Erik and I met at James Madison University (JMU), where our paths crossed in a rather serendipitous way. Erik, hailing from the suburbs of Chicago, and I, from the suburbs of Pennsylvania, both pursued our studies at JMU. I majored in Accounting and minored in Writing, while Erik ambitiously double-majored in Accounting and Finance.
Our initial encounter was like a scene from a Kellogg’s commercial. Fate had us standing side by side at the vending machine in the lobby of the JMU business school. To our surprise, we both reached for the same flavored pop tart. Our eyes met, and I couldn’t help but notice that Erik was wearing a Sigma Nu fraternity shirt. It suddenly clicked that just a few days earlier, during recruitment rush week, the Sigma Nu boys had sent pizzas to our sorority house. Grateful, I couldn’t resist blurting out, “You’re in Sigma Nu? Thank you guys for the pizza the other night after rush—it was so kind! I know all the girls really appreciated it after a long day!” Erik, ever the cool and collected one, replied, “Don’t mention it! Anytime.”
With smiles exchanged, I headed off to my next class. To my surprise, a Facebook notification appeared on my phone moments later, indicating that Erik Wennerstrum had sent me a friend request. I couldn’t help but wonder how he found me on Facebook, considering I hadn’t mentioned my last name during our brief conversation. Little did I know that Erik had seen my name on the President’s List plaque in the business school shortly after our encounter, thanks to my high GPA.
Over the next few months, Erik actively pursued me, planning dates and study sessions, while I played hard to get. However, it didn’t take long for me to be charmed by Erik’s personality, and the rest, as they say, is history. We continued to keep our love alive despite having a long-distance relationship post college. After seven years of long distance, Erik and I knew it was time to make the big move and finally moved into our first apartment together in New York City.
Will You Marry Me?
On December 18, 2021, Erik orchestrated a surprise that would forever be etched as a beautiful chapter in our love story. The day was crisp and filled with the promise of adventure, and little did I know it would become one of our most cherished memories. Erik had mentioned a plan to meet up with some colleagues for a visit to the American Museum of Natural History. It sounded like a typical weekend outing, and I had no reason to suspect otherwise.
Little did I realize that this museum visit would take an unexpected turn. On the way to the museum, Erik suggested that we take a detour to see Belvedere Castle, a hidden gem nestled within Central Park. Once inside the park, we strolled hand in hand along its picturesque paths. It was a scene straight out of a romantic movie, and I couldn’t have asked for a more idyllic setting.
Amidst this enchanting backdrop, Erik turned to me with a playful grin. He asked, “Do you remember how long we’ve been together?” I responded with a touch of humor, “I don’t know, 10 YEARS…” Erik chuckled and said, “I think that’s too long.” With those words, he gracefully knelt down, holding a dazzling ring that sparkled like the winter sun. He asked me the most important question of my life, “Will you marry me?” My heart skipped a beat as tears of joy welled up in my eyes.
With trembling hands and a heart overflowing with love, I said “Yes” to the man who had orchestrated this breathtaking surprise. Afterward, we shared the wonderful news with our parents and family. To cap off this perfect day, we decided to celebrate at The Leopard at des Artistes, an Italian restaurant on the west side of the city, which happens to be my favorite type of restaurant. The restaurant’s historic murals set the stage for a romantic and unforgettable evening filled with love and laughter.
Details of the Day
The May 13, 2003, wedding at Park Chateau Estate and Gardens in East Brunswick was an elegantly romantic affair. The ceremony was held in Park Chateau’s onsite chapel, with customized floral arrangements lining the aisle. Lush florals in shades of pink, white and green graced the estate’s grand staircase and the long dinner tables in the ballroom. A large floral arch, candles and a neon sign framed the head table, and a five-tiered wedding cake was adorned with the same pink and white flowers.
A standout element was the beautifully crafted escort card wall, brought to life by Laurelwood Designs (florist) and Partners in Paper (stationery). This enchanting installation featured a lush boxwood backdrop, aptly titled “Our Wenner Circle”—a playful nod to my new surname, Wennerstrum—and an homage to the cherished “Winner’s Circle” of our lives, our beloved guests who hold a special place. The tribute extended to honor the memory of Erik’s grandfather, Thomas E. (Tommy) Trotter, a legendary figure in horse racing as a celebrated racing secretary and esteemed handicapper.
