It’s strange to think that if it were not for one seemingly mundane circumstance, you might never have met the love of your life. Kimberley Levitt and Ryan Meral have unforeseen travel interruptions to thank for their introduction. “I was visiting my childhood friend Kaitlin at the University of Florida, and Ryan had been Kaitlin’s friend throughout college,” explains Kim. “But, he was out of town the entire weekend of my visit, as he was interviewing for medical school. However, on Monday, when I was supposed to be flying back to North Carolina, my flight was unexpectedly cancelled.” As she would be in town for another night, Kaitlin proposed they go to dinner, inviting the recently returned Ryan to join them. “The first thing I told Ryan was that it was ‘bashert’ that we’d met, which in Yiddish means ‘destiny,’ and it truly was,” she reveals.
Three years later, the couple sat down to a delectable seven-course meal at Kim’s favorite restaurant at the Grand Floridian on the Walt Disney World Resort property – Ryan had told his beloved that his parents wanted to treat them to a special meal. “After the cheese course, they brought out a silver-domed dish. The waiter removed the cover, and there was a red rose with scattered white petals surrounding it: at the center of the rose was my gorgeous engagement ring,” Kim remembers. “Ryan knelt down and asked me if I’d spend the rest of my life with him, to which I, of course, said, ‘Yes!’”
Electing to host their nuptials in the bride’s hometown, their hotel venue choice was obvious. “My parents are members at the hotel, so almost every major life event has been celebrated there – from my siblings’ weddings to my graduation from medical school,” Kim notes. What’s more: the location perfectly fit the couple’s vision of a “still life” motif. “The venue was especially apropos due to its historical significance and elements of Old-World elegance.” Throughout their nine-month engagement, the bride and groom relied heavily on the expertise of their coordinator. “The best advice I received was to hire a wedding planner, and I would have been completely lost without mine,” she says. “Whitney Carillon with Très Chic Southern Weddings & Events made my wedding possible, and without her I could never have realized my dream. She was with me every step of the way and made the entire weekend flawless.”
As Kim and her bridesmaids readied themselves for the big day, they were sure to take some time for fun during their photo session: starting with a pillow fight in their matching pajamas. Meanwhile, the groom’s father – who Ryan also appointed as his best man – and the rest of the groomsmen donned their classic black-and-white suits in preparation. Kim wore a striking ball gown with a Renaissance feel: intricate bead detailing, capped sleeves, and a simple sweetheart neckline. Guests found their seats inside the ceremony space, which featured a custom white aisle runner flanked with ivory petals and candles of varying heights facing a simple chuppah adorned with small, snowy blooms. When it came to their vow exchange, “my husband is Jewish, and I was raised in both the Catholic and Jewish faiths. It was important that we incorporated both of our family’s traditions in our wedding,” shares the bride. The two were officially joined by the same rabbi that had officiated the weddings of Kim’s grandparents, parents, uncle, siblings, and cousin – a special tradition she was able to continue.
After the traditional breaking of the glass, attendees enjoyed cocktail hour before entering the reception space, which exuded their vintage concept. “I wanted it to seem as though our guests were transported into the still life painting of a Dutch master. I was a history major in college and have a passion for art history – Vanitas paintings in particular,” Kim muses. “The elegance, romance, and opulence are what I hoped to capture in our wedding.” Long tables were bedecked with creamy linens featuring embellishments and place settings showcased gilt chargers and burgundy napkins. Centerpieces were made up of roses, peonies, and tulips accented with ferns, olive leaves, ornamental cabbages, pears, pomegranates, grapes, plums, and figs. The décor displayed throughout their celebration space reflected that of an Old-World fantasy. To bring their motif home, the couple hired a painter to create a masterpiece of their first dance in real time.
The bride’s advice to other engaged pairs is simple: “Enjoy the day, no matter what happens. No one will notice or remember the little hiccups along the way, so ignore the bumps and revel in the joy of joining your life with the person you love.”