But the couple also wanted to host an elegant affair that was a whole lot of fun. With the help of wedding planner Ginny Sukenik of GS Special Events in Cleveland, they accomplished that goal by inserting a number of elements that reflected their respective personalities, favorite people and things. Alicia started with the guest list of 240 people, approximately 150 of whom attended: She made sure every guest was invited to bring a spouse, significant other or date. “I’ve been to weddings before where I couldn’t bring a date,” she explains. “As a woman who found herself getting older and older, having to go by myself was painful.”
Perhaps the most touching element was the rose theme Alicia chose to honor her late maternal grandmother, Elsie Carpenter, a woman known for leaving a single rose from the assisted-living-facility garden she tended at the door of anyone having a hard time. Guests were greeted at the church by four large urns overflowing with a profusion of yellow, pink, apricot and ivory garden roses accented by branches of fresh rosemary — two at the door and two on the altar inside. Cleveland florist Stephen M. Tokar used the same flowers to fill large cream-colored garden pots that, together with camellia topiaries in Chippendale-style boxes, were scattered throughout the hotel’s Gold Room.
Roses were also used exclusively in the bouquets. Alicia and her five bridesmaids carried hand-wired clutches of Old English roses in various shades of pink and white. Alicia had seamstresses at Catan Bridal & Fashion in Strongsville add the halter tie to her strapless satin gown, which featured a champagne-colored bodice overlaid in pearl-encrusted lace, split-front A-line ivory skirt with a champagne insert, and chapel-length train featuring an insert decorated with the same lace-encrusted appliqués adorning the skirt. The move was made in response to her mother and mother-in-law’s lone request regarding the wedding: that she not wear a strapless dress.
Alicia listed her bridesmaids along with their nicknames, which she has a habit of giving friends, in the ceremony program. Former WEWS-TV 5 reporter Linda Passariello, for example, was also listed as “Pasta Jello,” a shortening of the common mispronunciation of her last name. Potato-and-cheese pierogies were served during the cocktail hour that preceded a sit-down dinner of filet mignon and salmon with béarnaise sauce, all washed down with a selection of wines that reflected the bride and groom’s love of the grape. “I had never had a pierogie before I came to Cleveland,” Alicia confesses.
The same holds true for the cassata cake she and Rob fed each other, one of three different kinds found in the buttercream-iced wedding cake from Specialty Wedding Cakes by Pisanelli in Cleveland. One of the four tiers, each trimmed in the champagne color of the bride’s gown to resemble a present, was a carrot cake filled with cream-cheese icing, another was a banana cake filled with chocolate ganache. Those with an unsatisfied sweet tooth could partake of a chocolate fountain with sponge cake, marshmallows, pretzels and strawberries for dipping.
Performances by WOIO-TV 19 6-and-11 p.m. co-anchor Denise Dufala, who sang “The Irish Wedding Song” at the church — “I caught her bouquet the year before at her wedding,” Alicia says — and local band Rick and the Cutting Edge, who played at the reception, were eclipsed by Alicia’s rendition of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” The bride serenaded her heavy-metal-loving groom later in the evening as a reward for foxtrotting to Rascal Flatts’ “God Bless the Broken Road,” the song Alicia chose for their first dance — a real concession for Rob, who hates country music.
After a night in the hotel’s bridal suite and a day with family and friends, the newlyweds left for five nights at the exclusive One & Only Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, where they stayed with the likes of “Desperate Housewives” stars Teri Hatcher and Nicolette Sheridan and singer Michael Bolton. Alicia recalls asking a woman walking from the beach to the resort to take a picture of her and Rob by the sea. “I handed her the camera, and she said, ‘OK!’ ” Alicia says, imitating the woman’s perky voice. “I looked at her, and my jaw dropped. It was Katie Couric.”