Most romances we hear about don’t start at Bellevue Hospital, but that is exactly where Marissa and Michael—both radiologists—first met. It was Michael’s first day on the job and the California native was nervous about being new in the city. “I was spinning in circles,” remembers Michael, “and then Marissa walked out of the elevator. She knew exactly what to do and showed me the way to the conference room. There I was concerned about meeting people I would like and I end up meeting the person I would spend the rest of my life with!”
Flash forward five years and just a hop, skip and a jump across the East River from Bellevue and Marissa and Michael were soon to see each other again for the first time—as husband and wife. Williamsburg’s stylish Weylin provided the backdrop to a ceremony that sensitively merged the couple’s Jewish and Catholic backgrounds. “We adjusted some elements of the ceremony to make it reflect our beliefs and feelings for each other,” said Marissa. “The rabbi was also wonderful about explaining the elements of the ceremony so that all of our guests could appreciate all the beautiful moments and their significance.” Although neither church nor synagogue, the former bank building does boast a stunning dome that instilled a transcendent beauty to the proceedings that was greatly enhanced by the couple’s heartfelt vows and their mothers’ Seven Blessings.
Weylin’s dramatic transformation from sacred space to party place seemed to take no time after the ceremony was finished and featured surprise appearances by The Candy Man (aka the bride’s father wearing a top hat and technicolor M&M vest in honor of Marissa & Michael) and a spot-on Michael Jackson impersonation by the groom. “It’s been a lifetime in the making,” says the other Michael. “I watched the movie Moonwalker countless times as a kid, but going to bars in college and attending dozens of weddings over the last decade gave me more than enough practice.”
How did the two of you meet?
Marissa: We met in the hospital on our first day of residency in July 2012. We were both trying to find our way around and figure out where we were supposed to be. I remember it so well because my first thought was, “Oh he is so cute!” Turns out that his first impression of me was that I was pretentious. I changed his mind about that quickly!
How did your proposal unfold?
Marissa: Mike proposed on Thanksgiving day. We were spending the holiday with my whole family at my uncle’s house in Kiawah, South Carolina. The proposal wound up being a little rushed because my family was taking too long to get ready for dinner, but he pulled it off. He proposed on the boardwalk on the beach. It was incredibly beautiful and very romantic. He made the moment very intimate and personal, just the two of us by the ocean. Then we toasted with my whole family with a huge bottle of champagne that he brought all the way from Napa and somehow kept hidden the whole weekend!
Michael: We were long distance at the time, living on opposite coasts. I checked a Double Magnum of Napa sparkling wine on the plane as my luggage, and somehow snuck it into a spare mini fridge in the house when I got there. It was a stressful day trying to keep that giant bottle hidden, but I managed to do so and proposed on their dock overlooking the beach and Atlantic Ocean.
How did you decide to get married in Williamsburg?
Marissa: Mike was living in California when we began our wedding planning. I started looking at some venues before he could make a trip out to New York. The moment I walked into Weylin its beauty just took my breath away. There is something so magical and romantic about the whole building. So much attention has been put into every detail—down to the doorknobs! I called him as soon as I saw it and told him we had to get married here. I’m so glad he agreed. Getting married under that incredible dome surrounded by all our family and friends was unforgettable.
Michael: There are a lot of beautiful locations in New York, but the impressiveness of Weylin’s dome and the design detail in every corner was just too good to pass up.
Did you incorporate any personalized components into your wedding ceremony?
Marissa: We wrote our own vows together that we recited to each other. We had to hold back some tears, but I was proud of us for keeping it together as we said them aloud! We also had our mother’s participate in the ceremony by having them read the Seven Blessings. It was wonderful to have them under the chuppah and share in that part of the ceremony.
Michael: We also selected our own processional songs, which added a great personal feeling to those big moments for us. I walked down the aisle to “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens, which is a meaningful song for my dad and I, but also for many of my close college friends/groomsmen and I.
The moment I walked into Weylin its beauty just took my breath away. There is something so magical and romantic about the whole building. So much attention has been put into every detail—down to the doorknobs!
I tend to get a little bit emotional at really joyful, special moments. To my surprise, the pure happiness that was in me as the day went on overpowered any other feeling that I could have. I enjoyed every part of the day, and from what I heard, wore a big smile from start to finish.
We asked our mothers to share the job of reading the Seven Blessings. Most of the blessings are fitting for the Catholic faith, so I think having my mother read them made that portion of the ceremony more relatable.
Which aspect of your wedding was the most unique?
Marissa: Mike’s father’s family is from Italy, and Italian culture is very important to the their family. His sister even lives there with her husband and two kids. Integrating Italian culture into our day was very important to us. In Italy, there is a tradition of giving wedding guests confetti, which are little candy-covered almonds that were originally made in Abruzzo, where Mike’s family is from. Typically five pieces are given, representing happiness, health, fertility, wealth and longevity for the couple. In keeping with this tradition, we gave all our guests confetti handmade in Abruzzo, crafted into the shape of a daisy, each with five petals! They turned out so beautifully, and it was so special to have these authentic pieces for our guests.
Michael: The rabbi asked us long before the wedding to write a paragraph about why we loved each other. We didn’t know it was for the wedding, so the sentiments were authentic. The reading of them in full was such a wonderful surprise for us standing up there, and was very impactful to everyone in attendance. It’s hard to imagine the wedding being the same without that personal touch.
