07/25/12 12:06pm
07/25/2012 12:06 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Johnathan and Cathrine Schmanski enter Brecknock Hall in Greenport moments after their wedding ceremony last Veteran’s Day.

After the outpouring of local support for Brecknock Hall’s wedding giveaway to two local soldiers last year, Peconic Landing, the event’s organizer, has decided to do it again.

Active duty Army soldiers Cathrine and John Schmanski of Riverhead, who had been stationed in Afghanistan, were married last Veterans Day at Brecknock Hall, a restored 19th-century manor house in Greenport, in a ceremony donated by the Peconic Landing lifecare community, which owns the building, with support from two dozen local merchants.

Now stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia, the couple are expecting their first child. They fell in love while stationed at a military base in Germany in 2009 and were officially married by a justice of the peace in Arizona in 2010. But they didn’t have a wedding ceremony until the Brecknock Hall event.

This week, the search began for the 2012 Brecknock Veterans Day wedding couple.

“It’s powerful to see individuals and businesses join together to honor those who serve our country in such a meaningful way,” said Peconic Landing president and CEO Robert Syron. He added that last year’s wedding was a testament to a community that unites for a good cause.

“We’re embarking on this year’s journey to Nov. 11 with an incredible sense of gratitude,” he said. “Giving back is a priority at Peconic Landing and this effort is particularly meaningful since many of our residents are veterans.”

This year’s winners will receive catering, entertainment, flowers, photography and numerous other wedding day donations from 20 local sponsors.

Couples must submit their stories to [email protected] by Monday, Aug. 5. They’re asked to include details about their ties to the East End, Suffolk County, Long Island or New York State and whether one or both serves or served in the military.

Peconic Landing would also like to know whether they’re on active duty or have recently returned from a combat zone, the number of tours of duty they’ve completed and any special circumstances or honors they’ve received.

[email protected]

11/12/11 8:19am
11/12/2011 8:19 AM

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.

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“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.”

[email protected]

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Cathrine and Johnathan Schmanski kiss on the dance floor at their Brecknock Hall wedding Friday evening.

11/09/11 12:00pm
11/09/2011 12:00 PM

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | The Schmanskis with many of the local business owners donating services for their wedding Friday.

The military couple selected to receive a donated wedding at Brecknock Hall in Greenport is tying the knot this Friday, Veteran’s Day.

Johnathan and Cathrine Schmanski, who are both in the Army, fell in love at a military base in Germany in 2009 and got hitched at a Justice of the Peace court in Arizona last year. Only a handful of friends could attend, and the two wished they could have had a large wedding ceremony with all of their family members.

Their dream came true when they were chosen by Peconic Landing to receive a free wedding celebration through the first-ever Brecknock Veterans Day Wedding Giveback.

Nearly two-dozen local businesses are donating everything for the big day, from the food, wine and wedding cake to the gown, makeup and limousine.


Mr. and Ms. Schmanski could not be reached for comment for this article, since they were both involved in combat training in Georgia this past week, according to Rachel Maloy, Ms. Schmanski’s sister and maid of honor.

Ms. Maloy said the two are expected to land in New York on Thursday and head straight to their rehearsal dinner at Cliffside Resort Waterfront Condominiums in Greenport. They’re going to have to miss the actual rehearsal, Ms. Maloy said.

“They’re at a loss for words at how generous and selfless everyone is,” Ms. Maloy said. “They’re beside themselves for sure, and my family is too. It’s overwhelming.”

The wedding ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. Friday on the front lawn of Brecknock Hall, weather permitting, and a cocktail hour and reception inside the mansion will immediately follow.

Readers of The Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review have voted online for many aspects of the wedding celebration through a partnership with Times/Review Newsgroup and Peconic Landing, which owns the grounds of historic Brecknock Hall.

Readers have chosen, week after week, what they’d like to see at the Schmanski wedding. Here are the results:

• Main entrees by Christopher Michael Catering: Filet mignon with horseradish dill sauce, sautéed chicken with rosemary and shallot and citrus marinated tuna.

• Appetizer by The Loft Restaurant: Mini crab and salmon cakes served with a mustard cognac dipping sauce.

• Wine by Macari Vineyards: the 2007 Estate Chardonnay and the 2003 Estate Merlot.

• Beer by Greenport Harbor Brewing Company: Harbor Ale

• Cake by Sacred Sweets: Chocolate with chocolate ganache filling

• Bride’s makeup by Allison Pressler Professional Skin Care: sultry eye

• Bride’s hair by Peconic Clipper: updo as seen on www.hairstylesbob.com

• Groom’s tuxedo from Chap’s Corner: black tuxedo with maroon tie, vest and handkercheif

• Place settings: Hampton Chinaware by Party Rental, Ltd.

