Been there, done that — that's how WKYC and "Live on Lakeside" meteorologist/co-host Hollie Giangreco felt about planning a big, white wedding. The divorced mother of two said "I do" the first time around in a traditional church ceremony followed by a reception for a couple hundred guests. But she envisioned marrying mixologist Alex Giangreco in a more intimate setting. The couple had decided to tie the knot in Alex's then-home city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida — they'd met while Hollie was vacationing there in 2010. But the Cleveland bride-to-be and her Buffalo-born fiancÃ© didn't want to burden friends, siblings and extended family with the expense of flying to a destination wedding.
"We wanted romantic and elegant, but we wanted simple, too. Both of us are really, deep down, simple people," Hollie shares. "We always joke that we would have been happy, the two of us on a street corner somewhere with someone marrying us."
The couple came up with an appropriately simple solution to their dilemma: a June 14 beach wedding attended by their parents, maid of honor, best man and a few others, and a July 19 second-reception blowout in Cleveland.
"We came up with the beach concept first," Hollie remembers. "And then everything kind of fell into place."
Even finding a wedding dress was easy, Hollie says. She was obsessed with tracking down a bridal number similar to the one Selena Gomez wore in her video for "A Year Without Rain." It was simple, lightweight and moved beautifully in the wind — a look she was determined to replicate.
"I tried on a gazillion dresses, all kinds," she says.
Her quest ended in March with a dress she previously tried on early in her search. The Deb Shops white chiffon dress featured an elliptical hemline and single shoulder strap adorned with rhinestones, an embellishment that repeated at the empire waistline. She found it on sale for $70 at the chain's SouthPark Mall location and knew it was "the one."
"I remember running outside to see if it had the •wind effect,' and it was blowing up in the parking lot," she says. "I was like, •Well, this is going to work! If it's doing this in Cleveland in March, it will definitely do this on a beach in Florida in June.'•"
She relegated the search for a maid-of-honor's frock to her close friend Jessica Starr with only one stipulation: It had to be turquoise, the primary color in her tropical wedding palette. Alex's good friend Michael Olczak served as the best man.
Securing a spot for the beach ceremony was a breeze, too. Hollie and Alex married on a private stretch of Pompano Beach in front of a condominium complex where Hollie's parents own a unit. "It's a bigger beach with more sand," Alex says. "When you get down to Fort Lauderdale, it gets a little narrow."
The couple opted to exchange their vows at sunset, when temperatures are cooler and the light is soft and romantic. The bride walked between rows of chairs outfitted in white covers tied with turquoise chiffon sashes, down a sandy aisle defined by strewn peach rose petals. She carried a hand-tied mix of peach roses, orchids, plumeria and other tropical blooms punctuated by a single white starfish. Florist Flowers & Found Objects repeated the colors in the maid of honor's hand-tied arrangement of gerbera daisies.
A violinist hired by the maid of honor as a wedding gift provided the music, both at the ceremony and during a cocktail hour on a terrace overlooking the ocean. There the party toasted the newlyweds with Moet & Chandon champagne, then watched as the bride slipped into a pair of crystal-covered heels and danced with Alex to the Lady Antebellum hit, "Need You Now."
"It was the most romantic thing, to have this violin playing in the moonlight with candles everywhere on the beach," she gushes.
Hollie credits the groom with planning most of the event. It was Alex who booked the nondenominational officiant, rented the chairs, arranged for the ceremony setup and ordered the bubbly, along with the shrimp cocktail, fresh fruit and cheeses served with it. And it was Alex who lined up a private dining room overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway at da Campo Osteria, a favorite Italian restaurant in the boutique-style il Lugano Hotel & Residences and chose the reception dinner menu: a caprese salad and choice of homemade ravioli, veal saltimbocca, salmon or New York strip steak.
He even ordered the striking wedding cake, a two-tier chocolate confection iced in turquoise-tinted buttercream, piped and garnished with real seashells, and presented on a platter covered in raw-sugar crystals that looked like sand.
"It almost looked like it had washed up from the shores of the Atlantic," Alex says of the cake, from Sweeter Days Bake Shop. He adds that he requested two real starfish for the cake. "I wanted to save them for that keepsake, to have with other items that we'll cherish."
Hollie's sole contribution was helping her mother Joni Strano make candleholders for the terrace bar, a Pinterest-inspired craft that involved filling a clear wineglass with a layer each of sand and shells, then setting a tealight holder in the resulting strata.
