Guests at Johnathan and Cathrine Schmanski’s wedding sat on white chairs on the front lawn of Greenport’s Brecknock Hall Friday on a cool Veterans Day. Hearty winds whipped through the ladies’ hair and dresses as they wrapped scarves around their necks. The men buttoned their coats and blew warm air into their hands.
But when a white limousine pulled up to the entrance of the historic mansion, everyone’s attention turned to Ms. Schmanski, who stepped out in a white gown with a vertical strap of sparkly beads trailing down her back.
The bride, bare armed, didn’t seem fazed by the afternoon’s chill. She and her husband, both members of the U.S. Army, have served deployments in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The Schmanskis, both 25, were selected by Peconic Landing to receive a free wedding celebration at historic Brecknock Hall, with all the fixings — from the food, wine and flowers to the photographer, DJ and limousine — donated by local businesses. Brecknock Hall officials estimate that about $50,000 in goods and services was donated.[nggallery id=240 template=galleryview]
“It’s overwhelming that all these people made this possible,” said Mr. Schmanski’s mother, Elizabeth, as catering staff served trays of butternut squash chowder in miniature bread bowls, prepared and donated by The Loft Restaurant in Greenport.
“It’s the respect, honor and patriotism in their hearts that has made this possible, and it just blows me away,” she continued, holding back tears. “Generosity doesn’t really explain what it is. No words are adequate.”
The couple held hands while greeting guests at the mansion and stood close as cameras flashed all around them, Mr. Schmanski making a funny face after every few clicks.
Ms. Schmanski said the night was “magical.”
“We’re really overwhelmed that people came together,” she said after the reception. “It really showed patriotism is alive in America. Everyone put their best foot forward to make sure our day was special.”
Robert Syron, president and CEO of Peconic Landing, said he felt emotional while watching the ceremony with his wife.
“I was quite touched by it,” he said. “I saw two people who were fighting for our country and defending our nation be given a gift from the North Fork of Long Island. I felt very proud of Peconic Landing and the greater community where I live.”
Teresa Benitez, whose son, John, has been close friends with Mr. Schmanski since they were elementary school students in Riverhead, said she could tell the bride and groom were perfect for each other.
“I know John — I know his personality,” Ms. Benitez said. “She’s the one.”
Mr. Schmanski, an unmanned aerial vehicle operator, and Ms. Schmanski, a system support specialist, were both in combat training in Georgia this past week. They had to miss their wedding rehearsal and head directly to their rehearsal dinner Thursday night. They’re scheduled to fly back to Fort Stewart in Hinesville, Ga., where they’re stationed, early Sunday morning.
Mike Paccione of MVP DJ and Entertainment donated his services for the Schmanski wedding.
He wanted to contribute to show his appreciation for members of the military, he said, adding that one of his childhood friends was killed while serving in Iraq.
“If there’s anything you can possibly volunteer your time to, why not let this be it?” he said.
Elizabeth Schmanski said her son and his wife represent the entire military, and donating to their wedding celebration is a way for civilians to say thank you to the troops fighting in wars and stationed around the world.
“John and Cat are special people,” she said. “They strive for excellence in the military and they can be proud of themselves for who they are and what they do.”