Catholic Ceremony + Château Ballroom Reception with Christmas Theme

Suzanne and Eric

Photographed by: Milton Gil PhotographersLocation: West Orange, New Jersey, United States

Deciding to celebrate their nuptials a couple of days after Christmas, Suzanne Desmond and Eric Wittlinger were inspired to have a "Victorian Dickens" theme influenced by the holiday season. Gold invitations edged in red, and accented with crimson and green plaid bows, offered a glimpse of the jolly festivities to come.

The bride and groom actively planned their wedding as a team in a mere six months. During this time, Suzanne turned to the pages of Inside Weddings magazine and friends for tips and guidance. When it came to her wedding gown, she exercised her creativity by working closely with the main fitter at Kleinfeld Bridal to transform its design. Originally a soft mermaid silhouette featuring a long-sleeved illusion neckline with French lace details, it was modified to a fit-and-flare style with a matching Alençon lace trim on the silk satin skirt and cathedral-length train.

Being raised Catholic, it was important for Suzanne and Eric to have a traditional ceremony. The Mass was held in a historic Gothic Revival cathedral with majestic stained-glass windows and Guastavino vaulted ceilings. Guests took their seats on wooden pews lined with candles on gilded stands along the aisle. The sounds of a trumpet and organ duo resonated throughout the sanctuary.

With his parents by his side, Eric walked down the aisle attired like a proper character from the pages of a Charles Dickens story. His ensemble consisted of a silver shirtwaist and tie beneath a charcoal grey morning coat and slate pinstriped trousers. Eric completed the look with a dove grey top hat. In the spirit of the holidays, bridesmaids and junior bridesmaids wore crimson gowns. Exchanging vows in front of the marvelous screens carved from Appalachian oak and a towering Botticino marble canopy at the altar was an unforgettable moment for Suzanne.

Christmas carolers greeted guests as they arrived at the reception in a nearby château nestled among lush grounds. Escort cards were propped on pinecones dusted with glitter to look like snow, and arranged on a table clad with a cranberry linen. The sit-down dinner was served at tables swathed in satin bullion linens with damask embossing in a ballroom boasting a domed ceiling. 

“Each table was uniquely designed with a Christmas winter scene, replicating the window displays on Madison Avenue in New York City,” explains the bride. To add a personal touch, the majority of decorative vignettes were anchored by Suzanne’s father’s collection of Dickens’ Village Series figurines. Elements of the season included lanterns, shimmery gold ribbons, and Christmas lights and ornaments. These were paired with natural details, such as evergreen fronds, small tree trunks, pinecones, holly, roses and amaryllis bulbs in shades of snow and scarlet, ivory orchids, and mint hydrangeas. Votive candles in gilded mercury-glass vessels and small tree trunks, as well as pillar candles, cast a warm glow. Continuing the holiday aesthetic, the hazelnut cake with praline filling was composed of square layers embellished with delicate piping to resemble a tower of Christmas presents topped with gilded fondant ribbons.

From beginning to the end of Suzanne and Eric’s big day, much merriment heralded the start of their joyous new life as husband and wife.

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