"I never had stress," she says.
Planning the 4 p.m.-to-midnight second reception, staged in the backyard of Hollie's parents' suburban East Side home, was equally drama-free. The Giangrecos shared the details of their wedding with Bill and Dawn Rini of Strongsville-based A Taste of Excellence, then allowed them to handle all the specifics, from coming up with a menu to setting up an enormous white tent lit by Japanese lanterns and furnished with tables and chairs.
"The last thing we wanted was my parents to have to worry about their stuff," Hollie says. "So [A Taste of Excellence] brought everything in, including dishes and silverware. It even brought in its own ovens and set up a kitchen in my parents' garage."
Approximately 200 guests, including WKYC morning co-host John Anderson, WKYC weekday evening meteorologist Betsy Kling and former WKYC co-anchor Carole Sullivan, circulated between three stations serving an ever-changing array of courses, some of which reflected the Fort Lauderdale reception-dinner menu: tri-colored ravioli in a fresh basil pesto with a tomato and sautÃ©ed pine nut concasse, miniature seafood salads and filet mignon medallions with a Marin cabernet reduction over leek and wasabi gold mashed potatoes. The wedding cake was replaced by an assortment of desserts, including bananas Foster and cherries jubilee.
Sangria was made with fresh summer fruits and served as the de facto specialty drink. But guests could order wine, beer and mixed drinks from the open bar or sample the Sammy Whammy, a Planter's Punch mixed by the bride's paternal grandfather, Sam Strano.
"It was very •Father of the Bride,'•" Hollie says of the setting, referring to the Steve Martin flick. "It was stunning."
The Giangrecos' progressive celebration ended just as it started: on the beach. In September, they embarked on a 10-day honeymoon at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
Lightning StrikesHollie was exhausted after a day of work followed by a flight from Cleveland to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for a getaway at her parents' vacation condominium. Meeting a man was the last thing on her mind when her father insisted they go out for dinner that May 2010 evening. But she felt an instant connection to Alex as she walked into the Casablanca CafÃ©, a local restaurant where the Buffalo native was mixing drinks. They started conversing as soon as she and her father sat down at the bar.
"It really was almost something from God — I really believe that," she says. "It was just meant to be. It just felt immediately right, almost like I had known him. And he felt the same way."
First DateHollie and Alex exchanged phone numbers at the Casablanca. He called, and they arranged a daytime meeting at Aruba Beach CafÃ© later that week. She wanted to keep it extremely casual — the better, she believed, to see if she experienced that same connection. "It was pretty much a carbon copy," she says.
Alex surprised Hollie by flying to Cleveland to see her a couple of weeks later. "••Hey, I'm staying at the hotel next to Channel 3' is basically the phone call I got," she remembers. "It was really fun. That was sort of like the beginning, where I felt like, OK, I'm going to be with this person. And from there, we had a long-distance relationship."
Alex proposed to Hollie in front of the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six, a Fort Lauderdale hotel on Florida's Intracoastal Waterway. A photographer he'd hired for the occasion began following them, clicking away as they walked along the marina docks. "He got down on one knee, and I almost fell right into the Intracoastal," Hollie says. "I was floored." A post-engagement photo shoot followed inside the hotel. "It is so beautiful to have," she says of the resulting album. "We have all of that captured."
Two Ships Dock
Alex presented Hollie with an oval diamond surrounded by small round diamonds in a platinum band, while he received a tungsten carbide band.
Alex bought Hollie a white gold necklace from Tiffany & Co., and she gave him a Hugo Boss watch.
The Wedding Gifts
A Special Mani-PediKaren Kraus, proprietor of Shear Glamour in Brunswick, surprised Hollie with what she describes as "a little personal bridal shower" when she showed up for her pre-wedding French manicure and pedicure. "She had a little veil made, and she had little foods out, bridal music playing," she remembers. "It was just a beautiful afternoon."
The bride didn't experiment with updos, hair accessories or veils. "I just wore it down," she says. "I didn't want it different — that's one of my biggest pet peeves."
No Tuxes Here. Alex wore a tan custom-tailored Hugo Boss suit and dress shirt. "I didn't want to wear a tie," he explains. "But I wanted to have something nice on, too."
Same Hair, Same Hollie
What He Did For LoveAlex gave up the sun and surf of Florida to relocate to Cleveland, where he works at an upscale Cleveland hotel. "He just loves it," Hollie declares. We didn't ask Alex to confirm her statement — at the time, it was 16 degrees outside.