• Centerpiece: Yellow and white arrangement by Ivy League Lowers

• Bridal party photo shoot location with Caroline Rochetta Photography: Long Island Sound beach

[email protected]

11/02/11 12:00pm
11/02/2011 12:00 PM

2: BRIAN DORSEY STUDIO COURTESY PHOTO | Wedding guests dance at a reception at Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue last summer. Local wedding experts say some traditional dances like the father-daughter dance is still well-loved on the North Fork, but organized dances like the Electric Slide are no longer common.

Some things never change when it comes to wedding tradition, local wedding experts say. There’s almost always a bouquet, a white dress, an “I do” and a big bill.

But some rules of thumb are bending and breaking.

Traditionally, the bride’s family is responsible for most of wedding’s cost, said Southold resident Maria McBride, the wedding style director of BRIDES magazine. But that trend is changing.

“Today, tradition is much less important than financial practicalities,” said Ms. McBride, who has also authored a series of six books, including one titled “The Perfect Wedding.”

Ms. McBride said many couples save money for their weddings and are increasingly covering main wedding expenses and making major money decisions. When parents help, she said, the groom’s family typically pays for the rehearsal dinner and the bride’s family signs the check for reception expenses.

And the parents will often receive in return — perhaps in addition to a lifetime of love and thanks — dances with their newly-married children.

“The father-daughter dance is a well-loved tradition and it’s expected that they will dance the entire song,” Ms. McBride said.

Amy Finno, senior vice president of marketing and events at Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue, agreed that the father-daughter dance has remained a popular tradition, but other staple dances have seen their way right out of North Fork venues.

The once-popular Electric Slide and Macarena are things of the past at North Fork receptions, she said.

“We’ve had some really great bands play here — some have played some rocking Motown and everyone has a great time,” she said. “But there’s less organized dance.”

Ms. Finno said other long-loved traditions like decorating the bride and groom’s limousine and even the throwing of the bride’s bouquet have begun to disappear.

“I think the North Fork is trending differently than the catering halls,” she said. “The venues out here are beautiful, tented spaces with gorgeous landscapes and I think a lot of people are keeping it more simple.”

She said she still sees the best man and maid of honor making the traditional toast to the bride and groom, and some newlywed couples give their own toasts to each other and to their guests.

A lot of couples are turning the traditional wedding structure upside-down, according to Jim Fallon, director of sales at Hotel Indigo East End on West Main Street in Riverhead.

Mr. Fallon, who has handled wedding transactions for the past three decades, has noticed for the first time the emergence of the “3-on-2 wedding,” a type of reception he finds to be a new trend specific to the North Fork.

Such a reception calls for a three-hour party with hot food and lots of hors d’oeuvres, followed by a two-hour party in a ballroom with dessert, champagne, live music and dancing.

“The party never stops, but it’s almost like having two weddings in one,” he said.

The first part of the evening, a sort of cocktail hour, is often accompanied with a half-dozen internationally-themed food stations, he said. Some couples choose for the second part of the reception to transform the ballroom into a nightclub.

He said he’s seen longtime traditions like removing a bride’s garter belt or even cutting the wedding cake slowly go away.

“A lot of people are looking for alternative weddings,” he said. “Things are changing.”

[email protected]

11/02/11 11:59am

You can help pick elements of the Schmanski wedding at Brecknock Hall.

In a partnership with Brecknock Hall, Times/Review readers will have the opportunity to vote on certain elements of the Schmanski wedding on Nov. 11. The wedding reception is being donated to the husband and wife, both of whom serve in the U.S. Army.

The results from last week’s poll are in.

The bride’s makeup will be the sultry eye.

The bride’s hair will be the updo as seen on www.hairstylesbob.com.

The grooms tux will be choice No. 1.

In this week’s poll, you can select the getaway car for the bride and groom.

10/26/11 12:00pm
10/26/2011 12:00 PM

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Christopher Junda, owner of Junda's Pastry Crust and Crumbs in Jamesport, with assorted pies and cakes he uses in dessert buffets.

Foodies addicted to television shows about baking may assume the current wedding cake trend calls for an extravagant, over-the-top creation.

But “that’s just television,” says Keith Kouris, baker and owner of the Blue Duck Bakery Café in Southold.

Mr. Kouris and other local bakers say North Fork weddings often feature smaller cakes than in years past — but couples now want more than just cake.

Enter the dessert buffet.

