Text By: Hilary Hays Greenhalgh; Hilary’s Mother Valerie
Images by: John Ryan + the J&J Studios, LLC team
James and I met on February 4, 2016 and it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. Our first meeting wasn’t magical. We simply met at a bar. He was a normal guy interested in having a conversation with a girl who was not interested in the slightest. After several attempts at a conversation, I finally gave in and we began to talk to each other. By the end of the night I was intrigued by his tenacity, but still not interested. We did not exchange numbers, and I left thinking we’d never see each other again.
The next day I was at work and noticed that my last haircut of the night was a name I didn’t recognize, Darryl Jenkins. I thought it was strange but continued about my day. When the appointment time came, I was waiting for Darryl Jenkins and James walked through the door. He had made an appointment under an alias because he didn’t want me to know he was coming. I cut his hair, and as I checked him out he asked for my phone number. I gave it to him reluctantly but again, I was intrigued – I had to see where this was going to go.
Shortly thereafter, we became inseparable. It was evident to us and everyone around us that we were made to be in love with each other. Being in love became not only who we were as a couple, but who we were individually. Everyone around us knew, James was born to love Hilary and Hilary was born to love James. We were that couple who only saw each other in a room full of people, who danced in the rain, who simply just wanted to be together. We were just meant to be. Everything was so perfect and so simple, until the following March when tragedy struck our family.
James’ mom, Carol had been battling cancer for 5 years prior to this but had been in remission from Leukemia. After having a bone marrow transplant in 2015, her organs began attacking her body, one at a time but she had still been fighting and doing well as we had thought. On March 23, 2017 James called me and told me that his mom was going on hospice, she could no longer fight, and her lungs were giving out. We were told we had 1-3 weeks with her. Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe the state that our families were in, both his and mine. After I hung up the phone with James that day, I went to his parents’ house to be with him and his family. I walked into Carol’s room with James beside me and she looked up at the both of us and said, “I think you two should get married.” She meant eventually, but we took that literally and gave her something special.
On March 29, 2017, James and I decided to marry at his mother’s bedside. We made this decision at 1:00 PM and by 5:00 PM we were married. We called our families and closest friends and made everyone aware of the situation. Every single person was not only supportive but elated. Through the heaviness of our devastation, we all needed something to celebrate with Carol on last time. We all needed that small beam of happiness through the dark cloud that had become our new reality. With our families by our side, we surprised Carol with a very special wedding.
The gesture of our wedding which seemed so small to us brought so much joy to my mother-in-law. She was so happy that her last baby was married. She could be at peace knowing that each of her children was taken care of and that she could leave this earth knowing that in her heart and soul. She lived another 3 months after that and we were so lucky to have that special time with her. We laughed, we cried, we loved.
Two years later, in front of our family and all of our friends, we got married again and in a really big way. This is the story of my wedding as told by my mother, Valerie:
The story about the celebration of Hilary and James love didn’t just happen in a day, it was an entire weekend. For the ladies, the weekend began with a trip to Glam Nail Lounge (Newtown Square, PA). There, they were pampered with manicures and relaxing pedicures. After the pampering was complete, the ladies headed over to The Desmond Hotel in Malvern, PA, where guests of the wedding would be staying. After a quick freshen up, everybody headed over to the wedding venue for the rehearsal. When the rehearsal was over, the bridal party and family members gathered Trattoria Giuseppe (Newtown Square, PA) for a beautiful, delicious rehearsal dinner, which truly kicked off the celebrations of the weekend. Dinner was served family style with wine in abundance in a private room with beautiful decor. This was an amazing start to which turned out to be a fabulous weekend.
Bright and early the next morning, the women of the bridal party were to meet in a special suite set aside by The Desmond. Within minutes, make-up artist, Noel Pirolli (Philadelphia, PA) showed up and began setting up a beautiful display of make-up. A short while later, Brian Keenan and Danny Donnelly from Enchant Cinema (Philadelphia, PA) arrived to begin videoing the day’s events. This was going to be a day of special moments and nobody was going to miss it. Shortly following Noel’s arrival, Melissa from Chameleon Day Spa (Media, PA) showed up with her colleague and began setting up a station to create lovely updos on the bridal party. One special task was left to Hilary’s co-worker, Sidney Clarke of Hair Artistry by Valerie (Aston, PA). Sidney showed up with one main goal in mind; to make Hilary, the bride look like a vintage beauty. Sidney carried out her task impeccably, professionally and perfectly, for Hilary was the most beautiful bride any of us had ever seen. Hilary’s make-up was perfect, completely flawless as was her 1920’s vintage hairstyle.
