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Taking the Plunge - Literally! - and More

December 17th, 2007 at 12:44:39 by Christina | 11 Comments | Add Comment

I came across some interesting articles in the New York Times recently that I wanted to share with everyone:

1) Newleyweds Skydive to Celebrate
December 16, 2007

HAZLETON, Pa. (AP) -- Talk about taking the plunge. Jeanie Dulski and Jamy Knittle actually took two plunges on Friday: First, they got married at Hazleton Municipal Airport, then they went skydiving.

As Dulski explained it: ''Getting married is scarier than jumping out of a plane.''

Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta performed the ceremony on the ground for Dulski and Knittle, both 30. About 45 minutes later, the bride and groom took a plane up to 10,000 feet and leaped out.

It was the second marriage but first skydive for Dulski, who made a tandem jump with an instructor. Knittle, who had skydived once before, jumped separately.

Barletta called it perhaps the most unusual wedding ceremony he has performed.

''I'm sure my wife would like to see me jump out of an airplane without a parachute,'' he joked.

2) First the Wedding, Then the Real Show and Razzle-Dazzle Begins
By Marcelle S. Fischler 
December 16, 2007

THE beachside fireworks display had begun to wind down at Lulu de Kwiatkowski’s and Alfredo Gilardini’s wedding reception on Nov. 10 in the Bahamas when suddenly whistles began to blow and drums began beating. As their 160 guests looked on, a junkanoo, a traditional Bahamian Mardi Gras-style band with 30 men and women in colorful traditional costume, wound its way from the beach toward those assembled at the Lyford Cay Club.

“From there the D.J. started and then everyone just danced away,” said Ms. de Kwiatkowski, 35, a New York textile designer. Coming on the heels of dinner and dancing to a soulful jazz band, the splashy parade had not been anticipated by the guests. “I don’t think anyone was expecting to have that kind of buzz,” she said. “They are so loud and boisterous and so amazing visually that you are so brought into it in an incredible way.”

In the stampede to put their inimitable imprint on weddings, brides, their mothers and wedding planners are going beyond the traditional wedding bands and D.J.s to bring in increasingly extravagant and often surprising Broadway and Hollywood-style entertainment to spice up their affairs.

Nicky Reinhard, an owner of David /Reinhard Events in New York (, which organized the de Kwiatkowski-Gilardini celebration, said that brides were now looking to “add a little twist, a little excitement, a little pick-me-up” to their wedding receptions. That has included, at one cavernous party space in New York, Cirque de Soleil-style performers suspended from the ceiling.

Razzle-dazzle moments are punctuating even otherwise unassuming affairs. Some have employed strolling magicians to do sleight-of-hand during cocktails; others have used rolling human dessert tables to add a startling live dimension to the traditional cake. And during the increasingly popular wedding after party, cigar rollers and air-brush tattoo artists add pizazz.

Mindy Weiss, a celebrity wedding planner in Los Angeles whose client list recently included Eva Longoria and Tony Parker, said that couples were compromising on the number of courses or scaling back on flowers to have “name entertainment” at the reception, spending from $10,000 to $750,000 to deliver a 20-to-40 minute show.

Ms. Weiss ( has brought in Damien Rice, Paul Anka, the Village People, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie and Kool and the Gang for wedding receptions and big-name D.J.s for after parties.

“It is a wow factor,” she said.

Leslie Price, an owner of In Any Event, another New York wedding planning business (, said, “It is wonderful eye candy to do during the entrees after everyone is served.” Over the last three years she has spiced up dinner hours with belly and flamenco dancers and had drag queens headline an after party. “People are looking for whimsy to break up the traditional.”

At their wedding in Southampton, N.Y., on March 24, Shanette Barth and Bryan Cohen turned dessert into spectacle. Instead of a wedding cake, they had models dressed as bride and bridegroom cake toppers pop out of rolling dessert tables decorated like tiered cakes ( Guests thought “it was hilarious,” said Ms. Barth, 38, the executive director of the annual Hampton Classic horse show.