Couples are increasingly choosing cakes with curbed eye-popping appeal and instead requesting long tables of desserts filled with cupcakes, cake pops, tiny cheesecakes and miniature pies.

Miche Bacher of Sacred Sweets in Greenport said the dessert buffet, which can also be made mobile on server trays, is a growing trend that allows guests to taste many different sweets at one wedding. Miniature truffles, bite-size cannoli cookies and small ice cream cones are some treats she’s seen debut in the dessert buffet.

The make-my-cake-smaller trend may be partly attributed to the weakened economy, local bakers say; cakes ordered from North Fork bakeries and pastry studios can cost from $2 to $60 a slice, and smaller cakes mean smaller bills.

Mr. Kouris said people tying the knot on the North Fork are “drastically cutting down on the size of the cake.”

He said couples with 200 guests have ordered cakes that feed only 50 guests and a sheet cake kept in the kitchen feeds the rest.

Still, bakers say there are plenty of couples in the market for high-end wedding cakes involving intricate sugar patterns and extensive techniques.

Regardless of how expensive a cake is, bakery owners say autumn weddings tend to call for heavier cakes with rich frostings like chocolate merlot cake with blackberry buttercream frosting, carrot cake with cream cheese filling and red velvet cake with buttercream icing.

Some brides and grooms are ordering towers of cupcakes in the same flavors, but the popularity of the handheld dessert has lost a bit of steam.

“Last year was the year of the cupcake,” Ms. Bacher said. “This year is the year of the red velvet cake.”

Other fall favorites include apple cake with caramel butter icing and pumpkin cake with cream cheese filling, orders that can be filled at Butta Cakes Greenport Cupcake Factory, which also makes traditional wedding cakes.

Ms. Bacher said some couples are asking for more unique cakes like cardamom cake with pear-ginger filling or wine-flavored cakes like merlot, chardonnay and sparkling wine.

“We’re pretty adventurous with our palates and we encourage our brides to be adventurous as well,” Ms. Bacher said.

Another growing trend is serving pies in addition to — or instead of — a wedding cake.

Christopher Junda of Junda’s Pastry Crust and Crumbs in Jamesport said more people are opting for pies at their fall weddings this year. One couple recently requested he bake a table full of pies instead of a wedding cake, and several couples have ordered extra miniature pies to send home with their guests.

Bride-and-groom duos are increasingly giving sugary sweets to their guests when the reception is over, bakers say, and the dessert buffet can even double as a parting gift.

“Brides might have little to-go bakery boxes be the party favors,” Ms. Bacher said.

[email protected]

10/19/11 12:00pm
10/19/2011 12:00 PM
Matt Michel

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Pizza truck 'Rolling in Dough' owner Matt Michel put a pizza in the wood oven.

Local wedding planners say guests are increasingly deciding to go home after wedding receptions on the North Fork and forego post-party raging in the name of a good snooze.

Just kidding.

Afterparties that follow North Fork wedding receptions are increasing in popularity, wedding planners say, especially ones that revolve around unique food ideas.

Wedding planner Kim Folks said lots of people like Rolling in Dough, a wood oven pizza business that operates out of a 1940s pickup truck.

Owner Matt Michel said more and more couples are hiring him to set up shop toward the end of their wedding receptions.

“A lot of people want something fun for everyone to do and they don’t want people to drive after they’ve been drinking,” he said.

Another non-alcoholic option, Ms. Folks said, is Bungalo Bar, a 1960s ice cream truck owned by Harry Wilkinson of Riverhead. After the cake has been cut and it’s later on in the evening, Mr. Wilkinson, dressed up like an old-fashioned ice cream man, serves cold treats like toasted almond ice cream and vanilla pops.

He said the baby boomers and parents of the bride and groom get the biggest kick out of his service.

Ms. Folks said some couples who want to have after parties also choose to have traditional parties and frequent bars in downtown Riverhead or in Greenport.

Wedding planner Ashley O’Neil of Southold said she’s planned late-night events like spaghetti dinners and barbecues. One popular idea, she said, is hiring a catering company to make dinner called “Spaghetti a Mezzanotte” (midnight spaghetti in Italian).

“The chefs do a delicious pasta around midnight, and everybody gets some and they continue to party,” she said.

Ms. O’Neil said bridal parties also like to head to the beach for bonfires and to make s’mores when the wedding reception is over.

No matter what type of afterparty a client wants, Ms. Folks said, she tells them “food is key.”

“By the time you do an afterparty, people have been drinking a while,” she said. “It’s nice to offer your guests something fun and put a little something in their bellies.”

[email protected]