While the women of Hilary’s bridal party were enjoying their special space, the groom, along with his groomsmen were having their own special morning at Shaving Grace (Exton, PA). While at Shaving Grace, each man received a straight razor shave and a fresh haircut. Hilary‘s groom made his appearance looking like a vintage movie star with his immaculate 1920’s style haircut and fresh shave.
The bridal party was provided shuttles by the Desmond Hotel to the wedding venue site, The Radnor Hunt (Malvern, PA). Upon arriving at The Radnor Hunt, we were escorted to a private bridal suite on the second floor of the historic building. The photographers, John and Vanessa Ryan with J&J Studios were waiting for us in the bridal suite as well as Brian and Danny from Enchant Cinema. While the bridal party indulged on snacks and champagne, we were doted on by both the photographers and the videographers.
Once we had set our eyes on the flowers, it was clear that Joan Wise of Wise Originals (Aston, PA) was the perfect choice of florist for this wedding, she had truly outdone herself. Giant bouquets of baby’s breath were the centerpiece of every table, some tall and some short. Each table was dressed in a white tablecloth underneath a shiny blush overlay. Each small centerpiece sat on top of vintage brass candlestick holders, while the tall ones sat atop tall glass vases draped with strings of pearls. The real show-stopping floral piece was the bride’s bouquet, pink peonies accented with white anemones tying together the main blush color of the wedding along with the navy accents with the center of the white anemones being navy and not to forget the bouquet was tied together with gold ribbon and topped with a special locket with pictures of James’ late mother, Carol. Each bridesmaid carried a bouquet of baby’s breath tied into a ball, made to replicate each centerpiece. The flowers truly were a focal point of the day.
Shortly after their arrival at The Radnor Hunt, Hilary and James had their first look. James waited for Hilary under the 200-year-old oak tree atop the rolling hills of The Radnor Hunt. James and Hilary exchanged their own written vows privately under the tree.
After hours of picture taking, it was time for the ceremony to begin. The bridal party strolled one by one down the aisle where they waited for the moment we had all been waiting for. As each girl made her way down the path you could see the guests were enamored with the beauty of their gowns. It first began with the flower girls’ ivory tulle dresses accented with lace appliqués, much like the brides. These dresses were hand-made by KalypsoCo (Etsy). The bridesmaids alternated colors of blush, gold, and navy blue, the blush and blue gowns were designed Bill Levkof and the gold were designed by Bari Jay.
Each navy and blush gown was chiffon and each gold was completely sequined to add a shiny glow of an accent to the bridal party. The bride was escorted down the aisle by both me and her father. The bride wore a Morilee gown by Madeline Gardner which was ordered and altered by Nikki Rentoulis, owner of Irini’s Originals (Wilmington, DE). Her gown color was nude and was covered with ivory lace appliqués, topped with little sequins, she glistened from head to toe. Her dress was held together with tiny little ivory colored buttons that spanned the whole length of her back. When bustled, it appeared to have layer upon layer of lace gathered low enough to still accentuate her figure. Her earrings, which were hand made by Edera Jewelry (Etsy) were the perfect complement to her vintage style gown, long and ivory with a tiny bit of sparkle. This gown was fitted perfectly to her curves and appeared to be made especially for her body. Breathtaking is the only way to describe her.
James and his groomsmen wore navy blue tuxes from Cimino’s Tailoring (Aston, PA). The groom wore a white a three-piece navy tuxedo with a blush bowtie. Inside his jacket was pinned a locket from LittleGemGirl (Etsy) with a picture of his mother in it, close to his heart. James also wore brown saddle shoes and a white shirt but the perfect accent to his look was a gold pocket from theEngraver (Etsy) watched chained from his vest to his jacket, truly tying together his look. Each groomsman wore a navy tuxedo with no vest. They all wore long blush neckties accented with gold tie clips from JewelMango (Etsy), each personalized with their initials. These men had looks to kill.
