A Handsome Philly Wedding with Creative Details
Aaron and Michael
When Michael McCormick and Aaron Mettey started dreaming up their wedding after 12 years together, they knew who would be driving the planning train. It's not only that Michael, as the design director of this magazine, has seen literally thousands of wedding photos, but also that he has rather strong opinions about making everything look as stunning as possible. "This is a man who won't allow us to cut into a homemade pie because the light isn't perfect and he has to get the right Instagram photo," says Aaron, who works for the New York City Department of Health.
Not that he's complaining. The two met when Aaron was visiting his hometown of Cincinnati, where Michael was then living. When Aaron had to return to grad school in Atlanta, the pair embarked on a 10-month long-distance relationship. That first Christmas, "Aaron drove seven hours to arrive at my house the night before my holiday party," recalls Michael, who was avidly prepping for the fête. "That's when he got his first glimpse of the crazy."
It was a crazy Aaron found rather cute, and eventually the couple moved in together, living in Indianapolis and Philadelphia before relocating to NYC in 2012. At some point, they decided they would marry once both felt settled in their careers and could wed legally. When they finally picked the date—November 15, 2014—Michael, true to form, got busy designing patterns for their invitation and choosing their color palette (black and white, to reference the black-and- white parties the pair throw each New Year's, with pops of persimmon). Still, it was important to both grooms that the wedding reflect each of them and their relationship. Michael had design covered. Aaron, however, had an overall vision. "I wanted something that felt intimate and really special," he says.
To that end, just 78 guests attended their nuptials at the historic Stotesbury Mansion in Philadelphia, near their former home. With the idea of a house party in mind, the grooms greeted invitees at the door as they arrived. "When it was time for the wedding, our officiant just gathered everyone together in a semicircle," says Michael, and the pair proceeded with their Quaker ceremony. After the vow exchange, the celebration started. "The ballroom doors opened, and there were waiters walking around with mini Philly cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches," Michael recalls. Along with sampling the local specialities, everyone noshed from a buffet of what Michael calls "classic party food" (think charcuterie, delicious dips, and a lavish cheese spread), cut loose on the dance floor, and mugged in the photo booth. "Everywhere you turned there was something special—a customized pillow, a napkin," says Aaron. "I was overwhelmed at how Michael was able to take our personalities, our likes, and turn them into tangible things. It was an extraordinary night, and it's all because of him."
That's a sweet thought, if only half true. The wedding, like the 12 years that preceded it, was extraordinary—as will be the decades to come. But, Michael insists, "It was all because of the two of us together."
The Save the Date
To create save-the-date postcard that previewed the classic-meets-contemporary feel of the party, Michael paired the vintage wood cut images with rose gold foil-stamping, and had the design printed by Spark Letterpress onto what he calls "the thickest paper ever seen in my whole life."
A Stately Stationery Suite
Michael designed two patterns for the letterpressed invitations: one a menswear-style argyle, and the other an array of vintage woodcut illustrations representing the couple's interests (an orange poodle honored their dog, Molly, and provided a shot of color).
A Welcome Bag of Local Goodies
Welcome totes were filled with Philly treats, like Liberty Bell lollipops and The Famous 4th Street Cookie Company chocolate chip cookies.
The Best Of Philly
Both the invitation and the welcome bags included this handy (and handsome!) poster. The front bore a Philly vocabulary list that taught guests how to order cheesesteaks like the locals do, for example, and the back held a city guide listing all of the couple's favorite haunts in Philly, with descriptions contributed by Michael's writer friends who had worked with him at Philadelphia magazine.
The ring pillow was sewn with fabric in the menswear patterns that appeared throughout the day-of elements. Aaron chose a rose-gold band modeled on his father's wedding ring, and Michael opted for a squared white-gold band.
The Grooms' Accessories
Both grooms wore versions of the fabric lapel pins they passed out to guests, made in a distinctive white fabric that was only used in their boutonnieres and in the larger versions they gave their mothers. Michael chose a Tom Ford bow tie and cufflinks that look like what he describes as "nerd glasses," to complete his ensemble, while Aaron picked a black bowtie, houndstooth pocket square, and bow tie-shaped cufflinks.
The grooms and their parents gathered in front of the mansion's fireplace for a pre-ceremony portrait. A half hour before the ceremony, the pair's families, right down to Aaron's niece, Sidney, the 9-year-old ring bearer, met to sign the marriage license. They also participated in a blessing read by the grooms' dads. "It was such a lovely, centering thing to have happen," says Aaron.
