”
After all it took to bring this couple together, by 2013 they were more than ready to tie the knot. They just needed the right words. So Patrick started working on a simple yet unforgettable proposal strategy. “I’m a pretty simple guy. I think there’s a lot of beauty in simplicity,” he says. “But I thought, ‘How in the world can I make this an absolute surprise and catch her off guard?’”
Patrick’s birthday in September offered the perfect opportunity. After a day of fun and a delicious meal, Keri and Patrick headed to Hinkle Lake. There, Keri asked Patrick how he had enjoyed the day she’d planned. “‘Eh. It was all right,” he said. “What do you mean it was all right?” she balked, reminding him she still had a gift waiting. “I’m just not sure it will fulfill what I really want on my birthday,” he said. When she asked what it was he really wanted, he replied “I want you.” And dropped to one knee.
Shocked, Keri fell silent. She recalls he had to remind her to speak. “I was so over the moon about it. It took us so long to get everything right with each other, I think that made it all the more worth it to us. It’s not like we were high school sweethearts. We were both adults with careers, so a relationship with us was a very logical thought process.” But her heart was still pounding. “There was no one else in the world I could ever dream of being with over him. There was so much of me that was so ready. There were no words.”
The couple made their big decision in September, but Keri, being in the wedding business, knew if she wanted a summer wedding it would to be difficult to get everything lined up with her favorite vendors. “My first reaction was, ‘I definitely don’t want to wait a year or two years.’ When we talked that night we both pretty much agreed we didn’t want to have a long engagement,” she says. Which meant planning would quickly be taking over their free time.
The couple settled on June 28 and moved right on to choosing Immaculate Conception Church in Clarksburg, with its long, romantic center aisle, as their ceremony venue and Bridgeport Conference Center, with its helpful staff and excellent catering, as the obvious choice for the reception location. It was also perfect for Patrick’s robust guest list. “I have an amazingly large Italian family, and we needed a place that could accommodate that without having to breathe down each other’s necks,” he says.
The bride then tapped some of the state’s best wedding vendors, like photographer Rebecca Devono, Bonnie Belle’s Pastries, and florist Cara Ewald of Blooms Florist in Bridgeport. “Miraculously, they all lined up. I don’t know what in the world happened, but we got really lucky,” Keri says. “From there on everything just fell into place.”
Thematically, Keri and her experts kept things simple. “I feel like my style is a classic type of elegance,” she says. “I also know it’s really hard to match a lot of colors, so it was a simple decision for me. What’s the easiest thing? For me it was to do ivory and gold.” She added pops of mint green on place cards and menus, in her ombré cake, and the 1956 Corvette that would serve as a fun photo prop. “Keeping it simple was easier than a theme and it turned out to be exactly what I wanted,” she says.
Patrick was eager to weigh in on a few things—food, music, and the honeymoon. “Those were things I knew something about and knew I could contribute to,” he laughs. Although his first pitch was a Funfetti cake, which didn’t go over too well, he did snag a great DJ, Brett Hunt. And he helped choose food stations for their catered meal and booked a trip for two to Ireland. The couple lucked out in choosing a bridesmaid and groomsman who happened to have kettle corn business. Those tasty treats made for perfect favors when neatly wrapped and emblazoned with the words, “Thanks for Poppin’ By.”
Dressed by the Best
Surprisingly, Keri didn’t feel a lot of pressure when choosing her dress. She made her decision early and stuck with it. “I do all the buying for the store. So before I was even looking for the gown, I had seen this dress and I thought that if ever got engaged, this was the dress I would wear.”
The dress was elegant in silk satin with a mermaid silhouette, bateau neckline, a full illusion back, rhinestones, and pearl details. Keri ordered the gown, added a butterfly cathedral-length veil with blusher, chose white pumps to complete the look, and didn’t think twice about it. “It’s simple but it still has that wow factor.”
Keri’s mother, co-owner of House of Fashions, threw her skills into the mix by hand-making the bridesmaids and flower girl dresses. While Cara, of Blooms Florist, added just the right touch to each ensemble with bouquets of soft colors—ivory, pink, and peach—among roses and peonies. The bride, who asked only that her bouquet smell as beautiful as it appeared, carried a bunch of peonies and orchids in shades of ivory and white. Not to be outdone, on the other side of the aisle the men kept their looks similarly classic in all black tuxedos with a bowtie for the groom, Windsor ties for the groomsmen, and a little added comedic relief with super hero socks.
Down the Aisle and Ever After
Despite some drama at the altar—where the best man humorously pulled out a ring pop in lieu of the wedding band and then promptly dropped the actual ring, which nearly rolled into a crack in the floor—the Snells’ wedding went off smoothly. They said their vows, shared a first kiss as man and wife, and left the church to thunderous applause. Rather than rice or bubbles, this couple added a bit of whimsy to their celebratory send off, releasing butterflies and taking a ceremonial spin out of the parking lot in a vintage car.
With great food, wine from their favorite winery, impromptu karaoke, and a first dance to “Feels Like Home to Me” played by groomsman and fiddle-player Pete Zatezalo—the Snells’ first night as newlyweds couldn’t have been merrier. But, Keri and Patrick say, it was separate moments before saying their “I dos” that stand out most clearly in their minds almost a year later.
For the bride it was a quick interview with the videographer. “We didn’t think there was anyone else in the room with us,” she says. “I remember saying how I could always picture getting married. But I could never picture the man standing at the other end of the aisle. I told the videographer that when I started dating Patrick and realized he was the one I wanted to marry, I could start to see him standing there at the end of the aisle. The man at the end of the aisle finally had a face.” Little did she know her bridesmaids had overheard the whole confession and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. “I think that’s when everyone realized we weren’t just two people getting married. This was the real thing.”
For Patrick it was an internal realization while standing at the end of the aisle waiting for the moment his life would change forever. “A lot of people say they question themselves. They ask, ‘Is this right? Is this what you’re ready to do?’ I never asked myself that. I had my best man by my side and the moment I saw those doors open and Keri appeared in her beautiful dress with her beautiful self, I felt a sense of comfort. I was done searching. I was done running. This was where I needed to be.”