How did you go about integrating elements from your different religious backgrounds into the ceremony?
Marissa: Since I am Jewish and Mike is Catholic, we considered having an interfaith ceremony. In the end, we decided to have my rabbi marry us in a Jewish ceremony. It really meant so much to me that Mike agreed to—and even encouraged—this decision. This is just another way that he has shown me that he embraces me, my family and my background as we build our lives together. We adjusted some elements of the ceremony to make it reflect our beliefs and feelings for each other. The rabbi was also wonderful about explaining the elements of the ceremony so that all of our guests could appreciate all the beautiful moments and their significance.
Michael: This was a difficult task. We wanted be inclusive of both sides yet wanted to make sure the ceremony maintained a good religious footing. So the ceremony followed a fairly traditional Jewish outline, but we asked the rabbi to explain each step as much as she could to make things feel less foreign to my family. Also, we asked our mothers to share the job of reading the seven blessings. Most of the blessings are fitting for the Catholic faith, so I think having my mother read them made that portion of the ceremony a bit more relatable.
On your day, what was your first thought when you woke up in the morning?
Marissa: Just pure joy and excitement. I knew it was going to be a day I would never forget and I couldn’t wait to get it started. Somehow all the frenzy of planning just melted away and all I could think of was the moment I could see Mike and hug him.
Michael: My first thought on that Saturday morning was, “Wow, this is a big day.” December 2nd was a day that we had looked forward to for a long time and will reminisce about for even longer. So it was an almost overwhelming feeling knowing that I was about to take it on. The good news was that I couldn’t have been more excited to do so.
We danced our first dance to James Taylor’s ‘Your Smiling Face.’ We knew we wanted a song that was a little upbeat and fun to dance to. It turned out to be a great choice. We even managed to squeeze some good spins and dips in.
Did anything surprise you (either in the planning process or on your day?)
Marissa: Even though everyone warned us that this would happen, I was still surprised at how quickly it all went! We tried to savor every moment, but as they say, time flies when you’re having fun!
Michael: I was expecting to have a complete emotional rollercoaster of a day. I was prepared for there to be a couple of periods of nervousness and stress. Moreover, I tend to get a little bit emotional at really joyful, special moments—and there would be a bunch of those on this day! But to my surprise, the pure happiness that was in me as the day went on overpowered any other feeling that I could have. I enjoyed every part of the day, and from what I heard, wore a big smile from start to finish.
What song did you dance to for your first dance?
Marissa: We danced our first dance to James Taylor’s “Your Smiling Face.” We knew we wanted a song that was a little upbeat and fun to dance to. We were driving in the car a few months before the wedding and the song came on the radio. We both immediately lit up, we knew it was the perfect song for our first dance. And we are both James Taylor fans (as are our dads), so it was perfect! It turned out to be a great choice. We even managed to squeeze some good spins and dips in.
Michael: Both of us grew up listening to James Taylor with our families, so hearing his singing voice has some meaning to us. I just always immediately thought of Marissa whenever I heard the song. In particular, I knew that the repeated line at the end, “No one can tell me that I’m doing wrong today” could not sum up the feeling on my wedding day any better.
What is the best relationship advice you’ve ever received?
Marissa: At my bridal shower, my sister (who was my maid of honor) had all the guests write a short message of advice for me in a book. It was such a fantastic gift, and I got some really great advice. I think the best piece of advice was as we begin to build our life together, remember to keep our individual interests and independent personalities. Continuing to be ourselves will make our partnership stronger.
Michael: I think the best advice I have received about relationships is that it starts at the beginning, by finding the person that is right for you. There are a lot of factors that go into this obviously, but recognizing that you are happiest when your counterpart is happy, is the most telling characteristic. I think the most important advice from here on out has been to keep talking. The only way problems can arise is for us to keep things from each other and ruminate about them in our own minds. If we just let it out and communicate, there is nothing that we can’t figure out.
How long did you have to practice your moves for your Michael Jackson extravaganza?
Michael: It has been a lifetime in the making! I watched the movie Moonwalker countless times as a kid, which is where this all started. But going to bars in college and attending dozens of weddings over the last decade gave me more than enough practice. I had a feeling my friends wouldn’t let me get through a big night like this without requesting “Billy Jean.” I was glad I had one of my groomsmen, Andy, to shake off the rust and get moving, because he and I have been doing this since we were teenagers. In the end, there is no doubt that it will be a really funny memory to look back on.
In Italy, there is a tradition of giving wedding guests confetti, which are little candy-covered almonds representing happiness, health, fertility, wealth and longevity. In keeping with this tradition, we gave all our guests confetti handmade in Abruzzo, crafted into the shape of a daisy.
- Second Photographer Virginie Carolina
- Planner Angie Nevarez / Baton
- Venue Weylin
- Dress Vera Wang
- Catering Abigail Kirsch Catering
- Cake A White Cake A Simple Cake
- Floral Design Mimosa Floral Design Studio
- Music Starlight Orchestra
- Lighting Bestek Lighting and Staging
- Hair Brenda Pedersen
- Makeup Katrina Barrion
- Stationery Lion in the Sun