These newlyweds started married life and a new year on the same night. Party time!
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Carrie and Michael
Waiters mingled with the crowd shortly before midnight, passing glasses of Champagne. It was the first bubbly of the evening, and it was about to do double duty—toasting 2016 and the newlyweds, Carrie and Michael Whitcraft.
Not quite nine months earlier, Michael, an insurance broker, proposed on a rainy evening. Carrie had just returned to her darkened apartment when "I heard a voice say, 'Surprise,'" she says. "I just about had a heart attack." After catching her breath, she took in the scene: dozens of lit candles, romantic photos, and a sandcovered tray—a mini "beach" to honor the couple's love of the shore, with a treasure chest that held the ring.
The story of Carrie Denny and Michael Whitcraft really began in 2012. The editor of Philadelphia Wedding magazine, she was immersed in deadlines and city life. He was in the suburbs, building his business. They'd known each other for years through mutual best friends, but it wasn't until those pals gave them a not-so-gentle nudge ("They wanted the four of us to spend the rest of our lives together," says Michael) that they considered dating.
Soon their relationship bloomed; they fell into an easy romance and found common interests in good food, entertaining, and devotion to their many friends. When they decided to marry, New Year's Eve was a natural choice, largely because it was a chance to throw an unforgettable party. Carrie dived into planning without much fuss. She called on friends and local pros who inspired her, and most were booked in days. "I knew who I wanted," she says, "and I knew they were fantastic." For Michael's part, "music and food are major things in my life, so I focused on those."
By December 31, 2015, the pair had prepared a serious New Year's Eve bash. They said their vows in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul, in Philadelphia—still decorated in its holiday scenery. Then roughly 250 guests joined them at the Please Touch Museum at Memorial Hall to celebrate with cocktails, carousel rides, and '80s music. (The couple entered to Billy Ocean's "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car"; Carrie and Michael's first dance was to Starship's "Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.") Guests snapped pics with white selfie sticks, handed out in lieu of having a photo booth. And rather than a plated dinner, a feast was served via food stations— dumplings, tacos, risotto—that kept people on their feet and in the party spirit. In fact, the celebration lasted into the wee hours. Confetti flew, toasts were shared, and the couple—and their friends—were just getting started.
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"I thought I would wear a sheath," says Carrie. "But we had the Inbal Dror dress on the cover of our Fall 2015 issue, in nude. It really wasn't me— but I had to try it on.” She learned it came in ivory on her first visit to a bridal salon, and as soon as she put it on, she and everyone who saw it knew it was the one: "It was 'not me' in a good way. That poof. Nobody in the world expected me to be in a poof." She paired the ball gown with an embroidered lace jacket, and Michael chose a dark-blue velvet-finish tuxedo from Suitsupply.
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The Bridal Bouquet
Florist Sullivan Owen created Carrie's bouquet of olive and bay branches, spirea, peonies, Japanese lisianthus, scabiosa, sweet peas, roses, anemones, and hellebores as a surprise gift to her longtime supporter and friend.
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Boutonnieres continued the wintry palette.
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"Big and plain," was what Carrie would joke she wanted as an engagement ring when she and then-boyfriend Michael talked about the future. Ultimately, he made a choice that was a bit "blingy-er" than she imagined, and they both loved it immediately. But the other most meaningful piece of jewelry Carrie wore on her wedding day was her great-grandmother's diamond watch. Her grandmother gave it to her several years ago, at Christmastime, shortly after Carrie had ended a long-term relationship. "She told me that the two women who had worn it thought that their husbands were basically the best things in the whole world, and that now it was time for me to find someone who I thought was the best thing in the world. We were both crying a little bit. It's one of my most very precious possessions."
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Father Denny, Carrie's uncle, shared wise words as he officiated the wedding ceremony. He had officiated 275 weddings prior as a long-time pastor and local community leader. "They called him 'King of Delaware County,'" recalls Michael. "Everyone knew him." Their wedding was, unexpectedly, his last; he passed away from an aggressive cancer six months later. "I am so grateful that he did our wedding," says Carrie.
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Around They Go
The bride and groom posed together on the museum's indoor carousel—an ideal photo spot. The historic ride was built in 1908.
"I don't obsess over tiny details," Carrie says of keeping the big picture in mind. "I had confidence in myself, Mike, and our amazing vendors to put together a party that would be worth taking people's New Year's Eve. And I knew that even if something went disastrously wrong, we'd still be married by the end of it." But the first planning call Carrie made was to photographer Alison Conklin. She had December 31 free, so the date was set. "I always tell brides that you don't have to be best friends with all your vendors," Carrie says. "But you really do need to like your photographer. She is all in your business for hours."
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A little alone time before the rollicking party began: The new Mr. and Mrs. Whitcraft walked together up the grand steps of Philadelphia's Memorial Hall, which housed their reception space, the Please Touch Museum.
"She is genuinely on my side. Lots of times when I didn't know if I could do something, she was behind me saying, 'I know you can,'" Michael notes of falling in love with his bride.
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To hold the escort cards in New Year's Eve style, Champagne corks (ordered online in bulk) were hand-painted and scored by Carrie, McCormick, and other friends and family members—one of several projects that occupied the weeks leading up to the wedding.
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Finding Their Seats
Guests found their table assignments via one of the 300 used Champagne corks ordered and painted in metallic colors as place card holders.
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Oversized bouquets in tall vases adorned reception tables. "My florist, Sullivan Owen, has a pretty signature color palette that I always figured I would just go with (muted creams, whites, blush, and nudes with sage-y greenery and pretty pops of wine and eggplant)," says Carrie, "and that ended up working out perfectly for a winter wedding and the gold color scheme that New Year's Eve gave me."
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With no need for formal menus or place cards, the bride chose to have gold- and-ivory noisemakers for guests at each seat.
Six pounds of confetti was also launched from a cannon at midnight to signal the new year.
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Raise a Glass
The toasts given by friends and family members are among the couple's favorite moments from their party. "We did not do maid-of-honor and best man," says Carrie. "So we just asked a few people to speak." Even the shyest of Michael's friends delivered, giving a touching and memorable speech. "He hit a home run," Michael recalls.
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Filling out and saving Mad Libs–style pages was more fun than a traditional guest book.
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Photography, Alison Conklin Photography
Event planning, The Styled Bride
Catering, Brûlée Catering by Chef Jean-Marie Lacroix
Flowers and décor, Sullivan Owen Floral Event & Design
Videography, CinemaCake Filmmakers
Stationery printing and foil stamping, Spark Letterpress
Calligraphy, Manayunk Calligraphy
Bride's hair comb and reception top, Bhldn
Bride's reception skirt, Carol Hannah
Hair, Amanda D'Andrea
Makeup, Beke Beau
Bridesmaids' dresses, Adrianna Papell
Groom's suit, Suitsupply
Groom's watch, Breitling
Getting-ready location, The Logan
Cake topper, Let's Top That
Noisemakers, Fun Fiestas by Ili
Table numbers, Z Create Design
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