Adorning the wall were beautifully arranged golden horseshoes, bearing the names and table assignments, marrying elegance with a touch of whimsy in guiding our guests to their seats while celebrating our family legacy and bestowing a symbolic “good luck” charm upon them. Also, in keeping with the spirit of horse racing, we chose May for our wedding—a month synonymous with the Kentucky Derby—intertwining our love story with the excitement of one of the globe’s most storied horse races.
Why Did You Choose Park Chateau?
The Park Chateau was absolutely amazing and truly exceeded everything we could have ever imagined for our special day. The whole day from start to finish was a fairytale. From the moment you step onto the property, you are immediately captivated by its sheer beauty and charm. The elegant architecture, stunning gardens and picturesque surroundings set the perfect backdrop for our special day.
My husband and I picked this venue for a variety of reasons, but the primary reason outside of its sheer beauty and size, was the fact that it was a one-stop shop! Everything was on site: The absolutely stunning chapel, the luxurious ballroom and the accommodating luxury hotel are all within walking distance making it extremely convenient for guests. In addition, the location in proximity to both our families allowed for ease of travel.
The service and staff were INCREDIBLE. To me this is one of the MAJOR keys to why Park Chateau is the best in New Jersey. Every single staff member is beyond accommodating, caring and kind. Throughout our entire time, every question or worry was answered by Devin, Liz or any of the other friendly faces. On the day of my wedding, my husband and I were accompanied by the absolute BEST bridal attendants. These people truly helped make my day perfect. Anything we or our bridal party needed was no big deal and taken care of.
One of the other standout features was the FOOD!! All I can say is WOW. Our guests are STILL raving about the amazing cocktail hour and how much food was offered from start to finish. Park Chateau truly offered it all…and then more! They even gave us so much food to take home the next morning when we picked up our belongings.
Overall, Park Chateau Estate and Gardens provided an unforgettable experience for us and our guests. This was our dream venue, and we seriously feel so blessed to have been able to get married there!
Our favorite moment of our wedding day was undoubtedly our first look. It was a truly magical and intimate experience that Erik and I shared, and it took place outside the chapel in the serene gardens of the Park Chateau.
As the anticipation of the day built up, we couldn’t help but feel a mixture of excitement and nervousness.
Standing there on the chapel steps, surrounded by the lush greenery, my heart was racing. The emotions were palpable, and I couldn’t contain my excitement. When Erik opened his eyes to see me walking toward him in my wedding dress, the love in our eyes was immediately overwhelming and we cried tears of happiness at the sight of one another. Our first look set the tone for the rest of the day, reminding us of the love that brought us together and the commitment we were making to each other. It was a cherished moment of connection and a beautiful start to our wedding day that I will forever hold close to my heart.
When it comes to our wedding, we find ourselves in a delightful predicament: We can’t choose just one favorite vendor or detail because they were all equally outstanding! Each vendor played an essential role in bringing our wedding vision to life, and they were all our favorites. From the moment we embarked on this magical journey, our experience was filled with incredible moments and talented professionals who made our day truly special. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they collectively turned our dreams into reality.
Our amazing photographer Dyanna LaMora captured every precious moment perfectly, our florist Laurie from Laurelwood Designs transformed our venue into the floral wonderland of our dreams. The chef(s) at Park Chateau delighted our taste buds, our band DreamTime set the perfect ambiance. Our stationery designer, Lauren from Partners in Paper, created the most beautiful invitations, ceremony programs and escort displays of all time. And finally last but not least our incredible wedding planner, Danielle Rothweiler, ensured everything ran smoothly. Every detail, from the smallest decorations to the grandest gestures, was executed flawlessly.
Each vendor brought their unique expertise, creativity, and passion to the table. They listened to our ideas, understood our vision, and went above and beyond to exceed our expectations. Their professionalism and commitment made us feel confident and relaxed on our special day. We are forever grateful to them for their dedication, hard work and the magic they brought to our celebration.
