A Magical Christmas-Themed Wedding In West Virginia
Paige and Michael
Paige Sandbrook was going into her junior year of college when she went to a country western bar in Denver with a friend, thinking they were going to line dance. That friend had other intentions—introducing her to Michael Handza. Years later they reconnected and started dating. Once an official item, and now living in Virginia, they went on a trip to Canada. While overlooking Niagara Falls, he presented an engagement ring he'd designed, inscribed with "112" and "110" inside with a ruby in between. The red stone was from Michael's first national championship ring that led him to play hockey in college—where the two first crossed paths.
After a 13-month engagement, on December 13, 2014, the couple celebrated the magic of the holiday season, with a Christmas-time wedding at The Greenbrier, in White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia. With 250 guests, the spirit of Christmas was embraced, starting with a traditional color palette of greens, reds, white, gold, and silver. The celebration started with a rustic, woodland rehearsal dinner. The wedding combined traditional Christmas details like jingle bells, candy canes, wreaths and ornament favors. Keep reading to go inside their big day!
Silver foil-stamping sparkled against a red backdrop on the save-the-dates designed by Cheree Berry Paper. White type and snowflakes came into play, as well as a custom stamp with a photo of the couple's two dogs, and envelope liners featuring a pattern taken from wallpaper at the wedding venue.
The Invitation Suite
A custom suite by Cheree Berry Paper incorporated an accordion-folded weekend itinerary held together by a red velvet ribbon. The envelope liner was the same pattern from the save-the-date's but foiled in a gold on gold combination. The inner envelope had hanging ornaments and wreaths.
The Welcome Bags
Welcome boxes were filled with water, snacks, the weekend's itinerary, and souvenirs from The Greenbrier—including special Eisenhower dollar coins to use in the venue's slot machines.
After trying on dozens of dresses, Paige slipped into a Vera Wang swirling tissue organza gown and knew it was the one. A rhinestone grosgrain belt at the waist was paired with a sparkly bracelet and a Toni Federici head piece. (Later, she topped off the look with a vintage fur stole on loan from a family friend to serve as her "sometihng borrowed.")
Bridesmaids sparkled in Adrianna Papell silver sequined dresses.
The Bridal Bouquet
Paige carried a bouquet of peonies, freesia, roses, ranunculus, and olive leaves that were painted silver.
The Bridesmaids' Bouquets
Each bridesmaid carried a petite clutch of amaryllis flowers surrounded by pine branches, red berries, and silver leaves.
Michael's groomsmen were gifted crates stained by the groom himself and filled with goodies like engraved pocket knives, engraved golf divet tools, personalized snacks, and adult refreshments based on each guy's favorite beverage.
Pine garlands and magnolia leaves decorated the pews at Emmanuel United Methodist Church, while a "Christmas Cannon" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra played as the bride and her father, William, entered the ceremony. Seeing the doors open and his bride walk in was Michael's most memorable moment of the day.
The Methodist service kicked off with a harpist, pianist, string quartet, and opera singer. "The music was breathtaking," Paige remembers. "And our pastor really brought to light the meaning of the day and the significance of our vows."
When guests exited the church there was hot cocoa and cookies for them to enjoy and bells to ring as the couple made their way out.
A Vintage Car
After leaving the church surrounded by the sounds of jingle bells, the couple hopped into a vintage car—something the bride has always dreamed of doing.
A Wreath in Motion
The front of the 1952 Packard was decorated with a wreath of evergreens, pinecones, and a big red bow.
Following the ceremony, everyone was transported to the historic Greenbrier resort for a reception full of holiday cheer.
Paige's favorite tree on the property was this poinsettia stunner. "The room was extremely cheerful," she recalls. "Where else can you find a towering tree made out of beautiful red poinsettias with a floral bow backdrop and a classic black-and-white checkered floor. You can't help but feel merry and bright."
Cocktail hour took place in the Cameo Ballroom, where guests enjoyed stations of cheeses and meats, and passed hors d'oeuvres.
A Wintery Drink
Candy cane martinis were made using strawberry vodka, crème de menthe, cranberry juice, and the minty holiday candy.
The Escort Cards
Golden trays were filled with cranberries to hold the escort cards (calligraphed by Arney Walker) in place.
A Festive Detail
A gingerbread house depicting the couple's family: the bride, the groom, his son, and the couple's two dogs, doubled as a card box.
Everyone moved in to the Colonial Hall for the seated reception. Round tables featured a mix of high and low arrangements: The tall arrangements—comprised of white roses, hydrangea, and peonies, with gold-sprayed foliage, and red berries—sat atop glass vases filled with metallic Christmas ornaments.
Low arrangements were surrounded by candles set in glass holders of various heights. The white sequined tablecloths were intended to mimic the look of fresh snow.
Guests dined on smoked tomato bisque, roasted pear and arugula salad, a palette cleanser of champagne sorbet, and a surf and turf of petite filet and crab-stuffed lobster tail.
An Inside Joke
Michael had sent emails to planner/calligrapher Arney Walker, jokingly signing off as "the groom of the year." Instead of a simple place card calligraphed with "groom" Arney used his humorous salutation instead.
An Ice Sculpture
An ice sculpture with the couple's initials sat atop the mahogany bar.
The First Dance
The newlyweds danced to George Strait's "Give It All We Got Tonight"—a song that played at a wedding they had once attended that the bride remembers hearing and dancing to and knowing that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with Michael.
A Golden Cake
Gold fondant enrobed the five-tier almond sponge cake with milk chocolate mousse and orange marmalade, which boasted the signature Greenbrier spring house on top.
Another sweet treat? While guests were at the reception, gold Christmas ornaments from the Greenbrier were placed on their hotel beds as a surprise for when they returned to tuck in for the night. There was also a note thanking them for joining in the celebration and wishing them a happy holiday.
Photography: Kate Headley
Ceremony Location: Emmanuel United Methodist Church
Reception Location, Catering, and Cake: The Greenbrier
Event Planning: Pineapple Productions
Flowers: Gillespies Flowers
Videography: Shaking Hands Productions
Stationery: Cheree Berry Paper
Calligraphy: Arney Walker Calligraphy
Hair and Makeup: Lou Stevens