The engagement of Bree Schonbrun and Alex Bandy had a bittersweet start, but a most joyous ending. During Thanksgiving week of 2002, Alex was diagnosed with an illness and hospitalized for two nights. Before he got sick, Alex had planned on a Thanksgiving proposal to Bree. He was so excited and anxious to carry out his surprise that upon his release from the hospital, he immediately tried to convince Bree that the two of them should go to The Peninsula Hotel for a much needed break together. Though Bree felt that Alex should go home to fully recover, she finally agreed to the getaway, the proposal went off without a hitch, and they then celebrated Thanksgiving, Alex’s health, and their engagement with their families.
The couple was engaged for ten months and Bree admits being taken by surprise at just how much work it takes to plan a wedding! She had to ponder and make decisions on details she had never even imagined, from the color of the napkins to the bridesmaids’ shoes to the seating arrangements. But, with the help and expertise of their wedding coordinators, the mother-of-the-bride, and Bree’s best friends, the couple made sure that no detail was overlooked when it came to their wedding day.
Alex and Bree originally envisioned an outdoor wedding, and looked at many hotels and properties with garden areas. However, after considering the possibility of extremely hot weather in September, the couple took an open-minded attitude and started looking at indoor sites as well. Bree recalls that as soon as she saw the Grand Ballroom at The Regent Beverly Wilshire, her decision was made. The look of The Grand Ballroom made Bree’s color scheme immediately clear, too. Once she was taken in by the room’s rich colors and elegant gold accents, a warm autumnal color scheme fell right right into place. The florist and wedding coordinator suggested an accent color of apricot, and the result was nothing short of glowing.
Bree walked down the aisle carrying an asymmetrical bouquet of English and Ecuadorian roses in champagne, amber and apricot tones accented by an off-center cluster of golden Cymbidium orchid blossoms. Maple leaves and amber calla lilies augmented the bouquet, with the stems wrapped in coordinating champagne colored satin ribbon.
The reception tables were square rather than round, accented by low, square trays covered with dupioni silk, filled with a bed of English and Ecuadorian roses in varying tones of blush, salmon, amber and apricot. Within each centerpiece, an off-center cluster of deep gold Cymbidium orchids were placed beside a large cylindrical glass hurricane vase filled with pillar candles of varying heights, surrounded by a bed of roses. Bree is talented at creating moods, and wanted the wedding to have a very soft and romantic ambience. Her use of the pillar candles, as well as numerous votives on every table, made the room glow with the warmth of golden, flickering candlelight. Additionally, the florist brought in gorgeous maple trees with amber leaves, and lit them with soft lighting for an exquisite, ethereal effect.
Alex and Bree’s 233 guests were enthralled by the magical atmosphere, as well as by the gourmet dinner that included potato leek soup, a refreshing summer salad, Parisienne potatoes, herb roasted tomatoes, and an entrée choice of Chilean Sea Bass medallions in citrus beurre blanc and crispy ginger or oven-roasted rack of lamb with aged port wine sauce. In addition to the exquisite chocolate mousse and raspberry wedding cake, the Regent served their trio of specialty desserts: chocolate hazelnut cake, raspberry sorbet in an almond tulle basket and crème brulee with fresh berries. After the dinner, the crowd partied until two-thirty the next morning, thanks in part to the high energy Motown-style entertainment by The Side Effects band, chosen by the music-fanatic groom.
Though truly breathtaking visually, the wedding ceremony itself provided the evening’s most profound moments. It was very important to Bree to have a traditional, conservative Jewish ceremony, from the signing of the ketubah on the Thursday before the wedding, to being married by her temple’s female Rabbi and Cantor, using traditional music by a violinist and a flutist for the processional, standing under the chuppah with Alex, and even the breaking of the glass at the end of the ceremony, every element played a meaningful role in the event. However, it was the nontraditional layout that stood out most: at the suggestion of the wedding coordinator, Alex and Bree were married in the round. Not only did this allow all of the guests to see the ceremony, it made the bride and groom feel like they were literally surrounded by love. Bree recalls, “Wherever I looked, there was a happy face beaming back at me! To feel so much love and support from every direction is just indescribable!”
Such a warm, family-oriented wedding called for equally meaningful favors, and Alex and Bree again rose to the occasion. The couple honored a tradition that Bree’s late grandfather, Lester Paley, employed as a banquet manager in various hotels in and around New York City. He would give late night party-goers a brown paper bag filled with a bagel, cream cheese and the New York Times to take with them, so they would have a breakfast ready for them the next morning after their long night. This thoughtful token became a family tradition thirty years ago, when Bree’s Aunt Patty used this idea as favors for her own wedding, much to her guests’ delight. Bree and Alex gave out similar brown paper bags, filled with bagels from Juniors Deli, a New York Times and a note explaining the sweet tradition. The bags were labeled “Bree and Alex, Bagels in Honor of Grandpa Lester.” The couple’s treat was gratefully savored the next morning, but the sentiments will last a lifetime.