After the vows were said and the bubbles were blown, it was time to celebrate. The festivities began with the most elegant of cocktail hours. The Radnor Hunt is a historic building from the 1930’s with a series of smaller sized rooms. Guest had their choice of mingling on the patio outside, the deck, the parlor in the front of the house with vintage style furniture and oriental carpeting, or the sun room with hardwood floors and windows all the way around. There was a bar set up on the patio as well as another in the sun room. Waiting in line for a drink was not an issue at this wedding. There were signature cocktails already made and ready to serve on each bar as well as servers walking around with trays of wine and beer. There were two signature drinks, “The Blushing Bride” which was made with vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, raspberries and soda water and “Something New” which was made with champagne, peach schnapps and raspberries. Each flavor of this event was carefully chosen by the bride to be light and springy. Guests complimented the quick service and efficiency of the staff at The Radnor Hunt and J. Scott Catering.
A Small room with vintage hardwood flooring, lined with floor to ceiling windows connected to the dining room; perfectly suited for cocktail hour. This room housed a hand painted seating chart perfectly designed and executed by Stephanie McDermott, owner of Cheeky Lemons (Boothwyn, PA). Along with the hand-painted seating chart were several other of Stephanie’s creations, the hand painted welcome signs, the hand drawn hashtag signs, the couple’s uniquely vintage vellum invitations fastened to navy pockets along with matching programs. Many guests inquired about the beautiful hand painted signs throughout and were not surprised to find that they were created by the same person. Her artistry and talent were evident in her work.
Centered in the cocktail room was a macaroni and cheese bar served with a variety of toppings including roasted broccoli, bacon, and grilled chicken. J. Scott Catering (Malvern, PA) had proven to deliver an unforgettable cocktail hour with mini California cheeseburgers, Thai shrimp spring rolls, fried chicken and waffles with sausage gravy, jalapeno lime corn fritters, open-faced fried green tomato BLTs and lavender ricotta crostini, the guests were raving. This macaroni and cheese bar was one of the highlights this reception. Another guest favorite was the donut wall after dinner. J. Scott delivered to their guests a wooden wall lined with pegs, each peg held a donut, blueberry cake, vanilla iced, devil’s food and cinnamon cake. Guests were provided with to-go backs topped with stickers designed and produced by Cheeky Lemons to bring their donuts home in. This was another fantastic extra offered by J. Scott Catering.
Once cocktail hour was over, all the guests gathered in the sun room for the bridal party introductions. The bridal party danced their way onto the floor to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. The guests cheered as the bridal party, big and small entered onto the floor. Finally, the bride and groom were introduced for the second time as Mr. and Mrs. James Greenhalgh to “Cold Cold Man” by Saint Motel and grooved right into their first dance. The bride and groom surprised their guests with a choreographed, comedic first dance to “Home” by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes. The guests were screaming, clapping and crying as James swung Hilary all over the dance floor, laughing and smiling the whole time. The guests couldn’t say enough about this dance.
After the first dances, it was time for the best part; dinner. The tables were already dressed with a salad made from arugula, peaches and toasted hazelnuts with a champagne vinaigrette. Each guest’s place was also already set with a glass of pink sparkling champagne. The main dish at this wedding was a choice between a center cut filet of beef or a pan-seared crab cake. Guests immediately began raving about how delicious the food was. It was clear that the goal when planning this wedding was to please the guests.
As soon as the meal was over everybody immediately began enjoying the sounds from Pat of Schaeffer Sound (Media, PA). Hilary had written a strategically planned playlist for her DJ, which he abided by perfectly. Pat proved to be the perfect DJ for this wedding. Guests were dancing and singing for all of the hours of the wedding reception, the music was fantastic. When people weren’t dancing they could be found in the room across from the parlor getting pictures taken in front of the long vintage mirror photobooth wearing silly props provided by Mirror Booth Divas (Media, PA). These photos also served as a great wedding favor to take home as the Mirror Booth Divas provided three copies of each photo to each guest. Hilary and James offered several favors to their guests, temporary tattoos of a picture of Hilary and James (which ended up mostly on the faces of guests), beer cozies, donuts, and photobooth photos.
It was sad to see the night come to an end, but sure to be a night to remember. People waited for shuttles to the after party at The Desmond with donuts in hand and tattoos on their faces.