Advice for Others
When it comes to planning your wedding, my advice would be to embrace the mantra: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” In the whirlwind of wedding preparations, it’s easy to get caught up in the details, stress over every minor hiccup, and strive for perfection in every aspect. However, what I’ve come to realize is that the most crucial element of the whole wedding experience is already in place—you’ve found your perfect partner, the one you want to spend the rest of your life with.
Weddings are incredibly special occasions, and they hold significant importance in our lives. They’re a celebration of love, commitment and the beginning of a beautiful journey together. However, it’s vital to keep in mind that no event, no matter how meticulously planned, will go off without a hitch. There will be unexpected surprises, minor imperfections, and moments that deviate from the original plan. What truly matters is the love you share with your partner and the commitment you’re making to each other. It’s the exchange of vows, the heartfelt speeches, the joyous moments and the presence of friends and family who are there to celebrate with you. These are the things that will remain etched in your memory for a lifetime.
So, my advice to other brides in planning their weddings is to focus on the bigger picture. While it’s natural to want everything to go perfectly, remember that the essence of the day lies in the love you and your partner share. Embrace the imperfections, go with the flow, and savor every moment. Cherish the journey of planning and the excitement of the big day, and don’t let minor details overshadow the beautiful commitment you’re making to each other. In the end, it’s the love and the partnership that truly matter, and everything else pales in comparison. So, relax, enjoy the journey, and savor every moment of this special time in your life.
Erik and I embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, mixing adventure and relaxation, exploring the stunning landscapes and vibrant culture of Thailand. We chose Thailand as our honeymoon destination, exploring three distinct and captivating cities: Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket.
Our honeymoon was a dream come true, thanks to the incredible assistance of Carli Fernandez from The Concierge Travel Group. Working with Carli was a game-changer, especially considering the busy wedding preparations we had on our plate. Carli expertly crafted our once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon, making our vision a reality. She meticulously planned every detail, ensuring seamless logistics and unforgettable experiences. We were touched when she surprised us with bottles of champagne and handwritten notes at each of our destinations, adding an extra layer of warmth to our journey.
In Bangkok, we delved into the rich culture and history of Thailand. We explored museums and marveled at the intricate architecture that graced the city. The floating markets of Bangkok were a particular highlight, offering a vibrant and bustling atmosphere that immersed us in the local way of life.
Chiang Mai was the setting for our culinary adventures! We attended not one, but two cooking classes, where we learned to prepare traditional Thai dishes, including Pad Thai, which happens to be Erik’s favorite. It was a delicious and enlightening experience, and we returned home with newfound culinary skills. One of the most memorable moments of our trip was our visit to an elephant sanctuary. There, we had the incredible opportunity to get up close and personal with these majestic creatures, feeding and interacting with them. It was a truly heartwarming experience that left a lasting impact on us.
Phuket provided the perfect backdrop for relaxation and adventure. We enjoyed a leisurely stay, soaking in the sun, and took part in a boating day that was nothing short of paradise. We had our own private boat, which took us to the iconic James Bond island, where we explored the stunning surroundings and even had a picnic on our own private beach, making it a day we’ll treasure forever.
Our honeymoon in Thailand was everything we had envisioned and more, thanks to Carli’s expertise and the beautiful experiences we had in each city. It was a journey filled with love, adventure, and the creation of cherished memories that will last a lifetime. Thailand truly captured our hearts, and we can’t wait to return to this captivating country someday.
Ceremony & Reception | Park Chateau Estate and Gardens
Photography | Dyanna LaMora Photography
Florals | Laurelwood Designs
Event Planner | Danielle Rothweiler of Rothweiler Event Design
Wedding Gown | Pnina Tornai from Kleinfeld
Bridesmaid Dresses | Kennedy Blue
Photo Booth | Tap Snap 1165
Video | NST Pictures
Band | EBE Talent-Dreamtime
Hair & Makeup | Michelle Elise Artistry
Rings | Frederick Jewelers
Officiant | Rix Thorsell
Cake | Vincenzo Salvatore Cakes
Invitations, Programs & Escort Wall | Partners in Paper
Welcome Sign | Fox and Quill
Lighting | JB Lighting
Transportation | Sterling Limousine
Travel Agent | Carli Fernandez from The Concierge Travel Group