Boutonnieres Upon Arrival
The pair didn't want a sit-down dinner, so as partygoers entered, they picked up custom M&S Schmalberg floral lapel pins, made from wool suiting, tweed, and men's shirting fabric, in lieu of escort cards.
To really set the scene—and play up their past—a preset playlist aired overtures from Broadway musicals, with the last one being from Carousel. After all, the night the pair met, Michael was performing in a community theater production of the show, and Aaron, who had been home after having his wisdom teeth out, came to see it with a friend. Afterward, they went to the cast party. "Aaron was totally chipmunk-cheeked from the surgery, and my hair was terrible because I'd grown it out for the show," says Michael. "But it was still love at first sight."
A Charming Mantle
The mantle in front of which the duo wed was decorated with a spray of vines, evergreens, anemones, and persimmons. "We wanted the flowers to be masculine, seasonal, and befitting the space. And our floral designer, Sullivan Owen, completely exceeded all of our expectations. She just knocked it out of the park," says Michael.
"We wanted it to feel like a party at our house," Michael also notes. "That is, if we happened to have a fireplace from the Dolly Madison White House, which this place does."
A close friend of both grooms officiated the ceremony. "During the ceremony, I took a look around. Seeing all of these people we love who love us, with smiles on their faces and some with tears in their eyes, was one of the most remarkable moments of my life," says Aaron.
The couple chose four readings; they wanted to include selections ranging from the Bible to Broadway: Plato's Symposium, The Book of Ecclesiasticus, "A Marriage" by Mark Twain, and "An Epithalamion" by Tony Kushner.
The Drink Menu
During their walk-though of the venue, the grooms noticed a blank space in the wooden bar. They measured it and created a custom sign to fill it on the day of, detailing their signature cocktails. The poster now hangs in their kitchen.
There were two signature cocktails: Michael's was a vodka gimlet; Aaron's was a Manhattan garnished with boozy cherries he made himself. The first of two witty foil-stamped napkins was handed out with the drinks—it read "Have a drink, Michael is."
A Marriage Certificate
Instead of a book, guests signed a Quaker wedding certificate beneath a quotation that inspired the ceremony, at which attendees stood in a semicircle while the couple exchanged traditional vows.
Black and White Sweets
Servers carried the desserts, ballpark-style, on trays. The grooms picked their favorites to offer, including Aaron's beloved cheesecake and Michael's choice, Bouchon Bakery's TKO cookies. The napkin that nodded to Aaron, was handed out with the sweets, and it read "Aaron says, 'There's always room in my dessert stomach'"—which he told his mom as a kid.
Throw pillows on chairs and couches were covered in fabric printed by Spoonflower with the vintage woodcut illustrations used on the invitations. In total, there were 156 different illustrations used throughout the wedding.
Dancing the Night Away
After their first dance to "Feels Like Home," by Randy Newman, the duo hit the floor with their moms to "Be My Baby," by The Ronettes.
A shutterbug friend manned the photo booth, which was outfitted with cutout versions of woodcut illustrations such as a top hat, a microphone, rolling pin, telephone, and a dog.
A Group Portrait
The newlyweds, who always snapped a photo of the attendees at their New Year's Eve parties, wanted a picture of all 78 guests. "Not only was it a special night because we got married," says Aaron, "but it was the first time our immediate families were all in the same room together, and we wanted a photograph of everyone there."
"I was very close with my mom's mother, who passed away when I was in grade school," says Aaron. "My mom graciously made caramels—we all call them CAR-mels—from her recipe, which we gave in foil-stamped favor boxes that had a picture of my grandmother and me inside. Thanks to my mom, my grandmother was there, too."
Location: Stotesbury Mansion
Catering: Feastivities Events
Flowers: Sullivan Owen Floral & Event Design
Photography: Christian Oth Studio
Grooms' Photography: Ryan Collerd
Calligraphy: Curlicue Designs Calligraphy
Music: Synergetic Sounds
Flower Girl Dress: Keren Wedding
Fabric Flowers: M&S Schmalberg
Desserts: [cheesecakes] BiteMe Cheesecakes; [black & white cookies] William Greenberg Desserts; [macarons] One Girl Cookies; [TKO sandwich cookies] Bouchon Bakery; [cookies] The Famous 4th Street Cookie
Postage: Champion Stamp Co.
Favor Box: Bags and Bows "Black Kraft Jewelry Box" item 52-080201-12KR
Match Boxes and Cocktail Napkins: ForYourParty.com
Custom Fabric: Spoonflower
Grooms' Accommodations: The Rittenhouse