The relationship between Sherry Lee and James Shih always had its roots in international travel; they met at a bar in Hong Kong, while they both were students at Northwestern University, and grew closer during a spring break cruise in the Caribbean. So perhaps it is only natural that James would propose while the pair was on vacation in Norway. They had dated for over six years and knew they planned to marry, so James wanted to make sure the proposal was special, since it would not be a complete surprise. He had originally planned to pop the question the summer after he completed law school, receiving her parents’ blessing prior, but James’ plans were delayed when he started working at a law firm in New York and Sherry started post-graduate studies in Philadelphia.
“More than a year later, with a ring in hand and a thousand ideas I’d solicited from anyone who’d listen, I was out of excuses,” James says of his Norwegian proposal plan. With all the sightseeing of the breathtaking Scandinavian fjords, he knew there would be great opportunity for a romantic setting, but when a hotel-recommended lake was a bust, James found himself with a grumpy girlfriend and the need to improvise. Luckily, he had already prepared something special, so the proposal spot was just window dressing. “I knew I couldn’t manage a speech,” James explains. “We like to read the [New York Times] online column "Modern Love" together, so I wrote down my thoughts in the same style and loaded it on [my phone].” He gave the phone to Sherry and asked her to read the column. Afterward, she stated that the story was cute, and reminded her of their own relationship. “A mild panic came over me as I realized I hadn’t planned my moves past this point,” James admits. “After what felt like minutes of silence, I told her to close her eyes, scrambled for the ring, got on one knee, and muttered something.” In shock, Sherry apologized for her previous bad mood, and then said “yes!”
With their engagement official, it was time to start the planning process. “We wanted to pick a venue that didn’t just have the hardware, but also the software. A beautiful venue on the outside didn’t mean much to us unless it had great service and high-quality food,” explains Sherry. With her fiancé temporarily working in Europe and both families living overseas, the bride relied heavily on her coordinator. “As someone who has never thought about the kind of wedding I would like to have, hiring a planner at the beginning was the best decision I made because she helped me put together my ideal wedding and I had so much fun during the process,” reveals Sherry.
The bride decided to have a contrasting service and reception, although both events would be held in the same building. The ceremony space featured floor-to-ceiling windows and breathtaking views of New York City, however, Sherry elected to cover the windows with elegant eggshell drapery to lead to a more intimate feel. “This really warmed the space up – instead of having our guests be distracted with the views, we hoped that it would bring the focus in on the ceremony,” notes the bride. Before the nuptials, the bride and groom participated in a traditional Chinese tea ceremony with their parents. Although the couple would have other celebrations in China and Taiwan, they still made sure their family was included in the wedding. “The officiant asked our parents separately for their approval for us to become a family before we each said ‘I do,’” the bride explains. Additionally, the officiant was a judge that James had worked for, adding another personal element to the day. The bride and groom wrote their own vows, and sharing their journey with friends and family unleashed heartfelt emotions. “Both of us [were] breaking down and crying,” James shares of his most memorable moment.
After the warm and personal service, the newlyweds delighted their attendees with a glamorous, upscale reception. “I wanted to give my guests the classic, quintessential old-New York experience,” says Sherry. Touches of Art Deco style were included in the paper goods, while an eclectic mix of tables and centerpieces lent themselves to the ‘restaurant’ vibe more desired by the couple than a ‘banquet’ feel. “Floral arrangements showcased three big statement pieces in the reception room. We thought that would be more impactful and grand,” the bride discloses. A highlight of the reception was the extravagant wedding cake, which was given a place of honor at the entrance with a light shining on the confection all night. “I wanted to keep it elegant and timeless but also lavish and [showcase it as] a statement piece,” Sherry divulges of the all-white masterpiece decorated with sugar flowers, which cascaded down the cake and over the table.
A live band thrilled the revelers, playing old standards for dinner, modern hits for dancing, and leaving everyone wanting more at the end of the night. “Going into it, we were stressed about just getting through the day,” James admits. “But I think we were both surprised by how meaningful and enjoyable the day was.”