Below, find six wedding professional from Saratoga Springs—a member of a wedding band, a wedding photographer, wedding floral designer, wedding cake baker, owner of a wedding dress shop and wedding/engagement ring designer open up about their own nuptials.
Trombonist, New York Players
When Niskayuna High School band teacher and Saratogian Phil Pandori got engaged, he knew he had to have the New York Players at his wedding. “The first thing we booked was the band,” says Pandori, who had seen the self-proclaimed “dance party experts” perform around town many times. “And then we did everything else from there—we looked for a venue that could hold the band well. We really liked the Canfield Casino, because it had the stage.”
What Pandori didn’t know, though, was that the New York Players would become much more than the band that performed at his wedding. “At the time, I was pretty good friends with the trombone player in the band,” Pandori explains. (His name is Chris, and he and Pandori have since become good friends.) “He contacted me and was like, ‘You’re going to play a tune with the band.’ And I said, ‘Oh, probably not.’ And he said, ‘No, that wasn’t a question. You’re going to play a tune with the band.’” So Pandori learned the music to “Uptown Funk”—a far (and funky) cry from the classical music he was used to performing—and when the time came on his wedding day, joined the Players up on stage. “He was leading me through all these dance moves, which was really funny,” Pandori says. “People thought it was all planned out, but it wasn’t.”
Pandori’s wedding night performance must’ve impressed the rest of the band because later on, when Chris went away on his honeymoon, Pandori was asked to fill in. He became the band’s go-to substitute, and when Chris left the band in 2018, Pandori became a full-time New York Player. But he hasn’t forgotten the night that started it all: “It was a great party. People still talk about it.”
Co-owner, The Harris Company
The photos from David and Makayla Harris’ wedding are in focus and edited nicely. They clearly depict what went on at Jiminy Peak on that mid-September day, and the couple received a nice, big digital album from the photographer, so they could keep them forever, saved to a hard drive. They are, in a word, fine.
But is “fine” really how you want to remember the best day of your life? “When I look at my wedding photos, I don’t feel the same emotion I felt on that day,” Makayla says. “We ended up going with a company that had photo, video and DJ all in one package. The photographer was super high volume, so we never really got a chance to know her before the wedding. It was like someone showed up on our wedding day and just took snapshots of everything that was going on.”
A few years later, when Makayla picked up photography as a hobby, she gravitated toward wedding photography. “I wanted to make sure that people didn’t make the same mistakes that we made,” she says. So, she began shooting weddings on the weekends, with David tagging along as a second shooter. When brides began asking if the couple shot video as well, David learned how to shoot video. “We just kind of turned it into our thing, and David came on full time in 2015, and now this is all we do.”
With their own wedding photography in mind as an example of what not to do, Makayla and David now run The Harris Company, a Saratoga-based photography and cinema business, whose work has been featured in publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings and The New York Times. Each of their clients gets a physical photo album, in addition to a digital one, and, yes, Makayla and David make a point to get to know couples before showing up to shoot their weddings.
Owner, Samantha Nass Floral Design
While Samantha Nass wasn’t yet a regionally renowned florist on her wedding day, it certainly helped shape her into one. “I interviewed a number of people here in Saratoga and ended up using a small florist, who isn’t in business anymore, that I just really gelled with,” Nass says. “I had a very clear vision in my head of what I wanted. I felt like she really understood my vision, and that’s really important. That’s how I conduct my business with my clients—I try to get inside their heads.”
What, exactly, was Nass’ vision? Natural and autumnal, with caramel and burgundy tones. “I wanted [the flowers] to feel as though they were picked from the garden. And I feel like that also reflects what we do as a business: We tend to imitate nature in our arrangements, instead of going for the orchids with the hydrangeas that would never be next to each other in real life.” Nass even took part of her wedding vision and integrated it into future clients’ nuptials. “We had all-silver vessels holding all the arrangements,” she says. “I actually provided the vessels myself, which I still have now. From time to time, we use them for other people’s weddings, which is pretty cool.”
Owner, Cake by Alissa
There’s not much that Alissa Woods, owner of Schuylerville bakery Cake by Alissa, can’t do with a piping bag and sheet of fondant; her online gallery features everything from a cider doughnut–topped masterpiece to a three-tier cake that literally looks like it was made out of birch bark. But Woods didn’t discover her wedding cake–baking skills until after her own wedding in 2002. “To be honest, I didn’t give the design much thought,” Woods says about her own wedding cake. “I just wanted it to taste good.” And did it? “It wasn’t the best carrot cake I ever had, but it was good,” she says. “Looking back, I would have requested to do a cake tasting.” Indeed—an excuse to eat cake is never a bad thing.
Owner, Something Bleu Bridal
When Marissa Mackay walked out of Something Bleu Bridal with her wedding dress—a strapless gown by the designer Cymbeline—she was leaving with much more than her outfit for her big day. The shop’s then-owner, Denise Eliopulos, and other employees had given her recommendations for a venue (the National Museum of Dance), caterer (Lily & the Rose) and florist (The Posie Peddler), all of which she ended up taking. But Mackay was also leaving with what would become a decade-long friendship with Eliopulos, which, in 2018, turned into a business opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
“When I moved back to New York eight years ago, some of the first people that I reached out to were the people that helped me with my wedding: Kim [Klopstock, from Lily & the Rose] and Denise,” Mackay says. In February 2018, Mackay went out to dinner with Eliopulos, who mentioned that she was thinking about selling her shop. Nothing came of the conversation, but a few months later, Mackay saw that Saratoga Elegance, the store located below Something Bleu, was for sale, and she started looking into buying it with a friend who was in marketing. “I called Denise and told her about the prospect of [buying the business] downstairs,” Mackay says. “And before I could even offer and ask her if she was interested in selling, she was like, ‘Why would you even look at that? Why wouldn’t you buy my store?’ So I was like, ‘Yes, thank you, that’s what I was trying to get to.’”
So Mackay left her family’s water utility company to run Something Bleu. “The way people [interpret] the bridal industry as couture and fashion as this luxury industry—that was not the pull [of buying the business for me],” she says. “It was just a business decision. It was an opportunity to have a creative part of me also have a business and have it be an investment and a retirement plan kind of all wrapped in a tidy little bow.”
Jewelry designer, deJonghe Original Jewelry
It’s pretty stressful picking out the perfect engagement ring for your significant other. If you’re a jeweler, though, it’s a whole different kind of pressure. But Evan deJonghe, jewelry designer and son of deJonghe Original Jewelry owner Dennis deJonghe, was less worried about whether his fiancée-to-be would like the ring than about dropping it in the Charles River. “We’re both rowers—that’s how we met in college,” deJonghe explains. “I was able to rent a boat on the Charles River in Boston, and we went for a nice little row. We pulled over to the side for a little break—I had the ring hiding in my water bottle. I pulled it out and proposed, and she was shocked. We had our family and our friends on the bridge pretty much right above us as it was happening.”
The ring itself is one deJonghe, who at the time had just graduated from the Gemological Institute of America, designed and created himself. “The design showcases the center diamond very nicely, but in a very functional way, because we’re both active people,” he says. “I wanted her to be able to wear it all the time without risking damaging the setting or the diamonds.” Even now, more than five years later, deJonghe frequently uses his wife’s ring as an example for other customers.
Clearly, deJonghe didn’t end up dropping a .9-carat, excellent-cut, G color, Sl1 clarity diamond ring into the Charles. But did she like it? “She loves it,” he says.