At the wedding of Dr. Sari Weinstein and Brett Goldman on Sept. 2, a man wearing a fake beard and dressed in a costume straight out of “Fiddler on the Roof” interrupted the maid of honor’s toast and then proceeded to gently roast the bride and bridegroom as their guests looked up from their salads.

At first, Dr. Weinstein, 30, a chief resident in dermatology in Chicago, was “horrified,” she said, especially since she had “planned every second” of her wedding at the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts in New York. And this was “not on the schedule,” she said.

Her guests were amused, however, as another three bearded men suddenly arrived on the floor, dancing in formation with “bottles balanced on their heads, Klezmer music blasting, spotlights following their every move.”

The tightly choreographed 20-minute performance by the Amazing Bottle Dancers, a specialty troupe ( that appeared at 150 weddings last year, turned out to be an icebreaker. In no time, 135 guests were dancing in concentric circles.

“It was outrageous,” Dr. Weinstein said. “The dancers kept everyone going.”

The whole crazy thing was a surprise arranged by her mother.

Cal Nathan, owner of the New York Fun Factory, an event planner in Hicksville, N.Y. (, said that he, too, has witnessed an uptick in the number of couples using out-of-the-box gimmicks like stilt walkers, celebrity look-alikes, photo booths and minicasinos to make their weddings stand out.

But Ms. Price advises clients like Vanessa Ferrelli, 33, and James Muniz, 37, whose wedding this month at Oheka Castle in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., featured a pair of tango dancers, to limit such shows to two songs. The idea is “to leave the guests wanting more,” she explained.

When Michelle Puttlitz, 35, a librarian, and Jonathan Golub, 41, a chiropractor, married on April 29 in Smithtown, N.Y., Bella Notte Productions, a New York entertainment company, surprised the guests with a bit of Broadway. The “chef” at the reception turned out to be Robert Creighton, from the ensemble cast of the Broadway version of “The Little Mermaid.” The maître d’ who chimed in with “This Is the Moment” from “Jekyll and Hyde” was Brian Noonan, who once appeared in “The Phantom of the Opera.” And pretending to be a waitress was Melissa Dye, who has played Sandy in “Grease”; she belted out “Big Spender” from “Chicago.”

Randyl Appel, the managing partner of Bella Notte Productions (, said the Broadway veterans had performed at 150 to 175 weddings in the last two years, with bookings for the $3,500-to-$5,500 vignettes “increasing exponentially.”

“It’s a wonderful transition, particularly from the dinner segment to the dancing at the wedding,” Mr. Appel said. “By the time we are done, people are on their feet, cheering and pounding the tables and spinning their napkins and yelling for encores.”

The Golubs added a spectacle of their own: a choreographed version of “All I Ask of You,” from “Phantom” they had been practicing at a Long Island dance studio for months. They glided across the floor in clouds of dry ice as Mr. Noonan and Ms. Dye sang.

Some aren’t wowed by entertainment’s encroachment on tradition.

Letitia Baldrige, the arbiter of taste and etiquette, worries that “guests will always remember what went on at the wedding and won’t care about the union, the marriage.”

“It is dumb,” she added. “Old-fashioned traditional weddings where you looked at the bride and groom and you watched them dance and toasted them, that is what a wedding should be about.”

Ms. Weiss, the Los Angeles planner, is more or less on the same page. Brides should keep the entertainment “appropriate for a wedding” she said, because, “if it gets too circusy, it is hard to bring it back to the mush factor.”

3. To Be Safe, Call the Bride by Her First Name
By Anna Jane Grossman 
December 2, 2007

Correction Appended

WHEN Jill Van Camp decided to play catcher in a softball game on the September morning of her wedding, her mother worried that the bride might lose a tooth. Ms. Van Camp, 31, was more concerned about losing her good name. Literally.
She and Darren Bloch, 33, knew they wanted to spend their lives together, but were unsure how to monogram their towels. So they arranged the game between their respective families and friends, and proclaimed that the winning team would determine which of them would take the other’s name.

Thanks to hyphens, a vogue toward creative morphing of names, and legislation in some states that has eased the process for a man to take his wife’s surname, there have never been more surname options.

Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economics professor, and Maria Shim, then a Harvard student, studied various Massachusetts birth records, wedding announcements published in The New York Times and Harvard alumni records for a paper they published in 2004 in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

They found that fewer than 4 percent of college-educated brides did not take their husband’s last name in 1975, compared with about 20 percent in 2000.

But brides, and bridegrooms as well, are learning that with choice comes complication. They are turning what was once an intimate conversation into an interactive dialogue with relatives, friends and even professional consultants.

When the former Katharine Newberry-Gillin, 25, a manager at a Trader Joe’s food store in Osseo, Minn., was engaged last year to Kyle Sommers, also 25, there were many name-change options.

“I was coming face to face with something that I’d always known would be a major issue,” she said. “When I was in school, people always joked about what kids with hyphenated names would do when they got married.”

She decided to take the name-change question to the polls. At an online voting page she built at, several dozen friends and family members weighed in on whether she should become just Kate Sommers or Katie Sommerberry-Gillin. Or Katharine Elizabeth Gilnewsom.

She took the advice of many of her survey-takers and added her new husband’s name to her own name, after subtracting the hyphen. Her legal name is now Katharine Newberry Gillin Sommers — Kate N.G. Sommers, for short.

The issue of men who want to change their names made news recently when a California man found himself caught in red tape trying to take his wife’s name; he sued the state, claiming gender discrimination. The case was the impetus for legislation, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October, that will give married spouses and domestic partners equal rights to change their names beginning January 2009.

Seven states already recognized a husband’s right to take his wife’s last name upon marriage. They are New York, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts and North Dakota.

Kate Talbert, 29, a medical student in Los Angeles, went to two years ago for input about what new name she and her future husband, Brian Denny, 31, should call themselves after their wedding. They had already decided to create a new name, and she needed to figure it out quickly to order the engraved chocolate bars for their wedding guests.

“It was nice to have other people to bounce ideas off of,” she said.

As for her proposed names, “Emerson” made one fellow bride think of “the bald doctor on M*A*S*H.” “Sarana,” said another, would be “difficult to pronounce if someone’s calling you” which might be good, “because you can tell which ones are the telemarketers.”

In the end, Ms. Talbert and Mr. Denny decided on E.E. Cummings’s middle name, Estlin.

“I wasn’t hugely attached to my last name,” said the former Mr. Denny, a computer programmer, “and she just couldn’t really see herself as Kate Denny. And taking her name didn’t feel right, either. So we decided to take a new name instead.”

“My dad might’ve been a little sad, but not really,” he added. “My family is pretty open-minded.”

Some choose to seek professional assistance when changing their name.

Danielle Tate of Potomac, Md., runs the Web site, which can help women go through the legal steps to change their surnames. For $29.95, brides can print out all the necessary papers online — and get Ms. Tate’s candid thoughts on their best options.

“Women who are only children or who work in a family business usually don’t want to change their name completely,” she said. “It’s a personal choice, but people are hungry for advice, and there’s just not a lot of reference out there.”

Maryanna Korwitts, a professional name consultant in Naperville, Ill., takes a more academic approach.

Ms. Korwitts is a self-described “name-ologist” who has studied calligraphic design; she helps people name businesses and babies and rethink their names before marriage, or after divorce.

“All of us recognize that our name is more than just a word or a label, but we’ve never really been educated to understand the energy behind it,” she said.

When the wedding-day softball game at a resort in Mount Tremper, in upstate New York, finally began, Ms. Van Camp, a social worker in New York City, ended up feeling less in control of the outcome than she thought she would.

“We both felt a fair amount of hubris about our softball abilities,” said Mr. Bloch, a vice president for external relations at the Empire State Development Corporation in New York City.

The bride ended up having to leave halfway through so that she could get her hair done. While she was gone, the Bloch team won.

“So I had to take his name,” said the former Ms. Van Camp — now Mrs. Bloch. “But I’m a good player. I think if I’d been able to play the whole game, he’d be a Van Camp.”

But the game had the same effect as a shared last name. “It brought our families together,” Mr. Bloch said.

Correction: December 9, 2007

The Field Notes column last Sunday, about complications that arise when couples select their legal surname after marriage, misstated the Web address of a company that offers women advice on changing their name. It is, not


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